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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brady

Old Ideas

There are several observable laws of the universe that we are subjected to. Take for example gravity, : a fundamental physical force that is responsible for interactions which occur because of mass between particles, between aggregations of matter (such as stars and planets. Another seemingly observable law is the gravitational pull of ideas.

Most ideas have their roots in the past, ideas that we seem to hold as our own are in reality ones “we” are building on. With the rare exception being novel ideas that leverage advances in technology to propel forward an idea from the past. So the concept of original thought as it pertains to new ideas is something of a misnomer. Take for example the idea of self-determination. While some would peg the roots of Self-determination to SDT theory of the early 70’s, in reality, it’s ideas are as old as human existence. The dueling motivations of intrinsic vs. extrinsic as it pertains to decision making and motivation have been a cornerstone of human development. So much so that the ideas that affect human decision-making appear in many esoteric texts going back as far as 8000 years. While some of the extrinsic motivations may have changed over the millennia the principles are the same. So how is it that most would tie the understanding of self-determination to the collective self-determination theory of the 1970s or even some newer version that is being proposed today? How do these ideas seem to have a generational, gravitational pull?

the concept of original thought as it pertains to new ideas is something of a misnomer

One of the reasons is people need to work things out for themselves, to play with an idea under the guise of discovery. A problem presents itself and someone reaching for a possible explanation or even a solution pulls from the collective consciousness “a new to them idea” and a “new” theory is born. To be honest there are just so many ideas out there it’s hard to determine where they got started and how far along the idea got before someone pocked a big hole in them. So every generation needs to revisit or re-invent ideas as they reach the developmental stage that those ideas seem to resonate for them. Keeping in mind problems can arise when the audience has not reached a stage of development where the issue resonates with them in a sufficient way as to do the work of investigation themselves.

So if that is the case then what are we to do when we come across some new idea or theory. First, we need to see if the idea resonates with us, is it of value to investigate. From time to time we will come across things that are not going to land with us at all, and that is not a bad thing per se. Sometimes an explanation or a solution for a proposed problem may not resonate with us because it has yet to be recognized as a problem for us.

But let’s say the issue before us is of a significant example, and represents something of interest to investigate. Then we must take up the yoke and get down to the work of analysis.

If possible having a partner to debate with is the preferred method, allowing for a true dialectic to unravel.

Before we can sign off on some idea we have heard or read about it is paramount that we subject it to as much as we are able, an unbiased investigation. Using critical thinking or the Socratic method of deductive reasoning is a good way for us to create a dialogue with ourselves. If possible having a partner to debate with is the preferred method, allowing for a true dialectic to unravel. When we do this we allow for a sharing of ideas surrounding the issue that can expose strengths and weaknesses of the idea. Allow yourself and encourage your partner to hold onto their ideas loosely as you formulate the arguments to avoid the traps and pitfalls of biases. Don’t be afraid to end up abandoning ideas when you reach inconclusive results. By ferreting out new ideas in this way we can determine true viability as opposed to adoption by convenience.

If we simply take all that we hear and read as fact or as the New York Times put’s it “All that is fit to print” then all we are doing is outsourcing our judgment to those who “may” be as worthy of it as a pile of dog…well you get the picture.

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