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
Richard Paul Archives
Apr 06, 2021 • 9d ago
Critical Thinking and the State of Education Today (Part 5 of 8 - “The First Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice; 1970-1996 - Formal & Informal Logic Courses”)

{"ops":[{"insert":"This article was published in the Winter 1996 issue of Sonoma State University’s Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines (vol. 16, no. 2) and was titled, “Critical Thinking and the State of Education Today.” The piece was divided into eight sections:\n\n“Understanding Substantive Critical Thinking / Avoiding the Growing List of Counterfeits”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“No One Definition But A Common Core of Meaning”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“A Brief History of the Idea of Critical Thinking”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The State of the Field Today: Three Waves of Research, With Little Sense of History”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The First Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1970-1996 / Formal & Informal Logic Courses”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The Second Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1980-1996 / Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum Across the Grades”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The Third Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1985- / Depth & Comprehensiveness in Theory & Practice”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“Conclusion”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nThe fifth of these sections appears below.\n\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"First Wave Research Concerns:"},{"insert":"\n\nThe design of individual courses in critical thinking or informal logic"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"The critique of formal logic as a tool for the analysis and assessment of \"real world\" reasoning and argumentation"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"The development of theories of fallacies in thought"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"The development of theories of informal logic, reasoning, persuasion, rhetoric, and argumentation, etc."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"The exploration of philosophical issues raised by theories developed to account for informal logic, reasoning, and argumentation"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nIn the first wave of critical thinking practice, the dominant paradigm came from philosophy and logic and the dominant educational manifestation was a formal or informal logic course. The idea was to establish a basic course in critical thinking which would provide entering freshmen with the foundational intellectual skills they need to be successful in college work. Almost from the beginning, however, there was a contradiction between the concerns and ideals that gave rise to the theory and practice and actual classroom practice. The ideals were broad and ambitious. The practice was narrow and of limited success.\n \nFor example, the State College and University System of California defined the goals of the critical thinking graduation requirement as follows:\n\nInstruction in critical thinking is to be designed to achieve an understanding of the relationship of language to logic, which should lead to the ability to analyze, criticize, and advocate ideas, to reason inductively and deductively, and to reach factual or judgmental conclusions based on sound inferences drawn from unambiguous statements of knowledge or belief. The minimal competence to be expected at the successful conclusion of instruction in critical thinking should be the ability to distinguish fact from judgment, belief from knowledge, and skills in elementary inductive and deductive processes, including an understanding of the formal and informal fallacies of language and thought."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nOn the one hand, we have a global comprehensive goal and on the other hand a fairly narrow and specialized way to meet that goal. Students do not, in my experience, achieve \"an understanding of the relationship of language to logic\" leading to \"the ability to analyze, criticize, and advocate ideas\"; they do not develop \"the ability to distinguish fact from judgment\" or \"belief from knowledge\" simply because they have been drilled in \"elementary inductive and deductive processes\" nor because they have been exposed to the theory of formal and informal fallacies. The misfit between goal and means is obvious to anyone who takes the goals in the above paragraph seriously. One three-unit course in critical thinking can at best open the door to the beginning of critical thinking, provide an opening framework. It cannot result in the students having deep notions like \"an understanding of the relationship of language to logic\" or sweeping abilities like \"the ability to analyze, criticize, and advocate ideas.\"\n \nNo one or two isolated courses can change the basic habits of thought of anyone. Furthermore, as a practical matter, many of the courses established to accomplish the objective fell far short of the best design. Often, for example, a course in formal logic was allowed to qualify as a course in critical thinking even though such courses generally are confined to teaching only the mechanical manipulation of symbols in accord with rules for such manipulation, a practice that does not result in changing habits of thought. Under questioning students who have taken such courses demonstrate little insight into why they were doing what they were doing and no sense of how to transfer their \"manipulative\" abilities (with the symbols of formal logic) into practical tools in everyday thought.\n \nSubstituting informal logic courses for formal ones was one of the earliest shifts in emphasis as more and more instructors recognized that the formal logic approach had little transfer effect. The emphasis in the informal logic approach to the improvement of thinking was a giant step in the right direction. In place of highly abstract and contrived \"arguments\" in symbolic form, the students had to read and analyze arguments that came from editorials and everyday speech and debate.\n \nUnfortunately, the informal logic textbooks were often rich in vocabulary and sophisticated distinctions but, unfortunately, poor in fostering deep internalization. The distinctions were generally well-thought out, but there were far too many distinctions for a one semester course, and furthermore, they were too typically narrow in their scope. Consequently, most students were rushed on to new distinctions and concepts before they had internalized the “old\" ones. There was little emphasis on the construction – as against the critique – of reasoning. There was little done with the essential dispositions and values underlying critical thinking. The goals remained broad and profound, the means narrow and unrealistic.\n \nFurthermore, the problem of transfer remained; it was still not clear to students how to transfer their analyses of bits and pieces of argumentation into learning what they were being taught in other courses, namely, sociology, psychology, biology, etc. And so most students, once their critical thinking courses were finished, reverted to their established lower-order, survival skills – principally, rote memorization and cramming – to get by.\n \nThe problem of most first wave work is both theoretical and pedagogical. Theoretically, little if anything was done to work out a comprehensive theory of “logic\" sufficient to make sense of the logic of Biology, the logic of Sociology, the logic of Anthropology, Geography, Literature, the Arts, etc. The concept of logic implicit in informal logic research is too narrow to provide the basis for transfer of critical thinking from, in fact, informal logic courses (no matter how well designed) to the broader curriculum, nor into the complex problems of everyday life and thought (except in a narrow range of such problems).\n \nPedagogically, little was done to work out the practical problems of restructuring instruction' and learning overall. After all, how is one to teach anyone anything in such a way as to foster their taking command of their thinking, so that they develop not only intellectual skills but the basic dispositions and values that underlie critical thinking? How are academic subjects to be taught such that students leave school with the intellectual skills necessary to adapt to incessant and accelerating change and complexity? How are we to teach so that students explicitly recognize that the work of the future is the work of the mind, intellectual work that demands global skills of reasoning and intellectual self-discipline? These questions must be addressed.\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Apr 04, 2021 • 11d ago
