Is It Arrogant to Think for Yourself?
By Steve Gillman - February 20, 2012
People have some fear of the true thinker, as though he or
she is somehow a threat because he won't "go along"
with the group or with cultural ideas and expectations. But the
arrogant man or woman is not the one who thinks; he is the one
who imagines he has found the absolute right system of beliefs
or guru to follow; the one who has abdicated his thinking to
Consider for a moment what it means to stop deciding what
is true using your own mind. There will still be things you hold
as true, but for what reason? Most likely for this reason: some
important authority on Earth, present or past, has claimed certain
things to be true, and you accept that authority as your guide.
Now, since it is clear to all who pay attention that there are
"authorities" of all types who will say all kinds of
things, isn't it also clear that it is YOU who decide which one
to follow? You decide that this or that political party is right.
You decide which kind of doctor to go to. You decide which "holy
books" to follow; there are many to choose from after all.
In other words, there is no complete escape from the responsibility
of thinking for yourself, since you must do so at least as far
as choosing who to do your thinking for you prior to your relinquishing
this responsibility. Add to this the obvious reality of your
fallibility (not one of us is perfect), and it becomes very clear
that it is extreme arrogance to ever think that you can rely
on your mind to decide that this or that person or system or
set of words is infallible for now and for all time. What's the
difference between saying you are perfect in your knowledge and
saying you know how to choose the perfect purveyor of truthful
knowledge with certainty? There is no difference. Either way
you are claiming some kind of perfection.
To claim your own responsibility to think is not arrogance.
It does not imply that you believe you're always right (which
would be arrogant). It is simply the recognition that nobody
else is always right either, and to the extent that you follow
any guidance outside of our own experience and mind, you do so
by taking responsibility for choosing that guidance. If that
choice is your responsibility, then all of your thoughts and
beliefs are as well, right? To say otherwise is like saying that
a drunk man has no responsibility at all for his actions because
he is under the influence of alcohol--while ignoring his choice
to be under that influence.
Intellectually there is no difference between a concentration
camp killer saying he was just following orders and you saying
you are just following the words of this or that holy book, guru,
or savior. And morally, at the point where you sacrifice your
mind to the claimed infallibility of any authority, it often
becomes random coincidence and circumstance whether you happen
to give up your mind to a good idea or a bad one. After all,
you have openly declared that you will no longer judge such matters
You may call me arrogant for saying that I think for myself,
but I readily acknowledge that I can make mistakes. It is arrogant
to think you are infallible, even if that infallibility you imagine
is limited to choosing who or what system will think for you.
Is there truly no chance that you are mistaken in your choice?
Is there really no further thought required of you? And does
that approach suggest humility, or just another insidious form