Commonplace Book #10

To think independently of other human beings is impossible, and if it were possible it would be undesirable.  Thinking is necessarily, thoroughly, and wonderfully social.  Everything you think is a response to what someone else has thought and said.  And when people commend someone for “thinking for herself” they usually  mean “ceasing to sound like people I dislike and starting to sound more like people I approve of.”  This is a point worth dwelling on.  How often do we say “she really thinks of herself” when someone rejects views that we  hold?  No: when someone departs from what we believe to be the True Path our tendency is to look for bad influences.  She’s fallen under the spell of so-and-so.  She’s been reading too much X or listening to to much Y or watching too much Z .  Similarly, people in my line of work always say that we want to promote “critical thinking”–but really we want our students to think critically only about what they’ve learned at home and in church, not about what they learn from us.

Alan Jacobs, How to Think, 37.

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