PRINCIPLES OF THOUGHT
ANIL MITRA, PH.D., © June 2006
Document status June
Critical principles – the limitation of knowledge and possibility; assumptions of radical criticism
Construction principles – even if certain knowledge were possible, what would be the point to certain knowledge unless it were possible to use it for transformation. But then what would be the value of the transformation? Certain knowledge of the essentials is not given, therefore action and transformation –of both knowledge and being– are not only necessary but possessed of greater meaning
Holism – this point is not an argument against analysis; rather the point will provide a framework for analysis. The principle is that a picture of the universe of all being as a whole is useful, not only for its own sake in that it is good to understand and know the nature of the universe of all being, but because it requires interactive analysis of the details and is thus a simultaneous check on the picture of the whole and of the details. The picture of the whole is a metaphysics – every being has an implicit one and, further, there are values to an explicit metaphysics even if it is in error for it is only by having one that it can be corrected [the argument that metaphysics is at all possible is given elsewhere]
Conceptual synthesis: analyzing or reasoning with compound systems – as we’ve seen, the metaphysics is a picture of the world and, so, has many interacting elements. Since the elements interact, they cannot be properly analyzed in isolation: proper analysis of each element requires simultaneous analysis of other elements, the system must be analyzed as an interactive whole. In thinking about the system, i.e. in analyzing it, what are we to do with the problem of analyzing a number of unknowns or partially unknowns simultaneously? I.e., in exploring new territory by means of concepts or ideas, the concepts will be hypothetical in nature and there will be a number of them. In some cases explicit analytic – algorithmic – techniques may be developed for simultaneous analysis. This is not always the case. Then it is useful to withhold judgment on the nature of the conceptual elements of the system. The process of analysis would then be piecewise and iterative; as the process continues, often a number of concepts that were originally disparate become coherently connected in intuition – intuition is trained to view compound concepts as unitary and, then, analysis may proceed at a more integrated level. I.e., we make a mental construct and use it without committing to it for the use of the constructs, individually and as a system, will permit us to make inferences about the validity of the constructs and the possibilities of the whole system. Further, it is a way to learn, not only about validity, but also about the power of the system – i.e. how much does the system subsume. The following paragraph continues this discussion
Synthesis and analysis with a system of metaphysics and its
elements; analyzing issues within the system. It is required to analyze not
only the universe and its elements but also to use and simultaneously analyze
the elements of understanding of the universe and its elements. The elements of
understanding include the systems of human knowledge and its component
disciplines. Experience and, usually, time is required to acquire understanding
of the ‘disciplines.’ Additionally it is required to synthesize the elements.
This requires pictures (hypotheses) of the whole, of the elements and their
interactions. This is an interactive system. In the process of analysis and
synthesis, the picture of the whole and of the elements
change. For example, evolutionary biology may suggest mechanisms /
My sources – general as in this document and various others; specific as in how to think about mind in JOURNEY IN BEING
History of thought – Socratic method, dialectic, Kant – transcendental analytic and other transcendental methods, Wittgenstein
An example is the claim that cognition is for knowing. Others are: cognition is for action; function has the unique meaning of ‘purpose’ and does not mean ‘dynamic;’ and that there is a root distinction between purpose and dynamics. Is there such a root distinction? If the entities of physics were absolute entities, their dynamics would be a pure dynamics un-tinged of necessity by purpose i.e. though deployable to purposeful ends such as knowing, the dynamics would not be essentially purposeful. However if the entities of physics are, in some sense, fictions –even though useful and effective in understanding– their dynamics is a function and one would not say, merely, that their dynamics has a function
There is a frequent tendency among philosophers to identify some system of understanding as the only and necessary system to the exclusion of other systems. In fact, one way to do this is to not say, ‘This is the one and only system!’ but to say nothing; regarding the question except to identify the system with the real and to interpret importance and everything important with the system. Examples: 1. Heidegger’s ready-to-hand as more fundamental that the present-at-hand as if flow is necessarily more fundamental than hesitation, as if meaning lies in paradise but the creation or origination of meaning lies in hell. 2. My idea that the function of cognition is not knowing but is action, i.e. that cognition has a function in the sense of purpose. 3. Wittgenstein’s position that analysis of meaning is not a case of use. 4. Common-sense philosophy. In its origin, common-sense philosophy was a reaction to the extreme skepticism of Hume and the subjective idealism of Berkeley that seemed to issue from an excessive stress on ideas. Thomas Reid and others held that for the average unsophisticated man, sensations are not mere ideas but correspond to qualities belonging to external objects. (The distinction between the unsophisticated and the reflective man is, perhaps, unfortunate because all men have a pre- or sub-reflective element that is, perhaps, prerequisite for reflection.) Then G. E. Moore convinced many British and American philosophers that the business of philosophy was to analyze but not to question common certainties. This is based on an untenable distinction between reflective and un-reflective thought. It is not being said that there is no distinction. The distinction is that un-reflective thought is somehow pristine. That whoever is reflective is not engaged in common thought. (Note the one-upmanship interpretation of all such philosophies; the implication that the common man is uncritical, that other philosophers are even worse than uncritical, and that it is only the criticism of the common-sense philosopher that is truly critical.) Also note that the restatement of common-sense philosophy that there is a common, given core of unquestionable belief does not salvage common-sense philosophy for it is unquestioned that there is a practical core of belief but what is questioned is that the core projects to the ultimate. At the same time, it is incumbent on the critics of common-sense philosophy that it is possible to project beyond the realm of the common core. This is initially possible because the common core is itself, in fact open to question and not at all definite even within its own realm and it is in fact pure romanticism to suppose that even within that realm the common core has anything like conditionally absolute status
The cultural Brahmins are those who define the language of discourse and thus define the world within which we live (metaphysics,) set its values (morals, economics,) and imperatives (politics, political agendas)
The following account, possibly apocryphal, explains the origin and significance of the phrase, ‘cultural Brahmins.’ The Brahmins of India, as is well known, are said to be the highest of the classes of caste under the Brahmanic system. The Brahmins are followed in rank by the Kshatriyas (warriors, rulers,) Vaisyas (merchants, traders, farmers,) Sudras (artisans, laborers, servants and slaves,) and the ‘untouchables’ (those with the most defiling occupations.) What is the source of this system? No doubt, the system had a certain stability; however, stability is not the same as the good for the system, regardless of merit, is abusive – practically and of common human worth. What determines the ‘highest’ caste? As the priests, scholars and scribes it is the Brahmins who wrote the Brahmanic system. Thus they define themselves as the highest; further, in that system it is the priests who deal salvation in this life. On the other hand the Kshatriya regarded themselves as highest but this was not written
Who are the cultural Brahmins of our societies? The question becomes complex in a democracy where the center of power is not as well defined as it is in other systems. The question I ask here is a simpler one. Who are the Brahmins of knowledge? They are the academics and the intelligentsia. There is no question. As the Brahmins of knowledge they write many scripts. But the most fundamental script is that the function of cognition is knowing. And this is the source of much misplaced emphasis and confusion. Because those who cultivate knowing are also writers and educators, knowledge becomes overvalued at the expense of be-ing, of action, of realization, and of transformation. Thus our society lives in a state of violent arrest. It is a stable arrest. But it is in the nature of value to distinguish ends from actualities. Clearly I am here promoting my own interest. But I say that there is no ultimate system of value. Therefore, promotion and reason remain in balance; there is no getting outside the world. The world is all there is. The arrest addresses the misplaced emphasis. What is the confusion to which I earlier alluded? It is that the cultivation of knowledge as an intrinsic value is knowledge’s own embarrassment. In asking too much of knowledge, doubt is cast upon even the possibility of knowledge; the understanding of the nature of knowledge becomes twisted
There is a sense in which there are no ultimate principles of thought; and if there are, it may well be that they are always in discovery. At the outset, principles of thought are no more than ‘here are some ways of thought that have been found useful in developing results that have been found to have some validity’
However, the following codes arise
General vs. specific principles; a general principle would apply, for example, to all rational thought while a specific principle would be useful in logic, or in mathematics, or in metaphysics, or in philosophy of mind, or in building a house
Thought as a community enterprise; this explains the function of the obvious and helps explain the nature of proof and that there is in general no absolute proof and this in turn explains the rational function of the resistance to change: that since there is no absolute proof, what has been found useful needs some guard against arbitrary change
Since thought is part of being, the understanding of being may (in principle and does in fact) have implications for thought
The philosophy of science (generally epistemology) has, through its history, gone through a number of turns and it is useful to look to these as well as to the practice of science to understand the philosophy of science
What are the ways of expressing philosophy of science?
Content: validity, ‘formal’ method and its evolution
Communal or institutional practice… the way science is done, the informal practices productive (and sometimes counterproductive) of good science including the implicit rules that many or the majority of scientists and scientific organizations follow that safeguard against ‘anarchy’ in the face of the fact that, in the end, good science is what has survived (not only due to utility but also because of the fact that it refers to reality which is what makes it testable because in referring to reality there is the possibility that what is predicted about reality is not so.) These rules include resistance to new ideas that violate established paradigms
What are the sources of information for philosophy of science?
Science in general and the different disciplines – physics, chemistry, biology, geology, psychology, sociology and so on
That science is applicable
The structure of science: experiment, data and fact, law, concept-theory-explanation-understanding (as seen below, a theory is not a ‘mere theory’ and while it does necessarily apply to all being, a good theory captures the essence of a phase of being, i.e., of experience
The evolution of scientific theories – including the revolutions
The evolution (evolution does not have a necessary connotation of progress) of philosophy of science
From which follows the tendency of a philosophy of science to be a characterization rather than a complete specification
Various philosophies of science: Greek, Bacon… 20th century: Popper-Lakatos-Feyerabend-Kuhn… and the focus on progress
But focus instead of progress on the content (some of the following is repetition)
Since it cannot be absolutely correct, science must have institutional safeguards, implicit rules, against ad hoc change (therefore Galileo’s assertion that new theories become accepted only when the old guard dies is not necessarily the reproach that might have been intended)
A scientific theory is about a phase of being; a good one captures the essence of a phase of the real. We can therefore think, instead of a theory being a mere approximation, as being, within limits of precision, capturing the essence of a phase of the real; a problem, then, is to be able to specify that phase with respect, for example, extent, scale and so on. In this, a theory has an analogy with the definition in mathematics of a function that requires not only specification of the image of every point in the domain but, also, specification of domain and range
In the development of the metaphysics, ‘Principles of Thought’ does not deserve a separate section. However, it may be practically useful to assign a section to the principles
Note. This section was originally developed independently. It is placed here (1) because it naturally fits under ‘Object,’ (2) because thought is not distinct from being and, so, what is true of all being is true of thought, and (3) since this is the best place for analysis of the principles which, unless it is shown, may never be regarded as completed
Comment. This section may be made a part of the previous section, ‘Theory of Knowledge’
Comment. Insert into the introductory discussion that rationality, like all fundamental terms is transitional rather than fixed in its meaning and rather than merely being an accumulation of principles such as Socratic objectivity through dialectic and many sided reflection includes the fundamental human components of patience, boldness, flexibility, reflexivity, feeling and commitment
The objective is to analyze, to think about effective thinking. Since thought and what is seen (perceived) have a mutual basis, the title could be ‘Principles of Cognition.’ Since there is a special focus on synthesis of theories and systems, another possible title is ‘Principles of Synthetic Thought.’ This brief introduction lays the ground for the systematic development that follows
One source for ‘principles of thought’ is to examine examples and principles from the history of thought and action and in day-to-day activities. Surely, however, reflection on the principles should include the following
Asking, ‘what is thought and what are the functions of thought?’ That is, ‘to what ends may thought be applied?’ Since it is not clear that there is a fixed set of functions or ends, the question of the principles may well be open ended. An obvious though not always mentioned enemy of clear thinking is impatience, the impulse to come to a conclusion before ‘all the information is in’ and, since I am interested in synthesis, a variety of explanatory systems have been considered. However, it often seems that all the information is never in and, since there are numerous sources and levels of explanation, conclusions will always be tentative to some extent – unless, of course, that it can be shown that the conclusion is final. There is a variety of useful though usually not final ways in which conclusions can be examined and ‘cross examined.’ Has the issue been examined from all perspectives, have explanations been checked for consistency and for the ability to explain or predict new results? Is the explanation or theory ‘minimal’ in some sense – if it is, it is testable otherwise the ‘slack’ in the theory may allow it to be adjusted to fit new information. Is there a modification of the explanation which, in contrast to previously, neatly –this shows the role of the aesthetic in explanation and theory formation– allows it to satisfy minimality, consistency, explanation and prediction?
