The Devil’s Journal, Talking about Critical Thinking

Talking about Critical Thinking

Tuesday, March 22, 2022. 50 Minutes past 2:00

I should write a book, or many, based on my conversations with the world. I don’t remember a time when I shone away from discussing anything. Especially about those issues I find essential to social well-being. And this conversation, which started with the seemingly popular idea of a flat earth and concluded with talking about critical thinking, is no exception. 

Friends talking about critical thinking
Conversations about the world

Yes, I personally know people who believe the earth isn’t a sphere but a flat disc flying upwards through space. Some of my more reasonable associations think that acquaintances with weird folks result from my willingness to talk to anyone. I agree. Only a few things will prevent me from accepting a chance for conversation with a human. And hygiene is high on that list, followed closely by a lack of intellectual honesty.

But the people with whom I shared this comical discussion about the earth’s shape are clean and seem to understand the need to prevent bacterial infections by showering regularly. Intellectual honesty and humility, however, are not their strengths. 

It all goes to show, of course, that thinking and belief are compartmentalised. Thinking isn’t a monolith. It is a skill set that, like any other, requires nurturing and training to be viable. 

And it’s thinking I want to write about today. I want to write about thinking because my interlocutors in this conversation about the planet’s shape continually suggested that I needed to think more critically about the world. 

They repeatedly accused me of accepting things blindly. And at some of the most confusing times, of believing everything others tell me. And, in their arrogant misrepresentation of my character, they continued to describe themselves as critical thinkers. 

Critical thinking

woman in white long sleeve holding wooden paint brush

My contention to their indulgence in conspiracy theories and unfounded claims about reality went as follows, and it’s a paraphrase of something I wrote a while ago. 

Doubting absolutely everything you hear or read isn’t thinking critically; it’s cynicism, it’s as wrong as accepting everything you hear and read. Critical thinking is a complex process that (itself) requires a meta-cognitive commitment to thinking and all the mechanisms involved in forming ideas; it’s thinking about thinking.

By definition, critical thinking must be unbiased and free from specific agendas, and it must overcome egocentric and sociocentric expectations. It needs to rely on FACTUAL information and evidence, not emotional, personal conjecture.

A true critical thinker will navigate carefully between different political, social and ideological constructs knowing that there are limits to human understanding and errors in all knowledge frameworks. A person who thinks critically can see that there are parts that can/need to improve even in robust scientific and philosophical formulations. In that lies an acceptance of the features that work, the parts of value to the world.

This understanding is of utmost importance in these days of crisis when many aspects of life seem uncertain. Times fear-mongers and conspiracy “theorists” will try to convince you that this is all a hoax. Or that at the very least, they are blowing it out of proportion; that this is the evil government and media attempting to control you. These people aren’t being critical. A small portion of them are deceitful for financial gain, and the majority react in fear to systems they can’t understand.

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I firmly believe that I wasted my words. Especially when talking to people who didn’t know the scientific definition of the word theory and refused to see that their model did not meet the requirements of that definition. 

I’ve thrown pearls before swine before, many times before, but I should have held on to the pearls I threw away that night. 

Thank you for reading.

— The Devil Unbound

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