The idea for Elements of Truth sprang from two conclusions I have made about humankind: First, that common sense is not common. And second, that intellectual rigour is rare. Consequently, in 2008 I started writing down my thoughts on thinking. My goal was to write a book that is to thinking what Strunk and White is to writing. Confident, concise, and clear.
But writing that way is hard work. Clarity arises from simplification, and simplification arises from omission. How much omission could I justify? Omission was one side. Adornment was the other. Often when I wanted to describe a piece of the cathedral upon which truth is built, I discovered that the piece was just a rickety old scaffold. I then had to rebuild something stronger.
And because I am slow, all of this took time.
In any case, this book would not exist without the lives and works of many people alive and dead. For the necessary causes: Kimberley Wakil (my wife and the love of my life); Viktor Weiskopf, Gerhard Hanebeck, Johnny Rotten, Charles Darwin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, William Strunk Jr., Carl Walters, and Dale Kolody (a solid friend). For the sufficient causes: Irmgard Rüdel (my mother) and Margarete Müllbacher (my grandmother); Enid Blyton, Heinrich Harrer, Bob Geldof, Ernest Hemingway, and Daniel Kahneman.
A strange group indeed.
Michael Baumann, December 2020