Freethought

Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that beliefs should be formed on the basis of science and logic and should not be influenced by emotion, authority, tradition, or any dogma. The cognitive application of freethought is known as freethinking, and practitioners of freethought are known as freethinkers.

Overview

Freethought holds that individuals should neither accept nor reject ideas proposed as truth without recourse to knowledge and reason. Thus, freethinkers strive to build their beliefs on the basis of facts, scientific inquiry, and logical principles, independent of any factual/logical fallacies or intellectually-limiting effects of authority, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, sectarianism, tradition, urban legend, and all other dogmatic or otherwise fallacious principles. As such, when applied to religion, the philosophy of freethought holds that, given presently-known facts, established scientific theories, and logical principles, there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of supernatural phenomena.

A line from "Clifford's Credo" by the 19th Century British mathematician and philosopher William Kingdon Clifford perhaps best describes the premise of freethought: "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." (see evidentialism) Since many laws, doctrines, and popular beliefs are based on dogmas, freethinkers' opinions are often at odds with commonly held established views.

Symbol

The pansy is the long-established and enduring symbol of freethought; its usage inaugurated in the literature of the American Secular Union in the late 1800s. The reasoning behind the pansy being the symbol of freethought lies in both the flower's name and appearance. The pansy derives its name from the French word pensée, which means "thought"; it was so named because the flower resembles a human face, and in the month of August it nods forward as if deep in thought.

Last updated by Nelson Feb 14, 2009.

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