Blog: Thoughts on Critical Thinking

Welcome to the interactive blog of distinguished authorities on critical thinking, Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Gerald Nosich, Senior Fellows of the Foundation for Critical Thinking. Join us here often – we will share personal readings we find helpful to our own development, instructional designs and processes we recommend, and strategies for applying critical thinking to everyday life situations.

Through this blog, we will also recommend videos and movies that can help you, your students, your colleagues, and your family internalize and contextualize critical thinking principles, or identify where and how critical thinking is missing. Look for our tips and questions connected with our recommendations.

We will also showcase in our blog articles by our scholars and by community members that are exemplary in advancing critical thinking. If you would like to recommend articles for showcasing here that you believe are exemplary, please forward them to us at
Linda Elder
Aug 02, 2020 • 12d ago
A Sound Theory of Critical Thinking is Not Proven Through Scientific Research

{"ops":[{"insert":"I recently received an email from a professor who said he could see how advantageous it would be to have the Paulian Framework adopted as a first-year university course at his institution, but that some of his colleagues cited a lack of supportive evidence for its effectiveness.\n \nThroughout our 40 years of advancing critical thinking, this argument has frequently been made by skeptical academicians. On the one hand this is completely understandable given the fluff and nonsense that frequently passes for critical thinking, along with the many superficial approaches to bringing thinking skills across the curriculum faculty have been encouraged (or even required) to use over the past few decades.\n \nOn the other hand, this viewpoint illuminates a lack of understanding of a robust, integrative conception of critical thinking. This is connected with the fact that a sound theory of critical thinking is not proven by science, nor through research. It is proven through its conceptual soundness; its effectiveness is proven through application of its principles to real life situations (as is the case with all theory).\n \nUnfortunately, in this postmodern era people tend to equate “proof” with "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"proof through scientific research"},{"insert":". In other words, everything is seen through the lens of science and especially scientific proof. But again, critical thinking is fundamentally conceptual and therefore must be understood conceptually; a reasonable theory of critical thinking is proven when it makes sense conceptually, not scientifically.\n \nFurther, very few teachers at any level understand critical thinking (as a rich set of concepts) well enough to teach it, much less conduct sound research focused on it. This is a criticism of academic systems far more than a criticism of individual faculty. Instructors at all levels typically study a discipline - but without the explicit tools of critical thinking that give rise to that discipline. Many faculty become well-versed in their academic discipline or profession without understanding the reasoning that guides and controls the paths of thinking within the discipline. Some of them are able to intuitively teach at least some critical thinking embedded in their disciplines, but mostly at an implicit level. Very few faculty clearly see their disciplines as a mode of thinking, or are able to explain the intellectual standards needed to reason well within their disciplines. Hence the dearth of high-quality research in critical thinking.\n \nWhat is needed is critical thinking at an explicit level, as well as an agreed–upon conception of critical thinking that entails these dimensions at minimum:\n1.    precise in detailing useful concepts for improving thought,\n2.    accessible to all students,\n3.    based in natural languages (not special languages like formal logic),\n4.    relevant to reasoning within all fields of study, and\n5.    provides explicit tools for analyzing, assessing, and improving reasoning across all domains of human thought.\n \nWe agree that more research is needed to “prove” the importance of critical thinking in the classroom, but only because faculty and administrators desire that proof. In a memorial edition of the journal "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Inquiry"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines"},{"insert":", I made the following argument which lays out minimal first principles in critical thinking that cannot be denied. Some of these principles are more intuitive than others, but all of them are essential to a robust, efficacious conception of critical thinking that provides the means for developing reasoning across every domain of study and thought where reasoning is employed (which is all legitimate fields of study).\n \nWhen researchers have command of these principles, and effective means for cultivating understanding of them in teaching and learning, they are then in a position to study the extent to which students come to learn and effectively use or embody them. Some few studies extant are helpful in this regard, but far more research is needed to convince those who lack understanding of these principles and who can only be convinced through scientific studies. When, however, faculty understand these principles as conceptual guides for reasoning, they should see the importance of critical thinking to reasoning within their fields, and to teaching students to understand the reasoning that makes up their fields. Through learning these principles, they should be convinced of the essential role of critical thinking in reasoning through questions and issues within any subject.\n \nThe rest of this article is excerpted and adapted from my article in the Richard Paul Memorial Edition of "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines, "},{"insert":"entitled R"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"ichard Paul’s Contributions to the Field of Critical and to the establishment of first principles in critical Thinking"},{"insert":" (Spring 2016, Vol. XXI No. 1, p. 8). This excerpt details Paul’s contribution to first principles in critical thinking. These are principles that are conceptual in nature (and, again, therefore not proven through science) and that would not be denied by reasonable persons. The degree to which faculty foster these first principles can be studied through social studies research, assuming that researchers and teachers involved have an acceptable understanding of them, how to teach them, and how to assess the extent to which they are utilized or embodied by students.\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Paul’s Contribution to First Principles in Critical Thinking"},{"insert":"\nThough Paul’s theory of critical thinking can be detailed according to its complexities, by narrowing in on three conceptual sets of understandings in his theory --"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"the elements of reasoning, universal intellectual standards, "},{"insert":"and"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" intellectual virtues"},{"insert":" -- as Paul conceptualized, articulated, and expanded them, we can locate and develop what may be termed "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"logical first principles in critical thinking"},{"insert":". Some of the most essential may be briefly articulated as follows:\n \n1. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"All reasoning has a purpose, objective, goal or function."},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" If we are clear about our purpose, about what we are trying to accomplish or achieve, we are far more likely to achieve it than when we are not. Moreover, the pursuit of any specific purpose is justified only when the purpose is fair to all relevant persons, other sentient creatures, and/or groups. Be clear about your purpose, and be certain it is fair and justifiable in context.\n \n2. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, settle some question, or solve some problem."},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" To settle a question, we must know what it is asking and how to go about answering it. In other words, for every question one might ask, there are conditions that must be met before the question can be settled. Clearly delineate these conditions as you reason through questions and problems.\n \n3. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"All reasoning is based on some data, information, evidence, experience or research. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" Thinking can only be as sound as the information upon which it is based."},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"Make sure the information you use when reasoning through a question is relevant to the question, and that it is accurate.\n \n4. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"All reasoning contains inferences from which we draw conclusions and give meaning to information, experiences, and situations."},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" Thinking can only be as sound as the inferences it makes (or the conclusions it comes to). Infer only what is implied by the evidence.\n \n5. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"All reasoning is based on assumptions— beliefs we take for granted"},{"insert":". "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" Thinking can only be as sound as the assumptions (beliefs) upon which it is based. Assess assumptions for soundness and justifiability before accepting them, or acting upon them.\n \n6. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, concepts, ideas, theories, principles and definitions."},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" Thinking can only be as clear, relevant, realistic and deep as the concepts that shape it. Be aware of how your concepts shape how you interpret life’s events and situations. Control the concepts that guide your thinking and your actions.\n \n7. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"All reasoning leads somewhere, entails implications and, when acted upon, has consequences. "},{"insert":"Implications may emanate in many directions from a given thought."},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"Every human thought entails implications – ideas that may radiate in many directions, and that may originate from many potential sources."},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"Implications of our thinking and behavior exist"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"whether we perceive them or not. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"It is essential to identify and think through the major implications that"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"follow from, or are connected with, the thinking you are focused on. Follow out the implications of reasoning in many potential directions when dealing with complex issues. Think through the significant consequences likely to"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"follow from your decisions before you make them.\n \n8. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"All thinking occurs within some point of view, perspective, or frame of reference, situated within a worldview"},{"insert":". "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" To reason justifiably through an issue, you must identify significant points of view relevant to the issue and enter them empathically. Enter opposing viewpoints "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"to be moved by"},{"insert":" superior reasoning, rather than to defend a position you already hold. Always bank on the best reasoning in a given circumstance, rather than following a given person - including yourself. [See "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Wheel of Reason"},{"insert":" in our Academy to learn about the elements of reasoning - "},{"attributes":{"link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"; also see the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Thinker’s Guide to Analytic Reasoning - "},{"attributes":{"link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"]\n \n9. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"All thinking has potential intellectual strengths and weaknesses and hence should be routinely and systematically assessed according to objective criteria for thought."},{"insert":" These criteria have been documented and developed throughout human history, and are found in all ordinary, or natural, languages, and hence in all primary dictionaries within natural languages. Intellectuals reasoning at the highest levels within all "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"bona fide"},{"insert":" disciplines and fields of study faithfully attempt to adhere to these criteria. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" To reason well on a consistent basis, across the domains of your life, you must monitor your thinking to ensure that it is adheres to universal intellectual standards. Here are a few essential intellectual standards: clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, and fairness. [See Criteria Corner in our Academy for a deeper understanding of intellectual standards - "},{"attributes":{"link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":". Also see the Thinker’s Guide to Intellectual Standards - "},{"attributes":{"link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"]\n \n10. