Blog Post: [Part 2] Critical Thinking, Human Development, and Rational Productivity

Richard Paul Archives
Feb 13, 2024 • 68d ago
[Part 2] Critical Thinking, Human Development, and Rational Productivity

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"[Missed Part 1? "},{"attributes":{"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"Read It Here"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"]"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"What is the Nature of Irrational Human Learning?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nAll learning has social and psychological as well as epistemological roots. Whatever we learn, we learn in some social setting and in the light of the inborn constitution of the human mind. There is a natural reciprocity between the nature of the human mind as we know it and society as we know it. The human mind – and we must understand it as it is, not as we may judge it ought to be – has a profound and natural tendency toward ethnocentrism. Both egocentrism and ethnocentrism are powerful impediments to rational learning and rational production. An irrational society tends to spawn irrational learning and inevitably generates irrational productivity. Both socially and individually, irrationality is the normal state of affairs in human life. It represents our primary nature, the side of us that needs no cultivation, that emerges willy-nilly in our earliest behaviors.\n \nNo one needs to teach young children to focus on their own interests and desires (to the relative exclusion of the rights, interests, and desires of others), to experience their desires as self-evidently “justified”, and to structure experience with their own egos at the center. They do this quite naturally and spontaneously. They and we are spontaneously motivated to learn what gets us what we want. They and we are instinctively motivated to believe whatever justifies our getting what we want. It is not "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"natural"},{"insert":" for us to step outside our egocentric point of view. It is not natural for us to take into account the interests, needs, or points of view of others. We do so only insofar as we are compelled as we experience the force and power of others who require us to respond to their interests and desires and to take into account their point of view. We do so, then, often grudgingly and with limited understanding. We acquire and extinguish beliefs, knowledge, habits, and behaviors insofar as they seem to us to further our, typically unexamined, desires. We begin with visceral learning that is functional in the most immediate and spontaneous way. We learn without knowing we are learning, without making any conscious choice about the conditions of our learning, without recognizing the pitfalls of our learning, without recognizing its selective, its epistemologically naïve, its narrow foundations. And, as long as what we learn “works”, as long as we can get by with it, we tend not to discover the longer range value of self-critique.\n \nSocialization, which comes close on the heels of egocentric experience, builds upon, rather than significantly modifies, egocentrism. Our egocentrism is partially transformed into ethnocentrism. We spontaneously and subconsciously internalize the world view that is dominant in our society. And just as we don’t as individuals recognize the egocentrism of our personal point of view, we don’t as members of social groups recognize the ethnocentrism of our collective world view. We take that world view to be as objective, as completely a mirror-image of the world, as we take our personal point of view to be. Indeed, it is a rare individual who can tell where the one ends and the other begins.\n \nThe capacity to think critically – to penetrate our egocentrism and ethnocentrism, to give credence to points of view other than our own, to recognize ourselves as "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"having "},{"insert":"a point of view (rather than simply grasping the nature of the world directly and objectively), to seek evidence for our beliefs, to monitor and assess the component elements in our reasoning – is not spontaneous as is our primary egocentrism, but must be laboriously cultivated through education. When we develop abilities to think critically we develop our capacity to function as free agents. As they develop, we come to analyze, assess, and take command of our learning and so of the actions that issue from that learning, including our own productions and productivity. As rational agents, we bring a new dimension to learning and production. We open the way for our own rational production and the collective development of a rational society. We can understand this better by considering the nature of human productivity.\n"}]}

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