Track 1: THINK GLOBALLY – what is happening in the world today? How did we get here? Understanding our own attitudes, the system, and what we can do about it
Dates: Sept, Oct, Nov
World view, culture, history, and communication/critical thinking
Presented by Denis Korn – About Denis Korn
This presentation will set the tone for this series – focusing on self-reflection and critically thinking about how each person’s world view shapes their interpretation of current events. The small group discussions through out this series will return to this topic of world view and critical thinking.
Although these articles have a preparedness planning emphasis, the following posts on this blog will be relevant to the course:
The following articles are for your reflection and are taken from my Critical Thinking course at Sierra College. They will be referenced during my presentation:
BARRIERS TO CRITICAL THINKING
Your responsibility as a critical thinker is to be aware of the barriers, acknowledge the challenges they present, and overcome them to the best of your ability.
“If critical thinking is so important, why is it that uncritical thinking is so common? Why is it that so many people – including many highly educated and intelligent people – find critical thinking so difficult?” And I might add – impossible!
Discovering the answers to these questions is crucial to the understanding of what is required to be a true critical thinker, and the reasons you will encounter from those who resist embodying critical thinking skills are often quite complex, and can be both subtle and blatant. The following list of barriers to critical thinking will help guide you to recognizing the challenges that await you and was compiled from Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction, our text Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking, and personal observation.
- egocentrism (self-centered thinking)
- sociocentrism or ethnocentrism (group/society/cultural-centered thinking)
- an over-reliance on feelings
- the erroneous belief of personal infallible intuition
- unconscious reaction
- reacting in self defense – fear of personal attack – believing one’s ideas and beliefs are an extension of one’s self and must be defended at all costs
- fear of change or an unwillingness to change
- a pathological inability to evaluate, recognize, or accept an idea or point of view that differs from one’s own
- a less than honorable agenda
- lack of relevant background information or ignorance
- inappropriate bias
- unwarranted assumptions
- overpowering or addictive emotions
- fear of being wrong or face-saving
- selective perception and selective memory
- peer pressure
- conformism (mindless conformity)
- indoctrination initiated by uncritical thinkers with malicious and selfish intent
- provincialism (restricted and unsophisticated thinking)
- narrow-mindedness or close-mindedness
- lack of discernment
- distrust in reason
- relativism (relativistic thinking)
- absolutism (there are no exceptions)
- scapegoating (blaming others)
- wishful thinking
- short-term thinking
- political correctness
- being influenced by drugs
- excessive anger, hate, or bitterness
- disturbing one’s comfort
- lack of personal honesty
- poor reading and comprehension skills
- poor or dysfunctional communication skills
- excessive addiction
- a mental disorder
- cognitive dissonance (psychological conflict resulting from incompatible beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously)
- lack of humility
In general – the older one becomes the more well-established and rooted these barriers are in the thought process, and the harder it is to overcome them – they become part of you like a scar. It is suggested to triumph over them as soon as possible.
Questions for reflection:
¨ What is the purpose and value in gaining critical thinking skills? ¨ Is it really necessary?
¨ What are the rewards? ¨ What are the challenges?
¨ Am I willing to do what it takes? ¨ How important is it for me? ¨ Can I do it?
¨ Do I realize that demonstrating, sharing, and embodying wisdom and discernment requires exemplifying critical thinking skills and overcoming its barriers? ¨ Are all these barriers overwhelming?
¨ Do I realize this is a life long process? ¨ What is the difference between intelligence and wisdom?
¨ What are the steps required for developing critical thinking skills?
¨ How do I communicate with others who are not critical thinkers and have embodied these barriers to such an extent that they are unwilling to neither engage in a meaningful dialogue nor acknowledge any responsibility in the communication breakdown? ¨ Or do I bother at all?
¨ How am I to react or respond when I experience a lack of critical thinking in the media, among friends and family, at the work place, and in my academic courses and studies?
While many think developing critical thinking skills are for the beginning philosophy student, they are in fact vital for everyone. Recognizing and overcoming the barriers to critical thinking listed above is essential in creating and maintaining genuine, honest, and nurturing relationships – developing leadership skills for both family and vocational choices – fulfilling the goals and missions of businesses and organizations – and discovering and achieving purpose and fulfillment in all aspects of one’s life. Many of the barriers to critical thinking are barriers to joyfulness, selflessness, and contentment.
Do not be discouraged by the enormity of the task of reflecting upon, acknowledging, and overcoming these barriers. Have confidence that you will recognize the hold these barriers have on your thought process, and I encourage you to be committed to achieving the obtainable rewards awaiting you when you have accomplished the goal of prevailing over these barriers one by one.