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Human"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"thinking is not necessarily fair, since humans, frequently driven by selfish and narrow group-centered goals, are given to ignoring or downplaying the rights and needs of others. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" Fairmindedness requires that people consider all viewpoints with an open mind, without reference to their own feelings or vested interests, or the feelings or vested interests of their friends, community, nation, or species. It implies adherence to intellectual standards, again, without reference to one’s own advantage or the advantage of one’s group. To reason critically in the fullest sense of the term, you must strive to be fairminded in all domains of your life entailing an ethical dimension.\n\n11. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"The mind does not naturally distinguish between what it knows and what it does not know, and therefore is not intrinsically predisposed toward "},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"intellectual humility"},{"insert":". Rather the natural state of humans at any given moment is to believe themselves to be in possession of the truth, or to think they know more than they know. The human mind is naturally intellectually arrogant, which entails intrinsic self-validation and protection of one’s belief systems. People do not tend to intrinsically seek to discover their misunderstandings, distortions, and ignorance. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" To embody intellectual humility you must actively work against the natural human tendency to be intellectually arrogant; this necessitates regularly distinguishing what you know from what you do not know. To a large degree, you must build your knowledge base through the knowledge of your own ignorance.\n \n12. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"The mind does not naturally develop "},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"intellectual courage"},{"insert":"—the willingness to examine beliefs one holds dear and which one may have protected for many long years. Most people are not naturally comfortable standing up for beliefs that, though reasonable, are unpopular. Instead the intrinsic inclination of the human mind is to protect its beliefs and to conform to group standards of acceptability. The mind innately avoids, and even fears, discovering its false beliefs. And people are often, by nature, afraid of ridicule or exclusion from a social groups. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" To embody intellectual courage, you must be willing to challenge a given belief, whether the belief is your own or another’s. You must work past your natural egocentric and sociocentric tendencies to determine what makes most sense to believe - without regard to whether you have believed it in the past, how long you may have held the belief, or whether it is popular to hold the belief.\n \n13. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"The mind does not naturally develop "},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"intellectual empathy"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"."},{"insert":" Rather it is frequently predisposed toward its opposite -- narrowness of vision, or reasoning within its own constricted and often self-serving viewpoint. Intellectual empathy entails understanding the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others to genuinely understand them; it requires practice in thinking within the viewpoints of others, especially those with whom one disagrees. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle: "},{"insert":"To embody intellectual empathy, you must sympathetically enter into points of view that differ from your own and articulate those views faithfully and insightfully.\n \n14. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"The mind does not naturally develop intellectual integrity, which "},{"insert":"is manifested in the commitment to hold oneself to the same standards of evidence and proof one expects others to meet (especially one’s antagonists). Humans do not naturally embody intellectual integrity. Instead, they tend to hold others to higher standards than the standards they impose on themselves. They often say they believe one thing, while their behavior implies that they in fact believe something else. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle"},{"insert":": To exemplify intellectual integrity, consistently and systematically hold yourself to the same standards you expect others to meet. Say what you mean and mean what you say.\n \n15. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"The mind does not naturally develop intellectual perseverance --"},{"insert":" the disposition to work one’s way through intellectual complexities despite frustrations inherent in a given intellectual task. Intellectual perseverance is not natural to the mind, as it requires the mind to be flexible rather than adhering to old patterns, the latter of which is more comfortable. The mind does not easily and naturally tolerate, much less invite, confusions, difficulties, and frustrations when working through problems and issues. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle: "},{"insert":"Developing your mind to a high degree requires the cultivation of intellectual perseverance, which inherently entails working through, and even inviting, complexities and frustrations without giving up.\n \n16. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"The mind does not naturally develop confidence in reason, "},{"insert":"or in other words, the disposition to recognize that humans consistently engaging in high-quality reasoning is essential to living a rational life, and to creating a more fair and just world. Confidence in reason is based on the belief that, in the long run, one’s own higher interests and those of humankind at large are best served by giving the freest play to reason, by encouraging people to come to their own conclusions, by developing, as far as possible, the rational faculties of everyone living in a society. Those who embody confidence in reason are keenly aware of the fact that the mind does not naturally use intellectual standards to determine what to believe and what to reject. They therefore attempt at all times to adhere to intellectual standards in determining what to accept and what to reject in human thought. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle"},{"insert":": To develop confidence in reason, you must always seek to discern, and then follow, the best reasoning in a given context and situation. This means, among other things, understanding the irrational propensities of the human mind that stand in the way of your ability to open your mind to reasoning you would rather not have to consider, and actively working to minimize these irrational tendencies. It entails strict adherence to intellectual standards when determining what to believe.\n \n17. "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"The mind does not naturally develop intellectual autonomy, "},{"insert":"or in other words, the disposition to take responsibility for one’s own thinking, beliefs, values and actions. Intellectual autonomy is acquired as one increasingly takes responsibility for one’s own thinking and the quality of one’s life. It is the opposite of being dependent on others for the direction and control of one’s decisions. Intellectual autonomy is rare in human life. Most people, rather than thinking autonomously, conform to group beliefs and actions. The groups they join and within which they are born often control their thoughts. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Related Critical Thinking Principle:"},{"insert":" To develop intellectual autonomy entails taking full responsibility for your own thinking, as well as your own actions. It means having the courage to stand alone in your beliefs, against even large crowds, when your views are those best justified given the evidence.\n \nThese seventeen first principles in critical thinking are "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"some"},{"insert":" of the principles central to any substantive conception of critical thinking, or in other words, of critical reasoning. All of them entail interrelationships, and many overlap with one another. Again, all of these particular first principles arise from three conceptual sets in the Paulian approach to critical thinking: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"the elements of reasoning, intellectual standards, "},{"insert":"and"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" intellectual virtues"},{"insert":". Importantly, these principles intimately connect with other best thinking and best theory in the field of critical thinking, originating from the time of Socrates. [For an expansion of these principles, see "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Thinker’s Guide to Critical Thinking Competency Standards"},{"insert":". (Elder & Paul, 2007 - "},{"attributes":{"link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":").}\n \nHowever, if these first principles are not yet intuitive to you, the reader, as first principles in critical thinking, consider this: taking together the elements of reasoning and intellectual standards, as a set of interconnected concepts at the heart of critical thinking, one must assume the theory of both in order to negate either, should one be so inclined. For instance, if one were to argue that “neither the elements of reasoning nor the intellectual standards are central to analyzing and assessing reasoning,” one would, by necessity, be "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"using"},{"insert":" the elements and intellectual standards in the very act of attempting to negate them. This is true because, in making such a statement, one would be saying something one considers to be both "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"clear"},{"insert":" and "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"accurate"},{"insert":", and one would have some "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"purpose"},{"insert":" in making the statement. By perceiving oneself to be both "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"clear"},{"insert":" and "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"accurate"},{"insert":", one proves the importance of intellectual standards in reasoning. Further, since the speaker will naturally have some purpose in making the statement, the element of purpose is proven as a theoretical construct. And where one element of reasoning can be identified, the other seven are implied.\n\nFrom an instructional viewpoint, you can look at these first principles by attempting to negate them; by so doing you should clearly see the absurdity in such an attempt. Imagine, for example, telling students you are going to teach them (your subject, for instance, psychology) but you will not teach them to:\n1.    identify primary "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"purposes"},{"insert":" in psychology,\n2.    pursue psychological "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"questions"},{"insert":" or identify key questions psychologist ask.\n3.    gather and consider "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"information"},{"insert":" relevant to reasoning through psychological questions,\n4.    make psychological "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"inferences"},{"insert":" based on information gathered,\n5.    identify "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"assumptions"},{"insert":" within different primary theoretical schools of psychology,\n6.    follow out "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"implications"},{"insert":" of psychological reasoning,\n7.    master understanding of primary "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"viewpoints"},{"insert":" within core theoretical schools in psychology,\n8.    think within psychological "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"concepts"},{"insert":" and create psychological webs of understanding using these concepts.\n \nThe same type of reasoning holds in support of intellectual standards. Imagine teaching a course in which you argue that you will not be concerned with whether students’ thinking is clear, precise, accurate, relevant, deep, broad, significant, fair, logical, sufficient, or indeed whether it adheres to any other intellectual standards relevant to reasoning well within your discipline.\n\n \nFurther, if we presuppose the importance of the ethical dimension in human life, as well as intrinsic pathologies of the human mind such as egocentric and sociocentric thinking that work against ethical reasoning, we demonstrate the essential importance of intellectual virtues as guiding theory for first principles in critical thinking, as outlined in numbers 10-17 above. Those who reason at the highest levels of human thought and understanding will embody these, and other related, intellectual virtues, to a significant degree.\n \nMany additional first principles in critical thinking can be identified from the seminal work of Richard Paul, but again, those introduced here are the most intuitive, and form a central web of foundational concepts at the heart of a future field of critical thinking studies.\n\nThese principles cannot be proved through science or research. Instead they must be accepted "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"a priori"},{"insert":" (or without the need for proof); then the question becomes how can these principles best be fostered in teaching and learning.\n\n"}]}

