Wall of Barriers Activities: Develop Intellectual Courage
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Develop Intellectual Courage
Intellectual courage is the willingness to face and fairly assess ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints to which you have strong negative reactions; it entails the willingness to critically analyze beliefs you hold dear, even if this means changing your thinking.

Intellectual courage arises from the recognition that ideas considered dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally justified (in whole or in part), and that conclusions or beliefs espoused by those around you, or inculcated in you, are sometimes false or misleading. To determine for yourself what to believe and what to reject, you must not passively and uncritically “accept” what you have “learned.”

Intellectual courage comes into play here, because when we look at things objectively, we will inevitably come to see some truth in some ideas considered dangerous and absurd, and some distortion or falsity in some ideas strongly held in our social group. It takes courage to be true to your own thinking in such circumstances.

Examining cherished beliefs is difficult, and the penalties for non- conformity are often severe, even in so-called democracies. The opposite of intellectual courage is intellectual cowardice, which entails fear of examining your beliefs.
Examining Your Groups’ Beliefs
Identify one or more groups to which you belong.
Complete these statements:
1. One main belief common to members of this group that might be questioned is... (identify at least one belief that may lead group members to behave irrationally).
2. This belief might be questioned because...
3. I would or would not be able to stand up to my group, pointing out the problems with this belief, because...

When Have you Defended a Popular but Irrational Belief?
Try to think of a circumstance in which either you or someone you knew defended a view that was unpopular, but irrational, in a group to which you belonged.
Complete the statement/question:
1. Describe the circumstances, and especially how the group responded.
2. If you can’t think of an example, what does this tell you about yourself?

Consider the Opposite of Intellectual Courage – Intellectual Cowardice
Now try to think of examples of the opposite of intellectual courage – intellectual cowardice. Use examples from your own life.
Complete these statements:
1. The situation was as follows...
2. In the situation I exhibited a lack of intellectual courage by...
3. What I really should have have done instead is...