By definition, intellectual independence means that your own thoughts and values have been guided by your own rationality. Your conscious activity has not been dictated or controlled by others. It’s your own thoughts and values guided by your own (truthful) recognition of reality.
Intellectual Independence is a rejection of your mind’s conformity to others. The colloquial usage would be to “think for yourself” and to “not get on the bandwagon”. This is regardless of your political affiliation. Regardless of your ethnicity, upbringing, culture, or anything else. It’s the true test of your mind’s ability to think freely without the false rational constraint.
And it’s lacking in modern society.
A More In-Depth Review of Intellectual Independence
The biggest take-away of the definition of intellectual independence is that you are “voluntarily choosing what to think and communicate”. This strictly means that your own thoughts are voluntary, not forced by someone else. And your own thoughts dictate what you choose to communicate.
It requires a high level of self-sufficiency. Even above the levels of just being physically self-sufficient, because it entails controlling manipulation by others’ agendas. Reaching a stage of intellectual independence means regulating these actions of your own thoughts. Noticing when someone is attempting to propagate information into your thoughts that may or may not be rationally/logically sound. In short, you have to think for yourself when other people make any type of claim.
Intellectual Independence also requires you to recognize, embrace, and adapt your thoughts to reality. This means not being tied to child-like emotional connections to your rationale. It also requires you to get a firm grasp and understanding on reality, not the falsehoods that many people claim are “reality”.
Adapting to reality is hard for most. Many people build bubbles in their heads of the way the world works and how things should be. They then put all of this information and form beliefs and values around them. Worse, they can then communicate these beliefs and values to others who are also intellectually dependent.
You have free will for a reason. Embrace it and use it fully. Don’t get stuck in any type of bubble, regardless of your political, religious, or other deeply held convictions. Being intellectual independent forces you to not passively accept the ideals of others without passing them through a strict reality and rationality filter.
You are more than just your genetics. You have the most powerful tool any human has ever discovered: consciousness. Use it!
The Beginning Steps of Achieving Intellectual Independence
There is no quick guide that will get you this skill in a day. It takes practice, and a lot of focus and dedication.
But there are many things you can do to get you on the right track. With practice and patience, you’ll be able to see the common fallacies, false reality, and bubbles that are prevalent in the majority of the population, regardless of where you live.
You can’t control your hair color, but you can control your values and logic.
The first step in going toward a more free-thinker attitude is by regulating your own conscious. Take note of what you feel and think when you are presented with new information. Your reaction may surprise you if you review these feelings awhile after the first-contact with the information.
Many people see news and immediately have a reaction, and that reaction stays with them whether or not it is justifiable. It’s in our nature to react to bad or even horrifying news. But it’s your job as an intellectually independent individual to make sure that it fits rational and logical tests. Even if that requires you to take a break from it and rethink it later.
The next step is to be aware of the consequences of thought.
No thought is free of consequence. I can demonstrate with an example. Let’s assume you see a news article that states that a plant can cure cancer. Then you research the material and later discover that the article is bunk, and the reasoning is shady. While you may have overcome the news articles’ false claims, the next time someone mentions cancer to you, you may have a moment of unease. It won’t be your conscious doing this, it will be the instinctual residual that the article laid on your mind. Noticing this and accepting that all thoughts have consequences will help you overcome this feeling. This is a pretty low-key example, but it applies to all forms of thoughts including ones involving deeply held convictions.
The third step is using a rationale to guide your values and actions. Don’t believe in something because you always have. Resist believing in something because others do. Don’t believe in anything unless you have honestly researched the subject, have a good basis of understanding of the reality surrounding it, and have ensured you don’t have emotional-appeals to that thought. And most importantly, don’t let others passively convince you of a subject without your own logic filter determining its worth.
The fourth step is accepting the possibility of error. Anyone with a rationale will be able to honestly review and change their mind when presented with new evidence. No one knows everything, and no one should resist new evidence when it is presented. Embrace it.
Finally, accept the recognition that being right about something might not necessarily make that something morally good. A person can be right about a subject of reality, but that subject might not be morally clear. These can be tricky juxtapositions. And ones that no one will be able to truly “answer”. They are common questions in philosophy.
What Happens Without Intellectual Independence?
Without this skill, you would be the opposite of the term, which is an “intellectual conformist”. They’re not utilizing the wonderful consciousness we all have. Instead, they stay in their bubble and continue to take in passive false ideals without notice.
This typically entails a lot of logical fallacies and groupthink. You can very easily uncover those who are intellectually conformed by analyzing their arguments. If you take 30 minutes to read up about common logical fallacies and related biases, you’ll start noticing them all the time.
These are key to spotting the conformed. Since they can’t think for themselves, they utilize groupthink to make arguments. Many times, these bandwagon arguments have logical fallacies embedded in them. Since these individuals don’t pass the logic through a reality and bias filter, they simply accept the groupthink and move on. If they would have been intellectually independent, they wouldn’t have grasped on to the false argument (even if it WAS correct), because it has logical fallacies within it.
Cultural Implications of Intellectual Conformity
One of the biggest problems associated with a lack of intellectual independence is the cultural destruction that follows. Many Western cultures are based on free thought, free speech, and being independent/self-sufficient.
By not utilizing these important traits of Western societies, it devolves into a circle-jerk of intellectual conformists’ logical impurities. This can have a significant impact on things like public policy, resulting in a degradation of the culture of the host nation.
People try to come up with reasons why societies fall all the time. But the truth of the matter is, usually the culture and traditions of the nation fail first. There becomes a divide between the citizens and sometimes outside forces. However, if everyone were to accept and embrace reality, these distinctions and resistances against a pure culture would not exist as strongly. Everyone would still nit-pick the details, but not the system.
An example is freedom of speech. I can’t think of many who rationally believe that free (or at least accountable) speech should not be commonly accepted. However, in recent years, strong support of “Hate Speech” laws has arisen. These are in direct conflict with the free/accountable speech philosophy. The values of the culture have shifted. And this hasn’t come around from new information, but on emotional appeals. And it continues to threaten free speech culture to this day.
The philosophy of intellectual Independence is the backbone of intellect, cultural survival, independence, and self-sufficiency.
Being an autonomous person will change your life for the better. It will result in you seeing and recognizing things you never have before. It will help you with strengthening arguments and catching weaker ones. On top of all of this, it can also make you a more intellectually secure person emotionally.
By following the beginning steps of reaching intellectual independence, you will learn to resist dependency on emotion and other people.
And through communicating these new found ideals to others, we will all be better able to combat the negative effects of intellectual conformity.