Free thought is a phrase used by many such as myself in order to denote a level of intellectual engagement and discourse that leads to breakthroughs in understanding. People who support the idea of “free thought” or “free speech” hold quite a lot of rhetoric regarding their level of openness to new ideas. Someone in support of free thought needs to be tolerant of other ways of thinking in order to be taken seriously. My question for people who love to announce their support of free thought is this: if all the freethinkers think the same thing, it there really any free thought?
This question occurred to me as I went into the final week of my summer philosophy course online. The course is heavily tied to the use of a series of lectures and radio conversations by a select group of people. The majority of my fellow students in the course have come to the same conclusions about the major issues discussed. I have disagreed with them on several of the main points, (these are not relevant to this essay, though I may address them in later posts) but they simply continue to bring out the same arguments used by the “free-thinking” philosophers who make up the backbone of the coursework.
In being among the few dissenters in a class of like-minded “philosophers,” I have been given a delightfully blunt message about the world of intellectual discourse and conversation. Free thought is really a nonexistent fantasy when there is no opposition to provide another angle of thought. This is a far too common occurrence at Universities and Colleges across America, and elsewhere. As much as I champion of the cause of free thought and attempt to foster a belief in it amongst my readers, I too have fallen victim to a lack of freedom of thought on my blog.
Being only one mind and one voice, I am unable to provide an alternative opinion (other than citations of alternative sources) without blatantly engaging in a strawman argument. We live in a time when those of like-mind seek out and join groups where they can agree with others without interruption from dissenting opinions, but I would like to challenge that idea. Whether you are looking at this issue from a religious, political, moral, or philosophical angle, take your ideas to somewhere where you are in the minority. If there is only agreement between those in a discussion, then no new ideas surface. If, however, those participating disagree, then progress will not be far off.