Ten Commandments of Independent Thought

Ten Commandments for Independent Thinkers

Several months ago, I stumbled across Bertrand Russell’s “Ten Commandments of Liberal Inquiry.” The commandments were orginally published in Russell’s 1951 NYT Magazine article entitled The Best Answer to Fanaticism- Liberalism. While Russell advocated for classical liberalism and freedom of thought in this 67 year-old article, his commandments are still applicable in 2018 across the idealogical spectrum.

Since first reading Russell’s commandments, I’ve tried to apply all ten to my career, studies and social life. As a result, I’m more confident and life is more fulfilling. Ignorant “hot takes” and chaotic news cycles are less likely to tug at my emotions. My work product, writing and political discussions have improved in many ways.

These ten short principles might not float your boat, but I think they should be required reading for Americans. I found Commandments I, VI, IX and X particularly helpful and enlightening during an era marked by insanity and divisiveness.

I. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

II. Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

III. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

IV. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

V. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

VI. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

VII. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

VIII. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

IX. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

X. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness

How could you apply Russell’s “Ten Commandments” in your personal pursuit of truth? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

-Brian Norman, Founder