There are some obvious limits to the discussion thus far. The idea that all the information is never in reflects the progressive aspect of, especially, science; yet the fact that modern science, just over four hundred years old in 2006, remains in progress does not mean that an end to science in the sense of completion is impossible for all scientific disciplines. Another limit lies in the fact that not all thought is directed to depth, maturity, and inherent validity. Often, thought serves the needs of immediate action. In a crisis there may be time for at most brief reflection before action; however, even in crisis, there is often time enough to balance the need to act with restraint. Additionally there are occasions for thought where the imperative to act lies in between philosophic reflection and crisis – examples are planning and applied science; in such cases there is often enough time to spend some effort to determine how much time to devote to each of the different stages of the thought process. It may seem that in pure thought, e.g., philosophic reflection, there is an ultimate separation of thought and action but only in the sense that the production of thought is not pressed by the need to act and not in the sense that the thought will have no consequences in action. However, in view of the origins of thought, it is not clear that this is inherent in the nature of thought or that it is always possible. I have discussed this question in further detail (link) but it may be noted (1) that the possible inseparability of thought and action is not a practical one but inherent in their nature and (2) the impression that they have ultimate separation may be based in illusions about the nature of thought rooted in the idea that thought is distinct from the body and encouraged by the degree of success of human thought, perhaps only apparent, and the separation of some aspects of human thought from action. One way of viewing this issue is to remember that thought is not distinct from being and that, at root, the origins and process of both thought and being have or may have similarities which include that the processes are not deterministic and that the essential or normal mode of indeterministic process is, in both cases, incremental variation (imagination) and selection (criticism.) I have deployed this analogy elsewhere for its suggestive power and to see to what degree it may be the basis of demonstration
In the discussion so far the following may be noted. Thought appears to have limitations which include (1) limits that occur when there is a limited amount of time available for thought, and (2) essential limits to thought. The distinction between the two kinds of limit is not clear for, on the view that science is unending, the resulting limit is both temporal and essential. However, the idea that things-are-not-known-in-themselves is an essential limit. These kinds of limits, essential or otherwise, have often been thought of as absolute. However, as discussed above and elsewhere the idea that such limits are true limits is dependent on the question of the kind and nature (and function) of knowledge… Thought is reflexive in character, i.e., thought may question its own nature and specific thought processes and outcomes. When not carried out to excess, reflexivity of thought is positive, i.e., productive of valid thought. Reflexivity of thought includes the critical function. However, is it possible and productive to be critical of criticism? I.e., does criticism reign, as is often taught, as supreme in the production of valid thought? To answer this question, consider that thought, especially, synthetic thought produces results. If all that thought did was to recount what was already known there would be re-production but no production. A function of thought is the production of new ideas and results! Criticism and reflexivity alone are insufficient to the production of anything new; for newness, new ideas must be formed andor old ideas must be put together in new ways. I.e., hypotheses must be formed. There appears to be no linear approach to the production of hypotheses – imagination is necessary: there is a constructive side to thought. However, note that the approach to criticism thus far has been imaginative; similarly, imagination is most productive when informed but not controlled by a critical attitude. That is, in practice imagination (construction, hypothesis formation) and criticism are most effective in combination; however, the degree and sequence of combination is variable, not generally rationally determined, and depends on the stage and kind (pure, applied, crisis…) of thought
This section must be short and necessarily incomplete. I intend only to make a few remarks on some principles that I have recognized as useful in my thought and in the works of others. It is not intended to be exhaustive with regard to possibility and history (the Socratic approach, dialectic and synthesis, reason, scientific method, various philosophical methods, e.g., the various transcendental approaches…) In this section thought is regarded as given. I.e., the topic of discussion is not primarily the nature of thought. It is ‘how to think well’ and this includes primarily critical and constructive thought and, secondarily, economy of thought and quality of expression. The nature of thought and its place in cognition and, more generally, in the life of mind, is taken up later (link.) Thought has often been regarded to be a ‘symbolic process.’ However, as will be seen, this is inadequate because (1) the analysis of the meaning of symbols involves iconic processing in such a way that the boundary between symbol and icon (ideal object) is not clear and (2) the result of directed thought in the limited sense may often be achieved by iconic processing (further, symbolic thought is often the final formulation of iconic thought; and, often, full cognitive processing requires both iconic and symbolic modes)
But what is the role of thought, i.e., of ideation in general? Is the role of thought defined by the loop
thought ® action,
or the loop,
thought ® knowledge ® action,
which is a special but important case within direct transition from thought to action?
Because of the ‘no ultimate foundation’ principle, principles have no end; therefore we must go on… Because of the ‘no limit’ principle, we may go on; and in this is the greatest meaning… Note, though, that the idea of never ending discovery has two bases, (1) the history of thought and science which reveals new ideas and theories improving upon old ones and (2) the idea that the magnitude of the number of facts in the universe exceeds the (human) ability to represent facts. However, if (1) is applied to itself, it is seen that regardless of how strong a principle it represents, that principle is not absolute. Let us assume that (2) is true in the sense that the number of facts and the ability to represent is defined in terms of raw bits of information. However, since the structure of all being is not a mere collection of bits of information, it does not follow that (knowledge of) all aspects of being are subject to this limitation. That the object of thought is not a mere collection of bits, permits the formation of concepts which may be thought of as summary representation of large amounts of information by a smaller quantity of information. The Theory of Being (link) is an example of a final theory the perspective that views the universe as all being
Some examples of the application of the principles are applied in the following discussion
Principles of Criticism
The limitation of knowledge and possibility; assumptions of radical criticism; reflexivity
Philosophy, analysis and the Theory of Being
What are the critical principles? Since thought, rather cognition as a whole, is deployed in the representation of the universe (of experience) the critical principles must, in outline, concern (1) the structure of thought (internal criticism: reason including logic) and (2) the relation of thought to experience (analysis of meaning or, in the case of abstract systems, interpretation; and prediction and experimental test)
The assertion that analysis of meaning lies entirely in establishing the connection of thought to experience is not altogether accurate for meaning has two sides, sense and reference. It is more accurate, then, to rewrite the two points of the previous paragraph as (1) the structure of thought (analysis of sense or, in the case of abstract systems, interpretation; and internal criticism or analysis of thought: reason including logic) and (2) the relation of thought to experience (analysis of reference; and prediction and experimental test)
Thus, analysis includes analysis of meaning and of thought.
