Testing your understanding of an author’s words

There is one other test of whether you understand the proposition in a sentence you have read.  Can you point to some experience you have had that the proposition describes or to which the proposition is in any way relevant?  Can you exemplify the general truth that has been enunciated by referring to a particular instance of it?  To imagine a possible case is often as good as citing an actual one.  If you cannot do anything at all to exemplify or illustrate the proposition, either imaginatively or by reference to actual experiences, you should suspect that you do not know what is being said.

Propositions do not exist in a vacuum.  They refer to the world in which we live.  Unless you can show some acquaintance with actual or possible facts to which the proposition refers or is relevant somehow, you are playing with words, not dealing with thought or knowledge.

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren

One Response to “Testing your understanding of an author’s words”

  1. kdzugan Says:

    Why settle for a brief quote? Read the entire book. Here is what “How to Read a Book” did for me.

    I have been a voracious reader all my life. I never thought that I needed to know anything more about how to read. However 1990 I read about a book by someone named Mortimer Adler whom I had never heard of. The title of the book was “How to Read a Book.” Even though I thought I knew everything about how to read I became intrigued by the title. I finally bought the book. I read it and then I read it again, and again, and again. Over the course of several years Dr. Adler dramatically changed what I read, how I read, and why I read. I used to read predominantly to be entertained. Now I read to learn. Using what Dr. Adler taught me, I now get in order of magnitude more out of books that I ever did before.

    Dr. Adler was a brilliant and prolific author, educator, philosopher, and lecturer. He wrote more than 50 books and 200 articles, all of which can be read with pleasure and profit.

    FFor more information on Mortimer Adler and his work, visit http://www.thegreatideas.org, The Center for the Study of The Great Ideas

    Ken Dzugan
    Senior Fellow and Archivist
    The Center for the Study of The Great Ideas

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