Thursday, December 24, 2009
(Transcription by me)
Give someone a fish, and they'll eat that day. Teach them how to catch a fish and they'll never go hungry. Proverbs like these remind us how learning skills help us to move towards self-reliance. This is never more true than critical thinking. Memorize the solution to a problem, and you may master that particular problem. Improve your critical thinking and you'll give yourself the tools to create your own effective solutions to a multitude of unfamiliar problems. Critical thinking refers to a diverse range of intellectual skills and activities concern with evaluating information as well as on our thought in a disciplined way. When we are willing enable to examine our capabilities thinkers acknowledging problems and weaknesses, this can help us refine our thought processes, so we learn to think and assess information in more comprehensive way that increases our ability to identify and reject false ideas and ideologies.
Critical thinking isn't just thinking a lot. A person may spend of great deal intellectual energy defending a flawed position or pursuing a question that actually needs reformulating before can progress begin. If they never examine possible flaws and biases behind their approach that's not thinking critically.
We must want to be better at thinking, to pinpoint and minimize any biasing influence on our thought from culture and upbringing, to seek out and be guided by knowledge and evidence that fits with reality even if it refutes our cherished beliefs. Indeed when we think critically believes cannot to be cherished. But held on the understanding that if shown to be unfounded a change of position is most appropriate response.
Critical thinkers cultivate an attitude of curiosity and eagerness to wide their perspective and broad their knowledge and they are willing to do the work required to keep themselves properly informed about a subject. They recognizes an explanation must actually explain and be testable to be worthy of series consideration and their legitimate theories clearly define the circumstances which though conceived defeat.
Critical thinking embraces scepticism. Scepticism doesn't mean any indiscriminate rejection of ideas as some mistakenly believe. It refers to doubting and suspending our judgement about claims with which we are presented, so we don't simply accept claims which might be unjustified the first take the time to understand them, examining the reasoning and possible assumptions and biases behind them.
Reasoning behind factual claims should be based in sound, consistent logic, not on emotions or social pressure. Because the truth value of factual claims is not determined by the emotion that accompanies them or the fact that they may be believed by certain social groups. Sometimes people tried to persuade us that reason has no value, that's an untenable position. Arguing against reason is cutting of the branch which you sit using the very thing you're dismissed in order to construct a case against it.
Reason has an intrinsict role in our decisions and judgements we may negotiate a way through life whether they be momentous or trivial. If it particular line of reasoning is flawed what will increase our understanding? Dismissing reason or looking honestly at our flaws? A lack of respect for reason or evidence or any number of abstracted character traits will sabotage one's capacity for critical thought.
One of the biggest barriers to critical thinking is unwillingness to see complex issues in anything other than black and white terms. If one sees only two options when more exist, this constitutes false dichotomy. Consciousness is often presented as something that's an either eternal and immaterial entity or reducible and identical to brain states when in effect there are various other positions. Many divide people into those who accept evolution and those who believing in specific gods when these categories are not mutual exclusive. If we think in false dichotomies we'll tend to draw false conclusions. For example by judging that if option A is false, option B must be true. We may also misrepresent others by wrongly assuming if they don't hold attitude X, they MUST hold attitude Y.
Black and white thinking often reflects underlying reluctance or refusal to deal with uncertainty results from complexity and absence of definitive answers. Leaping to flawed conclusions because you can't tolerate the ambiguity of not knowing is not about truth or curiosity but comfort. A critical thinker can handle uncertainty, preferring to be aware of their own areas of ignorance and wait for valid evidence and evidence-based by answers.
Critical thinking provides each of us with the keys for unlocking our own intellectual independence leaving us willing and able to explore unsolved problems for ourselves.
It moves us away from rash conclusions, mystification and reluctance to question, received wisdom, authority and tradition. It moves us towards intellectual discipline, clear expression of ideas and the acceptance of personal responsibility for our own thinking.
Communities in which individuals are eager to acquire and apply the best knowledge and reason in all fields and willing to acknowledge and correct flaws in their own thinking are better equipped to create more profoundly effective solutions to the challenges we face in living and living together. When we teach and encourage critical thinking we empower individual lives and invest in our collective future.