Critical Thinker Habitually Pulls Back the Curtain

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by coberst, Oct 6, 2008.

  1. coberst

    coberst New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    0
    Critical Thinker Habitually Pulls Back the Curtain

    I guess, for all of us, a meme that gives impetuous to much of our behavior is the “capitalism is good” meme. This meme, with its closest suburbs, probably represents a fundamental element of the dominant ideology of western culture.

    This cluster of memes contains the wonderful “doing good by doing well” meme. This is the rascal that allows us to follow our imperialistic impulses. This meme allows us to invade Iraq under false pretenses, it allows us to open our borders to those who will work cheap, it allows for the “trickle down” economic theory, it allowed the Nineteenth Century imperialism practiced by our European cousins, etc.

    Most of the memes we live by have never been examined by any of us. I suspect this one, in particular, needs to be placed on the table for close individual examination.

    We saw the Nineteenth Century birth of a new economic entity, the corporation. A recent delivery of a new economic entity has occurred. This is the corporation-state. The new supranational corporation is here and on a fast freight. I suspect all these things happened too fast for a liberal democracy to encompass; so much for liberal democracy.

    CT is about analyzing and understanding.

    One thing I have learned about playing chess is that for almost every move there is a bad judgment a good judgment and a better judgment. And I also learned that one pays a price for each bad judgment.

    In life we are constantly making judgments. There is an art and science for judgment making and it is called Critical Thinking. Our schools and colleges have prepared us to make good judgments about special matters as it might pertain to our job but have done little to prepare us for the constant judgment making. CT is about learning how to think.
     
  2. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2004
    Messages:
    3,915
    Likes Received:
    0
    I agree that CT is always appropriate and most of us need more education and practice in it.

    My question: do you think that logical positivism is foundational for CT?
     
  3. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2005
    Messages:
    5,826
    Likes Received:
    0
    Welcome to these pages Coberst and thank you for starting with such an interesting question.

    Luna, my take would be if we are to fully embrace our ability to think critically then logical positivism is inevitable.


    tao
     
  4. Dogbrain

    Dogbrain New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    813
    Likes Received:
    0


    Funny, the same sentiment was being bandied about in the 1920s and 1930s, all by people who were speaking well of events in Italy and Germany.
     
  5. Pathless

    Pathless Fiercely Interdependent

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2004
    Messages:
    2,526
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you coberst for a stimulating post, and welcome to the forums.

    Luna, I don't think that logical postivism is necessary for critical thinking. Logical postivism seems to me to be a tool of particular use to the exacting, rational, materialistic views of western-centric culture. Believing that it is necessary for critical thinking would seem to necessitate perpetuating the same values that we may be trying to critique.

    Logical postivism is a reductionist approach. It requires a certain basic assumption: what cannot be measured or quantified is not real. Love cannot be measured or quantified. Is love therefore not real? One answer to that question from a scientific or positivist point of view is to look at scientific literature and research and see how many studies have been published on love. Going further, how do we quantify our relationships? How do we measure them, besides counting the number of friends or acquaintances we have, or getting married? And then again, is marriage logical? Is it scientific?

    I am digressing. I belive we need desperately to rediscover the world and our relationship to it. Many of the tools of our culture, and certainly 'logical positivism' is one of those tools, deconstruct and disscet the world. The objective of rationalization is to remove ourselves from experience and from the world, to become detached observers, to become workers pushing pieces around disinterestedly. The objective of the heightened rationality and science that is practiced and validated in the laboratory, classroom, boardroom, and halls of government is the attempt to remove ourselves as an objective consciousness from our bodies and the world in order to make the world and our bodies manageable. This nullifies relationships, both between fellow humans and the larger context of the world: animals, plants, minerals, air, water. This also nullifies experience and feeling; it sacrifices a way of being embedded and sensual in the world for a dead reckoning of objectivity: measures, analyses, constructs, models.

