Rebirth of Reason

The Good Life

Active vs. Passive Minds
by Joseph Rowlands

In the past, I spent a lot of time talking to people about ideas. I noticed that even people without much education, and seemingly not very bright, were able to hold intelligent conversations. If explained well, they understood ideas, and could even apply them. I could have a long conversation with them, covering new and interesting ground. They not only kept up, but contributed plenty to the conversation.

After the conversation, I would leave and think about what we had talked about. I tried to solidify what we had concluded, and see if it went anywhere else. By doing this, I was able to more fully integrate the ideas, as well as come up with new and interesting leads.

At a later date, I would run into these people again, and bring the topic back up. The odd thing is, they had not thought about it a single bit between the two meetings. They had forgotten the conversation almost immediately after it happened. But it wasn't because their minds were occupied by other thoughts. They just hadn't thought about anything.

This led me to distinguish between the active and the passive mind. The active mind seeks out new knowledge, and attempts to understand the world. The passive mind doesn't. This doesn't mean the passive mind evades. In fact, I've met very honest people who just don't think about things. If confronted with an idea, they look at it, understand it, and accept or dismiss it accordingly. But only if the idea is forced on them, so to speak. If you start a conversation with them, their minds will jump into action and start working. The minute the outside stimulus is gone, their minds fall silent.

Objectivism holds rationality as a virtue. This shouldn't just mean that we think rationally only when we have to. Instead, we should develop and use our minds. We should try to grasp the world around us, not just accept reality when it hits us on the side of the head. We should think, not because we're forced to, but because we enjoy it.

Sanctions: 6Sanctions: 6 Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (9 messages)