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Gerald Nosich
Aug 01, 2020 • 12d ago
The Authenticity of Critical Thinking Issues

{"ops":[{"insert":"The following is adapted from the 4th edition of my "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Learning to Think Things Through: A Guide to Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum"},{"insert":" (Pearson, 2012), p. 3-4.\n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Critical Thinking Is Authentic"},{"insert":"\nCritical thinking, at its heart, is thinking about real problems. Although you can reason out puzzles and brain-teasers, the essence of critical thinking comes into play only when you address real problems and questions rather than artificial ones. Artificial problems often include the questions asked in textbooks in a field or discipline. (They can usually be “answered” merely by finding the appropriate passage in the chapter.)  \n\tCritical thinking is far more about what you actually believe or do. It is about good judgment. Artificial, narrow problems may help when you want to hone or practice specialized skills, but even those skills help only if you consciously transfer them to real-life settings. (Honing your skills at guessing the endings of murder mysteries is not likely to be good preparation for becoming a criminal investigator. In murder mysteries, all the clues are provided, the murderer is one of the characters, and someone (the author) has set up the situation to make us guess the murderer’s identity. None of that is so in a criminal investigation.))\n\tReal problems are often messy. They have loose ends. They are usually unclear: clarifying and refining them are part of thinking them through. People sometimes say that such problems have “no right or wrong answers.” But that can’t be correct. They often have "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"no single right"},{"insert":" answer. But there are "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"wrong"},{"insert":" answers, even disastrous answers: there may not be any unique right person to take as your partner in life—but there are certainly people it would be disastrous to choose.\n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Authentic problems"},{"insert":"\nTo get the feel of authentic problems (in contrast to “textbook problems”), think of good novels you have read, or plays or movies you have seen. (Exclude contrived movies where everything automatically works out according to a formula.) Now consider the problems that are facing some character. Those will likely be"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"authentic"},{"insert":" problems. They are full of complications and other people’s cross-purposes; actions don’t work out exactly as planned; emotions and desires are heavily involved in the decisions people make.\n\tChoose an example or two like that, and try to reason through decisions that the character could make.\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Jul 19, 2020 • 25d ago
Why Everyone is Prejudiced and Therein Lies the Problem

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Since the Foundation for Critical Thinking has been advancing fairminded critical thinking for 40 years, it should be no surprise that we stand in solidarity with all those people working across the world to cultivate, support, and lead the way in creating egalitarian societies. It is clear that fairminded critical societies, properly so called, would not support biases, prejudices, or unethical actions based on a person’s skin color or ethnicity (or indeed any other superficial reason). Fairminded critical societies would not allow police to assault and abuse the people it is charged with protecting. It would not advance a police-state mentality designed to control the people."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Going deeper, it is important to recognize that prejudice is a natural part of human thinking – indeed everyone is prejudiced in favor of many things and against others; these prejudices live in our assumptions, which we take for granted, and from which our worldview is formed. Of course, some people are more prejudiced than others; some act on their biases in egregious ways while others are more subtle in the ways they express their biases. Some people have the power to harm other people based on their prejudices and biases.  As we have now clearly (and sadly) seen, some groups, like the police, have considerable power to terrorize people based on their prejudices."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"While we need to address and redress the immediate illegal and unethical behaviors of the police against African American people in this country, the problem will not be solved until we as humans understand what lies at the heart of bias and prejudice. Until then, only superficial approaches will be taken to the problem, and those superficial approaches, being superficial, will not lead to a more fair and just society. Only revolutionary changes in the way we think can do that. These revolutionary changes must be based in ethical critical thinking, or they will be superficial."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"For an excellent treatise on the role of prejudice in all human thinking, read "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"Critical Thinking and the Nature of Prejudice "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"by Richard Paul, which you can find at this link in our community:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"purple","link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Jul 13, 2020 • 31d ago
Intellectual Standards are Presupposed in Every Subject and Discipline

