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April 22
2014 年 4 月 22日

書該怎麼個讀法?

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史丹佛大學 Myron Scholes 教授從小眼疾,視力不佳,看書困難。在最近一次的交談中,他告訴我,就因為這個緣故,他擁有更多冷靜思考的機會,得以用「心」研究,首創了平衡定價的指標模式 (Black-Scholes options pricing model),並因而獲頒1997年諾貝爾經濟獎。Myron Scholes 為「盡信書不如無書」做了一個見證!

Myron Scholes 這樣的故事可以舉出很多。譬如,美國費爾菲德大學(Fairfield University)的研究人員藉著實驗,實證過度拍照,有可能傷及拍照者大腦的記憶能力。其解讀的理由是,拍照時當事人由於全心專注於畫面,而必然遺漏了旁邊的大環境(big picture)。所以老佛爺絕對沒想到,她「相照多了傷神」的說法,其實是傷了拍照者的神。很多人讀書就像拍照一般,到此一遊,留照存證,不求甚解,傷神還未必自知。

讀過書的人很多,因此造就了不少的學究;其中年長而又讀了很多很多書的人,就是通稱的老學究。書讀多了,而不思考,見樹不見林,就像拍照似的遺漏了大環境;或者空有思考,卻邏輯不通,好像把頭埋在沙漠裡的什麼動物似的,對個人沒什麼好處,對社會反而可能有所為害。讀了很多書,就像吃了很多飯一樣,如果沒有消化,書還是白讀,飯還是白吃。如今人人讀大學,千萬不要製造出一堆堆小學究才好。

不讀書的人可能言語乏味,而埋頭死讀書、抬頭胡亂搞的學究則絕對令人厭惡。

註:本文曾載於聯合報(2014年4月8日)。

How should we read properly?

Professor Myron Scholes of Stanford University told me recently that when he was growing up he had a great deal of time to reflect on the books he read. As a child he had suffered eye sight problems, which meant reading was often a challenge for him.

But his childhood reading technique—taking his time, pausing, reflecting—benefited his academic career. He went on to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1997 for his work on the Black-Scholes options pricing model.

Reading is a good thing, but there are different ways to read. Sometimes, if you don't reflect on what you read, you might become a prisoner of the books you read.

There is a parallel story in the art of photography. Researchers at Fairfield University in the US found that excessive photography might damage the memories of the photographers. If photographers focus their attention on the pictures in the frame, they tend to neglect the bigger picture, or fail to commit the bigger picture to memory.

If fact during the early days of photography, Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi complained that "too much photo-taking might overtax one's nerves". But she could never have imagined that it would do so to the photographer rather than the person being photographed.

Many readers behave like such photographers. They glance through books like busy photographers who are satisfied with a few "have-been-there" photos, not realising their nerves have already become overtaxed.

Reading a lot, without thinking, can result in failing to see the wood for the trees since it is possible to lose sight of the bigger picture, just like a photographer. Such readers are more often than not buried in the sands of illogical reasoning, doing no good to themselves or society.

Basically, reading is like eating: it is a waste of time and food if you don't allow time for proper digestion.

Nowadays, it is much easier than before to get a college education but I pray that we will not produce pedants, both young and old, who read a lot but focus only on the tiniest of details rather than looking at the bigger picture as well.

In my opinion, people who don't read much are not usually very good conversationalists, but pedants, who read without thinking and understanding, are equally bereft of any lasting value for society.

Note:
This article was originally published in Chinese in the United Daily News (8 April, 2014).

April 22, 2014

 

 

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