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Russell on useless knowledge

“Perhaps the most important advantage of ‘useless’ knowledge is that it promotes a contemplative habit of mind…[This] has advantages ranging from the most trivial to the most profound.…

Curious learning not only makes unpleasant things less unpleasant, but also makes pleasant things more pleasant.  I have enjoyed peaches and apricots more since I have known that they were first cultivated in China in the early days of the Han dynasty; that Chinese hostages held by the great King Kaniska introduced them to India, when they spread to Persia, reaching the Roman Empire in the first century of our era; that the word ‘apricot’ is derived from the same Latin root as the word ‘precocious’ because the apricot ripens early; and the A at the beginning was added by mistake, owing to a false etymology. All this makes the fruit taste much sweeter.” – Bertrand Russell. In Praise of Idleness (1935)

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