About the title
Everyone is big on critical thinking nowadays. We want people to think for themselves, rather than mindlessly absorbing the opinions of their community.
Fair enough, but how do we know someone has done this? In practice we judge other people’s thinking by the results they have reached. Everyone who urges you to think critically has a laundry list of things you should think critically about.
But we don’t see people as critical thinkers for agreeing with us on just anything. For example, nobody gives anybody much credit for being critical of the idea of the moon being made of green cheese. That is because nobody actually believes that idea. A critical thinker must agree with us on something the mindless conformers don’t agree on.
This, however, becomes a problem if critical thinking and non-conformism become majority values. The majority can’t self-define by opposing itself. So the opinions to be critical about can’t really be popular wrong ideas. In practice the ideas that get to be canonical targets of critical thinking are either ideas that used to be popular but aren’t anymore or ideas that are popular with some out-group but not with the in-group.
But what if you agree with the canonically wrong opinions of your (sub-)culture? Well, then people will model you as a mindless conformer precisely for notconforming to the opinions of your social environment. Then you might wonder where all the other conformers are.
About the blogger
On this blog I go by Gilbert, quite obviously a pseudonym. It refers, of course, to Gilbert K. Chesterton. I greatly admire that author, but I know I write nothing like him. So the pseudonym might be a bit pretentious but I think of it as acknowledging an ideal. Likewise real Christian names acknowledge the ideal of saints and most people don’t live up to that ideal either.
I’m a self-described Catholic reactionary living in Germany, a situation that gives plenty of occasion to feel like the last conformer. The reactionary label is admittedly a little over the top (I don’t advocate, say, a return to monarchy) but I actually like it precisely because I am the kind of person to whom it would be applied in an equally exaggerated and pejorative sense.
I’m fairly opinionated about almost everything. But except for the Catholicism, which often is compatible with many positions on one issue, my positions don’t really “hang together” ideologically. Perhaps in the long run this blog can serve as an explanation of everything I believe, but this paragraph most certainly can’t.
About the blog
To be honest I don’t really know what this blog will be about. I think of it as a place where I can dump texts on everything I’d like to write on. There probably will be some philosophy and some popular science. There might also be some politics, random links and literature talk. But the precise mix remains to be determined.
Probably I will have a fairly low posting frequency. It’s the kind of blog you subscribe to in an RSS reader rather than visiting it in your regular round.
Also, most blogs fizzle out after a few weeks and I don’t guarantee this one will be among the exceptions.
- Why conformer and not conformist? Because a conformist also can mean a member of the British established church, something I most definitely am not. Conformer seams rearer in practical use, but the dictionaries say it’s a perfectly cromulent word.↵