Study as Eating

“Study is, so to speak, the pabulum of the mind by which the intellect is trained and nourished.  For this reason, just as gastronomes are careful in the choice of what they put in their stomachs, so those who wish to preserve purity of taste will only allow certain reading to enter their minds.” Leonardo Bruni, “On the Study of Literature,” in The Great Tradition, ed. Richard M. Gamble (Wilmington: ISI Books, 2007), p. 334.

The early fifteenth century humanist, Leonardo Bruni, compared studying a topic by reading literature to eating and digestion.  Spoiled or unhealthy food may give the eater an upset stomach.  Babies or sick people often need pabulum, that is, something soft and easy to chew and swallow.  Bruni understands the study of great literature to be pabulum for the mind.  In order to preserve a pure taste for classical literature one must be very careful about what one reads and mentally digests.

 

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