When it is claimed that philosophy is analysis, where is the external component
of criticism? It lies in the experience thus far of the philosophers and the
cultures within they live. When an analyst asserts that meaning is determined
in use what becomes the role of the analysis of sense? The importance of use is
clear, there is no support for meaning outside of the
system of users and their lives. However, as I have argued (link) analysis of
sense remains significant and occurs neither at the outset nor at some
strategic stage of development of a system of ideas but in ongoing interaction
with use. Limitations to the idea that use determines meaning are (1) some
thinkers appear to think that there is a ‘common man’ whose
As an example of the analysis of meaning, consider the discipline of philosophy. Two approaches to its ‘definition’ are possible. In the first, one may say ‘Philosophy is…’ and fill in the empty space with the result of one’s reflections. In the second, one is more interested in BEING, in our relation to and understanding of it. Instead of saying early, ‘philosophy is…,’ one waits until reflection is mature and can look back and say, ‘That is philosophy, that is metaphysics, …, that is physics… and so on.’ Naturally, what happens in actuality includes a combination of these two approaches. However, the definition of philosophy is often an attempt to characterize a particular emphasis and style of philosophy. To what extent is this valid? It would be valid if one could look back at the philosophy of the past and say, ‘This is what the philosophers of the past should have been doing. It is what they would have been doing if only they had (for example) the critical insight that we have now achieved.’ However, the following are clear. (1) The emphasis on critical thought depends on a view of the nature of the knowledge and a value system that are mutually sustaining in the establishment of their validity and (2) The Theory of Being shows that although the foregoing views have a range of validity, that range is limited and that there is an inclusive space in which philosophy is about being and modes of being and not merely about traditional modes of knowing which include the emphasis on analysis. It is significant that the Theory of Being, while it could have basis in the intuition and mystic experience e.g. the union of the self and all being, has been developed in logical form
As examples of reflexivity, whenever I ask, ‘What is x?’ or ‘What is the nature of x?’ where x is something of interest (typically a concept), I may also ask, ‘What is the nature of questions such as What is something? ’ I.e., when seeking to define a concept, it is useful to remember that the nature of definition and the nature of concepts are not given and, therefore, to also ask or to recall what may be involved in the questions ‘What is defining?’ ‘What are concepts?’ (See link) Additionally, since the meanings of the terms in a system of concepts regarding some topic are typically mutually dependent it is often productive to question the meanings a number of the concepts at the same time. In extending the system of what may be called ‘common thought’ it appears to be the rule rather than the exception that meanings are fluid rather than given and the attitude that meanings are fixed is naturally self-limiting. Lets continue to review the meaning of ‘philosophy.’ Since the system of disciplines are in dynamic interaction, their provinces cannot be given for all time. However, among the factors that define the boundaries of the disciplines are administrative convenience and ‘territorial’ issues. There is no compelling reason for the concept of philosophy to be identical to the dominant practice of philosophy within academia. It is occasionally useful for physicists to reflect on the nature of their discipline and, especially at times of transition, to reflect on the meanings of the fundamental physical concepts. The reflective physicist may find the reflections instructive. However, physicists may resent being instructed on the nature of physical concepts by a professional philosopher. The resentment may be valid when the philosopher has insufficient appreciation of the nature of physical theory and the problems that occasion reflection on the concepts. However, such reflections may still be properly labeled ‘philosophical’
Here are some examples, taken from the essay, of the power of being clear about meaning. The term ‘universe’ has a number of connotations. When a physicist uses the term he or she typically refers to the known physical universe. However, in this essay, I usually use the term to mean ‘all being’ or ‘outside of which there is nothing.’ Therefore, if a creator is distinct from the creation, it follows that the universe cannot have a creator. However, it is possible for a part of the universe, e.g. a cosmological system, to have a creator. It does not follow, though, that a creator will be god-like or person-like or think through the design of the cosmological system. The ‘act’ of creation may be ‘blind,’ e.g., by proto-physical forces and elements. It may be similarly concluded that while all LAWS are immanent in the universe they are not necessarily so for a cosmological system where some combination of immanence and imposition may obtain. The idea of the universe as all being is not a mere concept, i.e., the definition is not arbitrary. In the first place, the conclusions regarding creation and immanence of laws show that the definition has significance. Now consider the concept of a ghost universe: a separate universe that exists but does not interact with others. I have shown (later: link) that there are no ghost universes or particles. Therefore, the idea of the universe as all being is rooted in the fact that there is no part of being that is in permanent isolation (however, relative isolation is possible as are ghost-like universes and particles.) I initially felt uncomfortable with the idea of the universe as all being. The discomfort was in part due to the various other connotations and uses of the term ‘universe.’ A conceptual problem with the idea of the universe as all being was the question whether I should mean ‘all being at a slice or instant of time.’ What is all being? This, in turn, led to an analysis of the uses and possible uses of the word ‘is’ and the concept(s) of time. Thus, analysis of the meaning of one term often requires the co-analysis of the meanings and uses of other terms; and the total process requires experiment with tentative meanings before a more satisfactory system is achieved. A mark (perhaps the mark) of a satisfactory system is that the system of concepts dovetail and introduce coherence and fresh understanding (including prediction) to the discussion of the topic, e.g. BEING. Thus, especially in their development, conceptual systems reveal both fluidity and structure
Let us be reflexive with regard to criticism, i.e., be
critical of the idea of criticism. The objective is to evaluate the role of
criticism, not to reject it. It is worthwhile criticizing or evaluating the
role of criticism only if the critical approach has value; this is granted as
obvious. What, then, may be criticized regarding criticism? (1) The idea of
pan-criticism – that criticism should be ever present that criticism is the
master of all thought. In considering the loop, thought ® action, there will be cases of
crisis and of opportunity when criticism is impossible or at most partial
criticism is possible. In considering the loop thought ® knowledge ®
action, for reliability of knowledge criticism is required. However, crisis and
opportunity still arise and shall we refrain from acting to avert crisis or to
make use of opportunity just because we have not been able to subject knowledge
to full critical analysis? Clearly, outside the academic world there are roles
for belief and faith, especially non-religious faith. Inside the walls of
academia, it may be possible, at least in some disciplines, to maintain an
illusion of absolute rigor. However, I have argued (link) that absolute rigor
(certainty) is possible only in trivial (though not unimportant) cases. (2) The
idea that critical thought produces anything new. There are critics of
‘newness,’ the idea that thought does anything other than illuminate what is
already there or implicitly known. When this view is pushed to an extreme, its
conclusion is not that we are
Principles of Construction, Synthesis or Hypothesis
Even if certain knowledge were possible, what would be the point to certain knowledge unless it were possible to use it for transformation. But then what would be the value of the transformation? Certain knowledge of the essentials is not given, therefore action and transformation –of both knowledge and being– are not only necessary but possessed of greater meaning. Use of context; cross-fertilization across examples, levels of theory…
While hypothesis and criticism are
Criticism (argument) is a public endeavor, imagination is relatively private except in such realms as art and poetry… Therefore, it is difficult to lay down ‘principles’ of imagination. However, I make an attempt. (1) Valuing imagination and dreams is important but (2) Imagination without reflection (criticism) produces nothing. The following is a metaphor. I dream and wake up; my dream colors my wakefulness: what is its significance? I must wait for criticism and insight rather than prematurely reject my dreaming
Obviously, hypothesis and criticism are, in combination,
crucial in the life of thought; just as variation and selection are
A balance between suspended judgment or criticism, culture and application of intuitive judgment in the generation of hypotheses, and careful formal or explicit judgment is most excellent in constructing effective concepts, explanations, theories and arguments (including showing, persuading, demonstration and proof)
Some aspects of construction: living with imagination, simultaneously subjecting it to criticism without allowing its destruction; allowing depth and breadth and color to enter into imagination; dreams: allowing dreams to influence but not necessarily determine thought, allowing reverie; waiting till the time for criticism is ripe; and, most importantly, seeking a delicate interaction of hypothesis (imagination, speculation – without which there is nothing) and criticism (without which there is nothing of value)
What is a ‘transcendental’ method? A typical approach to explaining a the characteristics of some actual or concrete situation is to proceed from fundamental principles. In a transcendental method it is the context or situation that is given and one asks ‘What must be true of the fundamental principles or of the universal context so that the particular context may obtain?’ In philosophy, transcendental approach has been used to analyze the nature of knowledge (link: sources, this essay). The Theory of Being developed in this essay has transcendental elements. The so-called ‘anthropic cosmological principle’ that has been used in modern science is transcendental in nature
On experience… While ‘nature’ is the prime source of experience in the sciences, it has become regarded as marginal to philosophy (in the analytic and humanistic modes.) However, the experience of nature remains relevant, even to analytic and humanistic philosophy, since there is a deep connection between it and analysis and humanism. Additionally, as has been seen (link), the idea that discussion of any aspect of the world is forbidden in philosophy is not philosophy. Analysis is an important tool and humanism an important emphasis in philosophy but analysis and humanism do not constitute philosophy. While the ‘data’ for the sciences comes from nature and while nature may also provide raw data for philosophy, the disciplines themselves, and thought are among the elements of data for philosophy. Since, philosophy is a discipline and since the conduct of philosophy requires thought, philosophy is reflexive. In this way, philosophy is distinct from numerous other disciplines. While the other disciplines may not be reflexive, it may often be useful to reflect on their nature. Such reflections may be philosophical
Reflections on impossibility… The following is relevant to the possibility or impossibility of claims made in the Theory of Being. Is it impossible for the sun to rise in the west? All factual impossibility is based on expectation that the world will continue to behave as it always has! Therefore, the only necessary impossibilities are logical. An example: ‘It is impossible for Albert to be in two places at once’ is a factual claim. However, ‘If it is impossible for human beings to be in two places at once, then it is impossible for Albert to be in two places at once’ is a logical claim. What is often thought to be logically impossible is the result of reasoning (logic) and claims of factual impossibility. However, as shown by the Theory of Being, every claim of impossibility that is not based in contradiction should be, at most, a claim of improbability
The following is relevant to the possibility of developing a
Theory of Being or
Explanation in Light of the Theory of Being
The Theory of Being provides new insight (a new approach) to explanation. The basis of the insight is the identity of possibility, necessity and actuality shown earlier
There are (at least) two sources to knowledge of what is possible: experience (observation) and imagination (and analysis or criticism whose function is to uncover contradiction.) Correspondingly, there are two modes of explanation: (1) describing and demonstrating a mechanism such as variation and selection for evolution and (2) giving meaning to what is possible though perhaps not known through direct observation such as giving meaning to the idea of ‘being that is a span of being’ through the concept of identity. The first mode of explanation provides understanding; the second mode may be a substitute for mechanical understanding when it is not available or not necessary and may be a motive to develop understanding
‘System’ refers to systematic thought, systematic
philosophy, philosophical or metaphysical systems. System has been criticized
as impossible on various grounds. Essential
impossibility – the impossibility of knowing the noumenon. Incompleteness – the essential
incompleteness of (human) knowledge. Relativism
– that any system must be framed in terms of some viewpoint, some picture of
the way the world is. Weakness – the
urge to systematic philosophy is a weakness of the intellect or of character. Excesses of rationality – that ignore
the variety of limitations on rationality and the suppression of feeling.
