Blog Post: Humans Are Not Typically Self-Reflective or Self-Insightful - This Includes Police Officers and Politicians

Linda Elder
Jun 04, 2020 • 35d ago
Humans Are Not Typically Self-Reflective or Self-Insightful - This Includes Police Officers and Politicians

{"ops":[{"insert":"To develop as a thinker and reach your potential requires a special way of interacting with your mind, of engaging in self-reflection. It requires learning how to think about our thinking with skill and discipline. Unfortunately disciplined self-reflection is not natural to humans. Rather than intrinsically self-reflecting, the mind intrinsically self-deceives. Rather than automatically developing rational skills across the workings of one’s mind, humans are sometimes reasonable while at other times unreasonable. We do not naturally see through the mistakes and self-deceptive mechanisms that cause our inconsistencies and contradictions.  We come to the world focused on how the world can serve us individually and are wired to serve the groups we belong to – we are both selfish and groupish by nature, and we are capable of critical thinking by nature. But this we must work toward through consistent self-reflection using fairminded critical thinking.\n\nIt is self-reflective and self-insightful police officers who behave according to principles of ethical critical thinking. Unfortunately, police forces have not typically embraced fairminded critical thinking as a common goal, nor have they offered the level of professional development in critical thinking that would be required to transform the way the police think about their work. Until they do, we will continue to see the tragedies we are seeing today, with police acting unjustly and egregiously (even killing vulnerable people) using their power. Similarly, because politicians typically do not embrace fairminded critical thinking, they fail to pass laws which would protect people against police brutality. When the police and politicians alike learn to identify and change their faulty assumptions, when they learn to analyze their often narrow viewpoints and the frequently distorted ideas that drive the way they behave, when they learn to look at all the relevant evidence in an impartial and fair way, then we will be on the road to \"freedom and justice for all.\" But this will take a concerted effort and a commitment to cultivating fairminded critical societies, a reality that seems too far out of reach given current trends and a failure to take thinking seriously throughout all parts of life. Peaceful protesting can help, but we need something more systemic to change human societies for the long run, and that something is consistent, disciplined reasoning at high levels of quality while considered the rights and needs of others equal to one's own needs and rights.\n\nWhy is it such a challenge for humans to become self-reflective? A baby can observe objects, can want those objects, can touch them, taste them. But she isn’t capable of thinking about whether she "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"should"},{"insert":" touch them, whether they might harm her if she touches them, whether she "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"should"},{"insert":" eat them, whether she will get sick if she does. Similarly, she can’t understand the concept of sharing. In her mind, if she wants something she should have it. In other words, she can neither "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"reflect"},{"insert":" upon her ideas nor develop conscious insight into the way she behaves as she does. Her thoughts are primitive and self-centered. \n\nJust as we don’t expect babies to reflect upon their behavior, neither do we expect other animals to do so. A dog, for example, will let his owner know when he needs to go out. But he can’t "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"think about"},{"insert":" whether he is interrupting his owner at an inopportune moment. Chasing after a ball, the dog might run heedlessly in front of a car. A dog will eat the last of the dog food with no qualms, though another dog in the house might go hungry. Driven by instincts he has no way of understanding, he might kill an intruding cat. Whatever skills of self-awareness a dog develops are minimal. \n\nAs we age we do develop some rudimentary skills of self-awareness. We become increasingly aware of the physical world and its natural consequences. We learn, for example, that if we touch a hot stove it hurts. We learn that if we step on a bumble bee we get stung. We learn that if we stay up too late, we are sleepy the next day. \n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"You Are Influenced by Social ideologies"},{"insert":"\nWe also make some rudimentary discoveries about the social world. In some cultures, we learn not to burp at the table. We learn to wear certain types of clothing to fit into certain social groups. We learn that if we disobey social rules we get into trouble. Consequently, we learn to behave in ways considered acceptable in order to pursue our desires within the parameters of social conventions. Indeed, the culture within which you are raised largely determines what you thinks of as correct and proper behavior. In other words, if you were born into a different culture, you would "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"think"},{"insert":" differently about what is right and wrong. You would think in accordance with the social conventions of "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"that culture"},{"insert":". For example, you would realize that:\n\nIf you were a Mormon woman, holding classic/traditional Mormon views, you would probably believe it perfectly fine to marry a man with several other wives."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were homosexual in Europe in the 18"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" or 19"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" centuries, and discovered to be so, you would be imprisoned and considered a pervert."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were among the ruling fundamentalist men in Afghanistan you would probably believe that woman should not be allowed out of their houses without a male family member accompanying her."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a native American living in the 17"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century, you would probably believe that land and water are to be held in common and that no one had the right to deny people access to these necessities. Holding these views, you would be a communist."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a young woman living in 19"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century England you would probably think it improper for women to wear trousers."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a typical plantation owner in the Southern United States during the Civil War, you may well be outraged at the fact that the northern states were trying to take away my right to have slaves."