Bertrand Russell on the Functions of a Teacher

{"ops":[{"insert":"In his book "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Unpopular Essays"},{"insert":", Bertrand Russell has a paper entitled "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Functions of a Teacher"},{"insert":". This essay should be essential reading for all teachers, administrators and students of education. The essay, originally published in 1950, among other things, illuminates the importance of teachers expanding the mind of the student, and developing the emotional and ethical dimension of their lives. As you see from this passage, Russell sees teachers as caretakers of civilization, which is at the highest level of responsibility in a society:\n \nTeachers are more than any other class the guardians of civilisation. They should be intimately aware of what civilisation is, and desirous of imparting a civilised attitude to their pupils. We are thus brought to this question: what constitutes a civilized community?..."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"A country is civilized if it has much machinery, many motorcars, many bathrooms and a great deal of rapid locomotion. To these things, in my opinion most modern men attach much too much importance. Civilization, in the more important sense, is a thing of the mind… it is a matter partly of knowledge, partly of emotion. So far as knowledge is concerned, a man should be aware of the minuteness of himself and his immediate environment in relation to the world in time and space. He should see his own country not "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"only"},{"insert":" at home, but as one among the countries of the world, all with an equal right to live and think and feel. He should see his own age in relation to the past and the future, and be aware that its own controversies will seem as strange to future ages as those of the past seem to us now… on the side of the emotions, a very similar enlargement from the purely personal is needed if a man is to be truly civilized. Men passed from birth to death, sometimes happy, sometimes unhappy; sometimes generous, sometimes grasping and petty; sometimes heroic, sometimes cowardly and servile. To the man who views the procession as a whole, certain things stand out as worthy of admiration. Some men have been inspired by love of mankind; some by supreme intellect have helped us to understand the world in which we live; and some by exceptional sensitiveness have created beauty. These men have produced something of positive good to outweigh the long record of cruelty, oppression and superstition. These men have done what lay in their power to make human life a better thing than the brief turbulence of savages. The civilised man, where he cannot admire, will aim rather at understanding then at reprobating. He will seek rather to discover and remove the impersonal causes of evil than to hate the men who are in his grip. All this should be in the mind and heart of the teacher, and if it is in his mind and heart he will convey it in his teaching to the young who are in his care (pp.129-130)."},{"attributes":{"indent":2},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nNote the powerful, but basic, critical thinking moves Bertrand Russell makes in this passage. First, he asserts that teachers are guardians of civilization, which places responsibility on teachers to think deeply about the "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"concept"},{"insert":" of civilization and to do their own conceptual analysis of "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"civilization"},{"insert":" (How many teachers do this type of conceptual work now?).\n \nRussell then details his own concept, which calls upon teachers to cultivate intellectual virtues such as openmindedness and intellectual empathy, and to foster in students the desire to make the world a better place. These goals can be achieved "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"only"},{"insert":" when supported by the public. These ends can be realized "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"only"},{"insert":" when teachers are themselves taught critical thinking skills and virtues, and then are allowed"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"to teach these skills and virtues. Cultivating student thinking must be encouraged and supported. Russell’s vision is noble, but we are still a great distance from achieving it. As long as bureaucracies and politicians control what happens in schools, as long as critical thinking is passed over, belittled, or presupposed, there is little to no hope of their realization on any broad scale.\n \nBut you can continue to expand your circle of influence in advancing critical thinking. You can bring critical thinking to the students you teach, the people you manage, the family and intimidate friends you value. You can bring it more concretely into your own thinking and in the way you live your life.\n \nThere are several videos of Bertrand Russell on YouTube, all of which I recommend that you take the time to view. You might start with this brief video clip titled "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Message to Future Generations"},{"insert":". "},{"attributes":{"color":"#0563c1","link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"\n\nAlso read "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Unpopular Essays – "},{"insert":"see below for reference"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"."},{"insert":"\n\n\n\nQuote taken from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Unpopular Essays"},{"insert":" by Bertrand Russell (1950;1996). NY: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group\n"}]}

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Richard Paul Archives
Mar 25, 2021 • 21d ago
Critical Thinking and the State of Education Today (Part 4 of 8 - “The State of the Field Today: Three Waves of Research, With Little Sense of History”)

