How Philosophers Think

Philosophers are the best thinkers I know, and their tactics can help us all.

Here are my favorite ones:

1. Be an intellectual boxer: Understand ideas by making them battle with each other. Create characters in your mind and make them debate each other.
2. Dissect ideas

The smartest kid in my middle school class used to take computers apart and put them back together again in order to understand how they work.

Good philosophers are like my friend from middle school. But instead of playing with computers, they play with ideas.
3. Think by writing

Deep thinking happens by writing, which allows us to navigate the hazy labyrinth of consciousness.

Most roads lead to a dead end. But every now and then, the compass of intuition leads to an epiphany that the top-down planning mind would’ve never discovered.
4. Respect the context

You understand an idea not when you’ve memorized it, but when you know why its form was chosen over the alternatives. Only once you’ve traveled the roads that were explored but rejected can you see an idea clearly, with all the context that supports it.
5. Writing is more than typing

Most of the time a philosopher spends writing doesn’t involve typing.

Rather, it’s a form of intellectual exploration — following intellectual embryos and running into various roadblocks on their way to discovering an idea’s mature form.
6. Ideas are like fashion

Since ideas are invisible, people underestimate the extent to which they can arbitrarily go in and out of style. We laugh at the things people in the 70s used to wear, but if we could see ideas in photos, we’d do the same for our thinking.
7. Copy-cat thinking is everywhere

People who don’t have the tools to reason independently make up their minds by adopting the opinions of prestigious people. When they do, they favor socially rewarded positions over objective accounts of reality.

8. Beware of the Spotlight Effect

By definition, we’re blind to what we can’t see. When looking for answers, we’re like the proverbial drunk who only looks for their keys in places where the light is shining. That’s why philosophers study both the ground and the spotlight.
9. Live with Intellectual Grace

Philosophy, like regular life, is best experienced with an attitude of intellectual grace.

“What can this person teach me?” is a much more productive question than “How is this person wrong?”
10. Intellectual patience

People leap to conclusions because they feel pressure to have an opinion on every topic. They jump on the intellectual bandwagons of those they want to be affiliated with. But favoring group loyalty over independent reasoning is the epitome of tribalism
11. Human nature doesn't change

Even if history is an unceasing sprint toward the future, human nature doesn’t change. Only the laws of physics are more predictable. What’s happened in the past will happen in the future — again, again, and again.
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More from @david_perell

1 Jun
I teach people how to become citizens of the Internet.

Writing online is the best way to do that.

That’s why I tweet about learning, business, and the craft of writing. I aim to make ideas fun and easy to understand.

Here is a collection of my best threads. Enjoy!
Read 20 tweets
31 May
How to improve your writing:

1. Get ideas on paper: Put words on the page as fast as you can. First drafts are always messy. But you can only start shaping ideas into polished writing once they're out of your head. The beauty and clarity you desire will emerge with each edit.
2. Finding ideas

Sherlock Holmes once said: "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes." But when you write regularly, you start observing those things because the pen turns you into a curious detective who is always hunting for clues.
3. Collecting ideas

Finding ideas isn't enough. You have to save them too. Preferably, in a centralized place where you can instantly search for the best ideas you've ever had. The better your note-taking system, the less you have to rely on memory.

Read 14 tweets
26 May
Write like your reader talks.

Read a bunch of Internet forums about whatever you're writing about. Identify common phrases and put them into a list. Then, use their language whenever you write.

By writing like a friend, you build trust.
The idea of using your reader's voice works best for tactical writing that aims to be clear and persuasive. As a writer, this strategy also helps you get inside the mind of your reader so you can speak to their specific feelings.

(h/t @dollarsanddata)
@dollarsanddata Copywriters should do the same thing.

They should ask questions like "What inspired you to buy our product?" Then, they should collect the most vivid phrases onto a spreadsheet they can pull from whenever they write.

Let your customers do the work for you.
Read 7 tweets
23 May
What made Kobe Bryant so good?

5 championship rings. 7 trips to the NBA finals. Though fans were inspired by his excellence, others were offended by his personality. To learn about the nature of greatness, let's talk about his career.

Time for a thread.
The Lakers are famous for their roster of stars: Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.

Kobe wanted to add his name to the list but worried his legacy would be undermined by sharing the court with another great player who he didn’t always get along with: Shaq.
Kobe motivated himself through a combination of envy and desire.

For example, Kobe and Shaq had one of the most famous feuds in NBA history, due to the conflict of Shaq’s desire to be the team’s leader, and Kobe’s need to take the spotlight and outperform.
Read 9 tweets
19 May
This paper explores the core personality traits of entrepreneurs:

∙ Capable
∙ Hubristic
∙ High self-esteem
∙ More likely to have done “illicit activities”

But here's the key line: "The number one predictor of entrepreneurship is asymmetric information about skill levels."
I discovered this paper when @wolfejosh shared it a few years ago.

He mentioned a quote from William Blake: "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create."
By asymmetric skill levels, the authors refer to people who are more talented than they are credentialed. They're the kinds of people who know how to build a business, even though they never went to college.

Being under-estimated makes them more likely to start a company.
Read 4 tweets
18 May
Philosophers are the strongest thinkers I know.

They're trained to evaluate ideas from a kaleidoscope of perspectives. They think like intellectual boxers, who understand ideas by making them fight with each other.

Their thinking is bloody, but boy is it effective.
In particular, I admire their patience with ideas.

Most people jump to moral conclusions when they find a new idea. A good philosopher has none of that hubris. Through critique and dialogue, they simply try to understand it instead, knowing that understanding is a slow process.
While the rest of us judge ideas, philosophers critique them.

They think dispassionately because they welcome the idea of being corrected, and in turn, updating their worldview. Thus, they welcome self-criticism, so long as it's done with a posture of intellectual generosity.
Read 7 tweets

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