It Stands to Reason

“It is my nature to be what I am.”

No, she didn’t say that, Emma Goldman did, but she could have said the same.

And, she knew much of what Goldman said was good, but not all.  You see, she could learn from Goldman  — and Rand, Milgram, Harman, …. and from Voltairine de Cleyre.


… she could decide what ideas were good, and bad, from each of those individuals who she read from, for herself. Yes, for …

Only the Self-Educated are Free…

Sharon Presley

“We live a society that sometimes pays lip service to thinking for yourself but doesn’t particularly encourage it. Instead we live in a culture in which irrational, uncritical conformity of thought is far too common.”  — Sharon Presley

“I will never listen to the experts again.”
Richard Feynman

Dr. Sharon Presley, a Mastermind Rational, has a Ph.D. in social psychology from the City University of New York Graduate Center where her mentor was Dr. Stanley Milgram, author of the classic study, Obedience to Authority. Her Ph.D. dissertation was a study of political resisters to authority. She recently retired from teaching psychology and critical thinking courses at California State University, East Bay in Hayward. Dr. Presley is the co-editor of Exquisite Rebel: The Essays of Voltairine de Cleyre published in 2005 by SUNY Press. This book won an American Library Association Choice award for Outstanding Academic Title 2005. She is currently working on an anthology of American women resisters to authority in the 19th century.

“…ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process…relatively few people have the resources to resist authority.” –Stanley Milgram

(comments on her book “Standing Up to Experts and Authorities”)

“Sharon Presley is a consistent voice of insight and calm reasoning in a world of turmoil and frequent spin. She asks of us what we should ask of ourselves — critical thinking and respect for our own rights and the rights of others as human beings… Presley helps readers to make sense in the midst of the nonsensical and to engage in a process of searching for truth.” — Norman Solomon, anti-war activist.

“I love this book! I wish I would have written this book! This is skepticism for the real world, an introduction on how to think, a manual for the survival of the human race. Sharon Presley is the Ralph Nader of bad ideas, the consumer advocate of bogus claims and phony experts.”  Michael Shermer, Skeptic Society.

From Sharon Presley’s “Standing Up To Experts”:

“If you don’t want to be a victim, you must stop acting like a victim. Recognize your rights. Every human being should be treated with dignity and respect. But … the world isn’t a just place, and there will be many times when you will not be treated well or fairly. You can continue to let it happen or you can stand up and say ‘no.’ The choice is yours.”

Her research specialties are obedience and resistance to authority, women resisters to authority, and gender issues.

Sharon Presley (born 1943) is an American libertarian and individualist anarchist feminist, writer, activist, and retired professor of psychology. She was also co-founder and former co-proprietor of Laissez Faire Books, which was once regarded as the largest libertarian bookstore. [Wikipedia]

She stands to reason.

Masterminds tend to be much more definite and self-confident than other Rationals, having usually developed a very strong will. Decisions come easily to them; in fact, they can hardly rest until they have things settled and decided. But before they decide anything, they must do the research. Masterminds are highly theoretical, but they insist on looking at all available data before they embrace an idea, and they are suspicious of any statement that is based on shoddy research, or that is not checked against reality. [Please Understand Me II]

It stands to reason, to be yourself.

Sharon’s Youtube video channel

21 thoughts on “It Stands to Reason”

  1. Apparently though, she respects authority enough not to refuse a “Ph.D. in social psychology from the City University of New York Graduate Center”.

      1. I doubt Presley or de Cleyre would care what you or anybody else considers them, that’s just a label, it’s the ideas that they were and are interested in. Whether one is of the US major religions: democrat, republican or the US minority religions: green, liberal, libertarian, anarchist, no-nothings or not a US resident — there is no canonical set of beliefs and opinions. Labels are introductions. Hopefully one learns a little more when you engage with her ideas and techniques. It’s your choice.

  2. A truly beautiful, questioning, independent, articulate mind, contributor to society. Dr Sharon Presley is an inspiration in teaching us true ‘reason’.

  3. This philosophy is so illogical that it can only be answered with a Reductio ad Absurdum. It is already absurd.

    True reason cannot be summed up to “resisting authority” because most of what we do is obeying authority. Including listening to slogans like “resisting authority” which are like all slogans claims to irrational authority in the first place, and in the second place must needs refrain from resisting the authority of the English language which contains the words “resisting” and “authority”.

    Aside from the absurdly illogical inconsistency most of the skills and knowledge we possess we possess because someone taught it to us. The only human that can truly be free from authority and conformity is a child lost in the woods.

    True reason in regard to such things must ponder when to obey and when to resist authority.

    Or to put it another way, “Why should I resist authority? Because YOU say so perhaps?”

    1. On the contrary JT, //Aside from the absurdly illogical inconsistency most of the skills and knowledge we possess we possess because someone taught it to us. The only human that can truly be free from authority and conformity is a child lost in the woods.//

      I think she offers us tools, resources, to help us think more for ourselves, my greatest education has been that driven by me, for me, ‘self education’. You don’t think we can (well, some of us), educate ourselves, (keeping in mind we learn from others), you know Maria Montessori right? (Inventor Rational btw). Which will mean learning from others, drawing upon resources and tools (that Dr Presley provides).