{"ops":[{"insert":"This article was published in the Winter 1996 issue of Sonoma State University’s Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines (vol. 16, no. 2) and was titled, “Critical Thinking and the State of Education Today.” The piece was divided into eight sections:\n\n“Understanding Substantive Critical Thinking / Avoiding the Growing List of Counterfeits”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“No One Definition But A Common Core of Meaning”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“A Brief History of the Idea of Critical Thinking”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The State of the Field Today: Three Waves of Research, With Little Sense of History”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The First Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1970-1996 / Formal & Informal Logic Courses\""},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The Second Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1980-1996 / Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum Across the Grades”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The Third Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1985- / Depth & Comprehensiveness in Theory & Practice”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“Conclusion”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nThe fourth of these sections appears below.\n \n \nThough it is possible to trace a common core of meaning reflected in a rich history of the concept of critical thinking, it does not follow that most of those working in the field are now aware of that history or work with a keen sense of the core meaning of the term (as reflected in that history). In fact, recent history of work in the field suggests that there is a significant level of theoretical “confusion\" resulting from the fact that so many scholars working on the concept function independently of each other in multiple disciplines without any unifying agenda or common awareness of the history of the concept. \n \nPart of the reason for this is that critical thinking studies is not a distinctive recognized academic field and hence lacks the discipline-based continuity of such a tradition. The result of recent research in the last 36 years is therefore diffuse rather than centered. Many working on the concept are working on it in a partial way, often heavily influenced in their analysis by their own academic discipline or background. \n \nIt goes without saying that insights into how the human mind can “malfunction\" intellectually can come from many different sources or fields. Documentation of the problem of cultural bias, for example, is more likely to come from the research of cultural anthropologists than from parasitologists or neurologists. Documentation of the problem of self-deception in human thought is more likely to come from depth psychologists than from, say, physicists. A problem results, of course, when an insight into one problem of human thought is treated as if it were the sole problem for critical thinking to solve. The field of critical thinking studies suffers from the natural tendency of those in all disciplines to treat critical thinking in terms of the insights of their home discipline, failing thereby to do justice to its interdisciplinary meaning and power. This is reflected in the last 30 years or so of research. Let's review those years since the early 70's, in which there are three discernable waves of research into critical thinking.\n\nThe three waves represent, in essence, different research agendas and point to different emphases in application. Each wave has its committed adherents, and each therefore represents an important choice influencing future work in the field. The third wave, as I conceptualize it, represents a very recent movement in the field, and, if it takes root, will perform a synthesizing function, integrating the most basic insights of the first two waves and transforming the field into one which is much more historical and conceptually broad than it is at present. But I am getting ahead of myself. I shall summarize these three waves in outline, and then deal with them in more detail.\n \nThe first wave of the last 30 years of critical thinking studies is based on a focus on the theory of logic, argumentation, and reasoning. It has become a virtual field unto itself, dominated by philosophers. First wave theorists tend to be “informal logicians\" and tend to focus only on those instances of thinking in which persuasion and argumentation are explicit. In addition, they tend to analyze “arguments\" with a minimum of background context. They tend to view reasoning and logic in what seems to me to be a relatively narrow and technical fashion, ignoring the broad family of related uses of the word 'logic' (which one might review in any dictionary of the English Language).\n \nThe broad notion of critical thinking as, say, articulated by Sumner above ["},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"see part 3 of this article, titled, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"link":""},"insert":"“A Brief History of the Idea of Critical Thinking”"},{"insert":"], is not adequately dealt with by this philosophically-based tradition. The tools provided do not make for a broad use of critical thinking in everyday life. For example, the role of thought in the shaping of feelings, emotions, and values; the role of subconscious thought; the role of thought in shaping concepts, presuppositions, questions, and points of view – all these are often thrust into the background, or ignored entirely, in the conceptions of critical thinking articulated in work developed by informal logicians.\n \nThe result is that “first wave\" theoreticians do not focus on command of “the logic of language\" or “the logic of questions\" as key components of critical thinking. What is more, if one views the compass of critical thinking as dealing with those “logical structures\" that underlie all human thought, emotion, and behavior, the framework and writings of most informal logic theorists appears narrow, specialized, and of limited usefulness. For example, Piaget's research – with his broad and rich sense of “logic\" – has had no discernable influence on the work of informal logicians. Even Ryle's classic essay on “Formal and Informal Logic\" has had little influence – since Ryle treats informal logic in that essay in a very broad and encompassing way.\n \n\nThe second wave, as I see it, represents, to some extent, a reaction against the first. Unlike the first wave, it is not grounded in any one discipline. It represents a loose conglomeration of interested persons, producing work of mixed quality, developed from many different standpoints. This diversity of standpoints gives to second wave research a scattered character. It includes: some working on critical thinking from the standpoint of cognitive psychology, some from the standpoint of “critical pedagogy,\" some from the standpoint of feminism, some from the standpoint of particular disciplines (such as critical thinking in biology, business, or nursing), and yet others from the standpoint of some element purportedly missing from first wave research agendas (such as “emotion,\" “intuition,\" “imagination,\" “creativity,\" etc.)\n \nTaken collectively, therefore, second wave projects are more comprehensive than first wave projects, since second wave analysis looks at critical thinking typically outside the tradition of logic and rhetoric. Unfortunately, second wave work (lacking a shared intellectual tradition) is collectively far less integrated, less coherent, and sometimes more “superficial.\" While exceptional work has been done during the second wave, the gain is too often breadth at the expense of depth and rigor.\n \n \nThe third wave, as I envision it, presupposes some recognition of the problems generated by the first two waves and represents a commitment to transcend those problems (rigor without comprehensiveness, on the one hand, and comprehensiveness without rigor, on the other). Third wave theorists are still relatively rare, though the work of a variety of intellectuals and scholars is relevant to third wave research agendas.\n \nThe principles and standards of the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking (NCECT), and the Sonoma conference tradition, illustrate significant attempts to answer the need created by the limitations of the first two waves of critical thinking theory. For example, the NCECT research projects based on comprehensive principles and standards explicitly go beyond a “narrow\" view of logic and critical thinking. The Sonoma conference tradition, in turn, has explicitly been premised on fostering a comprehensive core concept of critical thinking that goes beyond any one discipline or definition (over 30 academic disciplines have been represented by papers and presentations at the conference) and each conference of the 16 has represented a more and more discipline-based balance of presentations.