Let’s quickly recap the Trivium here, which is the method of truth discovery: It’s based on these 3 pillars, which involve & rely on objective thinking and recognising unconscious cognitive biased:
- Grammar = Knowledge = Input
- Logic = Understanding = Processing
- Rhetoric = Wisdom = Application = Output
Or in other words, to have the output in our life we desire, it all starts & depends with the ‘input’ of information we take in and how we process them. Shitty input or unconscious flawed processing will lead to a shitty output = life experience. (For more context about the Trivium and ‘Why Truth matters!’ read this.)
Therefore its critical, to learn to think critically!
To start with, what does ‘Critical Thinking’ mean? Before really digging into it, I equated it to being judgemental and almost something negative. But if you really look at the etymology (the grammar) of it, it means ‘thinking in criteria’ and ‘thinking to find faults’. Or how I translate that: ‘Thinking to find Truth based on Criteria’.
‘Ok sounds good’, but how does that translate to my thinking? And what are the criteria?
Thats what I want to investigate in this article!
WEAK VS. STRONG CRITICAL THINKING
Basically, there are 2 schools of Critical Thinking: Weak Critical Thinking is based on Self-centredness to win regardless of truth, while Strong Critical Thinking is based on Fair-mindedness to find truth regardless of own agenda & believe.
From own experience, I can confirm: It’s so easy to spot flaws in others thinking and overlook in ones own thinking (most of us never learned fair-minded Critical Thinking). However, its crucial to develop for all of us, if we actually want a fair-minded society and find (inner) freedom – not tied to any ideology, doctrine or believe system.
Fair-minded Critical Thinking
Again, it’s about finding truth regardless of own agenda & believe – a noble and truly worthy & liberating intention! However, easily said but difficult to keep that intention when navigating through & facing egocentric (Self centred) and sociocentric (Collective / group centred) beliefs in our minds. Cognitive dissonances, biases, projections, doubts, distortions… keep us in our perceived (limited) comfort zone instead of going for the truth and discover our limitless creative potential and true nature!!
In order to get there, we need a compass keeping us on track!
That’s the great benefit of having standards, values or an ethical framework not just at hand but deeply integrated in our ‘reality filter’!
Here comes a great suggestion (from the Foundation of Critical Thinking) to start with – let yourself be inspired to dig into deeper! 😀
The Intellectual Virtues to Critical Thinking
I understand intellectual humility to mean being aware of one’s own ignorance. In other words, to recognize that one’s thinking is prone to be flawed and either ego or sociocentric. To neither overvalue nor undervalue one’s knowledge. It’s the opposite of intellectual arrogance. It enables us to investigate our biases, distortions, and wrong beliefs.
- An example of someone exhibiting intellectual humility would be a self empowerment coach, who is open/aware about his own (unconscious) biases and offers his subjective perspectives to the student to chose for himself what he wants to take aboard instead of indoctrinating him with ‘the only approach / the truth’.
I understand intellectual courage to mean standing up for what’s true & right instead of what’s easy, rewarding by societies norms & mainstream. In other words, being brave and tackling personal or societies beliefs to find truth and facing the fear tied to those beliefs. With “personal or societies beliefs to find truth and facing the fear tied to those beliefs” I meant, that it is about both internal (personal) beliefs but also external (society’s) beliefs. I implied that our identity is tied to beliefs (as you mentioned: religious, parenting, cultural…) and it seems scary to face or challenge them as that literally means (a part) of our (wrong) identity must die (therefore the fear). You could say, as our identity is the sum of our believes (which lead to our thoughts, emotions, decisions, actions and results) challenging and changing beliefs can have massive implications on our behaviour. And if we act accordingly, based on true understanding instead of based on society’s doctrine, we surely have to face rejection of society. You could even say there is ultimately only one (outside) belief system, which get’s copy pasted into ours growing up, as a starting base belief system. Which we then self reflectively both internally and externally need to investigate & correct to find truth, ourselves and liberation. Therefore we require courage to face those fears & emotions, and also change the way we identify ourselves. Instead of defining an identity based on beliefs (“Im good in xxx, I am yxs, I like yxc, I never asc”), we need to build an identity based on the process of exploring & formulating beliefs. Its the opposite of intellectual cowardice.
- An example of someone exhibiting intellectual courage could be Mark Passio, who is educating about occult practices sharing the knowledge which has been used to suppress mankind for millenias, challenging and confronting the unconscious slave mindset of wo/men by educating how to think and discover own biases such as belief in governmental mind control.
I understand intellectual empathy to mean to see the world through someone else’s eyes. In other words, it means considering the context, beliefs, thoughts, emotions of the other person and move into their situation, instead of selfishly ‘just’ look through one’s own possibly biased perspective. It’s the opposite of intellectual self centredness.
- An example of someone exhibiting intellectual empathy could be Ramana Maharshi, a self realized saint from India, he is personified humility and sees through your eyes.
I understand intellectual integrity to mean . .holding oneself accountable to the same standards as others. In other words, to walk the talk, and act on what one says. The opposite of intellectual hypocrisy. Doing to others as you would want to be done to yourself.
- An example of someone exhibiting intellectual integrity would be leading exactly by example. A reference I can come up with again is Ramana Maharshi.
