Monday, October 12, 2009

Reexamining Convention: Addendum One - Freedom and Responsibility of Thought

It is necessary for the clarity of this essay to address another issue that goes beyond directly examining society, and ventures into the treacherous waters of individual thought.

Among the most treasured of our precious liberties, freedom of thought must never be infringed upon. Each individual must come to his or her own conclusions of their own volition, and be given all ease possible in attaining evidence and information pertaining to these conclusions.

At the same time, with this right comes responsibility.

Several, in fact. For one, the responsibility to continually reexamine one's viewpoints and conclusions on a frequent basis, as impartially as possible. Without this, our opinions quickly become obsolete and irrelevant in our changing, advancing society.

Second, we must engage in a measure of debate with others who hold different opinions than our own. This second measure reinforces the first with exponential force. This is already practiced extensively in the scientific community with respect to their pursuits, a testament to the usefulness of this strategy.

Third, we must always strive for greater truth. Sometimes, this is not easy. It is hard to admit you are wrong. To ease this, we as a society should erase much of the stigma that revolves around being incorrect; in reality, admitting a wrong is only a positive step, and should be encouraged thusly.

Other times, it is difficult for a different reason. Our opinions often, if left untouched, under glass, and regarded as sacrosanct, they become comforting. Opposition to outside ideas emerges not out of intellectual dissent, but an emotional reflex towards 'protecting' the familiar, comforting, old thoughts. If shared between a whole people, they become traditions.

These must be challenged.

In reality, we protect nothing by isolating logic from an opinion. It achieves absolutely nothing besides intellectual stagnation. There is nothing to fear from new thoughts based on rationality, logic, and the application thereof to new and relevant information. In fact, it is a moment of greatness unrivaled by few other events in the human experience.

Traditions must be challenged, but not reflexively rejected; this is merely the same reaction as the one the traditional itself likely originated from. Not all traditions are false; they are simply old ideas that must be examined with all the skepticism that would be given to the most outlandish new idea. They should thus be given respect, but not deference.

Without challenging these traditions, we doom our opinions to unnecessary obsolesence, ourselves to perpetual ignorance, and our society to equally unnecessary and vast ignorance. Therefore, we must question everything.

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