I think of myself as a freethinker. But I realize that may be a misnomer for us all. Nothing is truly free. Nothing. It all has a cost. To think for ourselves is to do all the heavy lifting, discover, or at least test and verify, ...every idea. A tall order indeed.
As much as we want to think for ourselves, it is also true we have to learn somewhere. Very occasionally we learn through direct experiment, though our methodology is certainly not guaranteed to be beyond questioning. More often we absorb like sponges. That is, in fact, the bulk of our approach to building a "knowledge" base when very young.
By the time we have developed some degree of critical thinking skill, all of us have many years of indoctrination/socialization under our belts. That is much to overcome.
So perhaps "freethinker" is an inspirational label, an aspiration, rather than rule. You know, like the U.S Declaration of Independence: Lovely, a shining beacon, but in actuality far from reality.
As the first past the post-post-modern freethinker I think that freethinking is not "far from reality" or an "aspiration" but simply the use of logic to determine answers rather than beliefs.
Free thinking from freethinking I think I hear them rebels yell.
Free thinking is not about "cost". It is the ability for looking at the facts or your ability for critical thought, something not everyone has or ever will have, and making a decision based on what you find. Some of it is just recognising stupid when you see it. In the last 7 years or so stupid has been very obvious and easy to recognize.
Do you have taboos?
Are you open to doing things differently?
Does religious sensibilities prevent many of your potential actions?
Can you walk into a Wallmart wearing clothes that would go on the Internet as a meme at your expense?
Would you eat penguin eggs, or try a piece of whale meat?
Free thinking is the willingness to ignore every single thing that isn't dangerous or unhealthy but could hold you back in your actions.
I never understood why I had to wear my "Sunday best" on Sundays, why not Daisy Dukes and flip flops?
Like listen to everything, use what seems good, ignore protocol and social norms. Stay informed about how everything REALLY works instead of how Mom and Dad did shit.
If you're at least 50% like this you're a free thinker.
Few could give as few fucks as I do, but if you're upset because of the hair style or color of your friends Mohawk, you should reevaluate your attitude.
You have just pressed one of my "go" buttons, so here I go ...
As a child, I was inquisitive about the nature of thinking. After half a century, I have only got as far as the following. Thinking properly involves at least four cognitive skills: critical thinking (which you mention), analytical thinking (the ability to resolve a situation into its component parts), cogent thinking (the ability to make sound inferences) and dispassionate thinking (the ability to ignore one's own wishes and desires). I regard anybody who regularly uses those four cognitive skills as being a freethinker.
Some people find it easier than others to engage in freethinking, but it becomes easier with practice.