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"All academic subjects and disciplines presuppose the use and fulfillment of intellectual standards. This follows from the fact that reasoning lies at the heart of every subject and discipline. Where there is reasoning, there is a need to analyze the component structures of reasoning, and then, ultimately to assess those structures using intellectual standards."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"·      Are you fully aware of the intellectual standards most important to reasoning well within your subject or discipline?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"·      To what degree are these intellectual standards made explicit within the field?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"·      To what degree are these intellectual standards violate by professionals within the field?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"When we recognize that every academic discipline is a mode of thought, we recognize that all thinking within a discipline can be analyzed according to its essential logic."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","bold":true},"insert":"Every academic discipline:"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"generates purposes"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"raises questions"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"uses information"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"utilizes concepts"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"makes inferences"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"makes assumptions"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"generates implications"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"embodies a point of view"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"To learn any subject, then, is to learn how to reason within that subject, and to analyze the structures embedded in it. It is to learn to think within its logic with skill and discipline, to (for example):"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"raise vital questions and problems within it, formulating them clearly and precisely;"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"gather and assess information, using ideas to interpret that information insightfully;"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"and standards;"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"adopt the point of view of the discipline, recognizing and assessing, as need be, its"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"assumptions, implications, and practical consequences;"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"communicate effectively with others using the language of the discipline and that of"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"educated public discourse; and"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"relate what one is learning in the subject to other subjects and to what is significant in"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"human life."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"All subjects and modes of human thought thus take for granted essential intellectual standards. In other words, those who think with skill within disciplines recognize the importance of clarifying and exploring key concepts, of identifying relevant information when reasoning through problems and issues and checking that information for accuracy, of reasoning through the complexities in issues, of reasoning within alternative relevant and significant viewpoints, and so on."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Conversely, no subject or discipline could exist without holding to essential intellectual standards. No scientist, for instance, would argue that it is just as well for scientists to think unclearly as clearly, to think inaccurately as accurately, to think irrelevantly as relevantly. Foundational intellectual standards are thus assumed within the logic of every subject and discipline. In short, intellectual standards are indefeasible when it comes to reasoning through and issues in the disciplines; they are unavoidable."},{"insert":"\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Intellectual Standards Most Relevant to Reasoning Within the Disciplines Need to Be Articulated"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Every field of study, then, presupposes and strives to meet basic and essential intellectual standards such as accuracy, relevance, and logicalness. However, some intellectual standards may be more important to reasoning well within any given field than other intellectual standards. Therefore, it is up to those working within each discipline to articulate the intellectual standards most important to reasoning through the problems and issues in the discipline, to detail how the standards should be contextualized within"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"the field."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"By explicitly contextualizing intellectual standards within your discipline, you raise your awareness of them; you are more likely to consistently meet them; you are more likely to see when they are being ignored or violated."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Careful analysis of any discipline helps illuminate the intellectual standards most necessary to thinking well within it. To lay bare this logic, and keeping in mind the elements or structures of thought embedded in every discipline, you can begin with the following questions:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What is the main purpose or goal of studying this subject? What are people in this field"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"trying to accomplish?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What kinds of questions do they ask? What kinds of problems do they try to solve?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What sorts of information or data do they gather?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What types of inferences or judgments do they typically make? (Judgments about…)"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"How do they go about gathering information in ways that are distinctive to this field?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What are the most basic ideas, concepts or theories in this field?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What do professionals in this field take for granted or assume?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"How should studying this field affect my view of the world?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What viewpoint is fostered in this field?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What implications follow from studying this discipline? How are the products of this"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"field used in everyday life?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Once you have answered these questions, you can then begin to apply intellectual standards to the logic of your discipline and to see which intellectual standards are most usefully contextualized within it. To exemplify this, consider the following logic of ecology followed by our brief comments on some of the intellectual standards essential to skilled reasoning within that logic."},{"insert":"\n \n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#0066cc","bold":true},"insert":"The Logic of Ecology"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Purposes of Ecologists"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists seek to understand plants and animals as they exist in nature, with emphasis on their interrelationships, interdependence, and interactions with the environment. They work to understand all the influences that combine to produce and modify an animal or given plant, and thus to account for its existence and peculiarities within its habitat."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Questions that Ecologists Ask"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"How do plants and animals interact? How do animals interact with each other? How do plants and animals depend on one another? How do the varying ecosystems function within themselves? How do they interact with other ecosystems? How are plants and animals affected by environmental influences? How do animals and plants grow, develop, die, and replace themselves? How do plants and animals create balances between each other? What happens when plants and animals become unbalanced?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Information Ecologists Use"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"The primary information used by ecologists is gained through observing plants and animals themselves, their interactions, and how they live within their environments. Ecologists note how animals and plants are born, how they reproduce, how they die, how they evolve, and how they are affected by environmental changes. They also use information from other disciplines including chemistry, meteorology and geology."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Judgments Ecologists Make"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists make judgments about how ecosystems naturally function, about how animals and plants within them function, about why they function as they do. They make judgments about how ecosystems become out of balance and what can be done to bring them back into balance. They make judgments"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"about how natural communities should be grouped and classified. They must also make judgments about how best to inform and guide public policy, where relevant and possible."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Concepts that Guide Ecologists’ Thinking"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"One of the most fundamental concepts in ecology is ecosystem, defined as a group of living things dependent on one another and living in a particular habitat. Ecologists study how differing ecosystems function. Another key concept in ecology is ecological succession, the natural pattern of change occurring within every ecosystem when natural processes are undisturbed. This pattern includes the birth, development, death, and then replacement of natural communities. Ecologists have grouped communities into larger units called biomes, regions throughout the world classified. according to physical features, including temperature, rainfall and type of vegetation. Another fundamental concept in ecology is balance of nature, the natural process of birth, reproduction, eating and being eaten, which keeps animal/plant communities fairly stable. Other key concepts include imbalances, energy, nutrients, population growth, diversity, habitat, competition, predation, parasitism, adaptation, coevolution, succession and climax communities and conservation."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Key Assumptions Ecologists Make"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Patterns exist within animal/plant communities; these communities should be studied and classified; animals and plants often depend on one another and modify one another; and balances must be maintained within ecosystems."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Some Key Implications of Thinking Ecologically"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"The study of ecology leads to numerous implications for life on Earth. By studying balance of nature, for example, we can see when nature is out of balance, as in overpopulation, and our failure to mitigate human causes of climate change. We can see how pesticides, designed to kill pests on farm crops, also lead to the harm of mammals and birds, either directly or indirectly through food webs. We can also learn how over-farming causes erosion and depletion of soil nutrients."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Point of View of Ecologists"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists look at plants and animals and see them functioning in relationship with one another within their habitats, and needing to be in balance for the earth to be healthy and sustainable."},{"insert":"\n \n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#006100","bold":true},"insert":"Application of Intellectual Standards in Ecology:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"To comprehend how intellectual standards are essential to reasoning through questions and issues within ecology, consider the following examples, noting the intellectual standards in italics:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Reasoning within the logic of ecology depends upon one’s ability to formulate "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"clearly "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"and "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"precisely"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" the questions at the heart of the discipline. Thus ecologists must be able to identify and formulate seminal questions within the field."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must think "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"comprehensively"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" about the questions at the heart of the discipline."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must think "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"deeply"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" about ecological issues so as not to oversimplify their approach to them."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Through their questions, ecologists must draw links between ecology and other modes of thought, questions that seek "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"relevant"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" understandings from other subjects and disciplines (such as botany, zoology, ethics)."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must ensure that the information they use in reasoning through ecological issues is "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"accurate"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" and "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"relevant"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" to the questions being addressed. They must include information about all "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"relevant"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" parts of the interconnected system."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Though ecologists draw from a large body of facts, they must make many judgments utilizing those facts, many of which come from observations and which lend themselves to more than one reasonable interpretation. Ecologists must therefore be careful to draw the most "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"logical"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" inferences in observing plant and animal life as they attempt to understand complexities in ecological systems."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must think "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"comprehensively"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" in making judgments about ecological systems."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must also make "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"logical"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" judgments about how best to help guide public policy."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must have a rich and "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"deep"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" understanding of concepts outside ecology which influence or affect ecological realities (concepts such as political power, economic power, vested interest, politics, population control) to make reasonable judgments about how to best foster protection of ecological systems."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must be able to follow out the "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"logical"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" implications of their observations and interpretations - decades and even centuries into the future. Largely because of the prominence of the human species on the planet, because of its inordinately high population in comparison with other mammals, the earth is an ecosystem out of balance. Couple this with the fact that many human behaviors lead to devastating effects for other animals and plants living on the planet and the importance of ecological thinking seems apparent. Our very survival may well depend upon it. Thus ecologists need to reason well through the most important "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"logical"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" implications of ecosystems out of balance, and they need to educate people about the problem and what can be done about it."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Now that you have read through our example, write out your own example, first detailing the logic of your discipline focused on the elements of reasoning (see the "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"Wheel of Reason"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" in the Academy for help with this), then detail the intellectual standards most important to reasoning through your discipline (see "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"Criteria Corner"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" in the Academy for help with this). Your students should be able to perform these tasks as well. Otherwise they will not be learning to the think through your field as a mode of reasoning, with an established logic, and with definitive intellectual standards that must be adhered to while reasoning through problems and issues within the field."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"This blog is adapted from "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"The Thinker’s Guide to Intellectual Standards"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" by Linda Elder and Richard Paul (2008)."},{"insert":"\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Jun 29, 2020 • 45d ago
Thoughts, Feelings and Desires - How do they interrelate? Why does it matter?

