We all think. But do we think well? Accurately? Proficiently? Correctly? Astutely? Properly? Objectively?
In all actuality most of us barely operate at anything above basic knee-jerk emotional responses. Psychologists and philosophers would consider it something akin to unconscious thought. I wouldn’t even agree that it should be called “thinking.” A more accurate name for it would be “GarbageThink.” It’s fraught with errors, biases, prejudices, unfounded beliefs, stupid assumptions, educational/cultural indoctrination & peer pressure, as well as a lifetime of each person sure that if they see something in the newspaper/TV/social-media or hear it from an “expert” then they’re fully knowledgeable on a subject. They think (feel) they’re thinking. They are not really thinking.
In order to continually align ourselves with Proper Thinking, we must always be aware of normative social stupidities and work towards a more consciously controlled manner of thought: Critical Thinking. It’s not automatic. It takes conscious effort. It requires you to genuinely admit that your thinking may very well be askew and requires a diligent effort for improvement. It requires humility and most definitely Intellectual Integrity.
What is Critical Thinking?
There are some very long-winded, complex and nearly undigestable definitions for Critical Thinking online and in books. Reading them makes your brain glaze over with disinterest and detachment. I’m looking for something that is concise, powerful and relays the essence of the concept. My intent is not to share paragraph after paragraph of essentially useless and mundane academic gibberish. I want something that is easily digestible and inspires those who genuinely want to improve their thought processes – and really arrive at that genuine result.
Here’s my coalesced definition:
To objectively think about and critically analyze your flawed thought processes (yes, it’s flawed – no exception). It’s an objective analysis of any subject using rational thought – evidence, facts, reality – not emotional pleas to feelings, perceived irrational justice, closely held and biased desires, willful ignorance nor blind stupidity. It requires you to follow the actual evidence and facts to wherever they lead – regardless of your cherished beliefs, assumptions, or normative orthodoxy (current paradigm). You must realize that you have default human qualities which, without consicous and concerted effort, will absolutely prevent you from practicing critical thinking. We ALL are susceptible to logical biases that derail proper thinking.
The site www.CriticalThinking.org has some good content. One of their definitions:
- Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.
Even Wikipedia has some motivating thoughts on the matter:
- Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.
- Critical thinking has seven critical features: being inquisitive and curious, being open-minded to different sides, being able to think systematically, being analytical, being persistent to truth, being confident about critical thinking itself, and lastly, being mature.
- Thinking about one’s thinking in a manner designed to organize and clarify, raise the efficiency of, and recognize errors and biases in one’s own thinking. Critical thinking is not ‘hard’ thinking nor is it directed at solving problems (other than ‘improving’ one’s own thinking). Critical thinking is inward-directed with the intent of maximizing the rationality of the thinker. One does not use critical thinking to solve problems—one uses critical thinking to improve one’s process of thinking.
- The analysis of facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rational, skeptical, unbiased analysis, or evaluation of factual evidence. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities as well as a commitment to overcome native egocentrism and sociocentrism.
This statement is a bit long but hits many key points:
Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably,
empathically. They are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked. They strive to diminish the power of their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies. They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable them to analyze,
assess, and improve thinking. They work diligently to develop the intellectual virtues of intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual civility, intellectual empathy, intellectual sense of justice and confidence in reason. They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities and they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest. They strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can and contribute to a more rational, civilized society. At the same time, they recognize the complexities often inherent in doing so. They avoid thinking simplistically about complicated issues and strive to appropriately consider the rights and needs of relevant others. They recognize the complexities in developing as thinkers, and commit themselves to life-long practice toward self-improvement. They embody the Socratic principle: The unexamined life is not worth living , because they realize that many unexamined lives together result in an uncritical, unjust, dangerous world.
— Linda Elder, September, 2007 (www.CriticalThinking.org)
Socrates established the fact that one cannot depend upon those in “authority” to have sound knowledge and insight. He demonstrated that persons may have power and high position and yet be deeply confused and irrational. Socrates maintained that for an individual to have a good life or to have one that is worth living, he must be a critical questioner and possess an interrogative soul. He established the importance of asking deep questions that probe profoundly into thinking before we accept ideas as worthy of belief.Socrates established the importance of “seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications not only of what is said but of what is done as well”. His method of questioning is now known as “Socratic questioning” and is the best known critical thinking teaching strategy. In his mode of questioning, Socrates highlighted the need for thinking for clarity and logical consistency. He asked people questions to reveal their irrational thinking or lack of reliable knowledge. Socrates demonstrated that having authority does not ensure accurate knowledge. He established the method of questioning beliefs, closely inspecting assumptions and relying on evidence and sound rationale.
What Are You Going To Do About It?
So what? How to make a change and do something about it . . .
A few suggestions:
- Embrace reasoning and rational thought (if your emotional buttons have been pushed, you are not thinking critically or rationally).
- Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions – question everything. Question often. Question motives. For what purpose? To whose benefit?
- Avoid the most obvious logical fallacies – two of the worst being: confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance.
- Objective analysis of evidence and facts (not emotional objections and default “garbage-think”)
- Escape your indoctrinated education, your lifetime of inculturation, your membership in the herd, to ask the tough/difficult core questions of reality and living.
- Question the accepted paradigm/narrative/orthodoxy. The owners of these paradigms are invested deeply.
- Question authorities – Leaders, Politicians, Professors, Experts, Scientists (particularly those politically chosen), Preachers/Pastors/Spiritual-Gurus. These so-called authorities can (and are) as irrational as the majority of the population. They don’t get a pass for being human. They’re like the rest of us and their thinking is flawed. They also practice indoctinated “garbage-think.” In fact, you’re safer to assume that these so-called experts/authorities have been hired/placed/directed to steer and pursuade you to accept a narrative that is NOT based on objective evidence and facts – instead to propagandize you to fall in line with that narrative. Their paycheck depends on it.
- Objectively research the topics important to you.
A well cultivated critical thinker:
- raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
- gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
- thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
- communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.
Excellence in thought. A desire for precision and accuracy in thinking. A drive to uncover reality – what IS.
Is this not a noble cause? Do you want to spew subjective, emotional, non-factual inaccuracies and stupidities as your personal platform? Do you not care about the factual foundation of your house? Are you confortable coming across as a “Garbage-Think” idiot to those that ACTUALLY think – critically think?
You’re reading this blog. You somehow connect with the philosophical premises shared within. Therefore I know you have some element within you that DOES care about intellectual integrity.
Don’t ignore that call. Discard “GarbageThink.” Embrace Critical Thinking.
Some pertinent sites/articles: