Journal Instructions (30% of Total Grade)
The journal will focus on what Mortimer Adler in his classic How to Read a Book (1972) calls
inspectional reading and demanding reading. Adler’s book is not required for our class, but I
highly encourage you to peruse this book. It can be found for cheap on Amazon and might be one
of the best purchases you make during your academic career.
Every Journal Entry must have the following two sections:
I. Inspectional Reading
1. Flip through the pages of the reading. Read the editor’s introduction and then spend no
more than 20 minutes randomly reading section headings, sentences & paragraphs —
never read more than 2-3 pages together at once!
2. Journal Task
a) Record one observation about the article/book/author that your pre-read has
B. Superficial Read (skim read)
1. After taking a break from the text (Lewis Carol suggests 5 minutes), return to the
beginning of the text and read it from start to finish in one sitting. If you do not
understand something, keep reading! Unfamiliar vocabulary, keep reading! Need to take
a bathroom break, keep reading! You need to get through the entire work in one sitting.
2. Journal Task
a) Explain one aspect of the work that you understood after reading it all the way
through. Give page numbers to show where the section(s) ranged from which
you understood the author.
II. Demanding Reading
A. It is now time to read the work more thoroughly. A good thorough reading is akin to a good
conversation between reader and author. It is an exchange of information between two people
as to how they think about the world or topic at hand. And, just as with a verbal conversation,
questioning becomes the main means of gathering information. A demanding reader is a
reader who knows how to question.
B. Journal Task
1. Classify the work: You must define the philosophical problem(s) with which the author is
engaging. Identifying the author’s problem helps in categorizing the argument as one of
the Good, the True, or the Beautiful. In one or two sentences, state the author’s thesis.
2. Come to terms with author: Having stated the author’s thesis, you now need to
reconstruct the path to the thesis. Why does the author believe that his thesis is true?
Identify the major sentences (NOT paragraphs) that must be true if the author’s thesis is
to be true. You are looking for what evidence the author gives in support of his or her
thesis. Start at the beginning of the text and record the important sentences
providing the sequence or argument of the author. The last sentence should be your
thesis statement. NOTE: This exercise should not require more than 5-7 sentences
depending on the reading.
Introduction to Philosophy
Journal: Feeding the Mind by Lewis Carroll
Part 1 Inspectional Reading
A) The article pre-read has taught me that reading is how we feed the mind, and it is as
essential as feeding the body.
B) I understood that there is a proper way of reading, and doing that is how you keep
your mind healthy. It is something to consciously do and, at least according to
Carroll, there are rules which ensure it is done properly. I had at least a surface level
understanding of the whole article when I first read it. All the way from “Breakfast”
Part 2 Demanding Reading
Thesis: We must read properly in order to cultivate healthy minds.
Important sentences: We readily see to it that we eat physically while often neglecting to
feed ourselves mentally: “What care we take about feeding the lucky body! Which of us does as
much for his mind? And what causes the difference? Is the body so much more important of the
two” (p. 9). First, then, we should set ourselves to provide for our mind its proper kindof food.
Then we should be careful to provide this wholesome food in the proper amount. Neglecting the
quality and/or not carefully monitoring the quantity of mental food has dire consequences:
“Mental gluttony, or over-reading, is a dangerous propensity, tending to weakness of digestive
power, and in some cases to loss of appetite: we know that bread is good and wholesome food,
but who would like to try the experiment of eating two or three loaves at a sitting” (p. 11)? And
then, as to the mastication/digestion of the mental food, the mental process answering to this is
carefully reflecting upon what we read: “Having settled the proper kind, amount, and variety of
our mental food, it remains that we should be careful to allow proper intervals between meal and
meal, and not swallow the food hastily without mastication, so that it may be thoroughly
digested; both which rules, for the body, and also applicable at once to the mind” (p. 12).
This essay has given useful hints on the important subject of reading, teaching that it is one's
duty no less than one's interest to 'read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest' good books. We must
read regularly, discriminately, and carefully in order to cultivate healthy minds.
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