A common denominator of these barriers is that the individual has no control over their effects. They are held captive by defective responses and impressions. One “reacts” to a situation, idea, or challenge, whereas the critical thinker “chooses” the process of thoughtful evaluation – embracing – and embodiment. The critical thinker has the freedom to rightly assess circumstances and concepts, and the result is to arrive at an appropriate and insightful conclusion and reasonable outcome.
In the pursuit of the embodiment of critical thinking skills always be mindful of the value and necessity of honesty, wisdom, discernment, and the need to distinguish the truth from the lie. We live in an unprecedented time of media, institutional, educational, and political self-interest that will not hesitate to use any means possible to achieve its objectives including deceptive indoctrination techniques, propaganda, deceitfulness, fallacious argument, and fraud.
Life is like riding a bicycle.
To keep your balance you must keep moving.
Albert Einstein, in a letter to his son Eduard, February 5, 1930
The Problem of Egocentric Thinking
Egocentric thinking results from the unfortunate fact that humans do not naturally consider the rights and needs of others. We do not naturally appreciate the point of view nor the limitations in our own point of view. We become explicitly aware or our egocentric thinking only if trained to do so. We do not naturally recognize our egocentric assumptions, the egocentric way we use information, the egocentric way we interpret data, the source of our egocentric concepts and ideas, the implications of our egocentric thought. We do not naturally recognize our self-serving perspective.
As humans we live with the unrealistic but confident sense that we have fundamentally figured out the way things actually are, and that we have done this objectively. We naturally believe in our intuitive perceptions – however inaccurate. Instead of using intellectual standards in thinking, we often use self-centered psychological standards to determine what to believe and what to reject. Here are the most commonly used psychological standards in human thinking.
“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT.” Innate egocentrism: I assume that what I believe is true even though I have never questioned the basis for many of my beliefs.
“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE WE BELIEVE IT.” Innate sociocentrism: I assume that the dominant beliefs of the groups to which I belong are true even though I have never questioned the basis for those beliefs.
“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I WANT TO BELIEVE IT.” Innate wish fulfillment: I belief in whatever puts me (or the groups to which I belong) in a positive light. I believe what “feels good,” what does not require me to change my thinking in any significant way, what does not require me to admit I have been wrong.
“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED IT.” Innate self-validation: I have a strong desire to maintain beliefs I have long held, even though I have not seriously considered the extent to which those beliefs are justified by the evidence.
“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE IT IS IN MY SELFISH INTEREST TO BELIEVE IT.” Innate selfishness: I believe whatever justifies my getting more power, money, or personal advantage even though those beliefs are not grounded in sound reasoning or evidence.
 Gregory Bassham, Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction, 3rd ed., (New York, McGraw-Hill, 2008), p. 11
 Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder
CRITICAL THINKING IS NOT CONDUCTED IN A VACUUM
- Critical thinking skills are developed and refined by: habits, discernment, learning tools, knowledge, practice, principles, motivation, and an effective educational process.
- The foundation for thinking is based upon: personal core beliefs, perceptions, presuppositions, and one’s worldview.
- Critical thinking takes place in a philosophical, societal, and cultural context and is basically oriented from two standpoints:
· Practical and pragmatic – essential for daily life situations centered around personal and socio – political – religious circumstances.
· Theoretical and academic – consisting of inquiry into the theological (the study of religious faith and God’s relation to the world), metaphysical (of or relating to the transcendent or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses), cosmological (the nature of the universe), ontological (the nature and relations of being), and epistemological (the nature and grounds of knowledge).
The entire study of and search for truth relies on one’s personal worldview – it is not an exact science, it is not something you can expect to pick up after a few class assignments, memorize, and reiterate on a multiple choice exam – it is a process, an attitude, a relationship, an adventure, and a journey of discovery – it is filled with twists and turns, exaltation and distress – the rewards regardless of the obstacles, uncertainty, and confusion are as Socrates would say “the way we ought to live.” It is an innate human need for many of us. It will validate and strengthen worldviews that are proper and change worldviews that are flawed. It is also an essential component of the development of critical thinking skills. Each one of us is responsible for discerning the differences and nuances required in identifying and responding to the various applications and consequences inherent in the pursuit of truth – both small and capital “T.”
SELECTED DEFINITIONS OF CRITICAL THINKING
- Exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation.
