A collection of questions in a consolidated location. I may reference these from time to time in an article as well, and as further questions come in I’ll add them here.
What is this site about?
This question is answered on the About page.
Who are you?
I want the content of this site to speak for itself. I believe good ideas and thoughtful perspectives are powerful in their own right, independent of the person expressing them. More so, I believe those ideas become more powerful when they’ve been considered deeply by the reader.
As such, I’ve chosen to leave myself largely absent from this site. It is my hope that this will encourage readers to be more critical of what they read here, more skeptical of the content, more prone to push back. In instances where I successfully express good ideas readers can become convinced of their worth through trial an error in their own thoughts and lives. In other areas readers can point out where I’m wrong or why they disagree, and the content here will improve accordingly, leaving all to benefit in the long run.
It does perhaps merit a bit of background in one or two cases though; see the other questions here for a bit of this.
What do you mean when talking about wisdom?
I am interested in what seems the uniquely modern problem of reevaluating what “wisdom” means. Many parts of our traditional teachings have been discarded in the last half-century; many for good reasons. The “wisdom” of our forbears included a wide variety of teachings that would look archaic, bizarre, or even outrageous to us today, and the removal of these things from our societal norms has been a major achievement and is an ongoing effort.
At the same time, the collective wisdom of our species developed over millennia seems like a source worth mining for value; do we really believe there was nothing of value there?
I’m interested in exploring this tension with deeper focus on the why. I want to reconsider, understand, and revitalize those piece of traditional wisdom that we may have suffered from losing, while leaving in the dustbin of history those aspects that rightly needed to be outgrown.
The challenge here is to truly understand the why in a way that allows us to identify core principles that are useful without being overly rigid.
You talk about math and finances, why should I trust you?
In contrast to the question above on who I am, this question does merit a bit of background. In my life and career I have studied at university and/or graduate level topics related to math, physics, machine learning/deep learning, software engineering, statistics, and finance. I don’t claim to be an authority in any of these fields but I have a fair amount of depth in them, at least compared to your average person, having studied/worked in related jobs for a number of years.
I share this in particular because some percentage of this site will evaluate topics not merely from philosophical perspectives, but from mathematical ones as well. Math can, at times, enable us to understanding something about the world that isn’t obvious; in particular it can be incredibly helpful in enabling us to correct our intuitions when they’re wrong.
I should also note that to the extent possible I will “show my work” in these topics. If I talk about math or finances I will speak to the layman as much but will also include copies of the models or descriptions of the math involved. The more technical among you are encouraged to review what you see in order to build up your faith in the conclusions. And while I check my work extensively no one is perfect. As such, bug reports are welcome and the Contact form is set up to enable attachments in part for this purpose. Where bugs are identified, posts will be updated with corrected models/results accordingly so what you see on the site is the most current/accurate version available.
Do I need to understand math for the articles that use it?
No! Part of the point of these articles is that the value of math can often be made available even to those that don’t understand it themselves, and my work is in part to give you the tools to use the results without needing to understand all the details.
In general I try to enable readers of multiple levels to get value from these. I do my best to make the meaning of the math I discuss as clear and understandable as possible even to those without a math background. At the same time I include foldout sections that go into the math for those that want to learn or understand more. With this mix of levels readers are be able to decide if they want to just get the meaning, explore the details that drive it, or anything in between. The end result should be useful to any level of reader.
Where did the name Thought Ignitor come from?
The name of this blog has been inspired particularly by Hannah Arendt; one of my personal heroes. A German-American Jewish philosopher and political theorist who fled Germany during World War II, she wrote extensively on the period and on what led people to act as they did, or didn’t, during the war. At one point in my life an interview of her was my constant companion as I was learning German and studying the history of that time.
I was struck particularly deeply by her perspective that what separated some of the Nazis she studied from other people was, quite simply, thinking. Those that became Nazis did not always appear to be inherently evil people, but were rather those who didn’t think! It was this idea that fascinated me; the idea that the difference between staying a good person in the midst of tragedy and becoming a perpetrator of horror is merely when and how you stop to think. In this light, thinking more and better should be one of our most important goals.
Accordingly, this site is an attempt to ignite new thinking in myself and others wherever and however possible. It attempts to consider topics with depth and skepticism in the search for core principles, while also avoiding the risks of rigidity, inflexibility, and oversimplification.
Of course, I make this site in hopes of having others benefit from or join me in this path. So welcome, and I look forward to the search for ignitors of new thoughts as we reconsider the meaning of wisdom in our time.
Religion on this site
As a site that talks about values and makes the search for wisdom a central topic, I will inevitably touch on religion. Religions are, after all, often called the “wisdom traditions” of the world. I am NOT here to proselytize however; the purpose of this blog is to explore values in ways that enable us to find common ground and utility regardless of background or spiritual orientation. As such, while people of faith may find discussions touch on and/or deepen their spiritual understandings, I am very intentional making the topics here religion independent.
This means that if I do my job well you will find usefulness in the content here no matter who you are or what you might believe. I want to find the aspects of wisdom that have value in the modern world irrespective of where they come from, convince you of where, how, and why they have value, and distinguish those parts from the irrelevant or obsolete.
My hope is that, even with extensive reading, you won’t be able to determine my own spiritual views. I want to convince you of the value of the ideas here on their own merits, and if knowing what I actually personally believe is necessary for you to agree then I’ve failed in that effort.