Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth—more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. (Bertrand Russell, Why Men Fight: A Method of Abolishing the International Duel (1916,) pp. 178–179)
Laziness and inability usually coerce people to reject thinking. But, as Russell contends, fear is a non-obvious inhibitor of thought. Not just because meticulous reasoning is demanding but because thinking may occasion an undermining—even revaluation—of our long-held convictions about all sorts of matters—notably religion and ethics.
People reject thinking because we fear it may challenge our equilibrium—how we make sense of the world. We’ll be coerced to see the world anew. As I’ve emphasized previously, once a belief is added to our corpus of viewpoints, we indulge in “intellectual censorship.” We cling to our ideas rather than objectively reassessing and questioning them.
Idea for Impact: Life should alter you. Through conscientious thinking, your worldview can—and should—reflect that growth.
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