    Critical thinking is important. Pulling back the curtain and pulling back from the microscope are important. I also believe that inhabiting the world is important. Along with critical thinking, we would do well to practice sensuous feeling. But in a world that has been and is being reduced to the lowest common denominator by detachment and materialism and the scientific method, allowing ourselves to feel can be dangerous and painful. Yet it is necessary. Opening ourselves up to our inherent attachment to the trees, the air, water, the animal and plant food that we eat, we can sense our embeddedness in the ongoing processes of life, death, and regeneration. We may be able to observe and quantify some of these factors, but that is only one approach. To the extent that we limit ourselves to that approach, we impoverish not only our own experience and relationships, but also the quality of life of the greater world.
     
  6. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2005
    Messages:
    5,826
    Likes Received:
    0
    You can also swap a microscope for a telescope and use science as the measurement tool on the level you talk of. Science is like love, it has an infinite capacity for expression. You can choose to see it as standing alone but it pervades everything it is to be human. And it expands in which ever new direction we care to look. To ignore the science is to ignore the best we can do in understanding everything, small, big or massive. Applying science to the holism of which you speak is very easy.

    tao
     
  7. coberst

    coberst New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    0
    Logic 101 is part of CT but logical positivism is, in my opinion, a mistaken form of philosophy.

    Following WWI a group of scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers gathered in Vienna to discuss recent events in logic. This informal gathering, labeled as the Vienna Circle, sought a formal and systematic reduction of human knowledge to ‘acceptable levels’.

    Logical positivism, aka logical empiricism, resulted from this meeting. Logical positivism allows only logical tautologies and first-person observations to be considered as accurate forms of acceptable knowledge. The influences resulting from the Vienna Circle have proven to be enormous.

    A sentence is factually significant only if I know what observations make it true or false. This idea, logical empiricism, leaves no room for anything to be considered as significant knowledge except empirical observations and meaningless but useful tautologies of math and logic.

    Rudolf Carnap’s book “The Logical Structure of the World” (1929) attempts to construct in scientific language the structure of the whole world. It is this detailed analysis that led to the discovery of the difficulties of this procedure. The result was Karl Popper’s insight that we cannot establish truth but we can only prove that which is false; this leads into Popper’s theory of falsifyability.

    This program of logical positivism left little room for serious considerations of value and morality.

    Five decades passed, following the Vienna Circle, before John Rawls broke up the strangle-hold on moral considerations exerted by logical positivism. Rawls book “A Theory of Justice” constructs a theory of justice that is somewhat like constructing the grammar of a natural language.
     
  8. coberst

    coberst New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    0
    The first step toward solving our problems is to learn CT (Critical Thinking).

    CT is an acronym for Critical Thinking. Everybody considers themselves to be a critical thinker. That is why we need to differentiate among different levels of critical thinking.

    Most people fall in the category that I call Reagan thinkers—trust but verify. Then there are those who have taken the basic college course taught by the philosophy dept that I call Logic 101. This is a credit course that teaches the basic principles of reasoning. Of course, a person need not take the college course and can learn the matter on their own effort, but I suspect few do that.

    The third level I call CT (Critical Thinking). CT includes the knowledge of Logic 101 and also the knowledge that focuses upon the intellectual character and attitude of critical thinking. It includes knowledge regarding the ego and social centric forces that impede rational thinking.

    Most decisions we have to make are judgment calls. A judgment call is made when we must make a decision when there is no “true” or “false” answers. When we make a judgment call our decision is bad, good, or better.

    Many factors are involved: there are the available facts, assumptions, skills, knowledge, and especially personal experience and attitude. I think that the two most important elements in the mix are personal experience and attitude.

    When we study math we learn how to use various algorithms to facilitate our skill in dealing with quantities. If we never studied math we could deal with quantity on a primary level but our quantifying ability would be minimal. Likewise with making judgments; if we study the art and science of good judgment we can make better decisions and if we never study the art and science of judgment our decision ability will remain minimal.

    I am convinced that a fundamental problem we have in this country (USA) is that our citizens have never learned the art and science of good judgment. Before the recent introduction of CT into our schools and colleges our young people have been taught primarily what to think and not how to think. All of us graduated with insufficient comprehension of the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary for the formulation of good judgment. The result of this inability to make good judgment is evident and is dangerous.

