Dimnet characterizes a thinker as, firstly, a person of vision.
“The thinker is preeminently a man who sees where others do not. The novelty of what he says, its character as a sort of revelation, the charm that attaches to it all come from the fact that he sees.
“He seems to be head and shoulders above the crowd, or to be walking on the ridge-way while others trudge at the bottom.
“Independence is the word which describes the moral aspect of this capacity for vision.
“Nothing is more striking than the absence of intellectual independence in most human beings: they conform in opinion, as they do in manner, and are perfectly content with repeating formulas.
“While they do so, the thinker calmly looks around, giving full play to his mental freedom. He may agree with the consensus known as public opinion, but it will not be because it is universal opinion.”
Dimnet further suggests that thinkers, being people of vision, will see the truth when others will not. And sometimes this can make the thinker look dictatorial. But at their heart, the thinker is preeminently a teacher …
“and it is to the credit of most of them that they devote their lives to preaching the truth they see. Some of them do so in admirable speeches or books, others in the picturesque language of the artist, but whatever the vehicle, the devotion to truth remains visible.”
In December of 2017, I attended a publishing event in Boston. I was introduced to a new young female author. We exchanged writing stories, laughed a bit, and were having a lovely time when the conversation turned political.
I attempted to parry and change the subject, I’m not much for politics. But she wanted to pursue the notion of how everything is political, which spiraled somehow into her using my maleness, whiteness, my author-ness, my PhD-ness, and my power as proof that even our author event was full of bias and politics.
Taken aback, I tried to salvage the discussion on my end. I tried to ask questions and discover what she meant by some of her statements.
I wanted to know.
I wanted to learn.
But it became evident that my questions offended her. I tried to make up ground, change the subject. She smiled and I tried to regain a less tense path of conversation. We eventually parted ways and everything seemed okay. But I had a knot in my stomach.
I share this story not to launch into her accusations towards me, I know she didn’t mean them as a personal attack, but to highlight her response when I began to ask her to define her terms, to explain her position.
But she did not explain. She simply repeated herself, then ultimately, from what I could tell, became offended at me for pressing her to explain what she meant. I had no idea that my simply being in that room was a political statement.