Be all that you can be

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  • #1
Be all that you can be

No, I am not suggesting that you join the Marines!

“The religious believer assigns dignity to whatever his religion holds sacred—a set of moral laws, a way of life, or particular objects of worship. He grows angry when the dignity of what he holds sacred is violated.” Quote from “The End of History and the Last Man”.

To what does the non believer assign dignity? If the non believer does not assign dignity to rationality and self-actualization, upon what foundation does s/he stand? If the non believer does depend upon rationality and self-actualization for dignity how is it possible that so few know anything about such matters?

Abraham Maslow tells us that there are two processes necessary for self-actualization: self exploration and action. Self exploration is very important, the deeper the self exploration, the closer one comes to self-actualization. Self-actualization results from our desire to actualize our potential. As the Marines might say “Be all that you can be”.

I think that the area in which Western society fails most egregiously is in the matter of an intellectual life after schooling. We have a marvelous brain that goes into the attic after schooling is complete and is brought out only occasionally on the job or when we try to play bridge or chess.

It appears to me that the fundamental problem faced by most Western democracies is a lack of intellectual sophistication of the total population. Our colleges and universities have prepared young people to become good producers and consumers. The college graduate has a large specialized database that allows that individual to quickly enter the corporate world as a useful cog in the machine. The results display themselves in our thriving high standard of living, high technology corporate driven life styles.

Our schools and colleges are beginning to introduce our young people to the domain of knowledge called Critical Thinking. CT is taught because our educators have begun to recognize that teaching a young person what to think is not sufficient for the citizens of a democracy in an age of high technology. CT is an attempt to teach young people how to think. Like the adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to fish, a youngster who knows how to think is prepared for a lifetime rather than for a day.

What about today’s adult? Today’s adult was educated in a time when schools and colleges never gave universal instruction in the art and science of thinking—rationality.

If today’s adult wishes to learn CT s/he must learn it on their own nickel. I think a good read to begin with is this one

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Staff Emeritus
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I think that the area in which Western society fails most egregiously is in the matter of an intellectual life after schooling. We have a marvelous brain that goes into the attic after schooling is complete and is brought out only occasionally on the job or when we try to play bridge or chess.
That's precisely why we have Physics Forums, and why it is so successful. :approve: :tongue2: :biggrin:
  • #3
Gold Member
What about today’s adult? Today’s adult was educated in a time when schools and colleges never gave universal instruction in the art and science of thinking—rationality.

If today’s adult wishes to learn CT s/he must learn it on their own nickel. I think a good read to begin with is this one
You may be interested to know that there are some of us old codgers who (thanks to the information available through publicly-funded databases) can not only continue to think and learn; we can conduct independent research and contribute to scientific literature. I was the oldest in our research group at 55, until we invited a pretty sharp gentleman in his 70s to join us recently.
  • #4
You may be interested to know that there are some of us old codgers who (thanks to the information available through publicly-funded databases) can not only continue to think and learn; we can conduct independent research and contribute to scientific literature. I was the oldest in our research group at 55, until we invited a pretty sharp gentleman in his 70s to join us recently.

That is great. I think that having some form of intellectual life is vital. I am 73 and my intellectual life is very important to me.
  • #5
That's funny my intellectual life started after schooling.
The more you know the less you understand.
I recently had a chat with a 60 year old women about how most people today have no common sense, we both came to the agreement that one purpose of education was to deprive people of common sense- to domesticate more than educated. I remember being introduced to those critcal thinking problems in school, trust me they aren't that critical.
To give you an example of what i'm hinting on, if you are curious about something you can look it up online and satisfy your curiousity as a bonus your curiousity will grow(if you ask questions about yourself-the most important subject in the universe, you'll quickly understand), but if you have to look things up you aren't curious about and learn things you don't want to learn at specific times and before certain deadlines the result is less "true" curiosity(we've all been there) you may past the test and go on to make more money, but one's true curiousity will stagnate the motivation to learn will simple be for money or a job not for it's own sake and thereby it will not have a life of it's own a craving to satiate itself it would often require and extrinsic motivation and be a somewhat empty kind of curiosity, and so you get a lot of over educated people.
  • #6
Just to give you an idea of what I mean by CT I have copied some stuff from the Internet.

The following abstract was drawn from handbooks used in grade schools and high schools.

My post was too long and had to be shortened but you will get the idea

CT Strategies Abstract

A. Affective Strategies
S-1 thinking independently
S-9 developing confidence in reason

B. Cognitive Strategies - Macro-Abilities
S-10 refining generalizations and avoiding oversimplifications
S-26 reasoning dialectically: evaluating perspectives, interpretations, or theories

C. Cognitive Strategies - Micro-Skills
S-27 comparing and contrasting ideals with actual practice
S-35 exploring implications and consequences

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.

S-2 Developing Insight Into Egocentricity or Sociocentricity

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).

S-3 Exercising Fairmindedness

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.

S-4 Exploring Thoughts Underlying Feelings and Feelings Underlying Thoughts

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.

S-5 Developing Intellectual Humility and Suspending Judgment

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.

S-6 Developing Intellectual Courage

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.

S-7 Developing Intellectual Good Faith or Integrity

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.

S-8 Developing Intellectual Perseverance

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.

S-9 Developing Confidence in Reason

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.

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.

S-11 Comparing Analogous Situations: Transferring Insights to New Contexts

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.

S-12 Developing One's Perspective: Creating or Exploring Beliefs, Arguments, or Theories

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.

S-13 Clarifying Issues, Conclusions, or Beliefs

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.

S-14 Clarifying and Analyzing the Meanings of Words or Phrases

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.

S-15 Developing Criteria for Evaluation: Clarifying Values and Standards

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.

S-16 Evaluating the Credibility of Sources of Information

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.

S-17 Questioning Deeply: Raising and Pursuing Root or Significant Questions

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.

S-18 Analyzing or Evaluating Arguments, Interpretations, Beliefs, or Theories

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.

S-19 Generating or Assessing Solutions

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).

S-20 Analyzing or Evaluating Actions and Policies

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.

S-21 Reading Critically: Clarifying or Critiquing Texts

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.

S-22 Listening Critically: The Art of Silent Dialogue

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.

S-23 Making Interdisciplinary Connections

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.

S-24 Practicing Socratic Discussion: Clarifying and Questioning Beliefs, Theories, or Perspectives

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.

S-25 Reasoning Dialogically: Comparing Perspectives, Interpretations, or Theories

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.

S-26 Reasoning Dialectically: Evaluating Perspectives, Interpretations, or Theories

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.

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.

S-28 Thinking Precisely About Thinking: Using Critical Vocabulary

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.

S-29 Noting Significant Similarities and Differences

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.

S-30 Examining or Evaluating Assumptions

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.

S-31 Distinguishing Relevant From Irrelevant Facts

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.

S-32 Making Plausible Inferences, Predictions, or Interpretations

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.

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.

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.

{This list is found in the following handbooks: Critical Thinking Handbook: k-3, Critical Thinking Handbook: 4-6, Critical Thinking Handbook: 6-9, Critical Thinking Handbook: High School.}

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