\n \nStill, the field is at a crucial juncture, for if comprehensiveness and rigor are not combined in the work of the field, it is likely to split even further into a narrow technical field on the one hand, and a hodge-podge on the other. However, it is too early to tell whether and to what extent the need for both comprehensiveness and rigor will be answered by the full development of third wave research agendas.\n \nUnfortunately, third wave agendas cannot go forward without a general recognition of the importance of a deep and comprehensive theory that goes beyond the “narrowness\" of most first wave research and the ”superficiality\" of much second wave research. It requires a willingness to think outside one’s"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"discipline or at least to think within one's discipline from the standpoint of a broader range of concerns. It requires, on the one hand, informal logicians willing not only to examine the problems posed by second wave theorists, but also to move to a broader conception of logic, one that recognizes that there is a logic to thinking within different disciplines, a logic to human emotions, a logic to human behavior, a logic, indeed, to every dimension of human life in which thinking is the driving force. On the other hand, it calls for those with second wave concerns to take seriously the insights of first wave research and not simply to grudgingly (and abstractly) admit some value to it.\n \nIn other words, while first wave researchers need to recognize the importance of broadening the sweep of their concerns, second wave researchers need to recognize the need to build on the theoretical rigor of the first wave, to internalize, not ignore, the insights of the first wave, and to build on them. Only out of a real marriage of first and second wave concerns, only by a deep integration of insights, can the third wave fully develop. Those who would contribute significantly to the field of critical thinking research need to internalize the strengths of the first two waves. Now, with this rough background in mind, let us look at the three waves in a more formal way.\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Mar 24, 2021 • 22d ago
Clarify Your Thinking

{"ops":[{"insert":"Our own thinking usually seems clear to us, even when it is not. Vague, ambiguous, muddled, deceptive, or misleading thinking are significant problems in human life. If you are to develop as a thinker, you must learn the art of clarifying your thinking—of pinning it down, spelling it out, and giving it a specific meaning. Here’s what you can do to begin. When people explain things to you, summarize in your own words what you think they said. When you cannot do this to their satisfaction, you don’t truly understand what they said. When they cannot summarize to your satisfaction what you have said, they don’t truly understand what you said. Try it. See what happens.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"As you work to clarify your thinking, be on the lookout for…"},{"insert":"\n…vague, fuzzy, blurred thinking—thinking that may sound good but"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"doesn’t actually say anything. Try to figure out the real meaning of"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"what people are saying. Compare what people say with what they"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"might really mean. Try to figure out the real meaning of important"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"news stories. Explain your understanding of an issue to someone else"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"to help clarify it in your own mind. Practice summarizing in your own"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"words what others say. Then ask them if you understood them correctly."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Be careful to neither agree nor disagree with what anyone says"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"until you (clearly) understand what he or she is saying."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Strategies for clarifying your thinking:"},{"insert":"\nTo improve your ability to clarify your thinking (in your own mind, when speaking to others, or when writing, for example), use this basic strategy:\n• State one point at a time."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Elaborate on what you mean."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Give examples that connect your thoughts to life experiences."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Use analogies and metaphors to help people connect your ideas to a variety of things they already understand. (Consider this analogy: Critical thinking is like an onion. It has many layers. Just when you think you have it basically figured out, you realize there is another layer, and then another, and another, and another, and on and on.)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Here is a format you can use to make sure you are clear when speaking or writing your thoughts:"},{"insert":"\n• I think (state your main point)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• In other words (elaborate on your main point)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• For example (give an example of your main point)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• To give you an analogy (give an illustration of your main point)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"To clarify other people’s thinking, you might ask any of the following questions:"},{"insert":"\n• Can you restate your point in other words? I didn’t understand you."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Can you give an example?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Let me tell you what I understand you to be saying. Do I understand you correctly?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nAs you begin to use these strategies, as basic as they seem, note how seldom others use them. Begin to notice how often people assume that others understand them when what they have said is, in fact, unintelligible, muddy, or confusing. Note how, very often, the simple intellectual moves are the most powerful. (For example, saying to someone: “I don’t understand what you are saying. Can you say that in other words?”) Focus on using these basic, foundational moves whenever it seems at all relevant to do so. As you do, you will find that your thinking becomes clearer and clearer, and you get better and\nbetter at clarifying others’ thinking.\n \nThe idea of clarifying thinking is almost so easy it is hard. It is like watching the ball while playing tennis. It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking we are doing it when we are not. The difference is that in tennis we get immediate feedback that tells us when we were not watching the ball (when, for instance, the ball doesn’t go over the net). In thinking, we do not have this same luxury of instant feedback.\n\nSo, we can remain self-deceived much of the time.\n \n[This blog piece was adapted from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder and Richard Paul, 2013, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, pp. 67-69].\n"}]}

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Richard Paul Archives
Mar 16, 2021 • 30d ago
Critical Thinking and the State of Education Today (Part 3 of 8 - “A Brief History of the Idea of Critical Thinking”)

