Studying this book does, of course, require that you have some ability to study and learn things. If your abilities in this area can be improved, then you will have an easier time of it.
5.1 Misunderstood Words
If you are confused about what the words mean, then you will get confused about what is being said and have trouble understanding it. This is very simple.
So get some good dictionaries and learn to use them if you haven’t already done so.
You don’t have to get fanatical about this. It is possible to get words from context. Also, a chapter explaining some new concept is itself a definition.
But the first thing to do if you get confused is to look back and see if you misunderstood a word just before the confusion started.
Also, misunderstanding words can leave one feeling foggy and tired. If you suddenly start feeling this way without cause, then your first action should again be to check for misunderstoods.
Note that misunderstood words are not the only reason for tiredness or confusion. But they are very easy to check for and handle, so this is your first action when you have difficulty.
Confusion generally comes from a misunderstood word rather than simply not understanding a word. As long as you can keep track of a word that you don’t understand, you can read past it for an explanation or to see the context better without a great deal of confusion. It is when you assign an inappropriate meaning (perhaps due to knowing a different meaning for the word) that you really get into trouble.
It is also possible to have a misunderstood symbol, thinking that it means one thing when it means another.
You can even have a misunderstood object, thinking that it is one thing when it is another. This usually is due to trickery or practical jokes, but in can sometimes happen when going into a very unfamiliar environment.
5.2 Seeing How Things Fit Together
It is not enough just to know the words, you also have to grasp the concepts being presented and see how things fit together.
This requires considering things, trying them out, playing around with the ideas and so forth.
You really do have to think about things, examining the implications and considering what they might mean in practice.
Often this can be done in one’s imagination, but sometimes you need something more to grab hold of.
This can be done by using objects or clay to represent things, even going so far as to put labels on things and move them around until you can see how things fit together visually.
The best way to teach a child fractions, for example, is to actually take something like a paper plate and cut it into fractions and visibly show the principles involved in trying to add thirds and quarters and so on.
Or you can work things out by drawing diagrams.
The basic idea is that if it is too much to grasp by mental means alone, then use the physical universe as an aid.
5.3 Going Too Fast
You can push yourself too fast, skimming over too many new concepts without working them over adequately. This leaves one feeling like one is spinning. Its just having too much on one’s plate without an adequate base to stand on.
The solution is to back up and work over the things that you glossed over until you feel more comfortable.
Aside from this, there is no speed limit. Move forward as fast as you can comfortably do so. Just don’t put yourself into a tailspin.
It is always easier to study something that you like and are interested in.
One of the most important things in teaching school children is generating some interest in the subject being taught.
This is often already present for an adult who is studying something by free choice. But sometimes one must work through an uninteresting thing as a pre-requisite to something that one is desirous of learning.
In that case, one should try to find something that one could like about the thing being studied.
And of course your determination to learn something is a great asset.
5.5 Going Further
The above will not make you an expert in a field. It is simply the price of admission to studying a book and understanding what the author is trying to say.
It is probably enough for taking a first pass through this book and getting something useful out of it. But real expertise involves a great deal more. The following sections will give you a start in that direction.
5.6 Evaluation and Judgment
All things are not of equal value or importance. Try to distinguish which points are more important than others.
This does take judgment. But you develop judgment by evaluating things and trying out your evaluations. It is an ongoing process. You learn to judge things by judging them and then observing the results and correcting your judgment in a sort of feedback effect.
5.7 Practical Application
You should think up examples.
You should try things in practice and see what happens.
You should try to invent new ways to apply various ideas in life.
You should test things and see how accurate they really are. Some things are dependable and some are only marginally workable. Some things just fall in your lap and others require a great deal of skill and finesse.
5.8 Broadening Your Viewpoint
It is not enough to simply follow in one person’s footsteps. You need to see a field from many angles.
The more data and viewpoints that you can acquire, the broader your own perceptions will become.
To learn a subject well, study many books and consider the work of many different authors. Don’t be afraid of volume or quantity. The more you read, the faster you will be able to read. The more you know, the faster you will acquire new knowledge because you have more to relate it to.
5.9 Relative vs Absolute Truth
Things are often true to a relative degree rather than being absolutes.
One object can be warmer than another, and yet neither is either at absolute zero or of an infinitely high temperature.
It is quite unusual, perhaps impossible, to have something which is totally and absolutely always true without exception.
It is best to think of things being on a sliding scale of relative truth rather than trying to look at them in black and white terms.
This is sometimes referred to as infinity valued logic or non-Aristotelian logic (not the yes/no of Aristotle). This is known as null-A and is covered in Korsibsky’s General Semantics (and is also mentioned in Hubbard’s Dianetics).
5.10 Frames of Reference
Not only are evaluations relative within a sliding scale, but the scales themselves exist within a specific context or frame of reference.
If you are evaluating oranges based on their relative juiciness, you will get an inappropriate answer when you try to fit an apple onto the same scale.
For this, you can think of various scales as individual lines which are not exactly parallel to each other. Something may be very high on one line but low on another.
Or think of something operating within its proper sphere but not being quite right when it is taken into a different realm. A good example is Newtonian mechanics which works in the everyday world but is only a special case within Eienstienian relativity.
So an appropriate evaluation of something not only includes its degree of relative truth but also its sphere of operation. For example, the law of gravity is not very useful in free fall.
5.11 Detecting False Data
Everything written isn’t true and most truths are relative ones rather than absolutes.
This is very difficult to judge in a field that you are not yet an expert in. And even the experts get fooled sometimes.
And in this area, the field has been trapped, because people often want to fool each other, either for gain or simply for fun.
This makes detecting false data into an entire subject all by itself and we will leave it for a later chapter.
5.12 Seeking Truth Without Prejudice
Here is another tough one.
Your own vested interests can tempt you into twisting things out of shape.
The best solution is to want truth so much that you favor it above your own prejudices.
The other solution is to do this whole book and hopefully rise far enough out of your old fixed ideas and prejudices that you can see everything in a new light.
5.13 A Finishing Touch
This is a simple process
a) think of a time that you enjoyed learning something
b) think of a time that another or others enjoyed learning something
c) think of a time when you taught somebody something successfully
All of this is only a starting point rather than the final word on the subject of study.
One of the underlying themes of this entire book is to improve your ability to observe and to understand and to know.