t's incredible that this 1916 tutorial on how to think, by none other than Henry Hazlitt, would still hold up after all these years. But here's why. Hazlitt was largely self-educated. He read voraciously. He trained himself to be a great intellect. In the middle of this process, he discovered that it is far more important to learn to think clearly than to merely take in information. The result was this book.
In some ways, it is a course in logic. But more than that, it is a training manual for how to fire up and manage one's mental energy.
He discusses how to think about analogies and discover their errors. He speaks of the error of too much aggregation and misplaced definitions. He presents the rules for the interplay between theory and example. He shows how to spot errors in theory and experiments. He shows how to think all the way to the end of a problem. He gives some very practical advice on the relationship between thinking and reading - and how to plan that reading so that one uses one's time well.
His examples of how to think and how not to think are lucid and compelling. His influences in this little book include Stanley Jevons and Herbert Spencer, so we can see here that Hazlitt was already steeped in economic literature when he wrote this book in 1916.
It remains an excellent primer in how to gain, and make use of, a good education.
Of course you " thought"—in a sense. Thinking means a variety of things. You may have looked out of your t r a in window while passing a field, and it may have occurred to you that that field would make an excellent baseball diamond. Then you " thought" of the time when you played baseball, " thought" of some particular game perhaps, " thought" how you had made a grand stand play or a bad muff, and how one day it began to rain in the middle of the game, and the team took refuge in the carriage shed. Then you " thought " of other rainy days rendered particularly vivid for some reason or other, or perhaps your mind came back to considering the present weather, and how long it was going to last. . . . And of course, in one sense you were " thinking ." But when I use the word thinking, I mean thinking with a purpose, with an end in view, thinkingto solve a problem. I mean the kind of thinking that is forced on us when we are deciding on a course to pursue, on a life work to take up pe rhaps; the kind of thinking that was forced on us in our younger days when we had to find a solution to a problem in mathematics, or when we tackled psychology in college. I do not mean " thinking” in snatches, or holding petty opinions on this subject and on that. I mean thought on significant questions which lie outside the bounds of your narrow personal welfare. This is the kind of thinking which is now so rare—so sadly needed!
Henry Stuart Hazlitt (November 28, 1894 – July 9, 1993) was a libertarian philosopher, an economist, and a journalist for various publications including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and Newsweek. He was the founding vice-president of the Foundation for Economic Education and an early editor of The Freeman magazine, an important libertarian publication. In 1946 Hazlitt wrote Economics in One Lesson, his seminal text on free market economics, which Ayn Rand referred to as doing a "...magnificent job of theoretical exposition." Hazlitt is credited with bringing his ideas and those of the so-called Austrian School to the American economics scene and his work has influenced the likes of economist Ludwig von Mises, novelist and essayist Ayn Rand, and 2008 Libertarian Party Presidential nominee and congressman, Ron Paul.
Hazlitt was a prolific writer, authoring 25 works in his lifetime.
Ludwig von Mises said at a dinner honoring Hazlitt: "In this age of the great struggle in favor of freedom and the social system in which men can live as free men, you are our leader. You have indefatigably fought against the step-by-step advance of the powers anxious to destroy everything that human civilization has created over a long period of centuries... You are the economic conscience of our country and of our nation."