{"ops":[{"insert":"This article was published in the Winter 1996 issue of Sonoma State University’s Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines (vol. 16, no. 2) and was titled, “Critical Thinking and the State of Education Today.” The piece was divided into eight sections:\n\n“Understanding Substantive Critical Thinking / Avoiding the Growing List of Counterfeits”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“No One Definition But A Common Core of Meaning”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“A Brief History of the Idea of Critical Thinking”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The State of the Field Today: Three Waves of Research, With Little Sense of History”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The First Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1970-1996 / Formal & Informal Logic Courses\""},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The Second Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1980-1996 / Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum Across the Grades”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“The Third Wave of Critical Thinking Research & Practice / 1985- / Depth & Comprehensiveness in Theory & Practice”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“Conclusion”"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nThe third of these sections appears below.\n\n \nThe intellectual roots of critical thinking are as ancient as its etymology, traceable, ultimately, to the teaching practice and vision of Socrates 2,400"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" years ago who discovered by a method of probing questioning that people could not rationally justify their confident claims to knowledge. Confused meanings, inadequate evidence, or self-contradictory beliefs often lurked beneath smooth but largely empty rhetoric. Socrates established the fact that one cannot depend upon those in “authority\" to have sound knowledge and insight. He demonstrated that persons may have power and high position and yet be deeply confused and irrational. He established the importance of asking deep questions that probe profoundly into thinking before we accept ideas as worthy of belief. He established the importance of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications not only of what is said but of what is done as well. His method of questioning is now known as “Socratic questioning\" and is the best known critical thinking teaching strategy. In his mode of questioning, Socrates highlighted the need in thinking for clarity and logical consistency."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nSocrates set the agenda for the tradition of critical thinking, namely: to"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" reflectively question common beliefs and explanations, carefully distinguishing those beliefs that are reasonable and logical from those which – however appealing they may be to our native egocentrism, however much they serve our vested interests, however comfortable or comforting they may be – lack adequate evidence or rational foundation to warrant our belief."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nSocrates' practice was followed by the critical thinking of Plato (who"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" recorded Socrates' thought), Aristotle, and the Greek skeptics, all of whom emphasized that things are often very different from what they appear to be and that only the trained mind is prepared to see through the way things look to us on the surface (delusive appearances) to the way they really are beneath the surface (the deeper realities of life). From this ancient Greek tradition emerged the need, for anyone who aspired to understand the deeper realities, to think systematically, to trace implications broadly and deeply, for only thinking that is comprehensive, well-reasoned, and responsive to objections can take us beyond the surface."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nIn the middle ages, the tradition of systematic critical thinking was"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" embodied in the writings and teachings of such thinkers as Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica) who – to ensure his thinking met the test of critical thought – always systematically stated, considered, and answered all criticisms of his ideas as a necessary stage in developing them. Aquinas heightened our awareness not only of the potential power of reasoning but also of the need for reasoning to be systematically cultivated and “cross-examined.” Of course, Aquinas' thinking also illustrates that those who think critically do not always reject established beliefs, only those beliefs that lack reasonable foundations."},{"insert":"\n \nIn the Renaissance (15th and 16th Centuries), a flood of scholars in"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" Europe began to think critically about religion, art, society, human nature, law, and freedom. They proceeded with the assumption that most of the domains of human life were in need of searching analysis and critique. Among these scholars were Colet, Erasmus, and More in England. They followed up on the insight of the ancients."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nFrancis Bacon (England) was explicitly concerned with the way we"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" misuse our minds in seeking knowledge. He recognized explicitly that the mind cannot safely be left to its natural tendencies. In his book, The Advancement"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":" of Learning, "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"he argued for the importance of studying the world empirically. He laid the foundation for modern science with his emphasis on the information-gathering processes. He also called attention to the fact that most people, if left to their own devices, develop bad habits of thought (which he called “idols\") that lead them to believe what is false or misleading. He called attention to “Idols of the tribe\" (the ways our mind naturally tends to trick itself), “Idols of the market-place\" (the ways we misuse words), “Idols of the theater\" (our tendency to become trapped in conventional systems of thought), and “Idols of the schools\" (the problems in thinking when based on blind rules and poor instruction). His book could be considered one of the earliest texts in critical thinking, for his agenda was very much the traditional agenda of critical thinking."},{"insert":"\n \nSome fifty years later in France, Descartes wrote what might be called"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" the second text in critical thinking, Rules For the Direction 0f the Mind. In it, Descartes argued for the need of a special systematic disciplining of the mind to guide it in thinking. He articulated and defended the need in thinking for clarity and precision. He developed a method of critical thought based on the principle of systematic doubt. He emphasized the need to base thinking on well-thought-through foundational assumptions. Every part of thinking, he argued, should be questioned, doubted, and tested."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nIn the same time period, Sir Thomas More developed a model of a new"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" social order, Utopia, in which every domain of the present world was subject to critique. His implicit thesis was that established social systems are in need of radical analysis and critique. The critical thinking of these Renaissance and post-Renaissance scholars opened the way for the emergence of science and for the development of democracy, human rights, and freedom for thought."