- Critical thinking: 1) Disciplined, self-directed thinking that exemplifies the perfections of thinking appropriate to a particular mode or domain of thinking. 2) Thinking that displays mastery of intellectual skills and abilities. 3) The art of thinking about your thinking while you are thinking in order to make your thinking better, more clear, more accurate, or more defensible. 4) Thinking that is fully aware of and continually guards against the natural human tendency to self-deceive and rationalize in order to selfishly get what is wants. Critical thinking can be distinguished into two forms: “selfish” or “sophistic,” on the one hand, and “fair-minded,” on the other. In thinking critically, we use our command of the elements of thinking and the universal intellectual standards to adjust our thinking successfully to the logical demands of a type or mode of thinking. 
- Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.
- Critical thinking is the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is used to describe thinking that is purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed – the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions, when the thinker is using skills that are thoughtful and effective for the particular context and type of thinking task.
- Critical thinking may be defined as the process by which we test claims and arguments and determine which have merit and which do not. In other words, critical thinking is a search for answers, a quest…. The point of critical thinking is to separate truth from falsity, the reasonable from the unreasonable; if nothing is false or unreasonable, critical thinking is pointless.
- Critical thinking is the careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim – and of the degree of confidence with which we accept or reject it. The ability to think critically is vitally important; in fact, our lives depend on it. The way we conduct our lives depends on what we believe to be true – on what claims we accept. The more carefully we evaluate a claim and the more fully we separate issues that are relevant to it from those that are not, the more critical is our thinking.
- Critical Thinking is the skillful application of a repertoire of validated general techniques for deciding the level of confidence you should have in a proposition in the light of the available evidence.
- Critical thinking is an investigation whose purpose is to explore a situation, phenomenon, question, or problem to arrive at a hypothesis or conclusion about it that integrates all available information and that can therefore be convincingly justified.
- Attitude + Knowledge of Facts + Thinking Skills = Critical Thinking
 Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition
 Richard W. Paul, Linda Elder, Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life
 A statement by Michael Scriven and Richard Paul for the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking Instruction
 Diane F. Halpern, Thought & Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking
 Vincent Ryan Ruggiero, Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking 8th Edition
 Brooke Noel Moore, Richard Parker, Critical Thinking 6th Edition
 J. G. Kurfiss, Critical Thinking: Theory, Research, Practice, and Possibilities
9 Russel, cited in d’Angelo, 1971, p. 6
Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.
The clouds of my grief dissolved and I drank in the light. With my thoughts recollected I turned to examine the face of my physician. I turned my eyes and fixed my gaze upon her, and I saw that it was my nurse in whose house I had been cared for since my youth—Philosophy.
- The quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure (not clearly seen or easily distinguished)
- Skill in discerning: showing insight and understanding
- An act of discerning: showing insight and understanding
Synonyms: These synonyms mean the power to see what is not evident to the average mind.
Discernment stresses accuracy (as in reading character or motives or appreciating art) (the discernment to know true friends).
Discrimination stresses the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent (the discrimination that develops through listening to a lot of great music).
Perception implies quick and often sympathetic discernment (as of shades of feeling) (a novelist of keen perception into human motives).
Penetration implies a searching mind that goes beyond what is obvious or superficial (lacks the penetration to see the scorn beneath their friendly smiles).
Insight suggests depth of discernment coupled with understanding sympathy (a documentary providing insight into the plight of the homeless).
Acumen implies characteristic penetration combined with keen practical judgment (a director of reliable box-office acumen).
All the above from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: Eleventh Edition
WISDOM – KNOWLEDGE
- Ability to discern inner qualities and relationships – insight
- Good sense – judgment
- Marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment
- The fact or condition of being aware of something
- The range of one’s information or understanding
- The circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning – cognition
- The body of truth, information, and principles acquired by mankind
The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.
To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.
It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.
Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.
The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.
The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.
Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Six essential qualities that are the key to success: Sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, charity.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.
It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply!
Whosoever wishes to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details.
Knowledge is not intelligence.
In searching for the truth be ready for the unexpected.
Change alone is unchanging.
The same road goes both up and down.
The beginning of a circle is also its end.
Not I, but the world says it: all is one.
And yet everything comes in season.
A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.
Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.
The dumbest people I know are those who know it all.
Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
The preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of the rich men in the country.
Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.
Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
Great are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.
The first step towards knowledge is to know that we are ignorant.
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge — myth is more potent than history — dreams are more powerful than facts — hope always triumphs over experience — laughter is the cure for grief — love is stronger than death.
Knowledge is of two kinds: we know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.
The great end of life is not knowledge but action.
Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever or whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing.
These days people seek knowledge, not wisdom. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future.
Go to your bosom: Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know.
We know what we are, but know not what we may be.