Blog Post: [Part 6] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person

Richard Paul Archives
Jun 27, 2023 • 1y ago
[Part 6] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person

{"ops":[{"insert":"[Missed Part 5? "},{"attributes":{"bold":true,"color":"blue","link":""},"insert":"Read It Here"},{"insert":"]\n \n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"The Egocentrically Critical Person"},{"insert":"\n\nPiaget’s basic model for the egocentric mind, developed by studying the thinking of children, has significant application, with the appropriate translation, to much adult thinking and therefore significant application for the design of critical thinking instruction. Few adults have experience in reciprocal critical thought, that is, in reasoning within their antagonists’ point of view. Few have experience in making the structure of their own thought conscious. Few, as Socrates discovered, can explain intelligibly how they came to their beliefs, or provide rational justifications for them.\n\nThe egocentrism of most adult thought parallels the egocentrism of childish thought, as Piaget characterized it in "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Judgment and Reasoning in the Child:"},{"insert":"\n \nEgocentrism of thought necessarily entails a certain degree of unconsciousness with the egocentric thinker ‘in a perpetual state of belief’. (p. 137) "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"[The egocentric thinker:]"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"[is] confident in his own ideas,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"[is] naturally . . . (untroubled) about the reasons and motives which have guided his reasoning process,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"[seeks] to justify himself in the eyes of others . . . only under the pressure of argument and opposition . . ."},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"[is] incapable either by introspection or retrospection of capturing the successive steps . . . [his] mind has taken (pp. 137-138)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"[is] not conscious of the meaning assigned to the concepts and words used . . . (p. 149)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"suffers from illusions of perspective, (p. 165)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"ignorant of his own ego, takes his own point of view to be absolute, and fails to establish . . . that reciprocity which alone would ensure objectivity (p. 197)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"[is] intelligent without being particularly logical,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"[uses] thought . . . at the service of desire,"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Simply believes . . . without trying to find the truth, (p. 203)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Assimilates everything he hears to his own point of view. (p. 208)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"He does not try to prove whether such and such of his idea does or does not correspond to reality. When the questions is put to him, he evades it. It does not interest him, and it is even alien to his whole mental attitude. (p. 247)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1,"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nWe naturally tend to think egocentrically, especially in domains of significant personal or social interests. Egocentrism is, in some sense, as typical of adult as childish thought. It takes a special cultivated discipline to recognize and attempt to correct for it. This becomes apparent when one formulates basic safeguards against egocentric thought and attempts to cultivate an interest in students or people in general in using them. Consider, for example, the platitude “one cannot disagree with a position one does not understand,” that in other words “judgment presupposed understanding”. Cultivating it as a critical principle means taking steps to ensure one clearly understands what someone else is saying before one “disagrees”. In my experience most people, including some with a good deal of schooling, tend to uncritically assume understanding when they have done little or nothing to test it, and as a result, are much too quick to “disagree”. Most people are surprised if, after they disagree with something said, the speaker says, “What exactly did you take me to be saying that you are disagreeing with?” Often they will be puzzled and say, “Well, perhaps you should say it again,” or words to that effect.\n \nOr consider a more profound safeguard against egocentric thought, an attempt to prove the justification for one’s belief by sympathetically formulating the strongest arguments for rejecting that belief from opposing points of view. After confidently stating a belief few can summarize strong arguments and reasons that have persuaded intelligent, rational others to believe in opposing positions.\n \nEach of us, to the extent that we are egocentric, spontaneously think along lines that serve to justify our fears, desires, and vested interests. Few have developed a “Socratic” character. As a result, most everyday critical thought is egocentric. We unconsciously tend to think in the following ways: “Your thinking is well founded and insightful to the extent that it agrees with or supports my own. If it does not, then, as a matter of course, it is ‘wrong’ and I am obliged to criticize it.” Much adult “critical” thought is not fairminded but rather egocentrically motivated and structured, lacking fairmindedness at its very core. Is it not also fair to say that few adults had opportunities in school to grapple with their own tendencies to think irrationally?\n"}]}

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