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April 05, 2022 2 min read

Free Thinkers versus Paid Thinkers


The free thinker is a term used in the 18th century, especially in German-language literature and journalism, for representatives of an attitude according to which thinking should not be restricted by traditional mores or by the moral norms and prohibitions on thinking established by official religion. According to the free-thinking position, the practice of uneducated reflection should also lead to morally correct, or at least wise, action.

In philosophy, it was ostensibly Nietzsche who charged the term with meaning. The freethinker (or free spirit) is, as Nietzsche says, a sort of man who can be recognized only by his peers and is misunderstood or even despised by his contemporaries. The ordinary world would call such a free spirit a "sage," but not an ordinary sage, because ordinary wisdom is equated with experience. The free spirit is opposed to herd morality, that is, to the values that the masses follow without critical examination.

One will have noticed it already: nowadays everybody wants to be a free spirit and in no case to belong to the herd. After all, we do not live in collective times, but in atomistic hyperindividualism. Everyone finds a narrative of events on the Internet that seems exclusive. The rest of the people? Sheep, with no perspective. Of course, the whole thing is arbitrary to the maximum and rather part of an identity-forming effect than an actual philosophical approach to "the truth".

Moreover, there are also the paid thinkers, i.e. the fourth estate, the journalists and media, who in this sense cannot be free spirits at all, since they always have to act in dependence of their salary and employer, even if this does not have to happen consciously. It is easy to say that one is only committed to the truth, when the truth has already passed through a filter of power relations and merely remains aphoristic leftovers in the evening news on television. Truth has then become a product itself, through the mechanics of commodification itself.

But the real critical question remains: are any unpaid thinkers still around? I just briefly ask you to note that YouTube streamers and podcasters also have to pay their bills with their media. Subconsciously, there will always be an inhibition threshold if I would have to adapt my content in such a way that I might endanger my own financial security. The free spirit on the other hand would always prefer the dangerous life in any case.

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