Most people cruise through life with nary a thought about thought. And, really, why bother thinking about how well, or poorly, you think? What difference does it make? That depends, really.
Do you care if others think you’re stupid? Do YOU care if you look stupid? More importantly, do you care if you ARE stupid? Or the converse . . . do you worry people might think you’re too smart? Will they treat you differently? Does that matter to you if they do? What is the difference between ignorance and stupidity, and why is it even important? Is accuracy important to you? Do you have an innate calling within you to discover the truth – of anything? What is the truth? How will you be able to identify the truth if you don’t think properly? How will you know even if it hits you in the face? Do you have any personal standards? Or do you just want to glide through life with the least effort and slide into the grave without accomplishing anything of intellectual substance?
I see now, after years of living and observing, this concern for personal thinking standards isn’t widely shared among the general public. In fact, I believe very few individuals care whether they have any sort of quality and accuracy to their thinking processes at all. Emotions drive the day; day in and day out.
It’s so easy to see why this is the case. Thinking takes effort – a lot of effort. Emotions are immediate and readily actionable. We are a society of immediate gratification and there’s no place for paced and measured analysis. Grab the first story or piece of evidence that fits your bias (existing belief systems) and run with it. “I know I’m right to begin with, and this just confirms it!”
What’s The Cost of Proper Thinking?
In addition, thinking – true thinking – automatically puts an individual at odds with the overwhelming majority and mundaneness of society; the herd. Group-think pressures us to “go along”; don’t rock the boat; don’t question the consensus. As soon as you start probing the efficacy of the cultural norm you become an enigma, a pariah, an anomaly. There aren’t too many people who are individuals and independently strong enough to resist the pressure to shut up and conform; to bring yourself down to the lowest common societal denominator and just ‘get along.’
Some of us, however, aren’t “joiners;” we’re independent loners. We don’t care what others think of our views. There’s an inner calling that screams inside of us to discover the truth, no matter where it leads or what the costs. Discovery excites us. We have an innate desire for truth and accuracy. Learning about something – and confirming it with solid evidence from multiple sources – charges our soul with “knowing!”
The difficult part – we get SO excited about our discoveries that we want to share it with the world; everyone we know. The only problem? The vast majority don’t care. Others don’t want to hear of anything that upsets the apple-cart of their foundational, cultural belief system. We find ourselves trying to convince, and instead we turn away those for whom we care. Unless you find an enclave of true “seekers” near you, you’re unable to share what you’ve discovered; and so this usually means only participating in discussion groups on the web. But it drives us crazy that we can’t share with close friends and family.
Barriers to Proper Thinking
Enough about the state of affairs. For those of you that really care, are you really thinking properly? There are many barriers to accurate thinking:
- cognitive dissonance
- confirmation bias
- logical fallacies
- group think
- appeal to authority
- ingrained cultural belief systems
- unquestioned assumptions
- orthodox paradigms
- objective vs subjective knowledge
- opinions vs facts
- appeal to emotions
- personal (lack of) standards
- reality vs beliefs
So, chances are, you don’t think correctly. I doubt if almost anyone does. It just requires too much analysis and honest, personal gut checks that most are unwilling to take. We just don’t want to find out that we’re ‘wrong’ about anything – at any cost. We don’t want to find out we’ve been duped. And we don’t want to put in the effort.
Those Who Are Driven
I’ve come to realize people have no desire to even address whether their thinking is “right” or not unless they have a personal sense of Intellectual Integrity. Something inside of them has to speak up and say,
“I have to know the truth – the real truth. I have to discover the most accurate canvas of evidence and reality. I know I’m ignorant of certain important topics, so I need to dig. I have to think correctly. I don’t care whether it’s in direct opposition to what the majority of society believes, or if it proves that my current belief structure is shaky at best or (worse) unfounded.”
Even when someone finally decides to question their well-driven cultural norms and ingrained beliefs, it’s psychologically impossible to jump from point A to point Z in one quick knowledge-adjustment. Each of us, as seekers, has to move along the linear line of knowledge discovery, slowly turning the apple-cart over one small discovery at a time; digesting it, confirming it, and moving forward to the next disrupter. From A-to-B; from B-to-C; C-to-D, etc.
An interesting thing happens when we try to refine our intellectual pursuit of knowledge discovery – if we pursue it with integrity . . . . We move from extreme confidence to less confidence:
- I know I’m right
- I’m most likely wrong
- Chances are I don’t know what the truth is
- I’m definitely wrong
- I’m not sure I know anything for sure
Why in the world would anyone want to move in THAT direction?!?!? Reference the saying,
“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”
(variously attributed to Aristotle or Einstein)
That typically seems to happen. REAL knowledge, in a real sense, is a matter of confidence (percentage of confidence) – which is something derived of science and the scientific method. (Don’t think I’m a blind fan of orthodox science – I’m not). Knowing. . . . knowing something for certain is next to impossible. The more you dig and discover, the more you realize there is SO much to uncover and seek further. Once you’ve taken that road of digging and digging, looking at all sides of an argument or claim, the more you realize there’s simply too much of a lack of confidence that you cannot proclaim anything as ultimate truth. Only those who haven’t dug sufficiently with the appropriate intellectual integrity are ready to scream from the rooftops that a claim is rock-solid reality.
It may seem that you’re giving up a lot of confidence as you learn more, but the truth is, you’re becoming more confident about what’s NOT correct as you progress down the path of discovery.
How, Why, What
In the near future (if I can get over my prefectionist procrastination) I’ll address many of these challenges (and rewards) in detail. I’ll approach them from a triumvirate of overarching drivers:
- What are the barriers to accurate, proper thinking? How can I make these challenges conscious and what to do about them? How to systematically think properly.
- Who cares? Why should I care if I have the truth (accurate reality)? Or whether I’m being duped? What are the costs? What are the rewards? Why I should care.
- Should I spend time analyzing everything? How do I decide what’s important and what to let go? What I should focus on.
Looking forward to adventuring forward . . . .refine, refine, refine!
Yours in knowledge adventuring & beauty,