Bending and bowing.

Defying dogma. How do you do it?

I was shown an article called “A bite of conviction” yesterday. The emphasis is on eliminating dependence and learning to think for yourself. It set off a chain reaction in my mind. Understanding the forty-eight laws of power and how people accrue influence. Being comfortable with personal freedom and independence. Questioning and rigorously testing what you think you know. Societal pressure and social proof. All are concepts and possible avenues of exploration that were triggered.

In fact, it set up such a miasma of activity and ideas that I’m now working on it as the next article for LDN.

But there’s two points I want to highlight here. First, from Peter Thiel’s Zero to One: “The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.” Are you doing that? If you can develop the intellectual courage to ask and honestly answer that question whenever you have to make a big decision, you’ll be several steps ahead of the majority. You’ll also avoid a lot of misery and heartbreak.

Secondly, whenever “thinking for yourself” comes up, I am reminded of the section by the same title in Schopenhauer’s Essays and Aphorisms. Consider:

“The characteristic mark of minds of the first rank is the immediacy of all their judgements … He who truly thinks for himself is like a monarch, in that he recognises no one over him. His judgements, like the decisions of a monarch, arise directly from his own absolute power. He no more accepts authorities than a monarchy does orders, and he acknowledges the validity of nothing he has not himself confirmed.”

As I type the above extract, I realise the arrogance and the stubbornness embedded in an attitude that defers to no one. Stubbornness is admirable when we are right. When we hold a well-considered and constructed position. It is the height of stupidity when we are wrong or unwilling to examine contrary evidence.

I can’t remember where I first heard it, it may have been Karl Popper, but we must remember that the conviction with which a belief is held is no guarantee of (or substitute for) it’s truth. Or as Oscar Wilde quipped, “a thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.”

Still, I haven’t answered the question. Defying dogma. How do you do it? The full answer is one that is far beyond the scope of this post. But the above extracts from Thiel, Schopenhauer and Wilde are a good start. And as a final spur to independent thought, here’s Montaigne. “Everything should bow and submit to our kings – except our intelligence. My reason was not made for bending and bowing, my knees were.”