{"ops":[{"insert":"There is considerable confusion and misunderstanding about the relationship between thoughts and feelings or the cognitive and affective dimensions of the mind. We see this in some popular but superficial psychology literature that would lead us to believe that thoughts and feelings are not intimately interrelated and that emotions therefore are separate from thinking. We see this depicted in movies and in daily conversation through such lines as “She lives on the emotional rather than intellectual level,” and “he is moved by intuition instead of being shackled by western philosophical logic.”\n\nEveryone thinks, by our very nature. We also feel and desire. Our thinking shapes and determines how we feel and what we want. When we think well, we are motivated to do things that make sense and motivated to act in ways that help rather than harm ourselves and others. At the same time, powerful emotions or desires influence our thinking, help or hinder how well we think in a situation. At any given moment, our minds (that complex of inner thoughts, feelings and desires) can be under the sway of our native irrationality or our potential reasonability. When we are ruled by our irrational tendencies, we see the world from a narrow self-serving perspective. We are not truly concerned with how our behavior affects others. We are fundamentally concerned with getting what we want and/or with validating our beliefs and views. The key to understanding human thought then, is, to understand its essential duality: its capacity for irrationality (being trapped in egocentric and/or sociocentric thought with its attendant self-deception, self-delusion, rationalization, and so forth)) and its capacity for reasonability (freeing itself from self-delusion, myth, and illusion).\n \nThough thinking, feeling and wanting are, in principle, equally important, it is only through thinking that we take command of our minds. It is through thinking that we figure out what is going wrong with our thinking. It is through thinking that we figure out how to deal with destructive emotions. It is through thinking that we change unproductive desires to productive ones. It is fairminded reasonability that frees us from intellectual slavery and conformity. If we understand our mind and its functions, if we face the barriers to our development caused by egocentric and sociocentric thought, if we work upon our mind in a daily regimen, we can take the steps that lead to our empowerment as thinkers.\n \nTo take command of your mind, it is essential that you understand the interconnectedness of thinking, feeling, and wanting and how each affects the others, systematically and constantly throughout the day as you work through life’s issues and make decisions. You also need to understand that this triangle of thoughts, feelings and desires can at any given moment be under the control of the rational mind, or, alternatively, the irrational mind (harboring powerful egocentric and sociocentric tendencies).\n \nOnce these understandings are made clear, you can begin to target your powerful egocentric or sociocentric emotions by targeting the thinking leading to those emotions; when you are doing this systematically, followed by routinely improving upon your problematic thinking, your emotional life becomes more steady, relaxed, and satisfactory. You become more accepting of what must be accepted, while focusing your energies on positive contributions that can be made, and joy that can be realized.\n \nFor more on the relationship between thinking, feeling, and wanting, read our excerpts from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Thinker’s Guide to the Human Mind,"},{"insert":" from which this blog was adapted (p. 4):\n"},{"attributes":{"link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"\n\nAlso work through the activities in our "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Triangle of Thinking, Feelings and Desires"},{"insert":", in the Academy:\n"},{"attributes":{"link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"\n\nTo deal with neurotic emotional states and learn to apply logical thinking to your emotional life, I recommend Albert Ellis’ book: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"A Guide to Rational Living:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"\n\n \n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Jun 15, 2020 • 59d ago
Will Critical Thinking Accompany This Newest Revolution? What Does History Tell Us?

{"ops":[{"insert":"The variables that have given rise to this newest black rights movement, with people flooding the streets and demanding justice, and the ways in which the police have behaved in response, lead us to believe we are in the midst of a revolution that may or will permanently change the way we think of skin color in the future. But the fight for equal rights is long and hard, and frequently there is a backlash that then takes years to recover from, if ever. Some people, mainly those who have lived through it, relate the protests in 1968 to what we are experiencing today. But history will remind us that achieving an egalitarian world is more or less out of reach for us humans. Upholding rights for all humans as well as other sentient creatures across the globe through universal compassion should be our goal. We could imagine a world in which skin color has nothing to do with how we judge a person, but that world is a long way off, at least here in America - the great land that requires students to pledge allegiance to a flag that promises freedom and justice for all but frequently delivers the opposite. We could imagine the kind of world envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King. Some of us have that dream too. But it seems we are more divided than ever, and moving in the wrong direction, even with talks of equal rights, and despite fresh promises against the use of brutal police tactics.\n \nEgalitarianism, which embraces the treatment of people as equals, has never been achieved on a broad scale in modern human societies. In many ways we have regressed from the progress we seemed to achieve in the 1970’s, after the protests of the late 1960’s. For instance, as a backlash from due to fear of potential sex abuse, we can no longer touch one another except under strict guidelines (so much for the free love movement of the 60’s and 70’s). Hugs are forbidden in many schools. We now must not show affection or caring through physical touch unless under permission. Faculty in many colleges are forbidden from dating any students attending any classes at those colleges. Some will see this as progress. Others will recognize problems - in this, and in the many, typically simplistic approaches humans use to address complicated issues. For another example, consider that the freedom of speech we fought for half a century ago is now frequently violated, and it is rare to see anything like freedom of thought fostered in our schools, colleges and universities. Or to take yet another example, you may recall that not long ago, those who initially protested the Iraq war were basically marginalized. Many were referred to as “those same hippies” that protested the Vietnam war. And in terms of the current crisis, equal rights for Black Americans has of course never been realized.\n \nNowadays, we choose to divide ourselves in any number of ways in arguing for rights for our specific groups. Some of this is necessary, like in the case of the police murdering people based on skin color. But those who have lived through so-called revolutions are wary of the moment, all too alert to the fact that change typically occurs only under certain conditions, given forces that come together which are often unpredictable and frequently not lasting.\n \nThe power elite soon calculates and develops schemes to get the people back in line by throwing them just enough bones to placate them. In the US, the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"power elite"},{"insert":" entails the ultra-wealthy, and the politicians in bed with them. The military are frequently required to do their bidding. This is true in large part because the populace, on the whole, lacks the skills of criticality essential to figuring out when they are being oppressed (except under egregious conditions), when they are being manipulated, and what can be done to change the power structure. It is therefore fairly easy for those in power to keep their knees on the necks of the people. This is done through propagating various ideologies (e.g. social, religious, legal) as well as through promises made to the people (which those in power have little or no intention of keeping). Consider, for instance, how politicians frequently refer to “God,” and use religious symbols (such as holding up the Bible), for the purpose of manipulating naïve people.\n \nWill some things change for the better as a result of George Floyd‘s death, and of other murders and outrageous acts at the hands of the police now coming to light? Most likely, yes. Will those things lead to some improvement? Most likely, yes. Will we be limited in how far we can progress during this hour of revolution? Without question, yes. Enlightened people who protested for change during the Vietnam war to bring our troops back, as well as those who fought more generally for freedom of speech, and those who fought for African-American rights, would likely agree that what they envisioned for the future of our country is very different from the future we have achieved.\n \nAdvancing and upholding fundamental human rights is possible in human societies, but not probable, at least not on a broad scale. Basic rights for all will not be realized through narrow, simplistic answers like getting rid of the police entirely, or passing one or more laws that limit certain maneuvers by the police, etc. Any given changes such as these can be discussed, debated and enacted. But unless humans more broadly learn to think in disciplined, fairminded ways through complex problems, like those we now face, and unless ethical critical thinking can be sustained across cultures, we will continue to see little progress. Unless the police and others learn to routinely examine the assumptions and other aspects of reasoning that lead them to bad decisions and harmful behavior, nothing much can change.\n \nWhat it will take to bring about a more egalitarian world is what was missing in the 1960’s during that revolution, and what has been missing in human societies from the beginning of recorded history. It is a failure to appreciate the proper role of thinking or reasoning in human life. It is a failure to grasp the appropriate criteria we should use to determine which ideas to accept, which to reject, which to question, and which to act upon. It is a failure of humans to embrace empathetic, openminded, unbiased, thinking. It is through these failures that the people can never seem to really rise up and collectively create a more enlightened and fair world.\n \nDistinguished thinkers have pondered these same concerns throughout history, with Socrates as an exemplar. In the 2,400 years since his death, we have yet to achieve the world he wished-for - in which people routinely and systematically focus on their reasoning, and more specifically problems in their reasoning, in order to live "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"the examined life"},{"insert":".\n \nUntil we begin to take seriously the problems in human thinking that lead to so much anguish and suffering, we will not revolutionize the human species. And we will need to revolutionize the human species if we are to achieve our potential, if we are to get rid of unjust laws and reign in unjust people, and if we are to save the planet that is our very home. There are problems in thinking in every profession, and these are increasingly researched and documented. These professionals may be in the police force, the intelligence community, in social work, psychology, psychiatry, medicine, business, the military, indeed in any field of study and thought. If we replace police forces with social workers and other professionals, we will only then be victimized by the bad thinking of social workers and these other professionals. The police do not have a monopoly on irrational, narrow-minded thinking.\n \nWe would hope that George Floyd did not die in vain. His death represents merely the tip of the iceberg for injustice across many parts of human life. But we should know that whatever change is created out of this movement now is likely only to reveal further problems in the structure of a species that simply refuses to take its thinking seriously. Every human being is egocentric, selfish, self-deceived. Every human at least sometimes inappropriately seeks validation in groups. In our groups, we create belief systems. These belief systems then operate to control the behavior of people in groups. They permeate schooling and academic disciplines, with many teachers and faculty simply advancing the dysfunctional status quo within pathological institutions.\n \nWe need a society like those the Stoics sought in ancient times, following in Socrates’ footsteps. They perceived human’s upper-most purpose as living a life of virtue, with the goal of creating as much good in the world as possible. Coupled with this, they highly valued disciplined reasoning. They advanced precisely the opposite set of assumptions from those used by police officers who murder citizens in cold blood. Stoics live very differently in the privacy of their own minds than people who refuse to examine their own thoughts or take command of them. Enlightened people through time avoid bias, prejudice, partiality, and all forms of tyranny and bigotry. They continually work to embody intellectual virtues like intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy, intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, confidence in reason, and intellectual courage. They develop mirrors into their own neuroses and pathologies. They do not take out their frustrations on others or refuse to see their own weaknesses.\n \nHumans have the potential for good and for evil. Many variables determine whether a person ends up on the side of good rather than evil. In the long run, societies that value an educated populace and the cultivation of the critical mind will excel. Societies that do not value fairminded critical thinking will be like our society is today – grasping for straws, giving their power to others, and, in the end, allowing the power elite control over their minds. All human decisions should be made critically, with a focus on what is accurate, logical, relevant, significant, and with concern for what is fair, for getting at complexities in situations, and for understanding the broad range of viewpoints that make up large human societies.\n \nUntil we begin to focus on the serious problems in thinking that have given rise to the injustices we see today, nothing much will change, except a few new bandages placed on old wounds. And the human tragedy will live on.\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Jun 04, 2020 • 70d ago
Humans Are Not Typically Self-Reflective or Self-Insightful - This Includes Police Officers and Politicians

