Suppose you want to contribute to the understanding of some subject, but you are presently ignorant about it. Should you do something closer to (a) read everything that’s been written so far, then join in, or (b) think about it yourself a lot before you even look at the basics of what others have come up with?
My guess is closer to (b), though I’m not confident. I’ll tell you why, then you can tell me why I’m wrong if you care to.
Any given topic has many ways to frame it; different assumptions to assume, axioms to emphasise, evidence to notice, questions to ask of it, and aspects to cut out or leave in or smooth out in the abstraction process. Some varieties of each of these things are much more useful than others for making progress, and even the useful ones may help with progress in different directions. When different people approach the same topic, they will do it with a different set of all of these things, because they have different intuitions about it and are familiar with different approaches and other topics. I don’t know of a better, more formal way to try out such things. Once you have understood something complex in the terms set of abstractions etc, it becomes harder to see it in other ways I think, particularly if you have to make up those other ways yourself. So if you start by reading what everyone else has said, you miss out on an opportunity to make a new way to think about it.
Most ways to think about a problem are probably unsuccessful in creating anything new of value. So you might think it’s a tragedy of the commons – it’s better for progress on a subject if each person joining it spends a bit of time at the start trying their own approach before they are familiar with the old work, but it is better for each individual if they just get on with the old work since their own approach probably won’t be any good. But if you do come up with a successful approach, I assume you are duly recompensed with status and glee and that sort of thing.
If eventually we have a perfect general understanding of how to best conceptualise topics, and how to ask the most productive questions and make the best assumptions and so on, then (a). Until then, I’m in favour of a bit of ignorant thinking. What do you think? (assuming your answer is b, or you are an expert on this topic).