Saturday, June 2, 2012

John Rauls and Academic Fame

My friend is a philosopher who lectures college students.  She gave me a copy of John Rauls decades back. I duly read it, mostly because she is extremely beautiful and worried she'd quizz me about it at sometime in the future.  When I'm not reading about neurochemistry and Higgin's particles I'm more often than not reading theology.  I liked that Rauls said to paraphrase, justice is to social institutions what truth is to the individual.'  I've always liked the 'as above, so below' connection between macrocosm and microcosom. I just didn't realize that John Rauls, Theory of Social Justice would become so important. It was written in the 70's and I read it in the 90's and today I learned it's one of the most cited of social philosophers.
I've had this experience with individuals before. I read Harvard's, George Vaillant's book on the Grant Study, wrote to him a very appreciative letter in the 70's long before I knew he was one of the 'grand men' of our age.  I was just delighted that he corresponded with me and later I had the opportunity to meet him, a truly wise and remarkable man, a few years ago.  I read Thomas Kuhn's, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions' a few years after it was published in the early 60's .  Today paradigm is a garden variety word thanks mostly to his book.  I read Turing early in my interest in computer programming when I was writing in Basic and MS Dos long before I cursed program language realizing I could speak swahili, punjabi, mandarin and spanish if I had devoted my attention to learning living rather than techno language. I still enjoy learning spanish but will likely die before I ever  learn swahili. There is simply not enough time for learning all one wants to and so much interference in the study of what really matters.  
Recently I read Jared Diamond's first books and happened to share the tastes of the world as that great genius has also gone on to acclaim he deserves.
When I travelled I used to carry a copy of the Bible and I also had a copy of Plato. I enjoyed in my 20's  reading the discussions  of Socrates.  Over the years I'd routinely read three texts, one about some aspect of sociocultural world, from the  arts , a scientific text, which might be from any aspect of science, medicine or psychiatry, and finally a novel which commonly discussed matters of importance in the other fields.  I've loved the writings of physician writers like Michael Creighton and recently Daniel Kalla.
I loved Love in the Ruins and the Joshua Tree.  I've loved those books that spoke to our times and culture, like Robertson Davies trilogy.  Obviously reading Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain was an insight into asylums, tuberculosis and the human spirit just as that other nobel prize winner Magister Ludi caused consideration of meaning as much as Victor Frankl's writing does.  Recently I was reading an economics text, a physics text and an evangelical theology text side by side getting relief from them by reading the antics of Flashman by Macdonald as he boisterously raced through the hot spots of history.  Most of the ideas of science fiction a hundred years ago and even only 50 have come to pass.  I laughed because several of my patients were called insane for thinking exactly the same way as  characters out of a William Gibson's novel.  I thought meeting these exotic creatures some of my colleagues should get out more.  Not at all insane by global standards but definitely beyond the mindset of Georgia and Howe.  
An old friend, the father of my dear friend, before he died told us how he'd supported himself in the latter years. He'd had very little or modest returns from all the best stocks and investments. However he chose to invest in an obscure company because he thought what they were up to was rather brilliant. This man was a scientist in chemistry himself but chose to buy stock in this obscure little start up.  "It was called IBM. It's provided more returns than all the other blue stocking stocks put together and allowed us to live as we did after retirement." he told his son.
I feel like I've invested well intellectually.  There's a kind of 'social justice' in that.  It's the truth.  John Rauls was a good read even if my brilliant and beautiful friend never asked me about it later.  But today as his name has achieved an even greater popularity I am thankful to her too for recognising gold in the dross.

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