{"ops":[{"insert":"To develop as a thinker and reach your potential requires a special way of interacting with your mind, of engaging in self-reflection. It requires learning how to think about our thinking with skill and discipline. Unfortunately disciplined self-reflection is not natural to humans. Rather than intrinsically self-reflecting, the mind intrinsically self-deceives. Rather than automatically developing rational skills across the workings of one’s mind, humans are sometimes reasonable while at other times unreasonable. We do not naturally see through the mistakes and self-deceptive mechanisms that cause our inconsistencies and contradictions.  We come to the world focused on how the world can serve us individually and are wired to serve the groups we belong to – we are both selfish and groupish by nature, and we are capable of critical thinking by nature. But this we must work toward through consistent self-reflection using fairminded critical thinking.\n\nIt is self-reflective and self-insightful police officers who behave according to principles of ethical critical thinking. Unfortunately, police forces have not typically embraced fairminded critical thinking as a common goal, nor have they offered the level of professional development in critical thinking that would be required to transform the way the police think about their work. Until they do, we will continue to see the tragedies we are seeing today, with police acting unjustly and egregiously (even killing vulnerable people) using their power. Similarly, because politicians typically do not embrace fairminded critical thinking, they fail to pass laws which would protect people against police brutality. When the police and politicians alike learn to identify and change their faulty assumptions, when they learn to analyze their often narrow viewpoints and the frequently distorted ideas that drive the way they behave, when they learn to look at all the relevant evidence in an impartial and fair way, then we will be on the road to \"freedom and justice for all.\" But this will take a concerted effort and a commitment to cultivating fairminded critical societies, a reality that seems too far out of reach given current trends and a failure to take thinking seriously throughout all parts of life. Peaceful protesting can help, but we need something more systemic to change human societies for the long run, and that something is consistent, disciplined reasoning at high levels of quality while considered the rights and needs of others equal to one's own needs and rights.\n\nWhy is it such a challenge for humans to become self-reflective? A baby can observe objects, can want those objects, can touch them, taste them. But she isn’t capable of thinking about whether she "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"should"},{"insert":" touch them, whether they might harm her if she touches them, whether she "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"should"},{"insert":" eat them, whether she will get sick if she does. Similarly, she can’t understand the concept of sharing. In her mind, if she wants something she should have it. In other words, she can neither "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"reflect"},{"insert":" upon her ideas nor develop conscious insight into the way she behaves as she does. Her thoughts are primitive and self-centered. \n\nJust as we don’t expect babies to reflect upon their behavior, neither do we expect other animals to do so. A dog, for example, will let his owner know when he needs to go out. But he can’t "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"think about"},{"insert":" whether he is interrupting his owner at an inopportune moment. Chasing after a ball, the dog might run heedlessly in front of a car. A dog will eat the last of the dog food with no qualms, though another dog in the house might go hungry. Driven by instincts he has no way of understanding, he might kill an intruding cat. Whatever skills of self-awareness a dog develops are minimal. \n\nAs we age we do develop some rudimentary skills of self-awareness. We become increasingly aware of the physical world and its natural consequences. We learn, for example, that if we touch a hot stove it hurts. We learn that if we step on a bumble bee we get stung. We learn that if we stay up too late, we are sleepy the next day. \n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"You Are Influenced by Social ideologies"},{"insert":"\nWe also make some rudimentary discoveries about the social world. In some cultures, we learn not to burp at the table. We learn to wear certain types of clothing to fit into certain social groups. We learn that if we disobey social rules we get into trouble. Consequently, we learn to behave in ways considered acceptable in order to pursue our desires within the parameters of social conventions. Indeed, the culture within which you are raised largely determines what you thinks of as correct and proper behavior. In other words, if you were born into a different culture, you would "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"think"},{"insert":" differently about what is right and wrong. You would think in accordance with the social conventions of "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"that culture"},{"insert":". For example, you would realize that:\n\nIf you were a Mormon woman, holding classic/traditional Mormon views, you would probably believe it perfectly fine to marry a man with several other wives."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were homosexual in Europe in the 18"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" or 19"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" centuries, and discovered to be so, you would be imprisoned and considered a pervert."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were among the ruling fundamentalist men in Afghanistan you would probably believe that woman should not be allowed out of their houses without a male family member accompanying her."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a native American living in the 17"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century, you would probably believe that land and water are to be held in common and that no one had the right to deny people access to these necessities. Holding these views, you would be a communist."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a young woman living in 19"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century England you would probably think it improper for women to wear trousers."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a typical plantation owner in the Southern United States during the Civil War, you may well be outraged at the fact that the northern states were trying to take away my right to have slaves."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a slave in 19"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century America, working for a cruel plantation owner, you would probably be outraged at the fact that you were held in bondage, treated with contempt and malice."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a Japanese woman around the turn of the 20"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century, you would most likely not consider public nudity indecent. Around 1850, you would feel comfortable bathing in mixed company."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you lived in 14"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" or 15"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century Europe you would probably sleep nude. If you were a European girl living between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, you might be expected to serve knights in their baths."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a child living in Rome you would wear the phallus as a necklace charm."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a Korean male around the late 1800’s, you might well kill your daughter or wife if a strange man touched her hands (even if by accident)."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a Polynesian, Malays or South American Indian in the early 1900’s, rather than kissing you would rub noses, bite or smell your intimate partner."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"In short, you think as you have been conditioned to think, unless and only to the degree that you have actively examined, assessed, intervened in and improved your thinking. Few people learn to think beyond their cultural conditioning to any significant degree, if at all. Each of us is born in a family within a social group influenced by cultural ideologies that form the backdrop for our development. Had you been born in some other place in time you would hold different beliefs. You would think other things disgusting. You would think other things wrong.\n\nConsider some of the social conventions and taboos of American society. Here are some beliefs indoctrinated into American children, beliefs generally uncritically accepted:\n\nThat children shouldn’t see nudity of any kind on TV, but for them to view violence on TV is fine."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That children should salute the flag in schools and say the pledge of allegiance (even though that typically don’t understand what they’re saluting, and even though there are conceptual and practical problems implicit in the Pledge of Allegiance)."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That certain drugs should be legal and other drugs illegal, and the authorities get to decide which to make legal and which to make illegal."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That people who overuse legal drugs deserve clinical treatment while those who use illegal drugs deserve prison (even when no one is harmed in the usage)."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That men should wear pants and not skirts or dresses."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That adults shouldn’t skip down the sidewalk, but children can."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That public nudity is indecent and should be criminally punished."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That sex between sixteen-year-old females and eighteen-year-old males is ethically wrong and should be criminally punished."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That smoking marijuana leads to crime and should therefore be criminally punished."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That men can appear in public without wearing a shirt but for women to do so is indecent and should be criminally punished."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That public bathing in mixed company is ethically wrong and should be criminally punished."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That sex between elderly men and young adult females is ethically wrong."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That sex between elderly women and young adult men is ethically wrong."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nAll of us have uncritically accepted group beliefs such as these. All of us, for example, are prejudiced "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"against"},{"insert":" some people and prejudiced "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"for"},{"insert":" others. Not surprisingly, we tend to be prejudiced against people who differ from us and prejudiced for people who are like us. When we are young, we tend to see people in our age group as “cool,” and older people as “out of touch.” When we are older, we tend to think of our age group as wise and mature. Women often think of men as cold, calculating and therefore unfeeling. Men often think of women as emotional and irrational. Religious groups tend to see their beliefs as the truth, and differing religious belief systems as inherently wrong.  \n\nYour social conditioning, coupled with your inborn capacities, influence your ability to think logically, deeply and insightfully and to take command of the ideas guiding your life. The first step in developing your mind is to realize that you must routinely and systematically intervene in the natural flow of your thoughts, looking for prejudices, faulty assumptions, incorrect interpretations. You must be on the lookout for social conventions and taboos guiding your decisions, and, when identified, examine and assess the soundness of these and all ideologies.\n\nAs for human societies, they will eventually need to embrace these ideals if we are to do away with injustice, terror and all manner of negative forces in human life. They will need to do away with the short cut.\n\n\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
May 24, 2020 • 81d ago
Wisdom of Seneca