Criticism of tired old ideas brings freshness, a sense of power but systems or
schools of criticism are also subject to critical analysis, to over-formulation,
to ritual repetition and decay. The impossibility of knowing the noumenon is
based on a picture of cognition as is the essential incompleteness of
knowledge; additionally the historical incompleteness of knowledge is also
based on a continuation of a series. The ‘
Sources: this document, Journey in Being v.2004.1
Purpose: the nature of the concept is analyzed elsewhere (link); the objective here is to analyze the use of concepts in thought: how concepts are used in synthetic thought is implicit in the following descriptions
Reflexivity: the principles of thought apply to developing the principles
Examples: from the History of Thought; from personal reflection; collection of examples
Context: perception and thought are part of being and must therefore partake of the character of being. In the transitional phase or perspective of being, change is built upon structure, or from the void, sometimes preceded by dismantling or devolution, by indeterministic or (once structure exists) semi-indeterministic change and population of the universe by systems with a population that is clustered around the optimum combination of numbers generated and fraction surviving; in ‘ultimate’ phases, or in a supra-temporal perspective, kinds of completeness are possible
My sources – general as in this document and various others; specific as in how to think about mind in JOURNEY IN BEING
History of thought – Socratic method, dialectic, Kant – transcendental analytic and other transcendental methods, Wittgenstein (place names in sources)
It has been proposed that certain forms of thinking call on one's abilities to assemble and organize information. The result of such thinking satisfies a defined goal in the achievement of an effective solution to a problem. These forms are called convergent thinking and become apparent when situations arise in which one's ability to cope with a task demands resources beyond the explicit stimuli presented; i.e., converges the components of one's past and present experience in organizing or directing one's response
In studying thinking experimentally, investigators often use standardized tasks that have measurable outcomes; for example, a human subject (say, a young child) may be shown three levers—one black, the other two white. Initially, the standard task may be for the child to discover that for pulling the black lever he will receive some reward (perhaps something good to eat) but that for pulling either white lever he will get no reward at all. Orderly procedures are established under which experimental changes can be introduced to observe their effects on the thinker's performance. The results are compared with those obtained under a standard control condition without the changes
Among the variables that can be manipulated are the amount of information available to the individual (e.g., the black lever may also be illuminated); the kind or degree of incentives under which he works (e.g., a larger or better tasting reward); the order or arrangement of objects (e.g., black lever in the middle or on the right); the instructions provided; the subject's familiarity or degree of prior experience with the task; and the stress under which he functions, such as punishment for mistakes or the threat of failure. The thinker's personality characteristics provide another set of variables for study; for example, subjects who typically exhibit high levels of anxiety can be compared in their task performance with those who ordinarily show little anxiety; or the performance of a person who shows a compelling need to achieve success can be compared with that of a person who exhibits strong fears of failure
Research results indicate that any condition that increases the complexity of a task requiring convergent thinking tends to make the solution more difficult and time-consuming. The more multiple choices (e.g., ten levers instead of three) a thinker is offered, the more difficult the solution of the task is likely to be. Irrelevant items of information, such as the illumination of all levers, may complicate a problem; and as irrelevant data become more numerous or as relevant information becomes less accessible to or discoverable by the thinker, the solution becomes more difficult
Finding a solution is helped by providing the thinker with cues, guidelines, rules, or other appropriate ways of orienting himself toward the problem (e.g., he may be pointed toward the right lever). Performance is uncertain to the degree that the individual must discover these directions by his own efforts. When separate cues must be combined (e.g., the colour of the lever and the presence or absence of illumination), the more suitable they are for the required relationship, the more efficient the process of solution tends to be
Conditions that increase the thinker's motivation, such as incentives and special instructions, tend to improve performance. A person's response to these conditions, however, depends on his personality characteristics; very anxious people typically show particularly impaired performance when the task is difficult or stressful. An important consideration is the set (or expectation) of the person; a person's tendency toward rigidity—inability to adapt readily to changing conditions of the task—is likely to have adverse effects on his performance. Instruction or special training that aids one in overcoming his prior sets fosters his ability to achieve correct solution
Realistic thinking may be aided or hindered by the individual's strategies and cognitive or perceptual style. Such characteristics include the way a person attends to and uses sensory information; he may, for example, focus on inessentials, may fail to observe details accurately, or may be disturbed by complexities in the task stimuli. Also important to convergent thinking are the individual's abilities to analyze and to synthesize sensory information
Realistic thinking tends to be elicited when the individual perceives no obvious or immediate path to a desired goal. It is likely to begin with his recognition of a problem—otherwise, his behaviour would simply indicate the operation of habits or the automatic production of responses. Realistic thinking continues with one's consideration of alternatives, each marked by some uncertainty or risk. He next begins processing information (including pertinent past experience) by analyzing, combining, and organizing available and potential resources for reaching his goal. In the final phase of the process he produces a response; it may be a wrong solution, a partial solution, or a correct solution. Recycling of these phases (recognition, considering alternatives, processing data, and responding) may continue in a complex way until the goal finally is reached or until the process ends in failure
The explicitness of these phases varies with the complexity of the task, as well as with the problem-solving skills of the individual. In this connection, the individual may show evidence of “learning how to learn”; that is, he may exhibit a progressive increase in skill as he encounters a series of similar problems
A simple form of realistic thinking that lends itself well to controlled experimentation is inferred from one's ability to discriminate discrete objects or items of information (e.g., distinguishing a lion from a tiger). The outcome is a judgment, and the process may be called decision making. The availability of information, the rate at which it is presented, the set (expectancy) of the judge, and the number of alternatives available to him influence the efficiency of his judgment. Redundancy (or surplus) of information facilitates judgment; for example, the lion may be discriminated on the basis of a number of different sensory cues: he is tan or brown, he lacks stripes, he has a mane, and so on
Within what is called the general theory of adaptation level, the decision-making response is considered to be a weighted average of various stimuli: focal (the specific sensory properties of the lion and tiger), contextual (the background in which they are observed), and residual (such intrinsic or experiential factors as memory for other brown or striped objects). Variations in one or more of these three types of stimuli shift the judge's decision in one direction or another in relation to his immediately preceding judgment
A more complex form of realistic thinking is inferred when an individual is asked to identify or use a class of items, as in selecting several different kinds of triangle from an array of other geometric figures. The individual may proceed to link together in his thinking a newly experienced group of objects according to one or more of their common properties. He thus may be able to give them a general name, as in first learning the meaning of the term triangle, or he may determine whether a newly given object fits a category he already knows. Physical objects are multidimensional; that is, they may vary in shape, size, colour, their location in relation to other objects, their emotional significance, or their connotative meaning. How a person identifies such dimensions, develops hypotheses (or tentative conclusions) about which of the specific dimensions define a class, arrives at the rules of class membership, and how he tests various hypotheses all reflect his ability to grasp concepts. Successful performance in all these processes leads to his formulation of pertinent rules based on his ability to classify specific items (see concept formation)
Still more complex forms of realistic thinking seem to occur when tasks are presented in which the goal is impossible (or very difficult) to achieve directly. In such situations, people commonly appear to pass through intermediate stages of exploring and organizing their resources; indeed, one may first need to exert himself in understanding the problem itself before he can begin to seek possible directions toward a solution. Familiar examples of problem-solving tasks include anagrams (e.g., rearrange “lpepa” to spell “apple”); mathematical problems; mechanical puzzles; verbal “brain teasers” (e.g., Is it legal for a man to marry his widow's sister?); and, in a more practical sense, design and construction problems. Also of interest are issues of human relations, games, and questions pertinent to economics and politics
Problem-solving activity falls broadly into two categories: one emphasizes simple trial and error; the other requires some degree of insight. In trial and error, the individual proceeds mainly by exploring and manipulating elements of the problem situation in an effort to sort out possibilities and to run across steps that might carry him closer to the goal. This behaviour is most likely to be observed when the problem solver lacks advance knowledge about the character of the solution, or when no single rule seems to underlie the solution. Trial-and-error activity is not necessarily overt (as in one's observable attempts to fit together the pieces of a mechanical puzzle); it may be implicit or vicarious as well, the individual reflecting on the task and symbolically testing possibilities by thinking about them
In striving toward insight, a person tends to exhibit a strong orientation toward understanding principles that might bear on the solution sought. The person actively considers what is required by the problem, noting how its elements seem to be interrelated, and seeks some rule that might lead directly to the goal. The insightful thinker is likely to centre on the problem to understand what is needed, to take the time to organize his resources, and to recentre on the problem (reinterpret the situation) in applying any principle that seems to hold promise
Direction and flexibility characterize insightful problem solving. The thinker directs or guides his steps toward solution according to some plan; he exhibits flexibility in his ability to modify or to adapt procedures as required by his plan and in altering the plan itself. Both characteristics are influenced by the thinker's attitudes and by environmental conditions. If, for example, the task is to empty a length of glass tubing of water (without breaking it) by removing wax plugs about a half-inch up the tube from each end, and the only potential tools are a few objects ordinarily found on a desk top, the usual appearance and functions of such common objects may make it difficult for the problem solver to see how they can be adapted to fit task requirements. If a paper clip is perceived as holding a sheaf of papers in the usual way, such perception would tend to interfere with the individual's ability to employ the principle that the clip's shape could be changed: straightened out for use in poking a hole in the wax
A special form of problem solving employs formal, systematic, logical thinking. The thinker develops a series of propositions, often as postulates; e.g., the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. He builds a structure of arguments in which statements are consistent with each other in reaching some goal, such as defining the area of a triangle. This kind of logical, mathematical reasoning applies formal rules in supporting the validity of successive propositions
Both inductive and deductive processes may be used by a problem solver. In inductive thinking one considers a number of particular or specific items of information to develop more inclusive (or general) conceptions. After aspirin was synthesized, for example, some people who swallowed the substance reported that it relieved their particular headaches. Through induction, the reports of these specific individuals were the basis for developing a more inclusive notion: aspirin may be helpful in relieving headaches in general
Deduction is reasoning from general propositions—or hypotheses—to more specific instances or statements. Thus, after the general hypothesis about the effectiveness of aspirin had been put forward, physicians began to apply it to specific, newly encountered headache cases. The deduction was that, if aspirin is generally useful in managing pains in the head, it might also be helpful in easing pains elsewhere in the body. Although a person may deliberately choose to use induction or deduction, people typically shift from one to the other, depending on the exigencies of the reasoning process
Students of problem solving almost invariably have endorsed some variety of mediation theory in their efforts to understand realistic thinking. The assumptions in that kind of theory are that implicit (internal) representations of experience are stored in and elicited from memory and are linked together during the period between the presentation of a stimulus and the implementation of a response. Those theorists who prefer to avoid the use of unobservable “entities” (e.g., “mind”) increasingly have been invoking the nervous system (particularly the brain) as the structure that mediates such functions
Divergent (or creative) thinking has been defined as an activity that leads to new information, or previously undiscovered solutions, rather than to a predetermined, correct solution (as in convergent thinking). Some tasks call for flexibility, originality, fluency, and inventiveness, especially for problems in which the individual must supply his own, unique solution. The “problem” might be a personal, emotional difficulty that needs resolution or expression
A number of processes or phases have been identified as typical of creative thinking. In what logically would be the first phase (i.e., preparation), the thinker assembles and explores his resources and perhaps makes preliminary decisions about their value in solving the problem at hand. Incubation represents the next period, in which he mulls over possibilities and shifts about from one to another relatively free of any rigid rational or logical preconceptions and constraints. Incubation seems to be at least partly unconscious, proceeding without the individual's full awareness. Illumination occurs when resources fall into place, and a definite decision is reached about the result or solution. Verification (refinement or polishing), the process of making relatively minor modifications in committing ideas to final form, follows. Often enough, objective standards for judging creative activity (e.g., musical composition) are lacking; an important criterion is the emotional satisfaction of the creator. Although the four phases have been ordered in a logical sequence, they often vary widely and proceed in different orders from one person to the next. Many creative people attain their goals by special strategies that are not neatly describable
