Critical Thinking in Every Domain of Knowledge and Belief

This is why it is very difficult to go into an open-minded discussion with some individuals, because many people have emotional attachments underlying their beliefs, and this causes them to be intellectually dishonest in the discussion. Unlike us, they do not want to know the truth, but they just want to prove their point, as it soothes their underlying emotional needs that they are attempting to meet by converting, dehumanizing, and/or undermining our thinking.

Additionally, they are utilizing what is known as “emotionally motivated reasoning”, which is reasoning:

“When people form and cling to false beliefs despite overwhelming evidence, the phenomenon is labeled “motivated reasoning”. In other words, “rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.” This is “a form of implicit emotion regulation in which the brain converges on judgments that minimize negative and maximize positive affect states associated with threat to or attainment of motives.”” ~Wikipedia

When someone presents you with a belief — “I believe this is true,” or an argument to persuade you to accept a viewpoint or a premise or a belief — when somebody presents you with such a case, how do you know whether to accept it or not? What standards do you use to assess your thinking and the thinking of others?

Now I’ve tried that many many times with students, and sometimes with faculty. I’ve found that very few people can answer that question in an intelligible fashion. Most students will say, I don’t know what you’re talking about. What do you mean standards of assessment in thinking? I’ve never ever had anyone respond — whether student or faculty — with an answer like this: “I use the standards of clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic and fairness. I seek to be clearer. I seek to be accurate. I seek to be precise. I seek to stay focused on the issue. I assess my thinking for relevance. I try to deepen my thinking and notice when I’m being superficial. I try to broaden my thinking to make my thinking more comprehensive. I try to notice when other people’s thinking is narrow and superficial rather than deep and broad. I check my thinking for how logical it is. Does it really make sense or am I contradicting myself/? Am I following through the implications of my thought in a consistent logical fashion? Am I focusing on the significant questions putting the insignificant questions, the peripheral questions, in the background? And, am I able to assess other people’s thinking fair-mindedly even though they disagree with me ? Can I be fair to them?”

I used to have students in some of the courses I taught write dialogues in which they would take a belief that they felt committed to and then discuss that belief in a dialogue with a hypothetical person who took the opposite view. And I noticed — and of course I tried to help my students notice — how systematically they undermined the opposition to make the person who disagreed with them look bad. Something like this: “Okay, you want me to summarize that stupid position. So, I shall do so.”

~Richard Paul

Read the entire article here:  Critical Thinking in Every Domain of Knowledge and Belief

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