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nIn the Italian Renaissance, Machiavelli (The Prince) critically assessed the"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" politics of the day, and laid the foundation for modern critical political thought. He refused to assume that government functioned as those in power said it did. Rather, he critically analyzed how it did function and laid the foundation for political thinking that exposes both, on the one hand, the real agendas of politicians and, on the other hand, the many contradictions and inconsistencies of the hard, cruel, world of the politics of his day."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nHobbes and Locke (in 16th and 17th Century England) displayed the"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" same confidence in the critical mind of the thinker that we find in Machiavelli. Neither accepted the traditional picture of things dominant in the thinking of their day. Neither accepted as necessarily rational that which was considered \"normal\" in their culture. Both looked to the critical mind to open up new vistas of learning. Hobbes adopted a naturalistic view of the world in which everything was to be explained by evidence and reasoning. Locke defended a common sense analysis of everyday life and thought. He laid the theoretical foundation for critical thinking about basic human rights and the responsibilities of all governments to submit to the reasoned criticism of thoughtful citizens."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nIt was in this spirit of intellectual freedom and critical thought that"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" people such as Robert Boyle (in the 17th Century) and Sir Isaac Newton (in the 17th and 18th Century) did their work. In his, Sceptical Chymist, Boyle severely criticized the chemical theory that had preceded him. Newton, in turn, developed a far-reaching framework of thought which roundly criticized the traditionally accepted world view. He extended the critical thought of such minds as Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. After Boyle and Newton, it was recognized by those who reflected seriously on the natural world that egocentric views of the world must be abandoned in favor of views based entirely on carefully gathered evidence and sound reasoning."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nAnother significant contribution to critical thinking was made by the"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" thinkers of the French enlightenment: Bayle, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Diderot. They all began with the premise that the human mind, when disciplined by reason, is better able to figure out the nature of the social and political world. What is more, for these thinkers, reason must turn inward upon itself, in order to determine weaknesses and strengths of thought. They valued disciplined intellectual exchange, in which all views had to be submitted to serious analysis and critique. They believed that all authority must submit in one way or another to the scrutiny of reasonable critical questioning."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nEighteenth Century thinkers extended our conception of critical thought"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" even further, developing our sense of the power of critical thought and of its tools. Applied to the problem of economics, it produced Adam Smith's Wealth"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":" of Nations. "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"In the same year, applied to the traditional concept of loyalty to the king, it produced the Declaration of Independence. Applied to reason itself, it produced Kant's Critique of Pure Reason."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nIn the 19th Century, critical thought was extended even further into the"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" domain of human social life by Comte and Spencer. Applied to the problems of capitalism, it produced the searching social and economic critique of Karl Marx. Applied to the history of human culture and the basis of biological life, it led to Darwin's Descent of Man. Applied to the unconscious mind, it is reflected in the works of Sigmund Freud. Applied to cultures, it led to the establishment of the field of Anthropological studies. Applied to language, it led to the field of Linguistics and to many deep probings of the functions of symbols and language in human life."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nIn the 20th Century, our understanding of the power and nature of"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" critical thinking has emerged in increasingly more explicit formulations. In 1906, William Graham Sumner published a land-breaking study of the foundations of sociology and anthropology, Folkways, in which he documented the tendency of the human mind to think sociocentrically and the parallel tendency for schools to serve the (uncritical) function of social indoctrination:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nSchools make persons all on one pattern, orthodoxy. School education,"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" unless it is regulated by the best knowledge and good sense, will produce men and women who are all of one pattern, as if turned in a lathe ...An orthodoxy is produced in regard to all the great doctrines of life. It consists of the n10st worn and commonplace opinions which are common in the masses. The popular opinions always contain broad fallacies, half-truths, and glib generalizations (p. 630)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nAt the same time, Sumner recognized the deep need for critical thinking in life and in education:"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nCriticism is the examination and test of propositions of any kind which"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" are offered for acceptance, in order to find out whether they correspond to reality or not. The critical faculty is a product of education and training. It is a mental habit and power. lt is a prime condition of human welfare that men and women should be trained in it. It is our only guarantee against delusion, deception, superstition, and misapprehension of ourselves and our earthly circumstances. Education is good just so far as it produces a well-developed critical faculty ...A teacher of any subject who insists on accuracy and a ra'tional control of all processes and methods, and who holds everything open to unlin1ited verification and revision is cultivating that method as a habit in the pupils. Men educated in it cannot be stampeded...They are slow to believe. They can hold things as possible or probable in all degrees, without certainty and without pain. They can wait for evidence and weigh evidence...They can resist appeals to their dearest prejudices... Education in the critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens (pp. 632,633)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nJohn Dewey agreed. From his work, we have increased our sense of the"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" pragmatic basis of human thought (its instrumental nature), and especially its"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":" grounding in actual human purposes, goals, and objectives. "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"From the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein we have increased our awareness not only of the importance of concepts in human thought, but also of the need to analyze concepts and assess their power and limitations. From the work of Piaget, we have increased our awareness of the egocentric and sociocentric tendencies of human thought and of the special need to develop critical thought which is able to reason within multiple standpoints,"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"and to be raised to the level of “conscious realization.\" From the massive contribution of all the “hard\" sciences, we have learned the power of information"},{"attributes":{"color":"black","italic":true},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"and the importance of gathering information with great care and precision, and with sensitivity to its potential inaccuracy, distortion, or misuse. From the contribution of depth-psychology, we have learned how easily the human mind is self-deceived, how easily it unconsciously constructs illusions and delusions, how easily it rationalizes and stereotypes, projects and scapegoats."},{"insert":"\n \nTo sum up, the tools and resources of the critical thinker have been"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":" vastly increased in virtue of the history of critical thought. Hundreds of thinkers have contributed to its development. Each major discipline has made some contribution to critical thought."},{"insert":"\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Mar 14, 2021 • 32d ago