    I am primarily interested in the judgment that adults exercise in regard to public issues. Of course, any improvement in judgment generally will affect both personal and community matters.

    To put the matter into a nut shell:
    • Normal men and women can significantly improve their ability to make judgments.
    • CT is the domain of knowledge that delineates the knowledge, skills, and intellectual character demanded for good judgment.
    • CT has been introduced into our schools and colleges slowly in the last two or three decades.
    • Few of today’s adults were ever taught CT.
    • I suspect that at least another two generations will pass before our society reaps significant rewards resulting from teaching CT to our children.
    • Can our democracy survive that long?
    • I think that every effort must be made to convince today’s adults that they need to study and learn CT on their own. I am not suggesting that adults find a teacher but I am suggesting that adults become self-actualizing learners.
    • I am convinced that learning the art and science of Critical Thinking is an important step toward becoming a better citizen in today’s democratic society.

    The first step toward solving our problems is to learn CT (Critical Thinking).

    CT is an acronym for Critical Thinking. Everybody considers themselves to be a critical thinker. That is why we need to differentiate among different levels of critical thinking.

    Most people fall in the category that I call Reagan thinkers—trust but verify. Then there are those who have taken the basic college course taught by the philosophy dept that I call Logic 101. This is a credit course that teaches the basic principles of reasoning. Of course, a person need not take the college course and can learn the matter on their own effort, but I suspect few do that.

    The third level I call CT (Critical Thinking). CT includes the knowledge of Logic 101 and also the knowledge that focuses upon the intellectual character and attitude of critical thinking. It includes knowledge regarding the ego and social centric forces that impede rational thinking.

    Most decisions we have to make are judgment calls. A judgment call is made when we must make a decision when there is no “true” or “false” answers. When we make a judgment call our decision is bad, good, or better.

    Many factors are involved: there are the available facts, assumptions, skills, knowledge, and especially personal experience and attitude. I think that the two most important elements in the mix are personal experience and attitude.

    When we study math we learn how to use various algorithms to facilitate our skill in dealing with quantities. If we never studied math we could deal with quantity on a primary level but our quantifying ability would be minimal. Likewise with making judgments; if we study the art and science of good judgment we can make better decisions and if we never study the art and science of judgment our decision ability will remain minimal.

    I am convinced that a fundamental problem we have in this country (USA) is that our citizens have never learned the art and science of good judgment. Before the recent introduction of CT into our schools and colleges our young people have been taught primarily what to think and not how to think. All of us graduated with insufficient comprehension of the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary for the formulation of good judgment. The result of this inability to make good judgment is evident and is dangerous.

    I am primarily interested in the judgment that adults exercise in regard to public issues. Of course, any improvement in judgment generally will affect both personal and community matters.

    To put the matter into a nut shell:
    • Normal men and women can significantly improve their ability to make judgments.
    • CT is the domain of knowledge that delineates the knowledge, skills, and intellectual character demanded for good judgment.
    • CT has been introduced into our schools and colleges slowly in the last two or three decades.
    • Few of today’s adults were ever taught CT.
    • I suspect that at least another two generations will pass before our society reaps significant rewards resulting from teaching CT to our children.
    • Can our democracy survive that long?
    • I think that every effort must be made to convince today’s adults that they need to study and learn CT on their own. I am not suggesting that adults find a teacher but I am suggesting that adults become self-actualizing learners.
    • I am convinced that learning the art and science of Critical Thinking is an important step toward becoming a better citizen in today’s democratic society.
     
  9. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2005
    Messages:
    5,826
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hmmm starting to feel like you are not a real person. Waiting for the sales pitch.
     
  10. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2006
    Messages:
    5,259
    Likes Received:
    8
    Well Tao, I did think the OP was a teaser advert :rolleyes:

    s.
     
  11. Pathless

    Pathless Fiercely Interdependent

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2004
    Messages:
    2,526
    Likes Received:
    0
  12. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2004
    Messages:
    3,915
    Likes Received:
    0
  13. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Messages:
    21,118
    Likes Received:
    1,639
    Now you guys, a critical thinker would read the Code of Conduct and realize that he'd risk infractions and banishment by peddling Amway here.
     