The phases of preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification are characteristic of creative thinkers generally but do not guarantee that a worthwhile product will ensue. Results also depend on whether an individual has the necessary personality characteristics and abilities; in addition, the quality of creative thinking stems from the training of the creator. The artist who produces oil paintings needs to learn the brushing techniques basic to the task; the scientist who creates a new theory does so against a background of previous learning. Further, creativity intimately blends realistic (objective) and autistic (subjective) processes; the successful creator learns how to release and to express his feelings and insights
Creative thinking is a matter of using intrinsic resources to produce tangible results. This process is markedly influenced by early experience and training. School situations, for example, that encourage individual expression and that tolerate idiosyncratic or unorthodox thinking seem to foster the development of creativity
While the processes of creative thinking in artistic and scientific pursuits have much in common, there are also distinctive differences. The artist places more importance on feeling and individual expression, often going to extremes to divorce himself from environmental constraints. The scientist relies more on disciplined, logical thinking to lead him in new directions. Artistic endeavour is dominantly expressive (although clearly oriented toward a goal), while scientific inventiveness is dominantly disciplined (although flexibly receptive to feelings and to imaginative experiences)
It might be supposed that greater efficiency should be achieved if several people collaborate to solve a problem than if only one individual works on it. Such results are by no means invariable
Although groups often may increase the motivation of their members to deal with problems, there is a counterbalancing need to contend with conflicts arising among members of a group and with efforts to give it coherent direction. Problem solving is facilitated by the presence of an effective leader who not only provides direction but permits the orderly, constructive expression of a variety of opinions; much of the leader's effort may be devoted to resolving differences. Success in problem solving also depends on the distribution of ability within a group. Solutions simply may reflect the presence of an outstanding individual who might perform even better by himself
Although groups may reach a greater number of correct solutions, or may require less time to discover an answer, their net man-hour efficiency is typically lower than that achieved by skilled individuals working alone
A process called brainstorming has been offered as a method of facilitating the production of new solutions to problems. In brainstorming, a problem is presented to a group of people who then proceed to offer whatever they can think of, regardless of quality and with as few inhibitions as can be managed. Theoretically these unrestricted suggestions increase the probability that at least some superior solutions will emerge. Nevertheless, studies show that when individuals work alone under similar conditions, performance tends to proceed more efficiently than it does in groups
Under special circumstances, however, a group may solve problems more effectively than does a reasonably competent individual. Group members may contribute different (and essential) resources to a solution that no individual can readily achieve alone; such pooling of information and skills can make group achievements superior in dealing with selected problems. Sometimes social demands may require group agreement on a single alternative, as in formulating national economic or military policies under democratic governments. When only one among several alternative solutions is correct, even if a group requires more time, it has a higher probability of identifying the right one than does an individual alone
One difference between problem solving by a group and by an individual is the relative importance of covert or vicarious processes. The group depends heavily on verbal communication, while the individual, in considerable degree, attacks the problem through implicit, subjective, silent activity
…traditionally, the three fundamental laws of logic: (1) the law of contradiction, (2) the law of excluded middle (or third), and (3) the principle of identity. That is, (1) for all propositions p, it is impossible for both p and not p to be true, or symbolically, ~(p ~p), in which ~ means “not” and means “and”; (2) either p or ~p must be true, there being no third or middle true proposition between them, or symbolically p ~p, in which means “or”; and (3) if a propositional function F is true of an individual variable x, then F is indeed true of x, or symbolically F(x) F(x), in which means “formally implies.” Another formulation of the principle of identity asserts that a thing is identical with itself, or (x) (x = x), in which means “for every”; or simply that x is x
Aristotle cited the laws of contradiction and of excluded middle as examples of axioms. He partly exempted future contingents, or statements about unsure future events, from the law of excluded middle, holding that it is not (now) either true or false that there will be a naval battle tomorrow, but that the complex proposition that either there will be a naval battle tomorrow or that there will not is (now) true. In the epochal Principia Mathematica (1910–13) of A.N. Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, this law occurs as a theorem rather than as an axiom
That the laws of thought are a sufficient foundation for the whole of logic, or that all other principles of logic are mere elaborations of them, was a doctrine common among traditional logicians. It has been shown, however, that these laws do not even comprise a sufficient set of axioms for the most elementary branch of logic, the propositional calculus, nor for the traditional theory of the categorical syllogism or the logic of terms
The law of excluded middle and certain related laws have been rejected by L.E.J. Brouwer, a Dutch mathematical intuitionist, and his school, who do not admit their use in mathematical proofs in which all members of an infinite class are involved. Brouwer would not accept, for example, the disjunction that either there occur ten successive 7's somewhere in the decimal expansion of or else not, since no proof is known of either alternative; but he would accept it if applied, for instance, to the first 10100 digits of the decimal, since these could in principle actually be computed
In 1920 Jan Lukasiewicz, a leading member of the Polish school of logic, formulated a propositional calculus that had a third truth-value, neither truth nor falsity, for Aristotle's future contingents, a calculus in which the laws of contradiction and of excluded middle both failed. Other systems have gone beyond three-valued to many-valued logics—e.g., certain probability logics having various degrees of truth-value between truth and falsity
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There were four classic laws of thought recognised in European thought of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, which held sway also during nineteenth century (while subject to greater debate). They were:
· the law of noncontradiction;
· the law of excluded middle ;
· the principle of sufficient reason; and
· the identity of indiscernibles
In this formulation they are due to Leibniz. In the approach of Continental rationalism in general, these are supposedly clear and incontestable axioms
The first two are from Aristotle and scholastic logic; the other pair are Leibnizian principles. As turned out to be the case with another such (the so-called law of continuity), they stand for matters which, in contemporary terms, are subject to much debate and analysis (respectively on determinism and extensionality). In a sense that marks what happened in logic in the nineteenth century and particularly after Frege (who was much influenced by these formulations). Such laws were supposed to be of basic, pedagogic value, rather than challenges to the intellect. This attitude only dropped out some time early in the twentieth century, as can be seen by Bertrand Russell's allusion to them in a 1911 work (at which point there were three)
The laws of thought were particularly influential in German thought; in France the interpretation of the Port-Royal Logic tended to dispel their mystique. Hegel quarrelled with the law of indiscernibles while putting together his own 'logic' — but as a current matter rather than an obsolete issue
The title of George Boole's 1854 treatise on logic, An investigation on the Laws of Thought indicates a fresh start. These laws are now part of boolean logic; where the first two on the list come down to saying there are two and only two truth values. The second pair are ignored, at the algebraic level, absent second-order logic
1. Wonder. Pose a question (of the "What is X ?" form).
1. Wonder. Pose a question.
2. Hypothesis. Suggest a plausible answer (a definition or definiens) from which some conceptually testable hypothetical propositions can be deduced.
2. Hypothesis. Suggest a plausible answer (a theory) from which some empirically testable hypothetical propositions can be deduced.
3. Elenchus ; "testing," "refutation," or "cross-examination." Perform a thought experiment by imagining a case which conforms to the definiens but clearly fails to exemplify the definiendum, or vice versa. Such cases, if successful, are called counterexamples. If a counterexample is generated, return to step 2, otherwise go to step 4.
3. Testing. Construct and perform an experiment which makes it possible to observe whether the consequences specified in one or more of those hypothetical propositions actually follow when the conditions specified in the same proposition(s) pertain. If the experiment fails, return to step 2, otherwise go to step 4.
4. Accept the hypothesis as provisionally true. Return to step 3 if you can conceive any other case which may show the answer to be defective.
4. Accept the hypothesis as provisionally true. Return to step 3 if there other predictable consequences of the theory which have not been experimentally confirmed.
5. Act accordingly.
5. Act accordingly.
Socrates was a man of the Periclean age, which witnessed one of the periodic “bankruptcies of science.” Cosmological speculation, which had been boldly pursued from the beginning of the 6th century, seemed to have led to a chaos of conflicting systems of thought. The Rationalist Parmenides of Elea had apparently cut away the ground from science by showing that the real world must be quite unlike anything that the senses reveal and that, consequently, the interpretation of the world by familiar analogies is inherently fallacious; and his pupil Zeno of Elea seemed to have shown that even the postulates of mathematics are mutually contradictory. Thus, the ablest men, such as the Sophists Protagoras and Gorgias, had turned away from the pursuit of science and concerned themselves not with truth but with making a success of human life
Socrates, as a young man, was enthusiastically interested in “natural science” and familiarized himself with the various current systems—with the Milesian cosmology with its flat Earth and the Italian with its spherical Earth and with the mathematical puzzles raised by Zeno about “the unit” (i.e., the problem of continuity). There was a complete lack of critical method. For a moment, Socrates hoped to find salvation in the doctrine of Anaxagoras that “Mind” is the source of all cosmic order because this seemed to mean that “everything is ordered as it is best that it should be,” that the universe is a rational teleological system. But on reading the book of Anaxagoras, he found that the philosopher made no effective use of his principle; the details of his scheme were as arbitrary as those of any other
After this disappointment, Socrates resolved from then on to consider primarily not “facts” but logoi, the “statements” or “propositions” that one makes about “facts.” His method would be to start with whatever seemed the most satisfactory “hypothesis,” or postulate, about a given subject and then consider the consequences that follow from it. So far as these consequences proved to be true and consistent, the “hypothesis” might be regarded as provisionally confirmed. But one should not confuse inquiry into the consequences of the “hypothesis” with proof of its truth. The question of truth could be settled only by deducing the initial “hypothesis” as a consequence from some more ultimate, accepted “hypothesis.”
According to Plato, Socrates next proceeded to take it as his own fundamental “hypothesis” that every term (such as “good,” “beautiful,” “man”) that has an unequivocal denotation directly names a selfsame object of a kind inaccessible to sense perception and apprehensible only by thought. Such an object Socrates calls an Idea or Eidos; i.e., a Form. The sensible things on which a man predicates beauty, goodness, humanity, have only a secondary and derivative reality; they become this or that for a time, in virtue of their “participation” in the Form
Scholars in the 19th century usually assumed that this doctrine of Forms was consciously devised by Plato after the death of Socrates. The chief argument for this view is based upon the observation of Aristotle that Socrates rightly “did not separate” the universal from the particular as, it is apparently implied, Plato did. He might equally have meant, however, that the doctrine of the Phaedo does not itself involve the kind of “separation” to which he objects in the Platonic theory. On the other side, the doctrine is expressly said in the Phaedo to be a familiar one, which Socrates “was always” repeating; and, if untrue, it is hard to see what could be the point of such a mystification and harder to understand how Plato could have expected it to be successful, especially as most of the personages of the Phaedo were certainly still alive. If true, however, one must be prepared to admit the possibility that he is also reproducing the thought of Socrates in the Symposium and Republic, in which he speaks of a supreme Form, that of Beauty, or Good, the vision of which is the far-off goal of all intellectual contemplation. Unfortunately, no complete separation of the Socratic and the Platonic is possible
On the logical side, both Plato and Xenophon bear out the remark of Aristotle that Socrates may fairly be credited with two things: “inductive arguments” and “universal definitions.” The “universal definition” is an attempt to formulate precisely the meaning of a universally significant predicate—i.e., to apprehend what the Phaedo calls a Form. And it is from the practice of Socrates, who aimed at the clarification of thought about the meaning of moral predicates as the first indispensable step toward the improvement of practice, that the theory of logical division and definition, as worked out by Plato and Aristotle, has arisen
The “inductive arguments” mean the characteristic attempts to arrive at such formulations by the consideration of simple and striking concrete illustrations, the perpetual arguments about “shoemakers and carpenters and fullers,” which the fashionable speakers in Plato profess to think vulgar. Induction, on this view of it, is not regarded as a method of proof; its function is that of suggestion: it puts the meaning of a proposed “definition” forcibly and clearly before the mind. The justification of the definition, then, has to be sought in a consideration of the satisfactoriness of the “consequences” that would follow from its adoption. Socrates himself sought for his “definitions” principally in the sphere in which he was most interested: as Aristotle says, he concerned himself with the “ethical,” character and conduct, both private and public, not with “nature” at large
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A dialogical method of inquiry, known as the Socratic method or method of elenchos, largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts and first described by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues. For this, Socrates is customarily regarded as the father and fountainhead for ethics or moral philosophy
· 1 Method
o 1.1 Practice
· 2 Application
o 2.1 Typical Application in Legal Education
