To Dare Think

The courage of independent thought of Thales of Miletus, circa 600 B.C., breaking from the dogma of Greek antiquity, is the indispensable moral value which Immanuel Kant then enshrines in renewal of the ancients’ phrase “Dare To Think” in 1784 as the motto of the era of inquiry. 
It is this posit of the value of courage in the individual’s primary rationality that is arguably pre-eminent among all moral values; the point of departure, “bootloader,” of human thought, borrowing digital parlance. It is this value which gravitated me to Fordham University in 1977 upon its alumnus’ Alan Alda’s endorsement that “Fordham teaches you to think,” nurturing one’s innate capacity to think independently in the courage of one’s own reason, so eminently achieving this expectation so seemingly facile within the walls of its critically thinking Jesuit intelligentsia that it obscured the contrast of its contemptibility outside its sanctuary among a reputedly thinking society. The meaningful challenge to the boundaries of thought, the individual’s adherence to one’s independence of reason to expand the universe of the known toward infinity, is accompanied by its’ sine qua non of a courage to face the consequences of contempt for deviation from communal consensus, without which rationality is futile.


Human history is replete with transformative thinkers with precisely such courage to challenge the boundary of thought contrary to communal belief to prompt our collective amelioration, from whom society exacts the price of its communal fear of progress. The courage of Socrates, credited with the birth of Western philosophy, yielded him a sentence to death; The science of Galileo, refuting the communal acquiescence to geo-centricity, yielded him a life sentence; The radical notions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose Social Contract served as a philosophical pillar for birth of the modern democracy of the United States of America, yielded him a lifetime of persecution.


The communal belief, itself, against which each independent thinker has fought, represents a societal ceding to an external source the legitimacy of its collective thought; a notion of centralization engrained in reflex thinking, a limit self imposed, at least in its acquiescence. The millennia indoctrinating the human mind with the idea that it must be a trusted authority to inculcate the ideas of putative knowledge which may constitute societal legitimacy of thought must emanate from, or at least enjoy the approval of, an authority external to oneself, which may be derived only from communal consensus, let alone dictated by a reputedly trusted authority, is a de facto centralization of thought, which Socrates, Galileo, and Rousseau, to name only a few, refuted.


One seemingly innocuous example of such dogma is the concept of an academy of language, unilaterally dictating the acceptable use of language from the top down necessarily impeding a natural evolution of language, without which none of the Romance languages, Italian, French, Spanish could have flourished in their origins as dialects of Latin. Yet the most dangerous instances are where the indulgence is practiced not by those who explicitly present an idea as dogma, but as science; one of many strident examples may be most easily illustrated in the idea of creationism, not necessarily by one’s faith in creationism, but its purport as science. It is the challenge to these boundaries of thought, its combat against the legitimacy of dogma, which has given civilization the foundation upon which it has been constructed, rationality of logic, the unassailability of scientific discovery, the philosophical premise of the legitimacy of self governance that is democracy, all requiring the courage for independence of thought.


Consequently, legitimacy recognized by communality of thought is the most perilous; a centralization presenting the ease of a single point of installation for indoctrination of communal corruption of societal ideals. Rather, it is in the individual quest for the infinity of thought that one may ascend to the divinity of freedom in think, not descending to the deity of fiefdom in servitude. There remain an infinity of Thales Theorem for our discovery, to pave the progress of a humanity of a citizenry of that bold courage of a Socrates. Be that majority of one, to dare think!

Onward and Upward,


Screenshot 2024-02-22 at 14.12.24

Alfio Salvatore Lanuto


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