> Reviewers, including Rudy Rucker, A.W. Moore and Michael Harris, have criticized its style and mathematical content.
Style is, of course, subjective. But I'd look into the content criticism before investing time in this
This viewpoint disregards the flux of the brain in favor of a vague, static "psyche". The brain is plastic, vulnerable, and swimming in a hormonal soup that it's also responsible for regulating. It can fall into feedback loops because of this.
E.g.: stress damages the hippocampus, the hippocampus loses some capacity to mitigate stress, leading to more stress that damages the hippocampus further.
In that hippocampus example, we know that SSRI drugs can reverse this damage. On the other hand, they can also lead some patients to experience increased thoughts of suicide. An anxious/depressed mind can become a suicidal mind or a healthy mind in reaction to the same stimulus. Things can happen to healthy minds that send it to those corners as well. We can't just assume that someone who died of suicide was on a fixed track to get there or that their advice from a healthy mind lead to an unhealthy mind.
I think we can safely say that the Ford-Fulkerson algorithm is not some cursed object that we should not learn about. So clearly there's some spectrum of creations and the imprints left on them by their creators, and at one end of it, there's pretty much no imprint at all.
I don't think it is dangerous in itself to read his thinking, because everyone is coming at it from a different experience than DFW. But it would be dangerous to hold his thoughts up as some ideal to strive for, as opposed to hold his thoughts up as evidence that incredibly talented people can also be incredibly broken.
Depression tends to warp perception, not letting positive thoughs through or immediately shooting them down. Abraham Lincoln was depressed too, so much that the people surrounding him removed everything he could hurt himself with from his surroundings.
I think individuals with a sunny disposition or a well functioning, supportive social circle/family are unlikely to be dragged down by writings of depressed individuals.
You could also try Sam Harris' "waking up" app which claims to achieve what is talked about in Wallace's essay through meditation. From my dabbling with it, it is somewhat true if not entirely true.
Finally you could explore broader works on the mind. I have been listening to audiobooks on animal intelligence ("Other Minds" and "The Genius of Birds") and have made a start on a history of psychology/psychiatry - "The Mind Fixers", which is a bit dry but also filled with wonderful anecdotes and stories.
this wasn't well-known at the time this speech was given, or after he killed himself and the speech became hugely popular. It seems like it still isn't.
I think there's some kind of minimum bar where you shouldn't take spiritual and moral advice from somebody.
If someone failed out of school and tells you to study hard, are you going to discount their advice because they failed to live up to it?
So? Unless the students where kids (as opposed to 18 and above), that's a moralist, religious-derived, US-centric concern (not that such moralism hasn't made its way and infected other parts of the world)...
People that call out adults for sleeping with whoever adult they like are worse than people that sleep with their adult students...
It's a conflict of interest, like an employee sleeping with their boss. It's hard to trust somebody to fairly assess somebody they're sleeping with.
It's only bad if it's part of blackmail or exchange (e.g. for grades, etc). Else, if it's a consentual relation, it's fine just like any other.
Lots of employees have had great relationships and marriages and kids with their bosses and vice versa. And even more students and professors had affairs (this will include someone like French President Macron). Humans are humans they don't easily compartmentalize their attraction or sexuality just because some bureaucratic rules say so.
This is exactly my point. Even if the professor and student don't intend it to be a grades-for-sex exchange, it would be hard for the professor to be completely objective, and not unfairly grade that student higher than other students with whom the professor didn't have such a close relationship.
That it's not generally a good idea is inherent in the "sometime it doesn't work out well" (the complamentary to "it sometimes works out well"). But that's also true for most affairs/relationships, and according to statistics, marriages (if we consider a divorce as "the marriage not working out well"). And it can be awkward, like those.
But my point was, it's human, and not some moral issue to condemn a person or a writer's writing for.
> moralist, religious-derived, US-centric concern
Then again, if teacher touches you inappropriately in US or is trying to manipulate you into that, you can actually complain. It is not easy and you may not be believed, but you are is still in better compared to less moralist places.
It is not exactly US-centric concern to think that any of above happen. The same happen everywhere. It is that complaining about it in US is not a taboo.
I think it's more that sexuality in the US is a taboo, and everything is seen in the prism of violation and litigation.
Non american women do get touched inappropriately and they do not like it. And they do complain about it, if you know them close enough.
The pitch was “here’s a book of good advice from a man who was brilliant, morally decent, and struggled with depression”.
But if the person failed to do so perhaps something about their world view needed to change? Perhaps listening to them could lead you down the same path?
DFW - a great author, and a profoundly sad human. Enjoy his works but don't look to him for anything more than entertainment.