· 3 See Also
· 4 External links
The Socratic method is a negative method of hypotheses elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those which lead to contradictions. The method of Socrates is a search for the underlying hypotheses, assumptions, or axioms, which may unconsciously shape one's opinion, and to make them the subject of scrutiny, to determine their consistency with other beliefs. The basic form is a series of questions formulated as tests of logic and fact intended to help a person or group discover their beliefs about some topic, exploring the definitions or logoi (singular logos), seeking to characterise the general characteristics shared by various particular instances. To the extent to which this method is designed to bring out definitions implicit in the interlocutors' beliefs, or to help them further their understanding, it was called the method of maieutics. Aristotle attributed to Socrates the discovery of the method of definition and induction, which he regarded as the essence of the scientific method. Oddly, however, Aristotle also claimed that this method is not suitable for ethics
A skillful teacher can teach students to think for themselves using this method. This is the only classic method of teaching that was designed to create genuinely autonomous thinkers. There are some crucial principles to this form of teaching:
· The teacher and student must agree on the topic of instruction
· The student must agree to attempt to answer questions from the teacher
· The teacher and student must be willing to accept any correctly-reasoned answer. That is, the reasoning process must be considered more important than facts
· The teacher's questions must expose errors in the students' reasoning or beliefs. That is, the teacher must reason more quickly and correctly than the student, and discover errors in the students' reasoning, and then formulate a question that the students cannot answer except by a correct reasoning process. To perform this service, the teacher must be very quick-thinking about the classic errors in reasoning
· If the teacher makes an error of logic or fact, it is acceptable for a student to correct the teacher
Since a discussion is not a dialogue, it is not a proper medium for the Socratic method. However, it is helpful -- if second best -- if the teacher is able to lead a group of students in a discussion. This is not always possible in situations that require the teacher to evaluate students, but it is preferable pedagogically, because it encourages the students to reason rather than appeal to authority
More loosely, one can label any process of thorough-going questioning in a dialogue as an instance of the Socratic method
Socrates generally applied his method of examination to concepts that seem to lack any concrete definition; e.g., the key moral concepts at the time, the virtues of piety, wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. Such an examination challenged the implicit moral beliefs of the interlocutors, bringing out inadequacies and inconsistencies in their beliefs, and usually resulting in puzzlement known as aporia. In view of such inadequacies, Socrates himself professed his ignorance, but others still claimed to have knowledge. Socrates believed that his awareness of his ignorance made him wiser than those who, though ignorant, still claimed knowledge. Although this belief seems paradoxical at first glance, it in fact allowed Socrates to discover his own errors where others might assume they were correct. This claim was known by the anecdote of the Delphic oracular pronouncement that Socrates was the wisest of all men
Socrates used this claim of wisdom as the basis of his moral exhortation. Accordingly, he claimed that the chief goodness consists in the caring of the soul concerned with moral truth and moral understanding, that "wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and to the state", and that "life without examination [dialogue] is not worth living". It is with this in mind that the Socratic Method is employed
The motive for the modern usage of this method and Socrates' use are not necessarily equivalent. Socrates rarely used the method to actually develop consistent theories, instead using myth to explain them. The Parmenides shows Parmenides using the Socratic method to point out the flaws in the Platonic theory of the Forms, as presented by Socrates; it is not the only dialogue in which theories normally expounded by Plato/Socrates are broken down through dialectic. Instead of arriving at answers, the method was used to break down the theories we hold, to go "beyond" the axioms and postulates we take for granted. Therefore, myth and the Socratic method are not meant by Plato to be incompatible; they have different purposes, and are often described as the "left hand" and "right hand" paths to the Good and wisdom
Socratic method is widely used in contemporary legal education by many law schools in the United States. In a typical class setting, the professor asks a question and calls on a student who may or may not have volunteered an answer. The student's answer stimulates other students to offer their own views, thus generating a wide range of opinions and exposing the strengths and weaknesses of each
The answers usually become increasingly refined as each is built upon the previous ones. Then the professor moves on to the next question, often without authoritatively answering the first one, and so on. It is important to understand that typically there is more than one "correct" answer, and more often, no clear answer at all. The primary goal of Socratic method in law schools is not to answer usually unanswerable questions, but to explore the contours of often difficult legal issues and to teach students the critical thinking skills they will need as lawyers
The class usually ends with a quick discussion of doctrinal foundations (legal rules) to anchor the students in contemporary legal understanding of an issue. For this method to work, the students are expected to be prepared for class in advance by reading the assigned materials (case opinions, notes, law review articles, etc.) and by familiarizing themselves with the general outlines of the subject matter
We have broken the global concept of critical thinking down into 35 aspects or instructional strategies. These strategies are linked to the following remodeled lessons plans:
Cognitive Strategies - Macro-Abilities
Cognitive Strategies - Micro-Skills
S-1 Thinking Independently
Principle: Critical thinking is independent thinking, thinking for oneself. Many of our beliefs are acquired at an early age, when we have a strong tendency to form beliefs for irrational reasons (because we want to believe, because we are praised or rewarded for believing). Critical thinkers use critical skills and insights to reveal and reject beliefs that are irrational.
In forming new beliefs, critical thinkers do not passively accept the beliefs of others; rather, they try to figure things out for themselves, reject unjustified authorities, and recognize the contributions of genuine authorities. They thoughtfully form principles of thought and action; they do not mindlessly accept those presented to them. Nor are they unduly influenced by the language of another.
If they find that a set of categories or distinctions is more appropriate than that used by another, they will use it. Recognizing that categories serve human purposes, they use those categories which best serve their purpose at the time. They are not limited by accepted ways of doing things. They evaluate both goals and how to achieve them. They do not accept as true, or reject as false, beliefs they do not understand. They are not easily manipulated.
Independent thinkers strive to incorporate all known relevant knowledge and insight into their thought and behavior. They strive to determine for themselves when information is relevant, when to apply a concept, or when to make use of a skill. They are self-monitoring: they catch their own mistakes; they don't need to be told what to do every step of the way.
Principle: Egocentricity means confusing what we see and think with reality. When under the influence of egocentricity, we think that the way we see things is exactly the way things are. Egocentricity manifests itself as an inability or unwillingness to consider others' points of view, a refusal to accept ideas or facts which would prevent us from getting what we want (or think we want).
In its extreme forms, it is characterized by a need to be right about everything, a lack of interest in consistency and clarity, an all or nothing attitude ("I am 100% right; you are 100% wrong."), and a lack of self-consciousness of one's own thought processes. The egocentric individual is more concerned with the appearance of truth, fairness, and fairmindedness, than with actually being correct, fair, or fairminded. Egocentricity is the opposite of critical thought. It is common in adults as well as in children.
As people are socialized, egocentricity partly evolves into sociocentricity. Egocentric tendencies extend to their groups. The individual goes from "I am right!" to "We are right!" To put this another way, people find that they can often best satisfy their egocentric desires through a group.
"Group think" results when people egocentrically attach themselves to a group. One can see this in both children and adults: My daddy is better than your daddy! My school (religion, country, race, etc.) is better than yours. Uncritical thinkers often confuse loyalty with always supporting and agreeing, even when the other person or the group is wrong.
If egocentricity and sociocentricity are the disease, self-awareness is the cure. We need to become aware of our own tendency to confuse our view with "The Truth". People can often recognize when someone else is egocentric. Most of us can identify the sociocentricity of members of opposing groups. Yet when we ourselves are thinking egocentrically or sociocentrically, it seems right to us (at least at the time).
Our belief in our own rightness is easier to maintain because we ignore the faults in our thinking. We automatically hide our egocentricity from ourselves. We fail to notice when our behavior contradicts our self-image. We base our reasoning on false assumptions we are unaware of making. We fail to make relevant distinctions (of which we are otherwise aware and able to make) when making them prevents us from getting what we want. We deny or conveniently "forget" facts that do not support our conclusions. We often misunderstand or distort what others say.
The solution, then, is to reflect on our reasoning and behavior; to make our beliefs explicit, critique them, and, when they are false, stop making them; to apply the same concepts in the same ways to ourselves and others; to consider every relevant fact, and to make our conclusions consistent with the evidence; and to listen carefully and openmindedly to others.
We can change egocentric tendencies when we see them for what they are: irrational and unjust. The development of children's awareness of their egocentric and sociocentric patterns of thought is a crucial part of education in critical thinking. This development will be modest at first but can grow considerably over time.
Principle: To think critically, we must be able to consider the strengths and weaknesses of opposing points of view; to imaginatively put ourselves in the place of others in order to genuinely understand them; to overcome our egocentric tendency to identify truth with our immediate perceptions or long-standing thought or belief.
This trait is linked to the ability to accurately reconstruct the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than our own. This trait also requires the willingness to remember occasions when we were wrong in the past despite an intense conviction that we were right, as well as the ability to imagine our being similarly deceived in a case at hand. Critical thinkers realize the unfairness of judging unfamiliar ideas until they fully understand them.
The world consists of many societies and peoples with many different points of view and ways of thinking. To develop as reasonable persons, we need to enter into and think within the frameworks and ideas of different peoples and societies.
We cannot truly understand the world if we think about it only from one viewpoint, as Americans, as Italians, or as Soviets. Furthermore, critical thinkers recognize that their behavior affects others, and so consider their behavior from the perspective of those others.
Principle: Although it is common to separate thought and feeling as though they were independent, opposing forces in the human mind, the truth is that virtually all human feelings are based on some level of thought and virtually all thought generative of some level of feeling. To think with self-understanding and insight, we must come to terms with the intimate connections between thought and feeling, reason and emotion.
Critical thinkers realize that their feelings are their response (but not the only possible, or even necessarily the most reasonable response) to a situation. They know that their feelings would be different if they had a different understanding or interpretation of the situation.
They recognize that thoughts and feelings, far from being different kinds of "things", are two aspects of their responses. Uncritical thinkers see little or no relationship between their feelings and their thoughts, and so escape responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Their own feelings often seem unintelligible to them.
When we feel sad or depressed, it is often because we are interpreting our situation in an overly negative or pessimistic light. We may be forgetting to consider positive aspects of our lives.
We can better understand our feelings by asking ourselves, "How have I come to feel this way? How am I looking at the situation? To what conclusion have I come? What is my evidence? What assumptions am I making? What inferences am I making? Are they sound inferences? Do my conclusions make sense? Are there other ways to interpret this situation?"
We can learn to seek patterns in our assumptions, and so begin to see the unity behind our separate emotions. Understanding ourselves is the first step toward self-control and self-improvement. This self-understanding requires that we understand our feelings and emotions in relation to our thoughts, ideas, and interpretations of the world.
Principle: Critical thinkers recognize the limits of their knowledge. They are sensitive to circumstances in which their native egocentricity is likely to function self-deceptively; they are sensitive to bias, prejudice, and limitations of their views. Intellectual humility is based on the recognition that one should not claim more than one actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness.
It implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, arrogance, or conceit. It implies insight into the foundations of one's beliefs: knowing what evidence one has, how one has come to believe, what further evidence one might look for or examine. Thus, critical thinkers distinguish what they know from what they don't know. They are not afraid of saying "I don't know" when they are not in a position to be sure.
They can make this distinction because they habitually ask themselves, "How could one know whether or not this is true?" To say "In this case I must suspend judgment until I find out x and y", does not make them anxious or uncomfortable. They are willing to rethink conclusions in the light of new knowledge. They qualify their claims appropriately.
In exposing children to concepts within a field of knowledge, we can help them see how all concepts depend on other, more basic concepts and how each field is based on fundamental assumptions which need to be examined, understood, and justified. The class should often explore the connections between specific details and basic concepts or principles. We can help children discover experiences in their own lives which help support or justify what a text says. We should always be willing to entertain student doubts about what a text says. Judgment
Principle: To think independently and fairly, one must feel the need to face and fairly deal with unpopular ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints. The courage to do so arises when we see that ideas considered dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally justified (in whole or in part) and that conclusions or beliefs inculcated in us are sometimes false or misleading.
