Only the Strong Can Be Solitary Thinkers

Thinking requires solitude. It is a simple fact that it is impossible to think – deeply at any rate – while interacting with others. Add another mind and right away, the path ahead becomes tortuous. Human minds tend to diverge. Opinions seem always to vary. Except when they are trying hard to get along, minds agree on precious little. Inevitably, discussing any topic will lead to disagreement and the taking up of positions. This can be interesting and enlightening, but conversation definitely will not take one where one would go on one’s own. To think anything through to one’s own fully developed conclusions, one needs to be alone.

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

Rodin’s famous statue of the thinker shows him alone. Sustained solitude is a requisite for insightful thinking. (Image: public domain.)

We are walking a lightly trod, yet millennia-old path here. The thinking tradition is illustrious and those given to habitual thinking have left us a fine legacy of insights into the nature of solitude.

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The Lonely Thinker’s Path

Nowadays, we strongly emphasize emotion. Our IQs seem to matter little while our EQs loom large. I thought it would be useful to remind ourselves of what it means to be a thinker.

Plato as Imagined by Raphael

With the emphasis now on feelings are we, as a society, losing sight of the value of thinking? (Image: public domain)

The Desire of Knowledge

French philosopher and spiritual writer Antonin Sertillanges writes: “The desire of knowledge defines our intelligence as a vital force … it is the thinker’s special characteristic to be obsessed by the desire for knowledge.”

In other words, for the thinker, the acquisition of knowledge is an emotionally important idea. It is what American psychologist Carl Rogers would call a “subjectively formed guiding principle.” This means acquiring knowledge is one of the primary objects of the thinker’s authentic will. The activity is not an add-on, an external “interest” he has acquired; it is a fundamental part of his self and personality. The behaviour will have been there from early childhood remaining unrecognized until the thinker matures and turns to matters that are more serious and noteworthy.

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