Is curiosity good for you?

June 4, 2014

I have always assumed that the answer to the question posed in the title of this post is “Yes.” Sure, curiosity can sometimes get you into trouble when you poke your nose in the wrong places. But in those cases it isn’t the curiosity itself that is at fault so much as a lack of wisdom, thinking that curiosity always needs to be satisfied.

There are lots of things that I am curious about but I know I don’t really need to know. Often I think of questions while I am driving. For instance, I’ll wonder about the etymology of a word, and whether it is related to another word that starts with the same few letters. Or I’ll wonder how something is made, or how some natural process works.

If I’m at a computer when I think of such questions, I often take a few moments to look them up. Or if I still remember the questions by the time I get to a computer, I’ll look them up. But more often they were “idle curiosity” and by the time I get to the computer I remember that I had a question but not what it was. Clearly those aren’t important matters to me.

A blog post on First Thoughts yesterday calls curiosity “a strain of intellectual intemperance opposed to studiousness.” I have always thought of curiosity as an impetus to study, creating the desire to know more. But Gregory Pine points out that “scholastic theologians saw curiosity as a wayward pursuit which impedes the studied application of the mind to worthy things.”

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Reading the newspaper – on paper

January 4, 2012

For the last several years, I have gotten my news – and analysis of the news – largely by means of the internet. I read articles and columns at the websites of newspapers and magazines, I visit blogs, and I scan the headlines of news stories listed by my ISP. But the past several days, I have been unable to do this due to technical difficulties.

This time the problem isn’t with my ISP, it’s with my home computer. After a few years of it getting increasingly slow and unreliable, it finally became unusable. (I will find out the diagnosis tomorrow; my guess is that it’s not worth fixing.) So today after work I nabbed the day’s copy of the Wall Street Journal from the lobby on my way out the door. (Unless someone claims it, it will just end up in the trash.)

I often read WSJ articles online, but as many are for subscribers only, my selection of articles to read is quite limited. Having participated in the Iowa caucus yesterday evening, I was particularly interested in reading news and analysis about it. I found a good deal of worthwhile reading, and started wondering how much I have missed out on by limiting myself to those articles I can read online.

The first one I read was “Iowa Voters Split On Electability, Core GOP Values.” It’s all about choosing between principles and pragmatism – something that I have struggled with a lot as I considered who to vote for in the caucus yesterday. Do I select the candidate whose views I share most closely, or the one with the best chance of actually getting the nomination, and possibly winning the election?

I used to opt for pragmatism, then decided in 2008 that pragmatism resulted in electing politicians who either shared few of the principles I considered important, or gave them lip service but disregarded them in practice. I might opt for pragmatism again in the 2012 election, but it depends who the eventual Republican candidate turns out to be.

After last night a lot of people are assuming it will be Mitt Romney. And a lot of people are hoping it will be – including the people I shared a table with at the caucus yesterday evening, and the employee in the computer store where I took my PC for troubleshooting. One reason given by many who favor Romney is that he has experience running a business, not just as a politician.

That has always made a lot of sense to me, but “The GOP’s Not-So-Great Communicators” challenges that assumption. “Running the federal government is nothing at all like running a business,” Peter Robinson says. “Presidents must instead govern by getting the rest of us to see things they way they see them.” Unfortunately, none of the current batch of Republican candidates is doing too great a job at that.

There was quite a bit more good reading, about the various candidates and their prospects after Iowa, about the election in general, and about other current issues that I hadn’t been thinking about all that much. As my internet session at the library is about to expire, I don’t have time to find links to each article or write about it. (I sure hope my computer can be fixed or they can sell me an inexpensive but good used computer!)

I don’t know whether I will consider getting my own subscription. But I just might want to nab that paper on my way out the door more often.