{"ops":[{"insert":"Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4-65) apparently wrote extensively during his lifetime. But little remains of his writings. The best-known works that have made it to us through history are his 124 letters to Lucilius (circa 64), which are early essays on how to live according to Stoic principles. It is from these letters that the following excerpts are drawn. Seneca opens his second letter with a focus on the importance of reading and rereading the works of distinguished authors, in seeking wisdom. He says:\n\n “you should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find a lasting place in your mind (p. 33)… so always read well – tried authors, and if at any moment you find yourself wanting a change from a particular author, go back to the ones you have read before (p.34)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nWe need to set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything is if you saw what we were doing… misty are greatly diminished if a witness is always standing near in tending doers. The personality should be provided with somewhat it can root beer, someone whose influence can make even it’s private, inner life more pure. Happy the man who improves other people not merely when he is in their presents that even when he is in their thoughts!.. Choose someone whose way of life as well as words… have won your approval… there is a neat, in my view, for someone as a standard against which are characters can measure themselves (56)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\n… no one can lead a happy life, or even one that is bearable, without the pursuit of wisdom,… the perfection of wisdom is what makes the happy life, although even the beginnings of wisdom makes life bearable. Yet this conviction, clear as it is, needs to be strengthened and given deeper roots through daily reflections; making Noble resolutions is not as important as keeping the resolutions you have made already. You have to persevere and fortify your pertinent acid until the will to good becomes a disposition to good (p. 63)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nSeneca encourages people to think philosophically, and by that he means living the examined life in the way Socrates advised, and developing good character:\n\n“…you’ve no grounds for forming a ready, hasty belief in yourself. Carry out a searching analysis and close scrutiny of yourself in all sorts of different lights. Consider above all else whether you’ve advanced in philosophy or just in actual years… Philosophy is not an occupation of a popular nature… it moulds and builds the personality, orders one’s life, regulates one’s conduct, shows one what one should do and what one should leave undone, sits at the helm and keeps one on the correct course as one is tossed about in perilous seas. Without it no one can lead a life free of fear or worry (pp. 63-64)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nA good character is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nA sound mind can neither be bought nor borrowed. And if it were for sale, I doubt whether it would find a buyer. And yet unsound ones are being purchased every day (p. 75)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nSeneca stresses the importance of carefully choosing who one associates with, pointing out how the majority of people can lead you to wrong thinking and wrong living. (These points are perhaps particularly helpful now when we are told to stay away from large groups to avoid exposure to the COVID19 virus):\n\n“you asked me to say what you should consider it particularly important to avoid. My answer is this: a mass crowd. It is something to which you cannot entrust yourself yet without risk. I at any rate am ready to confess my own frailty in this respect. I never come back home with quite the same moral character I went out with; something or other becomes unsettled where I had achieved internal peace…Associating with people in large numbers is actually harmful: there is not one of them that will not make some vice or other attractive to us, or leave us carrying the imprint of it… and inevitably enough, the larger the size of the crowd we mingle with, the greater the danger… what do you take me to mean? That I go home more selfish, more self-seeking, and more self-indulgent? Yes, and what is more, a person crueler and less humane to having been in contact with human beings… A Socrates…might have been shaken in his principles by a multitude of people different from himself: such is the measure of the inability of any of us, even as we perfect our personality’s adjustment, to withstand the onset of devices when they come with such a mighty following… you should neither become like the bad because they are many, nor be an enemy of the many because they are unlike you. Retire into yourself as much as you can. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who are capable of improving… The many speak highly of you, but have you really any grounds for satisfaction with yourself if you are the kind of person the many understand? (pp. 41-44)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nAway with the world’s opinion of you–it’s always unsettled and divided (p. 71)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nSeneca speaks of developing the inner self:\n\nSuch is more or less the way of the wise man: he retires to his inner self, is his own company… Natural promptings (not thoughts of any advantage to himself) compel him towards friendship. We are born with a sense of the pleasantness of friendship just as of other things… The wise man, nevertheless, unequalled though he is in his devotion to his friends, though regarding them as being no less important and frequently more important than his own self, will still consider what is valuable in life to be something wholly confined to his inner self (p. 52)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nSeneca points out the problem of seeking after wealth and he argues for simple, frugal living. He says:\n\nSet aside now and then a number of days during which you will be content with the plainest of food, and very little of it… endure this for three or four days at a time, sometimes more, so that it is a genuine trial and not an amusement (67)... There is no reason, mind you, why you should suppose yourself to be performing a considerable feet in doing this–you will only be doing something done by thousands upon thousands of slaves and paupers (p. 68)…[Regarding possessions]… I am not, mind you, against you’re possessing them, but I want to ensure that you possess them without trimmers; and this you will only achieve in one way, by convincing yourself that you can live a happy life even without them, and by always regarding them as being on the point of vanishing (p 69)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nAll quotes are taken from:"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" Letters From a Stoic by Seneca. "},{"insert":"(NY: Penguin Books, 2004).\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
May 05, 2020 • 100d ago
Indoctrination is a Historic Problem Based in Sociocentrism

