Blog Post: Critical Societies Entail at Least Six Hallmarks

Linda Elder
Jun 03, 2021 • 1y ago
Critical Societies Entail at Least Six Hallmarks

{"ops":[{"insert":"It is fairly easy, if we look around us, to see many irrational ways of thinking and living in everyday life. What is more difficult is to envision rational, elevated, lucid ways of living - as we lack examples in mainstream media, videography and literature.\n \nIn my book, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Liberating the Mind"},{"insert":", I detail six hallmarks of a critical society. Critical societies will develop only to the extent that these dimensions are present. Each overlaps with, and illuminates, all the others. As you read through this list, ask yourself: To what degree do I, or do the groups to which I belong, embody these principles? To what degree do our schools, colleges, universities, businesses, government agencies, police forces, military and intelligence organizations, or indeed larger societies embrace and advance these principles?\n \n1.    Critical thinking is highly valued when people in the culture:\n \n•      see critical thinking as essential to living reasonably, rationally, and fruitfully.\n•      come to understand, from an early age, that, generally speaking, the development of their thinking takes precedence over their development in every other skill area, because the quality of every part of their life, and their ability to live peacefully with other people, depends on the quality of their thinking.\n•      continue to develop the skills, abilities, and traits of the disciplined mind throughout life.\n•      understand that the development of critical thinking occurs in stages and in accordance with one’s level of commitment and willingness to practice.\n•      are committed to becoming increasingly more skilled at fairminded critical thinking over time.\n•      recognize the importance of all people in societies learning to think critically, and work together to help one another develop intellectually.\n \n2.    The problematics in thinking are an abiding concern when people in the culture:\n \n•      recognize that everyone falls prey to mistakes in thinking, and therefore are constantly on the lookout for problems in their own thinking and in the thinking of others.\n•      systemically discourage closedmindedness and systematically encourage openmindedness.\n•      recognize egocentric and sociocentric thinking as significant barriers to critical thought.\n•      routinely study and diminish irrational thought.\n•      avoid manipulating, controlling, or using others to serve their selfish interests; avoid being manipulated, controlled, or used by others.\n•      recognize and guard against the natural tendencies of the human mind toward self-deception, rationalization, hypocrisy, conformism, intellectual arrogance, and other related pathologies.\n \n3.    Intellectual virtues are consistently fostered when people in the culture:\n \n•      think for themselves and avoid uncritically accepting the thinking or behavior of others.\n•      regularly and routinely enter the viewpoints of those with whom they disagree, in order to understand those viewpoints and to acknowledge any merit that might be found in them.\n•      encourage and foster multicultural worldviews; consider themselves citizens of the world, just as concerned with the well-being of all people on the planet as they are with the well-being of their own families, neighbors, societies, and countries.\n•      routinely and willingly engage in open, free discussion when reasoning through issues and problems.\n•      do not fear new ideas and ways of looking at things. Rather, they regularly think within ideas that may at first seem “strange” or “dangerous” in order to understand them.\n•      are not trapped in ideological systems.\n•      systematically apply the same standards to themselves as they do to others, expecting as much (or more) from themselves as they do of others.\n•      regularly seek and willingly admit to problems in their reasoning.\n•      regularly distinguish between what they know and don’t know.\n•      believe deeply in the idea that their interests, and those of society, are best served by giving the freest play to reason.\n•      regularly examine their beliefs and are willing to publicly disagree with others on issues they have deeply thought through.\n•      persevere through the difficulties in issues and problems, using their best reasoning abilities; do not give up when faced with complexities in thought.\n•      communicate and relate with others through civility and mutual respect.\n \n4.    Ethical reasoning is systematically fostered when people in the culture:\n \n•      treat the rights and needs of others as equal to their own.\n•      do not use other people to serve their selfish interests.\n•      are routinely encouraged and expected to question the rules, mores, requirements, and taboos of the culture.\n•      are taught the important distinctions between ethics, social rules, laws, and religious belief systems.\n•      do not confuse theological beliefs and social rules with ethics.\n•      do not see their groups as superior to other groups in terms of fundamental human rights.\n•      do not perceive the rights of humans as superior to the rights of other sentient creatures.\n•      use intellectual skills and abilities for the betterment of people and sentient creatures across the world, not to serve power and vested interests.\n•      recognize the intimate connections between how we live today, the health of the planet, and the well-being of future generations.\n \n5.    The analysis and assessment of reasoning are routinely used as primary tools for determining what to believe when people in the culture:\n \n•      recognize the predominant role of reasoning in human thought—the fact that the main activity of the human mind is reasoning.\n•      recognize that all reasoning contains eight elements: it targets purposes, formulates questions, pursues information, makes inferences, begins with assumptions, is shaped by concepts, is guided by a point of view, and leads to implications.\n•      are skilled at analyzing thinking; routinely analyze their own and others’ thinking in order to assess its quality.\n•      continually improve their ability to take thinking apart in order to better understand it and find potential flaws in it.\n•      routinely assess reasoning using universal intellectual standards such as clarity, accuracy, relevance, breadth, depth, logic, precision, and fairness.\n•      are keenly aware of the relationship between uses of language and the mind’s conceptualizations, and routinely study connections between the two.\n•      do not use language to manipulate other people; do not allow other people to manipulate them through their use of language.\n•      recognize the important role of questions in living a rational life; recognize that thinking is driven by questions, that significant questions lead to significant understandings, and that superficial questions lead to superficial understandings.\n•      recognize that their points of view, assumptions, and conceptualizations guide the ways in which they interpret information and influence the conclusions they come to.\n \n6.    Freedom of thought and action are protected when people in the culture:\n \n•      work together to protect the maximum freedoms for all people.\n•      work together to minimize the number of laws in the society.\n•      do not allow irrational power—through systems of justice, the police, or government—to undermine human freedoms.\n \nIt should be apparent that the characteristics laid down in the list above section are merely a beginning place. When deeply understood, they serve as organizers for a much broader and more detailed conceptualization, yet to be developed, of a critical society. These understandings provide the scaffolding. Perhaps as significantly, they illuminate the distance between current thinking (and practices) and those that would exist in critical societies.\n \n----\nThis blog is adapted from pages taken from: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Liberating the Mind"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).\n"}]}

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