My dislike of Feynman’s memoirs prompted the longest and best series of comments this blog has ever seen — many of which were spirited endorsements of Feynman’s books. Here’s Austin:
But it was (for me) a founding text for a kind of nerd intellectual ethos that got expounded in the stories – don’t be afraid to ask apparently stupid questions; reason up from first principles; don’t be afraid to look ridiculous; question accepted solutions; look for basic truths in every day phenomena; explore the world with your intellect; thinking = play.
I really do profoundly agree with his main point, that just because someone tells you that something is true or right doesn’t make it so: you should cultivate an ability to work things out for yourself.
Feynman really does try to teach these lessons, as I recall, and they’re good ones. For me they were drowned out by some kind of personality clash between Feynman’s character and mine. Austin and Pete were luckier.
(And there’s more good stuff in the comments too. Anyone who has more to say on the topic of “Who was a bigger jerk, Feynman or Weil?” is encouraged to continue beneath the present post.)