Blog Post: Nelson Mandela: Exemplar of Critical Thinking

Linda Elder
Nov 10, 2021 • 20d ago
Nelson Mandela: Exemplar of Critical Thinking

{"ops":[{"insert":"In a previous blog I mentioned that people frequently ask me for examples of critical thinkers in history. Of course, again, no one is "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"always"},{"insert":" a critical thinker, as this would mean she or he is a perfect thinker. Everyone falls prey to their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies, as well as to simple, but sometimes deadly, mistakes in thinking. Yet we can identify some important thinkers in history who exemplify critical thinking in significant ways. And we can learn from these high-level thinkers. One such person was Nelson Mandela, who stood apart as a reasoner from many others in the anti-apartheid movement of the 20"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century and who became South Africa’s first black president after being imprisoned for 27 years. To see many examples of Mandela’s critical thinking abilities and characteristics, I recommend his autobiography:  "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Long Walk to Freedom"},{"insert":" (which includes numerous examples of survival and prevailing over harsh conditions through mental strength).\n \nWhen facing the court, for instance, Mandela (1995) says:\n \nI would say that the whole life of any thinking African in this country drives him continuously to a conflict between his conscience on the one hand and the law on the other. This is not a conflict peculiar to this country… The conflict arises for men of conscience, for men who think and feel deeply in every country… The law as it is applied, the law as it has been developed over a long period of history, and especially the law as it is written and designed by the Nationalist government is a law which, in our views, is immoral, unjust, and intolerable. Our consciences dictate that we must protest against it, that we must oppose it and that we must attempt to alter it… I was made, by the law, a criminal, not because of what I had done, but because of what I stood for, because of what I thought, because of my conscience (pp. 330-331)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"It has not been easy for me during the past period to separate myself from my wife and children, to say goodbye to the good old days when, at the end of a strenuous day at an office I could look forward to joining my family at the dinner table, instead to take up the life of a man hunted continuously by the police, living separated from those who are closest to me, in my own country, facing continually the hazards of detection and of arrest… But there comes a time, as it came in my life, when a man is denied the right to live a normal life, when he can only live the life of an outlaw because the government has so decreed to use the law to impose a state of outlawry upon…(pp. 330-331)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"I do not believe, your worship, that this court, in inflicting penalties on me for the crimes for which I am convicted should be moved by the belief that penalties will deter men from the course that they believe is right. History shows that penalties do not deter men when their conscience is aroused… I have done my duty to my people and to South Africa. I have no doubt that posterity will pronounce that was innocent and that the criminals that should have been brought before this court are the members of the government (p 332)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nHistory did prove Mandela right, but the suffering caused in the meantime was enormous, as is always the case with oppressive, self-serving governments. Still, we can and should learn from the thinking of those willing to put their lives on the line to help realize our inalienable rights. I look forward to your comments on this autobiography – look especially for examples of failures in critical thinking and for examples of fairminded critical thinking. And ask this: How can I think and live better having read this book?\n\n---\nReferences for this blog were taken from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela"},{"insert":", 1995 (NY: Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Co).\n"}]}


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Posted by: Gordon Peterson

{"ops":[{"insert":"I just read your blog re Nelson Mandela and find it interesting that his chief antagonist, F.W.de Klerk died today. \n"}]}