Is It Arrogant to Think for Yourself?

By - 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 others.

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 for yourself.

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 of arrogance?

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