FREEDOM OF THOUGHT

New Yorker Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) was famous for his political and journalistic writing. His book Public Opinion, the first edition of which was published in 1922, received wide acclaim for its emphasis on the adoption of a psychological approach in politics.

Widely read for the seriousness of his thinking, Zippmann once observed that “When all think alike, no one thinks very much.”

Although very simply worded, this observation makes an important point. With all the many thing and ideas in this world to be known and thought about, people’s thinking, if left uncurbed, will in its totality make a substantial contribution to the progress of living. But in an atmosphere where people are expected to think along the same lines, their cumulative thought will be shallow, lacking in content, and in no way conducive to the furtherance of knowledge. The latter is a social phenomenon which has come to be known as ‘intellectual dwarfism.’

When people are free to think in their own individual ways, this will certainly result in differences in the quality and content of their thought, and they will be bound to criticise each other’s viewpoints. Any opposition to criticism per se can only result in a thwarting of intellectual progress.

In this world, the option is not between criticism and silence, but between criticism and intellectual stagnation. If an end is put to criticism, humanity will descend into a state of mental atrophy. Conversely, where criticism is welcomed there will be healthy, intellectual development.