How to think for yourself | Psyche Guides - Deepstash
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Thinking for yourself

Thinking for yourself

Each of us discovered a great mind at one point whose writing captures exactly what we think or have been trying to think but couldn't find the right words for. 

Yet, the powerful influence of this great mind is so potentially overwhelming that it threatens our ability to think for ourselves. What was supposed to help expand your mind may have closed it.


309 reads

Reading and the value of thinking for yourself

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer placed the highest value on thinking for yourself. If we lose the ability for independent thought, then we miss out on a key opportunity to become our authentic, original selves. If we don't think for ourselves, we will also not know what we should do, as opposed to what we are told to do.

Schopenhauer was surprisingly critical of the value of reading. He states that reading too much will cause us to fail to think for ourselves, yet, he was exceptionally well read. 


258 reads

Don’t use reading as a substitute for thinking

Don’t use reading as a substitute for thinking

Schopenhauer was very clear: ‘Reading is a mere surrogate for one’s own thinking.'

Two main problems concerned him:

  • Opportunity cost. When you're reading, you could be thinking for yourself. This is only a problem if the kind of thinking you do while reading is significantly different from the kind you do when you are not reading. 
  • Originality. Reading inserts foreign thoughts into our own, which never really belong to us.


242 reads

Thinking for yourself will make your thoughts your own

Apart from originality, authenticity and ownership are the primary intellectual virtues that come from thinking for yourself

Thinking for yourself enables a special kind of spontaneity, variety and responsiveness to your surroundings.  Thinking for yourself does not force one specific thought on the mind, like reading. Reading has already been organised according to the mind of the author, whereas our own experiences demand that we impose some order on it ourselves.


191 reads

The maturity of knowledge

The ultimate result of thinking for yourself is what Schopenhauer calls ‘the maturity of knowledge’, which is a state of total organic integration between thoughts and experiences. This maturity does not have to do with the power of one's intellect but the organisation of its contents. 

Thinking is, at the least, looking at things for yourself. It avoids putting a foreign concept between the mind and the world, otherwise the two will not make contact. Schopenhauer ensured that anything he found in books was assimilated only if he could connect it to experience.


168 reads

Combine your reading with thinking for yourself

Schopenhauer was never totally against reading. Seeing the world from someone else's perspective brings our attention to things we simply wouldn't have noticed. 

Schopenhauer’s real point is that reading is best when it is accompanied by thinking for yourself. It's better to read a little and read it well than to read a lot but do it poorly. When you do read, you don't have to agree with the writers.


160 reads

Read for company and encouragement in your thinking

Read for company and encouragement in your thinking

Schopenhauer admits that reading is a better way of engaging with another person's mind because the writer's works may be richer in content than his company, the result and fruit of all his thinking and studying. 

  • When Schopenhauer quotes from the authors he read, it is because he takes courage from them, but not content.
  • He stresses that this still does not mean we can import literary qualities into our own writing simply by reading them.  Reading shapes us for writing by teaching us the use we can make of our own natural gifts.


134 reads

Allow beautiful writing to entice you to think for yourself

Use the limits of reading by starting from where your writers left off. 

Allow your favourite authors to inspire you to look at the world differently.


164 reads

Write as a form of thinking

Write as a form of thinking

Thinking for yourself does not mean you keep it all in your head.   Your original thoughts demand to be put in an external form.

It could take the form of writing, a conversation, or even in forms of expression such as visual or musical arts. 


147 reads



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