Think for yourself, and shut up about it

As a rule, when I find myself speaking (or thinking) in phrases I’ve heard on televised “debates” or on cable news channels, I take the opportunity to immediately examine what it is I’m actually saying. Nine times out of 11, the result is roughly equivalent to the muted horn speech of Charlie Brown’s teacher.

It puzzles me that those who shout “Think for yourself!” the loudest are simply repeating what they’ve heard from others before them, and with a distinct lack of applied thought. It should tip us off when both sides of a debate are telling the other to think for themselves. What does it mean to “think for yourself”? How could you not think for yourself? If no one is thinking for themselves, where are all these thought coming from?

With few exceptions, every opinion you or I or anyone has is essentially repeated from some other authority. Whether it’s our parents, religion, political pundits, some YouTube video, or our favorite movie star, we’re just repeating stuff. And that’s fine. That’s how it’s should be. If we had to begin for ourselves at Socrates and work through 3000 years of contemplation, we’d be totally immobile. The worst thing we could do is “think for ourselves.”

The trick is—to parrot another party line—”Test everything. Hold on to what is good.”