Don’t Be a Conformist: Think for Yourself

{"ops":[{"insert":"Living a human life entails membership in a variety of human groups. This typically includes one’s nation, culture, profession, religion, family, and peer group. We find ourselves participating in groups before we are aware of ourselves as living beings, in virtually every setting in which we function as persons. Further, every group to which we belong has a social definition of itself and unspoken “rules” that guide the behavior of all members. Each group to which we belong imposes a level of conformity on us as a condition of acceptance. This includes a set of beliefs, behaviors, requirements, and taboos.\n \nResearch shows that people, to varying degrees, accept as right and correct whatever ways of acting and believing are fostered in the social groups to which they belong. Typically, this acceptance is uncritical.\n \nGroup membership clearly offers some advantages. But those advantages can come with a price. Many people behave unethically because it is expected of them. Groups impose their rules (conventions, folkways, taboos) on individuals. (Consider the way you dress or the sexual laws in your country as obvious examples.) Group membership is, in various ways, “required” for ordinary acts of living.\n \nSuppose, for example, that you did not want to belong to any nation, that you wanted to be a citizen not of a country but of the world. You would not be allowed that freedom. You would find that you were allowed no place to live, nor any way to travel from place to place. Every place in the world is claimed by some a nation (as its “sovereign” possession), and every nation requires that all visitors to it come as citizens of some other country (thus, with a “passport”). In addition, everywhere a nation imposes its “sovereignty,” it requires the obedience of all persons to literally thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of laws.\n \nFor most people, blind conformity to group restrictions is automatic and unreflective. Most people effortlessly conform without recognizing their conformity. They internalize group norms and beliefs, take on the group identity, and act as they are expected to act— without the least sense that what they are doing might reasonably be questioned. Most people function in social groups as unreflective participants in a range of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors analogous to those of urban street gangs. Group think leads to believe in disinformation, fake news, and conspiracy theories.\n \nConformity is one of the evils of human society. Why? Through conformity, arbitrary social rules are treated as if they were inherently good and right. Arbitrary social rules lead to any number of unjust practices. Consider the ways in which people who do not abide by social conventions are marginalized in a culture. For example, consider the groups who tend to be marginalized in the U.S.— atheists, people of color, people who protest wars, people who speak out against unethical government practices when the mainstream is not speaking out. Furthermore, consider how arbitrary social conventions often lead to arbitrary laws, the enforcement of which often results in human suffering (for example, unjust prison sentences).\n \nWhen you have developed as a skilled, independent thinker, you do not mindlessly follow the crowd. You think for yourself. You figure out for yourself what makes sense to believe and what to reject. You recognize social rules and taboos for what they often are: subjective creations of an unthinking mass. Of course, it is often quite difficult to critically analyze the cultural conventions existing in one’s own culture because these conventions are systematically indoctrinated into our thinking throughout a lifetime. As the reigning beliefs, they surround us. Overcoming indoctrination requires committed effort, insight, and courage. It implies a willingness to stand alone in your beliefs.\n \nTo develop as a thinker, assume that you are a conformist. Only when you can admit that you are a conformist can you begin to identify when and where you conform. Recognize that conformity occurs in virtually every domain of life. Look for it in the news. Look for it in your relationships. Look for it in the groups to which you belong. Notice it at work. See it in others. Notice how people profess to be independent even when they are consummate conformists. Notice when you are most likely to conform (for instance, in meetings or in following the ideologies of political parties). Notice when you are least likely to conform. Figure out the consequences of your conformity. Figure out the consequences of others’ conformity.\n \nThink about political conformity. Think about the consequences of “patriotism” (as a form of mass conformity). Figure out when it makes sense to conform (for example, not talking loudly on your cell phone while in a restaurant) and when it doesn’t (for example, mindlessly supporting unethical business or governmental practices).\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Strategies for becoming an independent thinker:"},{"insert":"\n\nWrite down your answers to these questions:\n·      What are some of the taboos in my culture?\n·      What behaviors are considered shocking or disgusting (consider, for instance, sexual conventions\n·      and laws or drug laws)?\n·      What beliefs in my culture are treated as sacred?\n·      What penalties exist for people who do not abide by social rules, even though their behavior doesn’t hurt anyone (and even though these rules come and go over the years)?\n \nExamine the extent to which you uncritically accept the taboos and requirements of your culture and social groups. Monitor your conformity. Begin a list of ways in which you can begin to think independently.\n \nMake a list of problems that people experience as a result of mass conformity to arbitrary social rules. How do you contribute to those problems?\n \nRead our Thinker’s Guide to Ethical Reasoning, to get a clear understanding of the differences among ethics, social conventions, and the law. \n \n\nFor a deeper look at the problem of conformity, get my new book: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Liberating the Mind"},{"insert":", which you can see at this link: \n \n\n\n[This blog piece was adapted from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder and Richard Paul, 2013, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, pp. 61-64].\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Mar 06, 2021 • 40d ago
Seeing Through Disinformation, False Narratives, Conspiracy Theories, and Fake News

