There is arguably nothing more important to the world than critical thought. It is critical thought that causes us to pause before doing what we are told. Without critical thinking we are mere pawns of our lower passions and the commands of authority. With critical thinking, we become our own masters.

What’s more, it is a lack of critical thinking that is responsible for a number of atrocities, both big and small. Few things in the world are more dangerous than a mass of men who have decided not to think for themselves. While we cannot control the actions of others, we can begin making the world a better place simply by thinking for ourselves and encouraging others to do the same.

This is why the powerful always seek to censor freedom of speech. Free access to free ideas is kryptonite to those who would be tyrants. It is important that we are confronted with ideas that make us uncomfortable, if only because it serves to make our own convictions more deeply held, more nuanced and more adaptable to new information.

An attack on freedom of speech is an attack on our facilities of critical thinking itself.

These are some of our favorite quotes on critical thinking and free speech from some of the greatest minds in history.

Quotes About Critical Thinking and the Lack of Critical Thinking


Aristotle quote on critical thinking


“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”



Eric Hoffer quote on critical thinking


“You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.”

Eric Hoffer


Voltaire quote on critical thinking


“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”



Carl Jung quote on critical thinking

“…the relatively unconscious man driven by his natural impulses because, imprisoned in his familiar world, he clings to the commonplace, the obvious, the probable, the collectively valid, using for his motto: ‘Thinking is difficult. Therefore, let the herd pronounce judgement.'”

Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion: West and East


Andrei Sakharov quote on critical thinking


“Do not trust governments more than governments trust their own people.”

Andrei Sakharov


A. Hofmann quote on critical thinking


“I will listen to any hypothesis but on one condition — that you show me a method by which it can be tested.”

August Wilhelm von Hofmann


James Mattis quote on critical thinking


“Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”

General James Mattis


Jose Marti quote on critical thinking


“The first duty of a man is to think for himself.”

Jose Marti


Rod Serling quote on critical thinking


“We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

Rod Serling


Unknown quote on critical thinking


“Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”



Schopenhauer quote on critical thinking


“The majority of men… are not capable of thinking, but only of believing, and… are not accessible to reason, but only to authority.”

Arthur Schopenhauer


Unknown quote on critical thinking


“Life is fraught with opportunities to keep your mouth shut.”

– Unknown, often misattributed to Winston Churchill


W. Churchill quote on critical thinking


“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

Winston Churchill


Thomas Paine quote on critical thinking


“It is the duty of everyman, so far as his ability allows, to detect and expose delusion and error.”

Thomas Paine


Niccolò Machiavelli quote on critical thinking

“There are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, and the third is useless.”

Niccolò Machiavelli


Albert Camus quote on critical thinking


“The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.”

Albert Camus


Jim Rohn quote on critical thinking

“We need to teach our children how to debate the major life issues. Debate strengthens their beliefs and enables them to defend themselves against ideologies that are going to come their way.”

Jim Rohn, The Treasury of Quotes


Jim Rohn quote on critical thinking

“One of the great liberal documents of the world is the Declaration of Independence. One of the great conservative documents of the world is the Constitution of the United States. We need both documents to build a country. One to get it started – liberal. And the other to help maintain the structure over the years – conservative.”

Jim Rohn


Joseph de Maistre quote on critical thinking

“False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing.”

Joseph de Maistre

Quotes About Free Speech and Censorship


Noam Chomsky quote on critical thinking


“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

Noam Chomsky


Mark Twain quote on critical thinking


“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.”

Mark Twain


Lord Acton quote on critical thinking


“Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice.”

Lord Acton


Voltaire quote on critical thinking


“It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”



P.D. James quote on critical thinking


“I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism, and it sends shivers down the spine of my generation who went to war against fascism.”

P.D. James


Aryeh Neier quote on critical thinking


“Those who call for censorship in the name of the oppressed ought to recognize it is never the oppressed who determine the bounds of censorship.”

Aryeh Neier


P. McGlouchlin quote on critical thinking


“Political correctness is a sinister device constructed by the left to cause the negative outcomes of left-wing ideology to never be subject to criticism.”

Peter McGlouchlin, Easy Meat: Inside the British Grooming Gang Scandal


Sam Harris quote on critical thinking

“We (as a society) have to be committed to defending free speech however impolitic, or unpopular, or even wrong because defending that is the only barrier to violence. That’s because the only way we can influence one another short of physical violence is thru speech, thru communicating ideas. The moment you say certain ideas can’t be communicated you create a circumstance where people have no alternative but to go hands on you.”

Sam Harris, Making Sense with Sam Harris, #67 – Meaning and Chaos


Ann Althouse quote on critical thinking

“Why does the left hate free speech? Because they don’t know how to talk about the substantive merits when they are challenged. Having submerged themselves in disciplining each other by denouncing any heretics in their midst, they find themselves overwhelmed and outnumbered in America, where there is vibrant debate about all sorts of things they don’t know how to begin to talk about. They resort to stomping their feet and shouting ‘shut up’… when they aren’t prissily imploring everyone to be ‘civil.'”

Ann Althouse


Ray Bradbury quote on critical thinking


“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.”

Ray Bradbury


Winston Churchill quote on critical thinking

“Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”

Winston Churchill


William Buckley quote on critical thinking


“Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”

William F. Buckley


Hugo Black quote on critical thinking


“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

– Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black


Teddy Roosevelt quote on critical thinking

“It is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”

Theodore Roosevelt


George Orwell quote on critical thinking

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

George Orwell, 1984


Johan Norberg quote on critical thinking


“The right to speak freely does not include the right to be taken seriously.  And it certainly doesn’t include the obligation that others must supply you with a platform.”

Johan Norberg

John Stossel interviewing Jordan Peterson:

Stossel: “If somebody wants to be called Ze or Zir, why not?”

Peterson: “I don’t care what people want to be called, that’s fine.  But that doesn’t mean I should be compelled by law to call them that.  The government has absolutely no business whatsoever ever governing the content of your voluntary speech.”

Stossel: “But if I personally said I’d like you to call me Ze or Zen?”

Peterson: “We could have a conversation about that.  Just like I would if you asked me to use a nickname for example.  But there’s a big difference between privately negotiated modes of address.  And legislatively demanded compelled speech”