{"ops":[{"insert":"In every country in the world, students are indoctrinated into the ideologies of their culture through schooling. This is, at present, a natural phenomenon stemming from the fact that no human societies now advance or support fairminded critical thinking as a universal ideal. Accordingly, schooling is an agent of the state, of the status quo, and of the mainstream view. Fostering independence of thought in schooling is rare. Teachers who attempt it are often marginalized, removed from the classroom, or otherwise penalized. Consider the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, a legal case in which John Scopes, a high-school teacher in Tennessee, was indicted and convicted for teaching evolution (in violation of the Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach evolution). Though the verdict was overturned on a technicality, the trial illuminates the difficulties teachers face in swimming against the mainstream of the culture, even when the mainstream view is absurd.\n\tOr consider, again, our example of Socrates, going back to 399 BCE, when he was accused, indicted, and ultimately put to death for two reasons:\n\t \n1. Introducing and believing in gods other than those sanctioned by the state. (Although some accused Socrates of atheism, all evidence points in the opposite direction, including the fact that Socrates believed in life after death.)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2. Corrupting the young (by fostering their intellectual development and"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"encouraging them to question the status quo)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n\tTo understand Socrates’ views in connection with education and the problem of sociocentric thought, consider the following passage from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Encyclopedia of Philosophy"},{"insert":" (1967):\n \nThere was reason for fearing Socrates as a social force. Where arete [excellence, in terms of how to make the best of oneself and live a rational life], education, and state were fused in one image, an educator critical of received assumptions was a revolutionary. Socrates not only publicly raised such fundamental questions as “What is arete?” and “Who are its teachers?” but also by discrediting through their own representatives the accepted educational channels and by creating a climate of questioning and doubt, he was suspected by conservative minds of the dangerous game of discomfiting all authority before a circle of impressionable youths and subtracting from the state the stability of tradition. It was also apparent that the values by which Socrates lived, his indifference to material wealth and prosperity, and his freedom from desire and ambition were themselves a living criticism of all institutions and of politicians who did not seem to know what they were doing or who were compromising their principles. (p. 482)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nSocrates was perhaps the most original, influential, and controversial figure in the history of Greek thought. … [H]e was obviously at home in the best society, but he had no respect for social status. … Tradition holds that by refusing to compromise his principles, he deliberately antagonized the court. (p. 480)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\t \n\tProminent thinkers throughout history have commented on schooling as an agent of indoctrination. Comenius, a 16th- and 17th-century educator and scholar, said that he was only one of thousands whose youth was wasted in these “slaughterhouses” of the young.\n \n\tJohn Henry Newman, a leading 19th-century university president and theologian, who penned one of the most important and well-developed treatises on the educated mind and the educated person, lamented the wretched state of instruction at the university level during his time. Here is just a sampling of his work, taken from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Idea of a University"},{"insert":" (1852; 1996):\n \nI will tell you, Gentlemen, what has been the practical error of the last twenty years—not to load the memory of the student with a mass of undigested knowledge, but to force upon him so much that he has rejected all. It has been the error of distracting and enfeebling the mind by an unmeaning profusion of subjects; of implying that a smattering in a dozen branches of study is not shallowness, which it really is, but enlargement, which it is not; of considering an acquaintance with the learned names of things and persons, and the possession of the clever duodecimos, and attendance on eloquent lecturers, and membership with scientific institutions … that all this was not dissipation of mind, but progress. All things now are to be learned at once, not first one thing and then the other, not one well, but many badly. Learning is to be without exertion, without attention, without toil; without grounding, without advance, without finishing. There is to be nothing individual in it; and this, forsooth, is the wonder of the age. What the steam engine does with matter, the printing press is to do with the mind; it is to act mechanically, and the population is to be passively, almost unconsciously enlightened. (p. 103)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nEmma Goldman (1869-1940) wrote extensively on oppressive governments and the consequences of their unethical behavior. She indicts not just governments, but all of society, for contributing to the problem. She says:\n \nHowever, it is not only government in the sense of the state which is destructive of every individual value and quality. It is the whole complex of authority and institutional domination which strangles life. It is the superstition, myth, pretense, evasions, and subservience which support authority and institutional domination. It is the reverence for these institutions instilled in the school, the Church, and the home in order that man may believe and obey without protest. Such a process of devitalizing and distorting personalities of the individual and of whole communities may have been a part of historical evolution; but it should be strenuously combated by every honest and independent mind in an age which has any pretense to enlightenment. (Goldman, 1996, pp. 434-435)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nEinstein (Clark, 1979, p. 33) believed that most of his teaching colleagues did little more than encourage “the obedience of a corps.” Einstein speaks of the meaninglessness and hypocrisy with which most people plod through life, and of the crushing realization he experienced in seeing through dogmatism by his own self-education (Clark, 1979):\n \nWhen I was a fairly precocious young man I became thoroughly impressed with the futility of the hopes and strivings that chase most men restlessly through life. Moreover, I soon discovered the cruelty of that chase, which in those years was much more carefully covered up by hypocrisy and glittering words than is the case today. By the mere existence of his stomach everyone was condemned to participate in that chase. The stomach might well be satisfied by such participation, but not man insofar as he is a thinking and feeling being."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nAs the first way out there was religion, which is implanted into every child by way of the traditional education-machine. Thus I came—though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents—to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. (pp. 3, 5)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nReferences:\nClark, A. (1984) Einstein: The life and times. NY: Avon Books.\nGoldman, E. (1996). Red Emma speaks: An Emma Goldman reader. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books.\nNewman, J. (1852; 1996). The idea of a university. London: Yale University Press.\n \nThis section was taken from my newly release book: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Liberating the Mind"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Apr 22, 2020 • 113d ago
Smelling the Roses or Why won’t those people wear masks?

{"ops":[{"insert":"I was standing in a rose garden today, keeping my six or more feet distance from other people. I was enjoying the sun streaming down on my face while trying to take in the exquisite magnificence of this public garden that bursts out only a few weeks a year into all manner of colors, shapes and sizes of roses. I won’t try to describe it, because such beauty cannot be described in words.\n\nI noticed a woman walking alone, her face appearing somewhat worried. After a few minutes of circling the roses, she reservedly approached. She said, “Pardon me but do you mind if I ask you a question? I’ll make sure to keep my distance.” I said sure. She said “is it just me, or does it bother you that so many people are going against the rules and co-mingling, without masks, when we’re supposed to be keeping our distance?” (She threw a disappointing look at a few groups nearby standing close together and busily visiting).\n\nI could think of several responses. But the one that came immediately to mind was “well, I don’t expect much of humans. I don’t think of the human species as particularly sane. So although I recognize the problem you’re pointing out, I am basically ignoring those people. For one, I don’t think they would change their behavior if they were confronted, and likely everyone would get upset.” She said, “thank you for being honest and forthright with me.” I said, “there are many problems that deeply concern me, and which I would dearly love to solve, but which I seem able to do little or nothing about – problems like the violation of animal rights, and how in the world humans are going to pull off sustaining the earth resources for the long-term.”\n\nShe lit up when I mentioned my work in critical thinking, as people often do. “That’s what we’re lacking, critical thinking” she said (as they often say). Of course, when people say this, they typically mean that other people need critical thinking, or that other people need to be able to think as well as they themselves think. So I mentioned the problems of egocentric thinking, and sociocentric thinking, which manifest themselves in so many ways throughout human life, leading to such things as bias, bigotry, deception, and manipulation, and all manner of distortions, as well as the need to cluster together in groups even when it might kill us when we do so. As she continued to probe my thoughts, I tried not to leave out the important point that though the people she was concerned about, the people clustering to close together and not protecting us and them from the COVID19 virus, though they were making mistakes in thinking, we ourselves are really no different because each of us falls prey to mistakes in thinking, errors in judgment, our own self-delusions, and of course the deep seated need to be accepted by others.\n\nWhether either or both of us should have talked to these people to help them see reason is an open question; perhaps we should have done so; indeed we humans face an endless number of questions just such as these and we frequently are not that good at dealing with them.\n\nIn the end, though I didn’t think I answered this lady’s concerns, it was refreshing to be thrown a thoughtful question and given the opportunity to offer my reasoning to someone who seemed at least genuinely interested in my answer. We need more discussions like this, in public, about everyday mundane matters of importance.\n\nA few minutes after our farewell, she left the garden entirely. That was her answer to the people co-mingling – get away from them.\n\nBeing unwilling to relinquish the beauty of the garden quite yet, I took a more Stoic approach – though I can’t change many irrational, sad and disgusting things about humans, I can feast my eyes on these metaphysical flashes of red, yellow, orange and white. I will stop for just this moment and smell these roses, which will never come to us in quite the same way again.\n\nIf someone comes within 10 feet, I’ll go.      \n\n\n"}]}

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