Independent Thinking vs Contrarianism
Independent thinking is much claimed by many, and much misunderstood as to what it really is. Unconventionality in thought amounts to much more than just saying “no” to someone else’s “yes.”
Believing that independent thought involves only contrarianism toward a perceived establishment or norm and little more than that commits the fallacy of believing that “I’m a non-conformist — along with all my like-minded friends.”
Few of us are as good at it as we think.
Human beings have a tendency for self-deception on a variety of things — we tend to think flattering things about ourselves, and it is more likely that we are just as conformist as those people we deride as “sheeple,” just with a different set of biases by which our own objectivity is clouded, biases that we ourselves note with difficulty and recognize only reluctantly.
Genuine independent thought amounts to both original and creative thought, and in thinking, listening and reading critically and reflectively while trying best to account for our own biases — we will get nowhere thinking we have none, since to learn of and know our biases is the first step to overcoming them.
Remember that the establishment is not evil just because it’s not someone you helped vote into office, and repeatedly priding ourselves for our freethinking amounts to nothing if we just robotically parrot party-line dogmas and conspiracy-thinking or the standard oppositional talking points of our favorite radio talk-show hosts or allegedly fair and balanced news outlets.
Independent thinking involves suspicion of dogma, including one’s own, and a willingness to challenge our own fixed beliefs when they can be shown erroneous, and our presumptions. It involves wandering along new lines of thought, following them to their logical conclusion, even if we don’t like it, even if it’s not what our particular ingroup or political party doctrine considers acceptable.
It involves much more than uncritical acceptance of what agrees with our prejudices, or knee-jerk rejection of the contrary, and involves in no small part the capacity and willingness to see and venture into new territories of understanding with the tough-mindedness of a pioneer and the insight of a visionary — without just going on in public about what great thinkers we are while plainly wearing our biases on our sleeves.