>Does this mean that it is pointless to advocate intellectual independence as a virtue, for either you have it, in which case, you don't need to be convinced, or you don't, in which case, trying to convince you of it is a waste of time?
I think all people are both intellectually dependent *and* independent, so the dilemma is not as irresolvable as it might seem.
We are intellectually dependent, first of all, on our surrounding culture, which is both consciously and unconsciously taught. This intellectual dependency is both vast and inevitable, and contains a multitude of both good and bad, true and false things. One thing is certain, however - we could barely survive without it (imagine if we had no inherited language...) So there is a verifiable human need, no doubt selected for by now, for intellectual dependence of some sort or other.
On the other hand, we are all also *individuals* within this inherited culture, with unique experiences, thoughts, and knowledge that we blend and exchange with our various inheritances. We can *examine* our inheritance from this independent perspective - try to sort the good from the bad, the true from the false, the beneficial from the harmful. Like any inheritance, we can criticise elements of it, and put it to our own ends, even if it is too large for us to ever completely assess.
So it's not possible to be *totally* intellectually independent - but the upside of that is, it's not possible to be totally *dependent* either! Thats why no Marxist de-Bourgeouis-ification Program (or "fully integrated" Randroid-ification) can ever be complete - there is always some independent thought possible. (Various people have argued this - for example, a lot of the later work of post-modern writer Michel Foucault is an attempt to show that even the most totalitarian system cannot be comprehensive enough to control all individual thought). That is the basic reason why ongoing debate is so important - you never quite know how it's going to play out, even with the most diehard fundamentalist. And especially if that fundamentalist is *yourself*...;-)
So we can strive to be *as independent as possible* in our thinking, which means to be as critical and questioning as possible. Inevitably even the most critical thinker will hold dogmas, just for economy's sake - but that is no major issue, so long as we hold them lightly.
On the other hand, we can strive to be *as unquestioning as possible* - whether to society's dictates, or the dictates of any number of anti-society groups, it does not matter - to maximise our emotional needs for certainty. However, *either way* it comes at the cost of our rational need for critical freedom. (And of course we can even rationalise these various obediences - this is effectively what positivism is all about).
So fundamentally it comes down to an *individual moral choice* - to question, or not to question?
That is the question.
(Edited by Daniel Barnes
on 9/29, 2:10pm)