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Not too much, Not too little

The first challenge is to see the value of an idea without romanticizing away its limitations.

The second challenge is to see the limitations of an idea without losing the ability to make constructive use of its value.

Most fallacies are not the result of placing faith in bad ideas, but in making too much or too little of good ideas.

Be a person, not a parrot

Spread the ideas that turn you on, not the ones you think people will like you for; not the ones that create the fewest amount of enemies; not the ones that grant you immunity from ever being thought of as strange, odd, or eccentric.

The risk-free stuff is already spoken for.

The world is already inundated with approval-obsessed conformists who will never deviate from what they believe is guaranteed to work. Don’t join their clubs. Don’t reinforce their philosophy of fear. Don’t humor their idolization of the known, the familiar, the tried, the safe.

Be a person, not a parrot.

Speak the message that your true self demands of you.

Does it make you think?

The Myth: “If I disagree with an idea, it’s not worth contemplating. If I can find the flaws in an idea, then it’s a waste of time to analyze it.”

Not so fast!

Does it make you think?

Does it force you to achieve greater clarity about your own views?

Does it challenge you to deepen your understanding of other people’s logic?

If so, then it’s not a waste of time at all.

There’s more to the value of an idea than what can be determined simply by evaluating its truth or falsity.

The process of wrestling with provocative concepts, even if we don’t agree with them, helps us open what Maxine Greene calls “new vistas of possibility” in our minds.

If it makes you think, it’s worth something. If it stretches your imagination, it’s worth something. If it helps you relate to different people, it’s worth something. If it compels you on a journey to enrich your knowledge of self, it’s worth something.

An idea doesn’t have to be flawless in order to contribute value to our pursuit of truth.

Entertaining Possibilities Without Prejudice

There’s always another way to look at things.

This observation doesn’t mean, however, that the conventional and traditional ways are wrongheaded, silly, and meaningless.

An alternative isn’t always the same as an antithesis.

Critical thinking is the ability to entertain new possibilities without arbitrarily closing our minds to what remains useful in our previously held perspectives.

The other way doesn’t become the opposite of the older way until we treat it as if it’s the only way.

Thinking in Different Philosophies

Polygots often speak of the worlds of art and literature that are made available to them upon learning a new language.

An English-speaking person who studies French, for instance, is able to be inspired and informed by a larger population of films, books, songs, and conversations. They are able to laugh at jokes that were previously meaningless to them. They are able to be moved by poems that were once unintelligible to them. They live in the same world as before, but the possibilities of that world are more fully open to their experience.

I believe that an analogous kind of experience is made available through the contemplation of unfamiliar ideas.

Every idea is a kind of language which, when understood, opens the mind’s ability to discern new meanings and messages from life’s experiences.

Whenever we make the effort to learn something new, life reflects our knowledge back to us in the form of a freer and more fulfilling existence.

New ideas produce new opportunities for exploring and engaging the world.

Being able to “think in different philosophies” is no less valuable than being able to speak in different languages.

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