  14. coberst

    coberst New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    0

    I am a retired engineer with a good bit of formal education and twenty five years of self-learning. I began the self-learning experience while in my mid-forties. I had no goal in mind; I was just following my intellectual curiosity in whatever direction it led me. This hobby, self-learning, has become very important to me. I have bounced around from one hobby to another but have always been enticed back by the excitement I have discovered in this learning process. Carl Sagan is quoted as having written; “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”

    I label myself as a September Scholar because I began the process at mid-life and because my quest is disinterested knowledge.

    Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value. Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end. It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it. I mean the term ‘disinterested knowledge’ as similar to ‘pure research’, as compared to ‘applied research’. Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application.

    I think of the self-learner of disinterested knowledge as driven by curiosity and imagination to understand. The September Scholar seeks to ‘see’ and then to ‘grasp’ through intellection directed at understanding the self as well as the world. The knowledge and understanding that is sought by the September Scholar are determined only by personal motivations. It is noteworthy that disinterested knowledge is knowledge I am driven to acquire because it is of dominating interest to me. Because I have such an interest in this disinterested knowledge my adrenaline level rises in anticipation of my voyage of discovery.

    We often use the metaphors of ‘seeing’ for knowing and ‘grasping’ for understanding. I think these metaphors significantly illuminate the difference between these two forms of intellection. We see much but grasp little. It takes great force to impel us to go beyond seeing to the point of grasping. The force driving us is the strong personal involvement we have to the question that guides our quest. I think it is this inclusion of self-fulfillment, as associated with the question, that makes self-learning so important.

    The self-learner of disinterested knowledge is engaged in a single-minded search for understanding. The goal, grasping the ‘truth’, is generally of insignificant consequence in comparison to the single-minded search. Others must judge the value of the ‘truth’ discovered by the autodidactic. I suggest that truth, should it be of any universal value, will evolve in a biological fashion when a significant number of pursuers of disinterested knowledge engage in dialogue.

    In the United States our culture compels us to have a purpose. Our culture defines that purpose to be ‘maximize production and consumption’. As a result all good children feel compelled to become a successful producer and consumer. All good children both consciously and unconsciously organize their life for this journey.

    At mid-life many citizens begin to analyze their life and often discover a need to reconstitute their purpose. Some of the advantageous of this self-learning experience is that it is virtually free, undeterred by age, not a zero sum game, surprising, exciting and makes each discovery a new eureka moment. The self-learning experience I am suggesting is similar to any other hobby one might undertake; interest will ebb and flow. In my case this was a hobby that I continually came back to after other hobbies lost appeal.

    I suggest for your consideration that if we “Get a life—Get an intellectual life” we very well might gain substantially in self-worth and, perhaps, community-worth.

    As a popular saying goes ‘there is a season for all things’. We might consider that spring and summer are times for gathering knowledge, maximizing production and consumption, and increasing net-worth; while fall and winter are seasons for gathering understanding, creating wisdom and increasing self-worth.

    I have been trying to encourage adults, who in general consider education as a matter only for young people, to give this idea of self-learning a try. It seems to be human nature to do a turtle (close the mind) when encountering a new and unorthodox idea. Generally we seem to need for an idea to face us many times before we can consider it seriously. A common method for brushing aside this idea is to think ‘I’ve been there and done that’, i.e. ‘I have read and been a self-learner all my life’.

    It is unlikely that you will encounter this unorthodox suggestion ever again. You must act on this occasion or never act. The first thing is to make a change in attitude about just what is the nature of education. Then one must face the world with a critical outlook. A number of attitude changes are required as a first step. All parents, I guess, recognize the problems inherent in attitude adjustment. We just have to focus that knowledge upon our self as the object needing an attitude adjustment rather than our child.

    Another often heard response is that “you are preaching to the choir”. If you conclude that this is an old familiar tune then I have failed to make clear my suggestion. I recall a story circulating many years ago when the Catholic Church was undergoing substantial changes. Catholics where no longer using Latin in the mass, they were no longer required to abstain from meat on Friday and many other changes. The story goes that one lady was complaining about all these changes and she said, “with all these changes the only thing one will need to do to be a good Catholic is love thy neighbor”.

