What is an Independent Thinker?

I originally wrote this is a few years ago on another forum. It’s a concept that is so important to understand I wanted to share it here. The term “Independent Thinker” comes up in conversations a lot. I’m so often accused of being one. I search for a good definition and bold the parts that resonates the most with me. I find a useful explanation at iPersonic:

Independent Thinkers are analytical and witty persons. They are normally self-confident and do not let themselves get worked up by conflicts and criticism. They are very much aware of their own strengths and have no doubts about their abilities. People of this personality type are often very successful in their career as they have both competence and purposefulness. Independent Thinkers are excellent strategists; logic, systematics and theoretical considerations are their world. They are eager for knowledge and always endeavor to expand and perfect their knowledge in any area which is interesting for themAbstract thinking comes naturally to them; scientists and computer specialists are often of this type.

Independent Thinkers are specialists in their area. The development of their ideas and visions is important to them; they love being as flexible as possible and, ideally, of being able to work alone because they often find it a strain having to make their complex trains of thought understandable to other people. Independent Thinkers cannot stand routine. Once they consider an idea to be good it is difficult to make them give it up; they pursue the implementation of that idea obstinately and persistently, also in the face of external opposition.

Referencing some of the parts I made bold, I will add a few comments. Independent Thinkers are analytical and self-confident and do not get worked up by conflicts and criticism. Independent Thinkers are open to debate topics they are interested in and are well prepared to compare and contrast beliefs with logic and empirical evidence. By virtue of “independence” the Independent Thinker is able to consider many different views to determine which is based on truth and facts. As an Independent Thinker myself, I can tell you that I have learned as much from people whose views are opposite mine, but not because they influence or control my beliefs but instead because they often confirm them. If you’re on to something, something that has a strong logic and mathematical reasoning behind it, then your next step is to figure out what may be wrong or go wrong rather than learning it the hard way. Outcomes are always uncertain, never a sure bet, so the best we can do is stack the math for dealing with uncertainty in our favor and figuring out in advance what may shift it against us. Once we’ve done this, then we have no reason to worry about things that haven’t even happened. If you want to discover any potential issues with your ideas, you’ll learn more by sharing them with people who are more likely to disagree with you than those who will probably just agree without any critical thinking or testing. But if you find you mostly follow along with what others believe, then you may not be thinking independently. When we speak of “independent”, we necessarily speak of the various things listed by dictionary.com:

1. not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinker.

2. not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction; autonomous; free: an independent businessman.

3. not influenced by the thought or action of others: independent research.

4. not dependent; not depending or contingent upon something else for existence, operation, etc.

5. not relying on another or others for aid or support.

6. rejecting others’ aid or support; refusing to be under obligation to others.

7. possessing a competency: to be financially independent.

8. sufficient to support a person without his having to work: an independent income.

9. executed or originating outside a given unit, agency, business, etc.; external: an independent inquiry.

10. working for oneself or for a small, privately owned business.

11. expressive of a spirit of independence; self-confident; unconstrained: a free and independent citizen.

12. free from party commitments in voting: the independent voter.

13. Mathematics . (of a quantity or function) not depending upon another for its value.

I’ll leave it for you to decide what independence or independent thinking is not, but to offer a head start in this intellectual exercise I’ll suggest that it isn’t any of the above…

And finally, when I am thinking deeply about a meaning I like to look at other words of similar meaning to get a full picture. in the image below we view “independent” in the Visual Thesaurus, an interesting way to discover connections between words by revealing the way words and meanings relate to each other.

Image

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One response

  1. Pingback: Learning isn’t the same as being taught « Asymmetry Observations

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