The word “philosophy” comes from Greek and means “love of wisdom”. With such an impressive definition, the field should have plenty to teach even the modern learner. Sadly, philosophy these days conjures mostly images of big dusty books and bespectacled, bearded men discussing arcane topics. And while it is true that philosophy tackles the great questions of life and reality, there are many ways it can help you become a better learner in whatever field you’re focusing on.
So, today we’re taking a look at what philosophy can teach us about learning. Hopefully, you’ll be able to pick up a few tricks to become better at it yourself.
Focusing on metacognition
Many great philosophers, such as John Locke and Immanuel Kant, have pondered the question of how humans think and perceive the world. And while you don’t necessarily need to spend hours thinking about the nature of reality, focusing on how you think is a great way to make yourself a better learner.
This “thinking about thinking” is called metacognition and research shows that it can help you acquire information and skills more effectively. The idea is to simply take a moment to focus on what you know and how you learn. Employing the best learning strategies is the key to success and it’s important to make sure you’re picking the ones that are right for you.
It’s also an important tool to use when you’re not sure (or are too confident) that you’ve understood everything of the material you’re trying to grasp. While you’re learning, think about questions like “What are the main ideas of this topic?”, “How would I explain it to someone?”, and “What areas am I still confused about?” to guide your learning in a more productive direction.
A Stoic look at stress
The Stoics were a school of thinkers in Ancient Greece and Rome, who worried about how to live a good life (as many philosophers are wont to do). One of their big ideas was that you should only worry about things that you can change.
As a learner, figuring out what is under your control and what isn’t is a great way to be less anxious. Using stoic techniques can help you limit stress, which has been shown to have adverse effects on memory. Instead of worrying about things that are out of your control, focus on changing what you can, and only deal with whatever is not under your control if and when that happens. Doing that can make you feel more empowered, increase your confidence, and lead to better learning outcomes.
Employing logic and sticking with the problem
Much of philosophy also deals with coming up with arguments to defend a particular viewpoint. Logic and perseverance are utterly indispensable both for philosophers, and for you as a learner. Sticking with a problem, trying various solutions, and assessing their efficacy is paramount to anyone looking to drive any field forward.
So, take a leaf out of one of the dusty books and practice persevering with a particular question, at the same time making sure any ideas you propose are logically waterproof. If you want to find out more about logical reasoning, this video is a great place to start:
Of course, there is so much more philosophy can teach us about learning and, indeed, living. But these three steps are a great way to become an effective learner. Try worrying less, thinking about your thinking, and sticking with a problem to see it to the very end, and see how your ability to learn anything quickly improves.