    I am not suggesting a stroll in the park on a Sunday afternoon. I am suggesting a ‘Lewis and Clark Expedition’. I am suggesting the intellectual equivalent of crossing the Mississippi and heading West across unexplored intellectual territory with the intellectual equivalent of the Pacific Ocean as a destination.
     
  15. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2005
    Messages:
    2,924
    Likes Received:
    1
    Interesting. I had not encountered the term autodidactic before, but I understand what you mean by "disinterested knowledge." The whole world is illusory in the sense that we've constructed it for ourselves out of bits and pieces, tokens of reality, but have never taken the time to examine the actual structure because it takes such effort and concentration.

    Chris
     
  16. Tao_Equus

    Tao_Equus Interfaith Forums

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2005
    Messages:
    5,826
    Likes Received:
    0
    Coberst,

    Are you a retired engineer...? Your C& P's so far seem to give us the prologue of some book you are currently fascinated by. All very interesting but I, and most people here, do not like having a one way discussion with a c&p-er who does not respond to us individually in their own words. In fact c&p-ers are soon banished from here.

    The subject you highlight is very interesting but nobody here will take you seriously if you do not engage with us properly. I have known about and had books on critical thinking for several years and would like genuine discussion on the subject. Are you capable of that?


    tao
     
  17. coberst

    coberst New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    0
    Tao

    Be happy to discuss CT with you.
     
  18. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,502
    Likes Received:
    147
    OK, since this ball seems to have lost its bounce, maybe I can kick a little life into it.

    Critical Thinking is not a strong suit in a lot of people, and it is a skill that has to be consciously developed. Even among educated people, CT can be (and is) set aside when cherished beliefs are challenged. Those beliefs need not be religious, or even metaphysical / spiritual. Look at the challenges I have laid to those espoused to Evolutionary Theory as an example...CT is set aside for the automatic presumption that I *must* be a creationist. Yet, with a critically thinking mind, one can clearly see that is not the case, but that I dare to have the audacity to point out the shortcomings in Evolutionary Theory...nothing more.

    Understanding and exposing logical fallacies is the structural framework of Critical Thinking. Setting aside presumptions is a key element in critical thinking as well. All of which requires an unbiased and emotionally level head, and a willingness to detach from preferred ways of seeing things to entertain other views, even if ultimately those other views are set aside after analysis.
     
  19. coberst

    coberst New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    Messages:
    427
    Likes Received:
    0
    Juantoo

    CT is a combination of knowledge, attitude, character, and skill. I suspect attitude and chacter might be a major factors. The problem is that our educational system has never taught us how to think and we have formed the idea that every body is born with the ability to think and it is just an automatic process. I suspect many people are reluctant to study the matter because the are afraid that much of what they learn will cause a great disruption of many ideas that they hold dear.
     
  20. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,502
    Likes Received:
    147
    Agreed. But that does not mean CT cannot be learned. Like any skill it must be developed by practice.

    It is incumbent, I feel, for the teacher / presenter to consider the audience, with the understanding that the typical audience likely is not well versed in CT. I have even witnessed a college level professor who taught CT exhibit very uncritical thoughts. I do personally feel that PC does an amount of harm in detracting from CT, but any subservience to politics will do that. Witness how taboo the subject of Eugenics is even today...yet if we were to be in an absolute intellectual environment, something as delicate as eugenics should find a place along with evolution. The trouble resides in how politics distorts the concept into alternate meanings with unintended consequences. Ergo, eugenics becomes a taboo subject.

    That is just one example. Plenty more examples can be shown, all with knee-jerk emotional responses that instantly seal off any opportunity for genuine critical thinking.

    That is not to say CT cannot or should not be taught. The challenge is in getting the student prepared and interested. Most people are quite comfortable within their own little cherished worlds that would be interrupted by CT, as a consequence they hold little to no desire to learn.

    And I think that is one of the mitigating factors...the desire to learn, period. Those rare few people who learn for the sake of learning, they are the ones most receptive to CT skills. Those that already have the world figured out (whether or not they actually do), have no interest in something like CT.
     

Share This Page