If a piece of writing doesn't make you laugh or cry or think, it wasn't worth writing.
The public pays for most of the basic research conducted at universities and research centres. Consequently, the public ought to have free access to our peer-reviewed publications. Books are different. Authors should be able to make a modest profit from writing them.
The idea for Elements of Knowledge sprang from two conclusions about humankind I have reached over the years: First, common sense is not common. And second, 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 the following people: Kimberley Wakil (my wife and the love of my life); Irmgard Rüdel (my mother) and Margarete Müllbacher (my grandmother); Dale Kolody (a solid friend); Enid Blyton, Heinrich Harrer, and Viktor Weisskopf; Gerhard Hanebeck, Johnny Rotten, and Bob Geldof; Heinz Splechtna, Charles Darwin, and Carl Walters; Ludwig Wittgenstein and Daniel Kahneman; Ernest Hemingway and William Strunk Jr..
A strange group indeed.
Michael Baumann, Apr 2023