I think there a lot of people in the US who don’t have (or don’t use) basic critical thinking skills. This makes them very susceptible to being led around by their emotions and pseudo-reasoning than by their beliefs, principles and ideals.
I think that this is reflected in the media and in politics. How did politics come to be so divisive? If it’s possible to get any kind of information at any time, why is it that so many people choose to filter their media consumption so that they only get exposed to opinions they agree with?
I took a Critical Thinking course in college. It was nothing special… it was a lot of information I had already known, even if I didn’t have the language to express it. And yet, everywhere I see evidence of hundreds, or thousands, of people reacting to non-logical arguments as though they are perfectly valid.
At the same time I see a lot of people arguing right past each other, not just in the media, but in online forums, and even at work. It’s as if the opinions that strike a chord will get them humming, and opinions they don’t agree with will be greeted with hostility, not just disagreement.
I pride myself on being a good communicator, and especially a good listener. I am able to sort out when someone says what they think, what they feel, and what they believe, even if they are not communicating well. I am able to repeat back what I hear to verify and validate that I understand it, even if I don’t agree with it. I’m able to tell the difference between a fact and an opinion, and I can sense when people agree on basic premises and disagree on a question of degree or emphasis, even if the speakers don’t see any agreement.
I believe this level of listening involves some amount of empathy and takes a lot of practice to be good at. But, I think basic critical thinking is not that hard to pick up.
So, friends, if you’ve managed to read this far, answer some or all of these for me.
1. Do you believe you are pretty good, or at least reasonable, at critical thinking? Can you tell when an argument is logical, or when an argument is designed to appeal to your emotions and not your intellect? If so, where did you pick up basic critical thinking skills?
2. Do you happen to know any good (but short) reading material, or useful web pages, that give basic skills in critical thinking, or basic semantic analysis?
3. Someone I was talking to recently said that there are something like three basic types of information, and it was something like statement of fact, statement of values, statement of logic. Does this ring a bell and/or have you ever heard of this?
4. Do you believe that critical thinkers are in the minority? Do you think that people are easily led around by their emotions? Would a quick one-page primer on critical thinking and avoiding common fallacy arguments would help these people, or do they need more than a fifteen-minute crash course could give them?