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a slave in 19"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century America, working for a cruel plantation owner, you would probably be outraged at the fact that you were held in bondage, treated with contempt and malice."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a Japanese woman around the turn of the 20"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century, you would most likely not consider public nudity indecent. Around 1850, you would feel comfortable bathing in mixed company."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you lived in 14"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" or 15"},{"attributes":{"script":"super"},"insert":"th"},{"insert":" century Europe you would probably sleep nude. If you were a European girl living between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, you might be expected to serve knights in their baths."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a child living in Rome you would wear the phallus as a necklace charm."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a Korean male around the late 1800’s, you might well kill your daughter or wife if a strange man touched her hands (even if by accident)."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"If you were a Polynesian, Malays or South American Indian in the early 1900’s, rather than kissing you would rub noses, bite or smell your intimate partner."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"In short, you think as you have been conditioned to think, unless and only to the degree that you have actively examined, assessed, intervened in and improved your thinking. Few people learn to think beyond their cultural conditioning to any significant degree, if at all. Each of us is born in a family within a social group influenced by cultural ideologies that form the backdrop for our development. Had you been born in some other place in time you would hold different beliefs. You would think other things disgusting. You would think other things wrong.\n\nConsider some of the social conventions and taboos of American society. Here are some beliefs indoctrinated into American children, beliefs generally uncritically accepted:\n\nThat children shouldn’t see nudity of any kind on TV, but for them to view violence on TV is fine."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That children should salute the flag in schools and say the pledge of allegiance (even though that typically don’t understand what they’re saluting, and even though there are conceptual and practical problems implicit in the Pledge of Allegiance)."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That certain drugs should be legal and other drugs illegal, and the authorities get to decide which to make legal and which to make illegal."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That people who overuse legal drugs deserve clinical treatment while those who use illegal drugs deserve prison (even when no one is harmed in the usage)."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That men should wear pants and not skirts or dresses."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That adults shouldn’t skip down the sidewalk, but children can."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That public nudity is indecent and should be criminally punished."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That sex between sixteen-year-old females and eighteen-year-old males is ethically wrong and should be criminally punished."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That smoking marijuana leads to crime and should therefore be criminally punished."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That men can appear in public without wearing a shirt but for women to do so is indecent and should be criminally punished."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That public bathing in mixed company is ethically wrong and should be criminally punished."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That sex between elderly men and young adult females is ethically wrong."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"That sex between elderly women and young adult men is ethically wrong."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nAll of us have uncritically accepted group beliefs such as these. All of us, for example, are prejudiced "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"against"},{"insert":" some people and prejudiced "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"for"},{"insert":" others. Not surprisingly, we tend to be prejudiced against people who differ from us and prejudiced for people who are like us. When we are young, we tend to see people in our age group as “cool,” and older people as “out of touch.” When we are older, we tend to think of our age group as wise and mature. Women often think of men as cold, calculating and therefore unfeeling. Men often think of women as emotional and irrational. Religious groups tend to see their beliefs as the truth, and differing religious belief systems as inherently wrong.  \n\nYour social conditioning, coupled with your inborn capacities, influence your ability to think logically, deeply and insightfully and to take command of the ideas guiding your life. The first step in developing your mind is to realize that you must routinely and systematically intervene in the natural flow of your thoughts, looking for prejudices, faulty assumptions, incorrect interpretations. You must be on the lookout for social conventions and taboos guiding your decisions, and, when identified, examine and assess the soundness of these and all ideologies.\n\nAs for human societies, they will eventually need to embrace these ideals if we are to do away with injustice, terror and all manner of negative forces in human life. They will need to do away with the short cut.\n\n\n"}]}

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{"ops":[{"insert":"Do you believe there exists “norms” that are universal to the survival of the human race or do you believe that social guidelines are relative?\n"}]}

Posted by: Joseph Halter

{"ops":[{"insert":"Interesting question and one that the \"community\" should have a dialogue about. \nI think we need to define norms and universal first for clarity. The word survival is a strong term in my view. Is it survival or something else? \nDo we have absolute norms or relative norms? \nI propose the Six Pillars of Character by Michael Josephson as a starting point for universal norms. "},{"attributes":{"link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"\n"}]}

Posted by: Joseph Halter

{"ops":[{"insert":"I really enjoy reading your Blogs. Thoughtful and great examples.\nHow can the Community for Critical Thinking be a supporter and problem solver for many professions including police officers and politicians. The materials and research are there. How can we market this great resource now to these two groups in particular?\n"}]}