The Voluntary Life: 85 Freedom From Intellectual Heroes

27 November 2012

85 Freedom From Intellectual Heroes

This episode is about gaining freedom from intellectual heroes. I share some thoughts about how to extract the best ideas from thinkers that you admire, without relying on someone else to think for you. I talk about some ways I have found for gaining intellectual independence, including:

  • Taking apart the "package deal" of a set of new ideas to use the ones that work and discard the ones that don't.
  • Learning to trust your own judgement: if an idea doesn't make sense to you, it's probably because the idea is incoherent.
  • Starting from the assumption that "everything is a remix", even if an idea appears to be very original or is presented as very new.

Ultimately, I believe intellectual independence is about giving up the emotional search for leaders. It is a part of growing up and being an adult to stop looking for intellectual heroes and to treat every thinker as someone who puts their pants on one leg at a time, just like you and me. A really important aspect of intellectual freedom is to give up deference to our heroes- to take what we can from their ideas and own those ideas for ourselves, so that we truly think for ourselves. That's what free people do, they think for themselves.

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