To determine for ourselves which is which, we must not passively and uncritically accept what we have "learned". We need courage to admit the truth in some ideas considered dangerous and absurd, and the distortion or falsity in some ideas strongly held in our social group. It will take courage to be true to our own thinking, for honestly questioning our deeply held beliefs can be difficult and sometimes frightening, and the penalties for non-conformity are often severe. Judgment
Principle: Critical thinkers recognize the need to be true to their own thought, to be consistent in the intellectual standards they apply, to hold themselves to the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof to which they hold others, to practice what they advocate for others, and to honestly admit discrepancies and inconsistencies in their own thought and action. They believe most strongly what has been justified by their own thought and analyzed experience.
They have a commitment to bringing the self they are and the self they want to be together. People in general are often inconsistent in their application of standards once their ego is involved positively or negatively. For instance, when people like us, we tend to over-estimate their positive characteristics; when they dislike us, we tend to underrate them
Principle: Becoming a more critical thinker is not easy. It takes time and effort. Critical thinking is reflective and recursive; that is, we often think back to previous problems to re-consider or re-analyze them. Critical thinkers are willing to pursue intellectual insights and truths in spite of difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations.
They recognize the need to struggle with confusion and unsettled questions over time in order to achieve deeper understanding and insight. They recognize that significant change requires patience and hard work. Important issues often require extended thought, research, struggle. Considering a new view takes time. Yet people are often impatient to "get on with it" when they most need to slow down and think carefully.
People rarely define issues or problems clearly; concepts are often left vague; related issues are not sorted out, etc. When people don't understand a problem or situation, their reactions and solutions often compound the original problem. Children need to gain insight into the need for intellectual perseverance.
Principle: The rational person recognizes the power of reason and the value of disciplining thinking in accordance with rational standards. Virtually all of the progress that has been made in science and human knowledge testifies to this power, and so to the reasonability of having confidence in reason.
To develop this faith in reason is to come to see that ultimately one's own higher interests and those of humankind at large will best be served by giving the freest play to reason, by encouraging people to come to their own conclusions through a process of developing their own rational faculties.
It is to reject force and trickery as standard ways of changing another's mind. It is to believe that, with proper encouragement and cultivation, people can develop the ability to think for themselves, to form reasonable points of view, draw reasonable conclusions, think clearly and logically, persuade each other by reason and, ultimately, become reasonable persons, despite the deep-seated obstacles in the native character of the human mind and in society as we know it.
This confidence is essential to building a democracy in which people come to genuine rule, rather than being manipulated by the mass media, special interests, or by the inner prejudices, fears, and irrationalities that so easily and commonly dominate human minds.
You should note that the act of faith we are recommending is not blind faith, but should be tested in everyday experiences and academic work. In other words, we should have confidence in reason because reason works. Confidence in reason does not deny the reality of intuition; rather, it provides a way of distinguishing intuition from prejudice. When we know the source of our thinking and keep our minds open to new reason and evidence, we will be more likely to correct our prejudiced thought.
At the heart of this principle of faith in reason is the desire to make sense of the world and the expectation that sense can be made. Texts often don't make sense to children, sometimes because what they say doesn't make sense, more often because children aren't given time to make sense out of what they are told.
Being continually called upon to "master" what seems nonsensical undermines the feeling that one can make sense of the world. Many children, rushed through mountains of material, give up on this early. ("If I try to make sense of this, I'll never finish. Trying to really understand just slows me down. Nobody expects me to make sense of this; they just want me to do it.")
S-10 Refining Generalizations and Avoiding Oversimplifications
Principle: It is natural to seek to simplify problems and experiences to make them easier to deal with. Everyone does this. However, the uncritical thinker often oversimplifies and as a result misrepresents problems and experiences.
What should be recognized as complex, intricate, ambiguous, or subtle is viewed as simple, elementary, clear, and obvious. For example, it is typically an oversimplification to view people or groups as all good or all bad, actions as always right or always wrong, one contributing factor as the cause, etc., and yet such beliefs are common.
Critical thinkers try to find simplifying patterns and solutions, but not by misrepresentation or distortion. Seeing the difference between useful simplifications and misleading oversimplifications is important to critical thinking.
Critical thinkers scrutinize generalizations, probe for possible exceptions, and then use appropriate qualifications. Critical thinkers are not only clear, but also exact and precise. One of the strongest tendencies of the egocentric, uncritical mind is to see things in terms of black and white, "all right" and "all wrong". Hence, beliefs which should be held with varying degrees of certainty are held as certain. Critical thinkers are sensitive to this problem.
They understand the important relationship of evidence to belief and so qualify their statements accordingly. The tentativeness of many of their beliefs is characterized by the appropriate use of such qualifiers as 'highly likely', 'probably', 'not very likely', 'highly unlikely', 'often', 'usually', 'seldom', 'I doubt', 'I suspect', 'most', 'many', and 'some'.
Principle: An idea's power is limited by our ability to use it. Critical thinkers' ability to use ideas mindfully enhances their ability to transfer ideas critically. They practice using ideas and insights by appropriately applying them to new situations. This allows them to organize materials and experiences in different ways, to compare and contrast alternative labels, to integrate their understanding of different situations, and to find useful ways to think about new situations.
Every time we use an insight or principle, we increase our understanding of both the insight and the situation to which we have applied it. True education provides for more than one way to organize material. For example, history can be organized in our minds by geography, chronology, or by such phenomena as repeated patterns, common situations, analogous "stories", and so on. The truly educated person is not trapped by one organizing principle, but can take knowledge apart and put it together many different ways. Each way of organizing knowledge has some benefit.
Principle: The world is not given to us sliced up into categories with pre-assigned labels on them. There are always many ways to "divide up" and so experience the world. How we do so is essential to our thinking and behavior. Uncritical thinkers assume that their perspective on things is the only correct one. Selfish critical thinkers manipulate the perspectives of others to gain advantage for themselves.
Fairminded critical thinkers learn to recognize that their own ways of thinking and that of all other perspectives are some combination of insight and error. They learn to develop their points of view through a critical analysis of their experience.
They learn to question commonly accepted ways of understanding things and avoid uncritically accepting the viewpoints of their peers or society. They know what their perspectives are and can talk insightfully about them. To do this, they must create and explore their own beliefs, their own reasoning, and their own theories.
Principle: The more completely, clearly, and accurately an issue or statement is formulated, the easier and more helpful the discussion of its settlement or verification. Given a clear statement of an issue, and prior to evaluating conclusions or solutions, it is important to recognize what is required to settle it. And before we can agree or disagree with a claim, we must understand it clearly.
It makes no sense to say "I don't know what you mean, but I deny it, whatever it is." Critical thinkers recognize problematic claims, concepts, and standards of evaluation, making sure that understanding precedes judgment. They routinely distinguish facts from interpretations, opinions, judgments, or theories. They can then raise those questions most appropriate to understanding and evaluating each.
Principle: Critical, independent thinking requires clarity of thought. A clear thinker understands concepts and knows what kind of evidence is required to justify applying a word or phrase to a situation. The ability to supply a definition is not proof of understanding. One must be able to supply clear, obvious examples and use the concept appropriately. In contrast, for an unclear thinker, words float through the mind unattached to clear, specific, concrete cases. Distinct concepts are confused.
Often the only criterion for the application of a term is that the case in question "seems like" an example. Irrelevant associations are confused with what are necessary parts of the concept (e.g., "Love involves flowers and candlelight.") Unclear thinkers lack independence of thought because they lack the ability to analyze a concept, and so critique its use.
Principle: Critical thinkers realize that expressing mere preference does not substitute for evaluating something. Awareness of the process or components of evaluating facilitates thoughtful and fairminded evaluation. This process requires developing and using criteria or standards of evaluation, or making standards or criteria explicit.
Critical thinkers are aware of the values on which they base their judgments. They have clarified them and understand why they are values. When developing criteria, critical thinkers should understand the object and purpose of the evaluation, and what function the thing being evaluated is supposed to serve. Critical thinkers take into consideration different points of view when attempting to evaluate something.
Principle: Critical thinkers recognize the importance of using reliable sources of information. They give less weight to sources which either lack a track record of honesty, are not in a position to know, or have a vested interest in the issue. Critical thinkers recognize when there is more than one reasonable position to be taken on an issue; they compare alternative sources of information, noting areas of agreement; they analyze questions to determine whether or not the source is in a position to know; and they gather more information when sources disagree.
They recognize obstacles to gathering accurate and pertinent information. They realize that preconception, for example, influences observation-that we often see only what we expect to see and fail to notice things we aren't looking for.
Principle: Critical thinkers can pursue an issue in depth, covering various aspects in an extended process of thought or discussion. When reading a passage, they look for issues and concepts underlying the claims expressed. They come to their own understanding of the details they learn, placing them in the larger framework of the subject and their overall perspectives. They contemplate the significant issues and questions underlying subjects or problems studied. They can move between basic underlying ideas and specific details.
When pursuing a line of thought, they are not continually dragged off the subject. They use important issues to organize their thought and are not bound by the organization given by another. Each of the various subject areas has been developed to clarify and settle questions peculiar to itself. (For example, history: How did the world come to be the way it is now?) The teacher can use such questions to organize and unify details covered in each subject.
Perhaps more important are basic questions everyone faces about what people are like, the nature of right and wrong, how we know things, and so on. Both general and subject-specific basic questions should be repeatedly raised and used as a framework for organizing details children are learning
Principle: Rather than carelessly agreeing or disagreeing with a conclusion based on their preconceptions of what is true, critical thinkers use analytic tools to understand the reasoning behind it and determine its relative strengths and weaknesses. When analyzing arguments,critical thinkers recognize the importance of asking for reasons and considering other views.
They are especially sensitive to possible strengths of arguments that they disagree with, recognizing the tendency to ignore, oversimplify, distort, or otherwise unfairly dismiss them. Critical thinkers analyze questions and place conflicting arguments, interpretations, and theories in opposition to one another, as a means of highlighting key concepts, assumptions, implications, etc.
When giving or being given an interpretation, critical thinkers, recognizing the difference between evidence and interpretation, explore the assumptions on which interpretations are based and propose and evaluate alternative interpretations for their relative strength. Autonomous thinkers consider competing theories and develop their own theories.
Principle: Critical problem-solvers use everything available to them to find the best solution they can. They evaluate solutions, not independently of, but in relation to one another (since 'best' implies a comparison).
They take the time to formulate problems clearly, accurately, and fairly, rather than offering a sloppy, half-baked, or self-serving description ("Susie's mean!" "This isn't going well, how can we do it better?") and then immediately leaping to solutions. They examine the causes of the problem at length.
They reflect on such questions as, "What makes some solutions better than others? What does the solution to this problem require? What solutions have been tried for this and similar problems? With what results?" But alternative solutions are often not given, they must be generated or thought up.
Critical thinkers must be creative thinkers as well, generating possible solutions in order to find the best one. Very often a problem persists, not because we can't tell which available solution is best, but because the best solution has not yet been made available-no one has thought of it yet.
Therefore, although critical thinkers use all available information relevant to their problems, including solutions others have tried in similar situations, they are flexible and imaginative, willing to try any good idea whether it has been done before or not. Fairminded thinkers take into account the interests of everyone affected by the problem and proposed solutions. They are more committed to finding the best solution than to getting their way. They approach problems realistically.
