Think (critically) for yourself

This is an apt subject for my first blog post. It is after all my primary tag line, and the default signature on my email. A friend called it my motto and that’s fine by me.   But then one person took it as an offense. Yes folks, calling on people to think critically for themselves was construed to be an offensive recommendation!

Let’s parse this very short statement:

It starts with THINK. Yes, that’s a verb that exhorts others to, well, think. What could be clearer ? I supposed for some, this is very hard.  Maybe such people don’t have the inclination, maybe they’ve been browbeaten in the past and mocked when they expressed themselves. So its easier (they think) to follow the crowd. Maybe old folk tales and ancient books transcribed from older oral traditions capture all what one needs to ‘live’. Or maybe, going by gut instincts, and feelings is all that matters.

The second word is ‘critically‘. I put this word in brackets, because frankly it is redundant. Thinking critically means applying the rules of logic and evidence to the thought process. I say that the word ‘critically’ is redundant because non-critical thinking is not thinking. It could be daydreaming, or at best meditation.

Then there is the word ‘for‘. I could have written ‘by’, but that would have changed the meaning. While the act of thinking is my its nature solitary, it is not lonely. It rests on ideas and uses words and concepts that came before,  and thinking, good or bad, has consequences beyond the thinker once expressed in words or deeds. So think for yourself and take responsibility for your ideas, but then share them. Thinking ‘by’ yourself, is really meditation. That’s fine, but is not what the motto exhorts you to do.

Finally, there is ‘yourself‘.  Yes, it is redundant because thinking is, by its nature, solitary. But I mean here to emphasize your responsibility for your thoughts. Don’t be a follower, or a sheep. (Sorry sheep!). Of course neither you, nor anybody else is capable of original thinking on all matters, and you have to trust others on many matters for which you don’t have expertise. Yet, choosing who to follow is your responsibility, and choosing who to trust requires thought. If you follow, follow tentatively. And if the basis for following that someone’s thinking is no longer valid, revise your thinking. Thinking, and constant doubt is necessary for a vigilant mind and life.

 

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