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LoBagola

Studying the story of civilization

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I plan on (and have already begun) reading through Will Durant's The Story of Civilization, the purpose being to broaden my understanding of where I come from and what man once did (and what he doesn't do today but maybe should) and also to help me truly understand more abstract words like justice, free market, politics, economy—I could tell you what each is and can vaguely recall some mental images for each, but I want to shore up my concepts by having my mind to flood with images, e.g., justice—Hammurabi's code, the Sumerian custom of an eye for an eye, trials by ordeal, Justinan's codex etc. I know not all these images would fall under an objectivist concept of justice, but this is just to illustrate a mental process.

So two things—

(1) does anyone have any tips on working through material like this and how to integrate it, e.g, essay ideas, hiring a tutor to question you. I thought even spending some time travelling, e.g, a month or two in Greece studying Ancient Greek and visiting sites, might help in that I might be able to help what I read come alive when I can touch, taste, see and talk about things connected to it.  Be aware that I have much more time and ability to do this than most as I've committed myself to a four year study of topics of my choice.

 

(2) is anyone interested in studying together via Skype?

 

Edited by LoBagola

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That's a really ambitious project: almost 10,000 pages. Do you already know something -- top-level -- of the history covered by those various books? I think it would be helpful if you already had already read a more summarized hisoty of some of those periods.

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does anyone have any tips on working through material like this and how to integrate it

I am also interested in any tips regarding integration of long books. Make flashcards and come back to the material?  Take notes? - any special, concrete tips?

I have something that could possibly work, but it requires some effort: take notes, then make a recording of the important stuff that you want to remember (for example using a computer or phone), and then you can listen to the recording multiple times, for example during commute time etc.

Remember that to integrate something to long term memory you need to come back to the material. So it possibly would be a good idea to make your batch of notes one day, then come back to that batch, say 1-2 days later, read it to make a recording, and then listen to it after some time.memory-diagram.jpg

Edited by Matthew Nielsen

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That's a really ambitious project: almost 10,000 pages. Do you already know something -- top-level -- of the history covered by those various books? I think it would be helpful if you already had already read a more summarized hisoty of some of those periods.

I watched a few documentaries.

I decided to experiment fleshing out the material by involving myself in activities related to the texts I'm reading, e.g., workshops on pottery, iron forging, woodwork. Then I might try salt and preserve fish & meat from the market, hand grind grains and later (when I study mechanics) build a mechanical grinder. Given the range of activities there is a limit on what I can do, but just by doing a workshop for a week or even a day I'll achieve the goal of loading up my mind with smell, taste, touch which I think will help me retain and take a more lively interest in the material. 

Something else I learned (in a more concrete way) from recently building a road bike from recycled scraps is that because knowledge is so tightly integrated, principles from one field often link or even build on another. E.g, by learning to build a bicycle from scratch you'll get a better understanding of a drive chain, gearing and leverage and the wheel; if you take an interest in cars you have already set yourself up for some basics and then just need to learn about hydraulics and the internal combustion engine. Think Peugeot and other early car makers—they all started with the bicycle and then went an to add the internal combustion engine. 

Anyway, this is my approach. It may pan out an unreasonable adventure time-wise, but I can adjust, and I'll have fun.

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I have found that reading historical fiction, if written by an author obsessed with research and primary source information, can add a unique understanding to the knowledge already gained thru nonfiction sources.  It's time consuming, but enjoyable.  To test this method, pick a specific historic period (US Civil War or revolution, Europe during the Reformation, Decline of Roman imperialism, etc.), study the history through nonfiction sources until you have really internalized it, and then read period fiction from one of the authors described above.

For me it revealed an interesting relationship between historic periods and modern times.  The players change, the technology advances, but except for the brief and flawed period during which real capitalism almost gained a foothold, very little has changed; the concretes are different, and so, hide the fact that the underlying principles (mysticism, bullying, failure to respect reason as the unique human evolutionary endowment, etc.) remain the same.

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Why university? I have access to the same, if not much better, materials online and at libraries. There are two aspects of university however I'd love to be exposed to—people & staff with similar interests whom I can discuss and dream with—but cannot justify the insane price. I could hire a poor post graduate student for the same price and get so much more value. No university means I'll need to get creative to expose myself to those just mentioned aspects.

Edited by LoBagola

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I have found that reading historical fiction, if written by an author obsessed with research and primary source information, can add a unique understanding to the knowledge already gained thru nonfiction sources.  It's time consuming, but enjoyable.  To test this method, pick a specific historic period (US Civil War or revolution, Europe during the Reformation, Decline of Roman imperialism, etc.), study the history through nonfiction sources until you have really internalized it, and then read period fiction from one of the authors described above.

For me it revealed an interesting relationship between historic periods and modern times.  The players change, the technology advances, but except for the brief and flawed period during which real capitalism almost gained a foothold, very little has changed; the concretes are different, and so, hide the fact that the underlying principles (mysticism, bullying, failure to respect reason as the unique human evolutionary endowment, etc.) remain the same.

Yes, I agree with this. I think it's because your imbuing the knowledge with a sense of wonder and fascination you can only get through feeling. And the best way to get feeling is to make it personal—the job of literature. 

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