Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Does reading make you a better person?

Alan Jacobs on the recent discussion debating whether reading is morally beneficial:
...[I]n studying the effects of people’s reading habits on their moral lives, it’s impossible to control for all sorts of other factors. For instance, children who are read to aren’t just being read to: they are being attended to, loved, cared for. There is a significant body of research demonstrating that people who are read to as children will for their rest of their lives associate reading with affection and security. What reading might do for when extracted from this familial context … we just don’t know and probably can’t know.

Second, if you can “better…understand other people” and acquire a “keener…mental model of other people’s intentions,” that could make you kinder to them. On the other hand, it could also make you a better manipulator of them: the most successful con men understand other people’s motives and intentions very well indeed.

So I’m disinclined to think that reading alone will necessarily do anything for people’s moral character. But I believe reading has a powerful role to play in supporting and strengthening the character of people who are formed by strong families and communities of belief and practice. .... [more]