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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.

All ideas are fragile

“And just as Steve loved ideas, and loved making stuff, he treated the process of creativity with a rare and a wonderful reverence. You see, I think he better than anyone understood that while ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily just squished.” -Jonathan Ive at the Steve Jobs Tribute on the Apple campus.

The potential usefulness of ideas should never be discounted merely because of the existence of counterexamples and creative challenges.

An idea doesn’t have to be applicable to everything in order to be applicable to some things.

If “yes, but…,” followed by the citation of some condition towards which an idea fails to apply, were sufficient grounds for the dismissal of every new proposal, all progress would be impossible.

Ideas must be groomed by our willingness to think critically and creatively about how we can get the most out of them. 

Their value, often disguised as vulnerability, has to be cultivated with patience and persistence.

There are no powerful ideas without powerful people.

All ideas are fragile. It’s only our willingness to work with them that makes them strong.

I disagree with “I disagree”

“I disagree”, when offered as the final statement in response to any idea, strikes me as the  least productive stance that could be taken if one’s purpose for engaging alternative perspectives involves learning and personal growth.

“I disagree”, in the sense I have described above, seems to lead to nothing more than a triumphant sense of one’s own rightness.

For those who wish to philosophize for reasons other than dismissing the other party as “wrong”, here are a few alternative options for how one can respond to an idea he dislikes:

What are some non-condescending reasons for why anyone would be drawn to this idea? How can I make sense out of the people who see the world in this way without assuming they are stupid?

What are some aspects of this idea, or the concerns that motivated its development, I can genuinely appreciate?

How can I practically aapply some facets of this idea to my advantage without compromising my epistemic objections to the idea’s actual truth-value?

Have I asked any questions about this idea prior to expressing my disagreement? How many questions have I asked about this idea prior to expressing my disagreement? Would I be satisfied with this same quality of research if it were adopted by those who disagree with what I believe?

And last, but not least, why do I disagree?

Exploring ideas is my passion. No matter how much I may disagree with a concept, I always strive to get something useful out of my interaction with other perspectives. I encourage others to do the same.

If you can think of some other constructive responses people can adopt towards controversial or seemingly contradictory ideas, feel free to share them in the comments.

In the meantime, I wish you a never-ending, eternally expanding adventure in learning.


T.K. Coleman

Which side am I on?

“I’m not one who divides music, dance or art into various categories. Either something works, or it doesn’t.” -Twyla Tharp 

“I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions.” -Robert Anton Wilson

Secular or Religious?

Physics or Metaphysics?

Science or Spirituality?

Normal or Paranormal?

Materialism or Mysticism?

In all honesty, I have very little use for such dichotomies.

Give me an idea and leave me with it for a while.

If I am able to find some practical use for it, I’ll place it inside my conceptual tool box regardless of what label society slaps on it.

If I am unable to make any good use of the idea, then I’ll sit it on the shelf until it proves itself to be useful.

My pursuit of knowledge is not limited by standard systems of information classification.

I am not concerned with the name of the library section one has to visit in order to research certain ideas.

I am concerned with the ideas themselves and the opportunities for exploration that they provide.

I will consider any concept, theory, idea, or suggestion that leads me further down the rabbit hole of inquiry, adventure, and self-knowledge.

So, which side am I on?

I am on the side of those who don’t make up their minds by merely looking at which side of the line an idea falls on.

I side with Emily Dickinson who, above all else, chose to “dwell in possibility.”

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