The Death of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking does not require intelligence so much as intellectual honesty.

Of course intelligence matters, as it does with everything.

But the most important factor is honesty. It’s not just an honesty with others. It starts as an honesty with yourself.

I think of critical thinking as a religious-like adherence to facts — only to facts, and to all of the facts relevant in any situation.

If you want to see what critical thinking is NOT, then listen to the meanderings of any politicians, and most others in public life today. These people count on us not to be critical, honest thinkers. That’s why most of us resent them, even though many of us don’t quite know why.

Critical thinking is an objective need of human functioning, and ultimately survival. When we encounter people who are disingenuous, we often sense it, and — if we’re even a little bit survival-oriented — we recoil against it. It’s a healthy, rational reaction, although not always a well understood one since so many of us are not introspective and self-reflective.

When you’re a critical thinker, you’re not subject to “fake news”. You won’t accept anything where the facts don’t add up. You’ll demand proof of any claim. You won’t provide claims with too easy a pass for acceptance. You’ll spot the glaring evasions or the absurd hypocrisy, not because of a high IQ (although that helps), but because you’re confident in your mind and possess a religious-like reverence for truth.

Critical thinking is more than a skill. It’s an attitude. It applies across the board. It comes up in your personal relationships, your business relationships; even in a short conversation with a stranger. You don’t – and will not – pretend to accept what you know isn’t true.

If you’re a critical thinker, people know where they stand with you. It’s possible you’ll be wrong, but you’re honest. When you embody the phrase, “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” you’re being a critical thinker.

Critical thinking is a rarity in any era. Today it’s almost nonexistent. Intellectual, moral and psychological fraud is all around us — not just in the media and government, but in our personal and social relations as well. It’s sad, and it’s not human nature – but it has become the norm. People still think critically on the inside, but on the outside it almost seems like a desperate need to show how you’re NOT thinking. “I’m not judgmental” is a statement of pride, as if judgment itself were a subject of shame. You might as well be saying, “I’m mindless, and proud of it.”

It’s insanity for people who can and should be sane. And getting more insane every day.

The best thing to do for yourself in such an environment? Refuse to be that way. Refuse 24/7. You will attract the right people and repel the wrong ones. If everyone is repulsive, so be it. Eventually you will always find one or two of the right ones. Maybe some day the right way of using your mind will become the norm. The beautiful thing is that you can do it — all by yourself, if you must — and nobody can ever take it away from you.

Whether you’re a religious believer or an atheist, your mind is your temple. It’s your means of survival, it’s your basis for self-esteem, for enjoying your emotions — for everything.



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