      I personally took from school what was useful for me, but my greatest learning has been self driven. Doing, researching, seeking, yes, learning from others, their work, ideas..many of them don’t even know I exist. Or have been dead hundreds of years. I have ‘sought this’, as opposed to being taught something, route, because that’s how it is, or grouptank supports it. Accepting without question. I think her time with Dr Milgram perhaps gave her more insight, but her temperament was always going to be the role of Contending, there is a lot to learn from them. I consider myself as independent, (many ways) skeptical and free from authority as much as I can possibly be, but, no, not born in the woods.

      1. And yet you used the phrase “I consider myself as independent,(many ways) skeptical and free from authority…” without once questioning your conformity to the English Language. Nor did you ever say why you think it a thing to proud of to be “independent, skeptical, and free from authority.” Why do you not question the questioning of authority(and question said questioning and so on forever). “Question Authority” is not a philosophy, it is a feedback loop.

        All that we say and write we say because we are following conventions. Almost all of the things we do are imitations of what others do. And almost of what we know we learn from others.

        As for “self-education” what does that mean? Do you wave your hand and suddenly become educated? All “self-educated” means is “Used sources chosen by oneself, rather than the products of factory-like schools.” Which is all very well but is not the same thing. You are still being educated by someone.

        And to be “self-educated” someone must have taught you to read, probably without your consent. Someone also taught you how to acquire material and what courtesies are necessary for the process(you are conforming when you stand in line in a library check out counter).

        In any case, as I said “question authority” or “resist authority” is self-contradictory. It is a bumper sticker slogan, not a system of thought and therefore it is itself claiming irrational authority.

  4. on reading->actually, no, quite my initiative, i pulled down old fence boards at 3yo to get to my neighbor who had books to get her to show them to me, read to me, and yes, help me to read. i also took what was necessary from schooling in that regard, what i wanted. i need to think over the points you make. it sounds rather black and white, i take her tools and resources as that. something for me to utilise. i believe in building a toolbox for life, well, my life. i choose to stand in line, or not, (more often not 🙂 ). i don’t complying with some things of society, i do believe in cooperation and also competition. it assists me in my life, my choices, my goals. i suspect life itself can be a contradictory thing. again though, this blog is a good example of a Contending role, despite your view of bumper sticker slogan theory. (which i am rejecting). after giving some more thought. language, and that we speak a predominant language is a means to communication, that also enables me to achieve my goals, i do (and have) not only ‘question’ authority but reject in places i am not prepared to comply with. i don’t feel ‘i don’t have choices’. i do what i relatively want. are you taking dr presley’s life, her work to an extreme state of ‘it either is or isn’t’ i am wondering. is life that simple for you? i consider life rather more complex.

  5. i find this rather generalising: //All that we say and write we say because we are following conventions. Almost all of the things we do are imitations of what others do. And almost of what we know we learn from others.// i think there have been, and always will be unconventional people, and also people that learn by doing for themself. i am confident imitation of others is a part of life, yes, but it’s rather reductionist. we are way more complex than that.

  6. JT you are familiar with Milgram, Abu Ghraib the Zimbardo Stanford prison experiement aren’t you? You have the context of Dr Presley’s early work in psychology right? Where she is coming from?

  7. Goodruno: I am aware of our complexity. My point is that the fact remains that if you make a shibboleth out of “resist authority” you are even in theory saying that you are cutting yourself from wisdom simply because it comes from someone more powerful then yourself. And in practice that you are advocating something no one ever really does fully whatever their claim. My point is that their must be wisdom in choosing when to resist authority. And that if there is to be a working society people must follow convention more often then not.

    Pam: I am aware that if people follow orders blindly, they will at times do horrible things. I am also aware that horrible things can happen because of rebelliousness whether spectacular horrors like the Indian Partition Riots or “minor” horrors that cause great suffering to individuals, like driving drunk. The point I am making is that phrases like “resist authority” are not the substitutes for wisdom and conscience that many people seem to take them for. They don’t get you off the moral hook any more then “respect authority” does.

  8. Okay, gotchya, makes sense what you explained there. We just differ in interpretation, thanks. Appreciate your clarification(s). (Pam and Goodrumo one and same, just lost my password again).

  9. JT—okay you have my brain spinning over some of your comments, but am reading up on the flow of information re the site I linked, here is a bit more, touches upon your point: (I dont care if you aren’t interested, meaning no offence-mainly am sharing stuff I access, thats all):!/

    from colin ward: “”You may think in describing anarchism as a theory of organisation I am propounding a deliberate paradox: ‘anarchy’ you may consider to be, by definition, the opposite of organisation. In fact, however, ‘anarchy’ means the absence of government, the absence of authority. Can there be social organisation without authority, without government?…see rest”-enuff here.

  10. Reblogged this on Please Understand Me and commented:

    Happy Birthday Sharon. She has been a libertarian activist for 50 years. and she hopes that she will have a few more years to fight for liberty. She is not slowing down if she can help it. She is finishing the libertarian feminist anthology, hoping to start a libertarian women’s magazine with Victoria Varga sometime this year, work on her book about American women resisters in the 19th century and other ideas in the offing. No rocking chair for her! Self and Herd-appointed Experts watch out.

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