Blog Post: [Part 6] Critical Thinking, Moral Integrity, and Citizenship: Teaching for the Intellectual Virtues

Richard Paul Archives
Jan 17, 2023 • 61d ago
[Part 6] Critical Thinking, Moral Integrity, and Citizenship: Teaching for the Intellectual Virtues

{"ops":[{"insert":"[Missed Part 5? "},{"attributes":{"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"Read it Here"},{"insert":"]\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Defense Mechanisms and the Intellectual Virtues"},{"insert":"\n \nA major obstacle to developing intellectual virtues is the presence in the human egocentric mind of what Freud has called “defense mechanisms”. Each represents a way to falsify, distort, misconceive, twist, or deny reality. Their presence represents, therefore, the relative weakness or absence of the intellectual virtues. Since they operate in everyone to some degree, no one embodies the intellectual virtues purely or perfectly. In other words, we each have a side of us unwilling to face unpleasant truth, willing to distort, falsify, twist, and misrepresent. We also know from a monumental mass of psychological research that this side can be "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"powerful"},{"insert":", can dominate our minds strikingly. We marvel at, and are often dumbfounded by, others whom we consider clear-cut instances of these modes of thinking. What is truly “marvelous”, it seems to me, is how little we take ourselves to be victims of these falsifying thoughts, and how little we try to break them down. The vicious circle seems to be this: because we, by and large, lack the intellectual virtues, we do not have insight into them, but because we lack insight into them, we do not see ourselves as lacking them. They weren’t explicitly taught to us, so we don’t have to explicitly teach them to our children.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"Insights, Analyzed Experiences, and Activated Ignorance"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nSchooling has generally ignored the need for insight or intellectual virtues. This deficiency is intimately connected with another one, the failure of the schools to show students they should not only test what they “learn” in school by their own experience, but also test what they experience by what they “learn” in school. This may seem a hopeless circle, but if we can see the distinction between a critically analyzed experience and an unanalyzed one, we can see the link between the former and "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"insight"},{"insert":", and the latter and "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"prejudice,"},{"insert":" and will be well on our way to seeing how to fill these needs.\n \nWe subject little of our experience to critical analysis. We seldom take our experiences apart to judge their epistemological worth. We rarely sort the “lived” integrated experience into its component parts, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"raw data"},{"insert":", "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"our interpretation"},{"insert":" of the data, or ask ourselves how the interests, goals, and desires we brought to those data shared and structured that interpretation. Similarly, we rarely seriously consider the possibility that our interpretation (and hence our experience) might be selective, biased, or misleading.\n \nThis is not to say that our unanalyzed experiences lack meaning or significance. Quite the contrary, in some sense we assess "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"all"},{"insert":" experience. Our egocentric side never ceases to catalogue experiences in accord with its common and idiosyncratic fears, desires, prejudices, stereotypes, caricatures, hopes, dreams, and assorted irrational drives. We shouldn’t assume "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"a priori"},{"insert":" that our rational side dominates the shaping of our experience. Our unanalyzed experiences are some combination of these dual contributors to thought, action, and being. Only through critical analysis can we hope to isolate the irrational dimensions of our experience. The ability to do so grows as we analyze more and more of our experience.\n \nOf course, more important than the sheer "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"number"},{"insert":" of analyzed experiences is their "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"quality"},{"insert":" and "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"significance"},{"insert":". This quality and significance depends on how much our analyses embody the intellectual virtues. At the same time, the degree of our virtue depends upon the number and quality of experiences we have successfully critically analyzed. What links the virtues, as perfections of the mind, and the experiences, as analyzed products of the mind, is "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"insight"},{"insert":". Every critically analyzed experience to some extent produces one or more intellectual virtues. To become more rational it is not enough to have experiences nor even for those experiences to have meanings. Many experiences are more or less charged with "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"irrational"},{"insert":" meanings. These important meanings produce stereotypes, prejudices, narrowmindedness, delusions, and illusions of various kinds.\n \nThe process of developing intellectual virtues or insights is part and parcel of our developing an interest in taking apart our experiences to separate their rational from their irrational dimensions. These meta-experiences become important benchmarks and guides for future thought. They make possible modes of thinking and maneuvers in thinking closed to the irrational mind.\n"}]}

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