Principle: To develop one's perspective, one must analyze actions and policies and evaluate them. Good judgment is best developed through practice: judging behavior, explaining and justifying those judgments, hearing alternative judgments and their justifications, and assessing judgments. When evaluating the behavior of themselves and others, critical thinkers are aware of the standards they use, so that these, too, can become objects of evaluation.
Critical thinkers examine the consequences of actions and recognize these as fundamental to the standards for assessing behavior and policy. Critical thinkers base their evaluations of behavior on assumptions which they have reasoned through. They can articulate and rationally apply principles.
Principle: Critical thinkers read with a healthy skepticism. But they do not doubt or deny until they understand. They clarify before they judge. Since they expect intelligibility from what they read, they check and double-check their understanding as they read. They do not mindlessly accept nonsense. Critical readers ask themselves questions as they read, wonder about the implications of, reasons for, examples of, and meaning and truth of the material.
They do not approach written material as a collection of sentences, but as a whole, trying out various interpretations until one fits all of the work, rather than ignoring or distorting what doesn't fit their interpretation. They realize that everyone is capable of making mistakes and being wrong, including authors of textbooks.
They also realize that, since everyone has a point of view, everyone sometimes leaves out some relevant information. No two authors would write the same book or write from exactly the same perspective. Therefore, critical readers recognize that reading a book is reading one limited perspective on a subject and that more can be learned by considering other perspectives.
Principle: Critical thinkers realize that listening can be done passively and uncritically or actively and critically. They know that it is easy to misunderstand what is said by another and hard to integrate another's thinking into one's own. Compare speaking and listening. When we speak, we need only keep track of our own ideas, arranging them in some order, expressing thoughts with which we are intimately familiar: our own.
But listening is more complex. We must take the words of another and translate them into ideas that make sense to us. We have not had the experiences of the speaker. We are not on the inside of his or her point of view. When we listen to others, we can't anticipate, as they can themselves, where their thoughts are leading them. We must continually interpret what others say within the confines of our experiences. We must find a way to enter into their points of view, shift our minds to follow their train of thought.
Consequently, we need to learn how to listen actively and critically. We need to recognize that listening is an art involving skills that we can develop only with time and practice. We must realize, for example, that to listen and learn from what we are hearing, we need to learn to ask key questions that enable us to locate ourselves in the thought of another: "I'm not sure I understand you when you say..., could you explain that further?" "Could you give me an example or illustration of this?" "Would you also say ...?" "Let me see if I understand you. What you are saying is... Is that right?" "How do you respond to this objection?"
Critical readers ask questions as they read and use those questions to orient themselves to what an author is saying. Critical listeners ask questions as they listen to orient themselves to what a speaker is saying: "Why does she say that? What examples could I give to illustrate that point? What is the main point? How does this detail relate to the main point? That one? Is he using this word as I would, or somewhat differently?" These highly skilled and activated processes are crucial to learning. We need to heighten student awareness of and practice in them as often as we can.
Principle: Although in some ways it is convenient to divide knowledge up into disciplines, the divisions are not absolute. Critical thinkers do not allow the somewhat arbitrary distinctions between academic subjects to control their thinking. When considering issues which transcend subjects (and most real-life issues do), they bring relevant concepts, knowledge, and insights from many subjects to the analysis.
They make use of insights from one subject to inform their understanding of other subjects. There are always connections between subjects. To understand, say, reasons for the American Revolution (historical question), insights from technology, geography, economics, and philosophy can be fruitfully applied.
Principle: Critical thinkers are nothing if not questioners. The ability to question and probe deeply, to get down to root ideas, to get beneath the mere appearance of things, is at the very heart of the activity. And, as questioners, they have many different kinds of questions and moves available and can follow up their questions appropriately.
They can use questioning techniques, not to make others look stupid, but to learn what they think, help them develop their ideas, or as a prelude to evaluating them. When confronted with a new idea, they want to understand it, to relate it to their experience, and to determine its implications, consequences, and value. They can fruitfully uncover the structure of their own and others' perspectives. Probing questions are the tools by which these goals are reached.
Furthermore, critical thinkers are comfortable being questioned. They don't become offended, confused, or intimidated. They welcome good questions as an opportunity to develop a line of thought.
Principle: Dialogical thinking refers to thinking that involves a dialogue or extended exchange between different points of view. Whenever we consider concepts or issues deeply, we naturally explore their connections to other ideas and issues within different points of view.
Critical thinkers need to be able to engage in fruitful, exploratory dialogue, proposing ideas, probing their roots, considering subject matter insights and evidence, testing ideas, and moving between various points of view. When we think, we often engage in dialogue, either inwardly or aloud with others. We need to integrate critical thinking skills into that dialogue so that it is as useful as possible. Socratic questioning is one form of dialogical thinking.
Principle: Dialectical thinking refers to dialogical thinking conducted in order to test the strengths and weaknesses of opposing points of view. Court trials and debates are dialectical in intention. They pit idea against idea, reasoning against counter-reasoning in order to get at the truth of a matter. As soon as we begin to explore ideas, we find that some clash or are inconsistent with others.
If we are to integrate our thinking, we need to assess which of the conflicting ideas we will provisionally accept and which we shall provisionally reject, or which parts of the views are strong and which weak, or how the views can be reconciled.
Children need to develop dialectical reasoning skills, so that their thinking not only moves comfortably between divergent points of view or lines of thought, but also makes some assessments in light of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the evidence or reasoning presented. Hence, when thinking dialectically, critical thinkers can use critical micro-skills appropriately.
S-27 Comparing and Contrasting Ideals with Actual Practice
Principle: Self-improvement and social improvement are presupposed values of critical thinking. Critical thinking, therefore, requires an effort to see ourselves and others accurately. This requires recognizing gaps between ideals and practice. The fairminded thinker values truth and consistency and so works to minimize these gaps.
The confusion of facts with ideals prevents us from moving closer to achieving our ideals. A critical education strives to highlight discrepancies between facts and ideals, and proposes and evaluates methods for minimizing them. This strategy is intimately connected with "developing intellectual good faith".
Principle: An essential requirement of critical thinking is the ability to think about thinking, to engage in what is sometimes called "metacognition". One possible definition of critical thinking is the art of thinking about your thinking while you're thinking in order to make your thinking better: more clear, more accurate, more fair.
It is precisely at the level of "thinking about thinking" that most critical thinking stands in contrast to uncritical thinking. Critical thinkers can analyze thought-take it apart and put it together again. For the uncritical thinker, thoughts are "just there".
"I think what I think, don't ask me why." The analytical vocabulary in the English language (such terms as 'assume', 'infer', 'conclude', 'criterion', 'point of view', 'relevance', 'issue', 'elaborate', 'ambiguous', 'objection', 'support', 'bias', 'justify', 'perspective', 'contradiction', 'consistent', 'credibility', 'evidence', 'interpret', 'distinguish') enables us to think more precisely about our thinking. We are in a better position to assess reasoning (our own, as well as that of others) when we can use analytic vocabulary with accuracy and ease.
Principle: Critical thinkers strive to treat similar things similarly and different things differently. Uncritical thinkers, on the other hand, often don't see significant similarities and differences. Things superficially similar are often significantly different. Things superficially different are often essentially the same.
Only through practice can we become sensitized to significant similarities and differences. As we develop this sensitivity, it influences how we experience, how we describe, how we categorize, and how we reason about things. We become more careful and discriminating in our use of words and phrases.
We hesitate before we accept this or that analogy or comparison. We recognize the purposes of the comparisons we make. We recognize that purposes govern the act of comparing and determine its scope and limits.
The hierarchy of categories biologists, for instance, use to classify living things (with Kingdom as the most basic, all the way down to sub-species) reflects biological judgment regarding which kinds of similarities and differences between species are the most important biologically, that is, which distinctions shed the most light on how each organism is structured and lives.
To the zoologist, the similarities between whales and horses is considered more important than their similarities to fish. The differences between whales and fish are considered more significant than differences between whales and horses. These distinctions suit the biologists' purposes.
Principle: We are in a better position to evaluate any reasoning or behavior when all of the elements of that reasoning or behavior are made explicit. We base both our reasoning and our behavior on beliefs we take for granted. We are often unaware of these assumptions. Only by recognizing them can we evaluate them.
Critical thinkers have a passion for truth and for accepting the strongest reasoning. Thus, they have the intellectual courage to seek out and reject false assumptions. They realize that everyone makes some questionable assumptions. They are willing to question, and have others question, even their own most cherished assumptions. They consider alternative assumptions.
They base their acceptance or rejection of assumptions on their rational scrutiny of them. They hold questionable assumptions with an appropriate degree of tentativeness. Independent thinkers evaluate assumptions for themselves, and do not simply accept the assumptions of others, even those assumptions made by everyone they know.
Principle: To think critically, we must be able to tell the difference between those facts which are relevant to an issue and those which are not. Critical thinkers focus their attention on relevant facts and do not let irrelevant considerations affect their conclusions. Whether or not something is relevant is often unclear; relevance must often be argued. Furthermore, a fact is only relevant or irrelevant in relation to an issue. Information relevant to one problem may not be relevant to another.
Principle: Thinking critically involves the ability to reach sound conclusions based on observation and information. Critical thinkers distinguish their observations from their conclusions. They look beyond the facts, to see what those facts imply. They know what the concepts they use imply.
They also distinguish cases in which they can only guess from cases in which they can safely conclude. Critical thinkers recognize their tendency to make inferences that support their own egocentric or sociocentric world views and are therefore especially careful to evaluate inferences they make when their interests or desires are involved. Remember, every interpretation is based on inference, and we interpret every situation we are in.
S-33 Giving Reasons and Evaluating Evidence and Alleged Facts
Principle: Critical thinkers can take their reasoning apart in order to examine and evaluate its components. They know on what evidence they base their conclusions. They realize that un-stated, unknown reasons can be neither communicated nor critiqued. They are comfortable being asked to give reasons; they don't find requests for reasons intimidating, confusing, or insulting.
They can insightfully discuss evidence relevant to the issue or conclusions they consider. Not everything offered as evidence should be accepted. Evidence and factual claims should be scrutinized and evaluated. Evidence can be complete or incomplete, acceptable, questionable, or false.
Principle: Consistency is a fundamental-some would say the defining-ideal of critical thinkers. They strive to remove contradictions from their beliefs, and are wary of contradictions in others. As would-be fairminded thinkers they strive to judge like cases in a like manner.
Perhaps the most difficult form of consistency to achieve is that between word and deed. Self-serving double standards are one of the most common problems in human life. Children are in some sense aware of the importance of consistency. ("Why don't I get to do what they get to do?") They are frustrated by double standards, yet are given little help in getting insight into them and dealing with them.
Critical thinkers can pinpoint specifically where opposing arguments or views contradict each other, distinguishing the contradictions from compatible beliefs, thus focusing their analyses of conflicting views.
Principle: Critical thinkers can take statements, recognize their implications-what follows from them-and develop a fuller, more complete understanding of their meaning. They realize that to accept a statement one must also accept its implications. They can explore both implications and consequences at length. When considering beliefs that relate to actions or policies, critical thinkers assess the consequences of acting on those beliefs.
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