Why I’m not a Progressive Thinker

I’ve never thought of myself as the type of person to blog, but this is the easiest way for me to express thoughts to myself. The development of my own personal thought has evolved recently to the point where everything I thought I once knew now seems irrelevant. I need to communicate this effectively somehow, but since I don’t like writing by hand, a word document is too bland, and my brother isn’t around enough for discussions, this seems to be my only option. I don’t anticipate anyone reading this, especially since I don’t anticipate ever telling anyone this exists. If you do stumble upon this, though, please leave comments, challenge my thinking, or just tell me I’m an idiot.

My recent evolution of thought centers around one of the many brilliant thoughts of Socrates, which is, roughly, that the greatest thing we can ever learn is the massive expanse of what we don’t know. As I’ve studied economics and philosophy more deeply this year, I’ve encountered that more and more. Last year, I congratulated myself on being a progressive thinker, I thought I had more wisdom than others because I had one semester of micro and macro economics under my belt and knew the (supposed) value of a free market. But more recently, I came to a sudden shift of thought. It started by beginning to read The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb, by visiting a mosque in NYC, by reading Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard, and hearing from many Christian influences, like Rachel Held-Evans, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, and others. If you know anything about Held-Evans and Driscoll, it might surprise you that both were able to influence me deeply, given their almost polar opposite views. But somewhere in this process, I suddenly understood how contradiction doesn’t necessarily equate to exclusivity.

I’m not sure when exactly the switch happened, but somewhere, in a serendipitous-like moment, I realized the value of differing views, personal convictions, and how little we actually understand. Two interpretations of the Bible can be equally correct and yet contradictory of each other at the same time. Keynes and Hayek could both have been right about what makes economies grow. The best government might be a mix of Democrats and Libertarians. The largest fallacy I’ve ever believed, which has since become the greatest thing I’ve learned (or un-learned) since beginning college, is that our knowledge explains the world to us. This simply isn’t true. Our own personal knowledge is an finite explanation of infinite things. While it can be useful, it can’t be trusted, and while it can give us direction, it can’t be our destination. There is enough knowledge in the universe to explain everything, but it is never localized in one place, the belief which I see as the cornerstone of Austrian economics.

And that’s why I’m not a “progressive thinker.” I used to think I was, but then it occurred to me – I’m only being progressive if my thought is leading me closer to the end goal. But since I don’t know the end goal, how can I know I’m being progressive? What if the greatest fulfillment of mankind is to live in caves and run from dinosaurs? If that’s the case, progressive thinking has been our greatest downfall. Progressive thought is considered better than the alternatives, but it’s not. It’s just different. If I consider myself progressive, I’m eliminating any knowledge I can gain by telling myself that the previous thought is less important or less sophisticated than my thought. It’s not. It’s not better or worse, but it’s what was right at the time (usually, anyways).

So I’m not a progressive thinker, I’m a now thinker. I learn what I can from the past, but look at the present for my current actions. The future may not be better than the present, and the present may not be better than the past. The only logical course of action, then, is to think now and to think rationally.

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