Some people would have us believe that all the good thinking has been done. The most extreme believe that all we can do now is to write footnotes
. The least extreme believe that you should at least read everything you can before you start talking about things. They will often soft-link nasty, condescending remarks such as "Your radical ideas about ___ have already occured to others," just to show what a silly person you are for thinking before you were ready.
This is the rule: If you are going to say something, be absolutely sure that no one has said it before. Read like mad. Take a vow of silence if you have to. In fact, no one under the age of 30 should ever open their mouth to say anything they think is original, because chances are, it isn't. They will laugh at you. Above all you should be afraid, very afraid, of being laughed at because of this.
But I disagree. I say:
It has been thought before, but not by you. You will never think anything original if you don't start thinking the old thoughts, on your own, now. Thought is a graveyard, a skeleton, but thinking is alive, the blood, the energy. Plato is dead, people. Don't read a book unless you are ready to compare it to your own ideas, to interact with it, to challenge it.
Don't be afraid of repeating. Because if you really thought of it on your own, it will not be repetition. It will be the best kind of reinforcement an idea can get -- the knowledge that someone else got there by a different path. Think. Talk. Then read. Laugh back when they laugh at you.
One of my friends has never read a single philosophical text, eastern or western, and yet he arrived at the platonic theory of forms, Descartes' Cogito, and the Ying/ Yang model, all on his own. He calls them by different names, and seems ignorant to those with a philosophy degree, but he thinks better and more clearly than most people I know.
It's been more than 2000 years now, people. It's time to stop writing footnotes.