I understand intellectual perseverance to mean to not give up until you understand. In other words, its not about short term reward, grades or external measures but internal – true understanding of also complex perspectives and themes. It’s the opposite of intellectual laziness and enables to really understand others, as they have their reasons to think a certain way and unless we work through their reasons of thinking we cant fairly assess their thinking and understand them. We need to break out from egocentric thinking and school indoctrination rewarding us for superficial or non-thinking.
- An example of someone exhibiting intellectual perseverance would be Nathan Martin, who is committed to fair minded critical thinking and works through a theme & perspective with such dedication and commitment until he has understood that perspective.
Intellectual confidence in reason
I understand intellectual confidence in reason to mean each individual having the capacity to critical thinking and finding truth. In other words, having the confidence that each individual actually can find truth themselves and has the capacity to build beliefs based on truth (through reasoning) instead of just following a doctrine or faith. And seeking truth being the best outcome for both, the individual but also society.
- An example of someone exhibiting intellectual confidence in reason would be a participant of this class, who has the confidence that through learning critical thinking and its application one can find truth to move out of egocentric & socicentric beliefs, which then will improve one’s life.
I understand intellectual autonomy to mean think for yourself! In other words, question every belief you adopted if it is true based on the intellectual standards, and then decide yourself consciously if you want to keep that or remove it. No matter if that’s what society is believing or not. Its the opposite of intellectual conformity or zombie slave thinking 😉
- An example of someone exhibiting intellectual autonomy would be Dr Hamer who came up with the GH a teaching to explain any disease as the body’s conflict solution program without hypothesis and statistics. Replicable in anyone, challenging the complete medical establishment.
Intellectual fair mindedness
I understand intellectual fair mindedness to mean to treat all viewpoints with the same unbiased way. In other words, instead of preferring our own biased perspective and prejudging others, to treat all perspectives equally. It’s the opposite of intellectual unfairness and is a continuous striving to develop the intellectual standards.
- An example of someone exhibiting intellectual fair mindedness would carefully listen to everybodys perspective, arguments, reasons, logic and then make an evaluation & decision based on the most reasonable arguments no matter who is it from.
The 8 elements to Critical Thinking
While the ‘Intellectual Virtues’ above are the ethical foundation to keep us on track to find truth, the 8 ‘Elements of Reasoning’ help us actually explore our thinking. All 8 elements exist in all our thinking, it does not matter if we are conscious about them or not.
It is important to learn about them, because:
- Dissecting and understanding our thinking improves our thinking!
- Which then improves our quality of life and internal freedom.
So let’s look at what the ‘Elements of Thought’ actually are!
I would briefly define ‘purpose’ as the motive underlying our thinking. In other words, what are we attempting to accomplish, our intention or the ‘why’ we are after.
- For example: I am doing this Critical Thinking exercise because I want to improve my thinking and ultimately my well being.
Point of view
I would briefly define ‘point of view’ as my individual perspective on the topic at thought. In other words, what is my subjective filter on the topic? My personal background, experience and knowledge influences the way I perceive an object and might be limited.
- For example: Being a male German with a finance background, my point of view might be tilted towards (over) thinking and analyzing and neglecting intuitive and creative insights.
I would briefly define ‘implications’ as the truth or logic following from the reasoning. In other words, there are always implications from your thinking and consequences from your actions, if one is aware of them or not. Therefore it’s important to think them through before acting.
- For example: One implication of signing up for this Critical Thinking class is that I will have to attribute time and focus to the assignments, and consequences from doing that are that I have less time for other activities but an improved critical thinking capacity.
I would briefly define ‘question’ as what I am attempting to figure out with my reasoning. In other words, the question helps us navigate by defining what we need to figure out through thinking. Therefore being precise and clear about the question is elementary.
- For example: In a challenging situation one could ask ‘whats wrong?’ or ‘what’s to improve?’ Each question leads to a very different focus and therefore also outcome = answer.
I would briefly define ‘information’ as what I base my thinking on. In other words, it’s the evidence, facts, experiences or data I gathered as a basis for my reasoning. I need to remain conscious of the fact that my information might not be accurate, relevant or even correct.
- For example: My own experience participating in a Critical Thinking workshop as well as the feedback I have received from others made me confident that it will be worthwhile to participate in this class.
I would briefly define ‘inference’ as the conclusions drawn from the information. In other words, what does my information mean to me logically? What follows from the evidence I gathered? The quality of my inferences determines the quality of my reasoning.
- For example: After being together for 13 years, I am inferring that my partner and our relationship is trustworthy.
I would briefly define ‘assumptions’ as our subjective beliefs. In other words, what am I unconsciously believing about a topic or theme or what do I take for granted? If I am not aware of my assumptions and their alignment with evidence, my thinking might be distorted as a consequence.
- For example: An assumption might be that the government has our best interest at heart, however that’s just what one was educated to believe, and there are other factual perspectives.
I would briefly define ‘concepts’ as the underlying framework we use to investigate a topic. In other words, these are the ideas, laws or principles we apply in our thinking to investigate a subset of reality. The concepts we use define our perspective & thinking, so we must be conscious about what concepts we use and also how that might impact our subjective perspective. And that other concepts will possibly lead to other perspectives and thinking outcomes.
- For example: Democracy is a concept ‘we’ use to achieve (illusionary?) representation of the will of the people. If we become aware that there are other concepts, we can compare them and possibly achieve a better representation.
So that’s it for now: A big compliment for being curious & reading through! 🙂 Let me know what you think and drop any question you have in the comments below!