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L. Susan Stebbing, first female president of the Ethical Union (now Humanists UK), published Thinking to Some Purpose in 1939, emphasising the need for ordinary people to develop their critical thinking skills in order to avoid being misled by deceptive language and unfounded logical conclusions. She was keenly aware of the power of language, and of its potential uses and misuses, feeling that sharing an understanding of this was key to an informed and engaged society. Stebbing described the writing of Thinking to Some Purpose as being motivated by ‘the urgent need for a democratic people to think clearly without the distortions due to unconscious bias and unrecognised ignorance’. It is a clarion call for individual, critical, and rational thinking.

For its epigraph, Stebbing chose a quotation on freedom of thought by 18th century freethinker Anthony Collins, who had written:

…if we have a right to know any Truth whatsoever, we have a right to think freely, or (according to my Definition) to use our Understandings, in endeavouring to find out the Meaning of any Proposition whatsoever, in considering the nature of the Evidence for or against it, and in judging of it according to the seeming Force or weakness of the evidence: because there is no other way to discover the Truth.

Anthony Collins, A Discourse of Free-Thinking (1713)
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