Plumbing the Depths: Thinking Deeply

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today’s quote comes from English minister and hymnwriter Isaac Watts (17 July 1674 – 25 November 1748), but not from one of his hymns or even one of his religious works — because Watts was more than a hymnist. He was a theologian but also a logician, and wrote a volume entitled Logic which carried the unwieldy but descriptive subtitle The Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth With a Variety of Rules to Guard Against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life, as well as in the Sciences.

In The Improvement of the Mind, which was a supplement to Logic, Watts wrote,

Do not hover always on the surface of things, nor take up suddenly with mere appearances; but penetrate into the depth of matters, as far as your time and circumstances allow, especially in those things which relate to your own profession. Do not indulge yourselves to judge of things by the first glimpse, or a short and superficial view of them; for this will fill the mind with errors and prejudices, and give it a wrong turn and ill habit of thinking, and make much work for retraction.

How many of us would benefit from heeding these words, in this age of self-built social media echo chambers and “fake news,” and spend just a bit more time digging deeper than the surface impressions and passionate rhetoric for more than “a short and superficial view” of the issues that confront and confound us? Yet we are bombarded by so much input, from so many directions, that it threatens to overwhelm us — and the time seems so short to analyze even a little of it.

We fight an ever-more-difficult uphill battle, but the battle also seems more important than ever. Don’t lose heart!


(Image: “The Thinker,” by Auguste Rodin, at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor; photo by Karora, on Wikimedia Commons.)

In closing, it does not surprise me that Watts — who wrote deep and powerful hymns many of us still love, such as “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” “Joy to the World,” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” — would be a deep thinker and would encourage us to think deeply. May we all find time this week to think deeply about important and meaningful things, to “penetrate into the depth of matters,” so that we might fill our minds with fewer errors, and fewer prejudices.

Have a great week!

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