{"ops":[{"insert":"The problem of disinformation is now rampant in human societies. The answer is critical thinking, which we must begin to teach and foster more widely in education and throughout the world. I hope you will join me for my upcoming Webinar Q&A (March 17, 2021) entitled "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"How Critical Thinking is Essential to Seeing Through Disinformation, False Narratives, Conspiracy Theories, and Fake News"},{"insert":"\n \nRead about the upcoming Webinar Q&A here: \n\n\n \nConnected with this issue is the question: What is Truth in a Post Truth Era? If you missed our webinar Q&A on this issue (and in preparation for the March 17 Webinar Q&A), you can find it here: \n \n \n \nI look forward to your questions.\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Mar 01, 2021 • 45d ago
Running Before the Wind

{"ops":[{"insert":"Richard Paul is widely recognized for his contributions to critical thinking. What very few people know about Richard is that he was also a masterful poet. Here is one of his poems, written to me, and now shared with you:\n\nlove cannot take \nthe sting from the world \ncannot take injustice \nfrom an unjust world \ncannot take cruelty \nor the crushing of the \nweak or the torment of the poor \nfrom a cruel and relentless \nworld \nthe agony the anguish goes on \nthe self-righteous still \nsleep well at night \nwith their guns and badges \nand magnificata of authority \nwith their laws \nand deeds to human life \nthe agony the anguish goes on \nbut love is our strength \nin the face of it all\nour power to say no \nto every lost moment of time \nto transform anger \ninto the power to act \nto defy to face down \nto dismiss to disown \nto soar like seabirds \nin the wind to build a \nfire to dance a jig \nto smile and laugh and play \nto start again and again \nand again \nas only two minds \nas only two hearts can \nrunning before the wind\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Feb 21, 2021 • 53d ago
Recommended French TV Series: A French Village

{"ops":[{"insert":"I just finished watching the series entitled, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"A French Village"},{"insert":", a French language series subtitled in English. I highly recommend this program for everyone interested in understanding how history unfolds as a result of pathological ideologies imposed on innocent people. This series is set in a small fictional village in France during the invasion of Nazi Germany and takes us through the years of the occupation and beyond. The series illuminates many problems in human thinking that lead to many forms of disfunction. It shows how a small town is devastated by war, not only during the occupation of enemy forces, but after the occupation ends, as France works to become stable after the Nazi’s are driven out. The program shows how power is misused, not only by the Nazi’s, but also French autocrats and American forces who occupy France when the Germans leave. With the assistance of Jean-Pierre Azema as historical consultant, the series seems to do a good job of depicting what life may have been like for people in a small village in a remote part of France. It illuminates many forms of egocentric and sociocentric thinking among those in power as well as those trying to survive within the pathological world largely created by the Nazi’s. The series is, naturally, depressing and horrifying. It highlights the gross mistreatment and genocide of Jews, and shows how negative implications of war continue long after the enemy is driven out. But it also reveals human strength and human goodness. You can view the series on Amazon Prime.\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Feb 14, 2021 • 60d ago
Considering the Idea of Brotherly Love, on This Valentine’s Day

{"ops":[{"insert":"On this Valentine’s Day, I revisit Erich Fromm’s classic, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Art of Loving"},{"insert":", for a reminder of a deep and abiding concept of love.\n\nIn focusing on the problem that love answers, Fromm says:\n\nThe deepest need of man… is the need to overcome his separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness… (p.9)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"...the experience of separateness arouses anxiety (p. 8)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nIn a section focused on brotherly love, which is largely missing from today’s perspective, Fromm says:\n\nLove is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"attitude"},{"insert":", and "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"orientation of character"},{"insert":" which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow man, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism. Yet, most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty… because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object–and that everything goes by itself afterward (p. 43)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"The most fundamental kind of love, which underlies all types of love, is "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"brotherly love"},{"insert":". By this I mean the sense of responsibility, care, respect, knowledge of any other human being, the wish to further his life… brotherly love is love for all human beings… in brotherly love there is the experience of union with all men, of human solidarity… Brotherly love is based on experience that we are all one… The differences in talents, intelligence, knowledge are negligible in comparison with the identity of the human core common to all men. In order to experience this identity it is necessary to penetrate from the periphery to the core. If I perceive in another person mainly the surface, I perceive mainly the differences, that which separates us. If I penetrate to the core, I perceive our identity, the fact of our brotherhood (pp. 43-44)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"Brotherly love is love between equals: but, indeed, even as equals we are not always “equal”; inasmuch as we are human, we are all in need of help. Today I, tomorrow you. But this need of help does not mean that one is helpless, the other powerful. Helplessness is a transitory condition; the ability to stand and walk on one’s own feet is the permanent and common one (p. 44)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"Yet, love of the helpless one, love of the poor and the stranger, are the beginning of brotherly love. To love one’s flesh and blood is no achievement. The animal loves its young and cares for them. The helpless one loves his master, since his life depends on him; the child loves his parents, since he needs them. Only in the love of those who do not serve a purpose, love begins to unfold (p. 45)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"The affirmation of "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"one’s own life, happiness, growth, freedom is rooted in one’s capacity to love"},{"insert":", i.e., in care, respect, responsibility, and knowledge (pp. 55-56)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"The "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"selfish"},{"insert":" person is interested only in himself, wants everything for himself, feels no pleasure in giving, but only in taking. The world outside is looked at only from the standpoint of what he can get out of it; he lacks interest in the needs of others and respect for their dignity and integrity (p. 56)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nThe realm of love, reasoning, and justice exists as a reality only because, and in so much as, man has been able to develop these powers in himself throughout the process of his evolution. In this view there is no meaning to life, except the meaning man himself gives to it; man is utterly alone except insomuch as he helps another (p. 67)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nQuotes for this blog are taken from Fromm, E. (1956; 2006). "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Art of Loving"},{"insert":". (NY: HarperPerennial Modern Classics).\n"}]}

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