How to Think Like a Renaissance Man (or Woman!)

This is the book I’ve been reading lately. It’s joining the ranks of my favorite books; I’d love to own a copy, but for now I have a library loan. My interest in Da Vinci stemmed from the understanding that he was the ultimate promoter of self-led education. Now I’ve become more curious about his approach to learning.

Everyone has heard of Leonardo da Vinci to some extent so I won’t bother to go into the details of his life (although if you’re interested in learning more about him, go here or here). The book uses his ideas, quotes, and notebook entries to create a system of thinking that a person of the 21st century can use to develop their own mind. The author believes that da Vinci embodied a method of learning that can aid anyone in their own search for knowledge. He organized da Vinci’s thoughts into seven categories:

Curiosita: An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.

Dimostrazione: A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.

Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.

Sfumato (literally, “going up in smoke”): A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.

Arte/Scienza: The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. “Whole-Brain” thinking.

Corporalita: The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.

Connessione: A recognition and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.

Here are some quotes from Leonardo to ponder:

“The desire to know is natural to good men.”

“Feathers shall raise men even as they do birds, toward heaven; that is by letters written with their quills.”

“For in truth great love is born of great knowledge of the thing loved.”

“The five senses are the ministers of the soul.”

“Behold now the hope or desire of going back to one’s country or returning to primal chaos, like that of the moth to the light, of the man who with perpetual longing always looks forward with joy to each new spring and each new summer… deeming that the things he longs for are too slow in coming; and who does not perceive that he is longing for his own destruction. But this longing is in its quintessence the spirit of the elements, which, finding itself imprisoned within the life of the human body, desires continually to return to its source.”

“Study the science of art and the art of science.”

“He who fixes his course to a star changes not.”

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