Sunday 22 November 2015

Why I blog: Small particles of knowledge


I started this blog three years ago because I wanted to justify to myself having paid to go to a conference in San Antonio in 2012, and thought I should let other psychologists know something about the papers presented there. Usually, I stay at home in my study.

I continued blogging because I often found myself muttering during news items about the psychological variables which had been left out, often regarding intelligence differences, or failures to follow correct methods, or errors in argument.

The largest reason for blogging is even more personal. My self-evaluation is that I am primarily a translator, bridging a gap between researchers and readers.

The issue was best described by Samuel Johnson:

"The greater part of students are not born with abilities to construct systems, or advance knowledge; nor can have any hope beyond that of becoming intelligent hearers in the schools of art, of being able to comprehend what others discover, and to remember what others teach. Even those to whom Providence hath allotted greater strength of understanding can expect only to improve a single science. In every other part of learning they must be content to follow opinions which they are not able to examine; and, even in that which they claim as peculiarly their own, can seldom add more than some small particle of knowledge to the hereditary stock devolved to them from ancient times, the collective labour of a thousand intellects."
Johnson: Rambler #121 (May 14, 1751)

The great man did not need to spell out that his intellect was superior to many of the best and brightest with whom he conversed (or gored and tossed, as Boswell lamented). He knew he had a great faculty of mind, and enjoyed it, while retaining his humility.

My aim is to be an intelligent hearer, able to comprehend what others discover; able to describe their findings clearly, mostly in commendation though sometimes with detailed reservations; and thus to add a small particle of knowledge to the collective labour of a thousand intellects.


  1. For a moment I read your remark as "My aim is to be an intelligent beaver". It wouldn't be a bad analogy: build your structure one small stick at a time even if not yourself a great provider of new sticks.

  2. Beavering away - why not, a good image of industriousness.