I saw someone thanking her mom for encouraging her to think for herself.
What does it mean to think for ourselves?
For most of us, it means that we don’t just accept the thoughts presented to us about what opinions we should have, how we should live our life, and so on. We examine these a little more. We explore a bit further, and find what resonates more with us and makes more sense to us.
In practice, it usually means to exchange a selection of views from the culture we are expected to align with, with views from a subculture. We find one or more subgroups we resonate with, and adopt some or many of the views we find there.
So, yes, we do think for ourselves to some extent. We chose to examine the views presented to us from the mainstream, or from whatever subgroup(s) we are born into and grow up within, and find what resonates more with us.
LOOKING A LITTLE CLOSER
There is a lot more to this.
The most obvious is that it’s invevitably a partial thinking-for-ourselves. In a sense, we just swap one set of views for another. The new set of views is not something we came up with ourselves. We just decided to adopt a different set of views. And that’s understandable, natural, ordinary, inevitable, and there is nothing wrong with it. We swap one program for another that seems to fit us better.
Also, the programs we operate from are not just the conscious ones. We consciously adopt certain views, and these will obviously color our perception and life. And yet, we are also operating from a lot of other programs – from our culture, upbringing and so on – that color our life and perception. And we are more or less conscious of these, and have examined them to a greater or lesser degree.
And when we chose another set of programs, where does this choice come from? It’s a choice that comes from innumerable factors, from biology, friends, culture, experiences, and so on. It’s ultimately not “our” choice. It’s life making that choice through and as us.
HOW FAR DO WE TAKE IT?
Thinking for ourselves can be mostly reactive and reflexive, or we can take it further.
We may examine the different options more or less thoroughly. Our choice of views may be more or less informed, and would perhaps look different if we we had examined it more thoroughly.
We may also be more or less aware of where our choices come from. Do they come, at least partly, from a sense of need and lack? Something unresolved in us? From reactivity?
What biases do they reflect? What biases influence what I resonate with? From my family? Experiences? Subcultures? Culture? Evolution? Being an Earth-creature?
We can examine the thoughts themselves. How is it to recognize a thought as a thought? What happens when I hold a certain thought as true? How does it color my perception, feelings, choices, and life? What’s more true for me than the thought? What do I find when I examine it more thoroughly?
What do I find when I explore how the sense fields – sensations, sight, sounds, smell, taste, thoughts etc. – combine to create my experiences? How do certain sensations and thoughts combine, through associations? What happens when sensations lends a sense of solidity and reality to thoughts? And when thoughts lend a sense of meaning to sensations?
What’s actually here, free of any thoughts?
What are my underlying assumptions? And my most basic assumptions about myself and the world? What do I find when I examine these?
What do I find when I examine what I more fundamentally am, in my own first-person experience?
For me, thinking for myself means partly what it means in a conventional sense. And to acknowledge that any thinking I do, and any views I adopt or resonate with, are not from “free thinking” – they all come from somewhere and I don’t decide which ones resonate with me. It’s all life’s doing.
It also means examining my thoughts. It means to identify and examine thoughts I hold as true, and find what’s more true for me.
It means to identify and examine my most cherished and basic assumptions about myself and reality, and see what I find.
It doesn’r really matter if this is “thinking for myself” or not. In a conventional sense, perhaps it looks that way. And in a more real sense, this is all life’s doing.
Note: I am still at the cabin and write on my phone, so this article too is whatever came out and mostly unedited.
Levels – accept, believe, examine, find the universality it it, infinite causes etc
Examine issues, identities around it (wants, needs, lack)
Accept without question, follow bc want to be included / accepted, intentionally believe for a reason, reactive / intentionally different / contrarian, even when critical thinking often follow, logical reasoning, examine thoughts / innenriksfly relationship with thoughts, find freedom around it, always infinte causes, cultural, tied w preferences / issues / hangups,
from thought to noticing/seeing/direct perception **
Infinitely rich topic, infinite layers, contexts
What does it mean to think for ourselves? As usual, it has several layers and is almost infinitely complex.