Can the ‘smart thinking’ genre deliver?

1b4a103f-f669-453a-947b-cd8f67a486d2Julian Baggini at The Financial Times:

Ultimately, however, none of these provides a satisfactory answer because it is indeed a genuine paradox, an irresolvable contradiction at the heart of human existence. The best we can do, suggests Slingerland, is “to not push too hard when trying is bad, and not think too much when reflection is the enemy”. If we do that, “the flow of life is always there, eager to pull us along in its wake.”

There is an important insight connecting all three of these books, one that much smart thinking neglects. It is that you cannot reduce anything truly worthwhile simply to a technique you can learn and use to get your desired result. Rather, what is most profoundly rewarding always springs from deeply held values. Klein, for example, mentions that to gain insight, it is important that the thing we are thinking about flows from our own interests. Slingerland also says that wu-wei involves “the absorption of the self into something greater” than yourself, and it is our values that tell us what we truly believe is greater. And Epley’s account suggests that unless you genuinely value the perspectives of others, and not just those that conform to your own, you are not going to understand them. Really effective smart thinking is not, therefore, just a means to an end: it has to be rooted in what we see as ends in themselves, the values by which we live.

more here.