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Mind-bending Concepts—Critical Thinking

The Mind-bender Concepts Series
Roger Kimball's article, "Sausages, enlightenment, and 'critical thinking,'" points out the ubiquitous nature of this thing called, "critical thinking."

"A search for the phrase 'critical thinking' using the Google search engine brings up 2,290,200 references in .08 seconds. The first match, God help us, is to something called 'The Critical Thinking Community,' whose goal is 'to promote essential change in education and society through the cultivation of fair-minded critical thinking.'"

"Everywhere you look, in fact, you will find the virtues of 'critical thinking' extolled: Colleges and universities claim to be stuffed with the thing, and even high schools—even, mirabile dictu, primary schools—brag about instilling the principles of 'critical thinking' in their charges. There's 'critical thinking' for bankers, for accountants, for cooks, gardeners, haberdashers, and even advanced toddlers. ... Absolutely everyone is enjoined to scrutinize his presuppositions, reject conventional thinking, and above all, to be original and/or 'creative.'"

I do not agree with many of Roger's views on things, even his views about "critical thinking," but I do agree with this: "Personally, whenever I hear the phrase 'critical thinking,' I tend to break out in a bit of a sweat. I do not like the phrase. Whenever people use it, I tend to think they mean . . . something else."

He's right! Most people who use the phrase, "critical thinking," are thinking of something else altogether, like "clear thinking," or "effective thinking," or "correct thinking." "Critical thinking," however, does not mean any of these and is, in fact, the opposite of them all.

The meaning of, "critical thinking," that dominates academia, especially in the field of education, has two origins: the Frankfurt School's "critical theory," and positivist-linquistic analysis-post-modernist, "relativism."

The historic origin of this intentionally deceptive concept is important, but will be covered elsewhere. It is what it really means and the damage it does to one's ability to think clearly that are important.

What Is Critical Thinking?

As Roger Kimble pointed out, a few seconds search turns up over 2 million links to "critical thinking" with endless descriptions and definitions of what critical thinking is supposed to be—all of them different.

Some of the definitions are very long, like the one at The Critical Thinking Community, others are much shorter, like the one at CriticalThinking.net.

If you have a look at these definitions and have an understanding of what knowledge and correct thinking are, it will become apparent that "critical thinking" is not about correct or clear thinking, but is actually a subtle program with an agenda, an ideology it means to put over in the name of, "reason," by means of repudiating two fundamental principles, objectivity and individualism.

The following two documents are both the products of Linda Elder & Richard W. Paul

"Dr. Linda Elder is President of the "Foundation for Critical Thinking" and Executive Director of the "Center for Critical Thinking," a leading international institute that promotes critical thinking in every domain of human life."

"Dr. Richard Paul is Director of Research and Professional Development at the "Center for Critical Thinking" and Chair of the "National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking." He is an internationally recognized authority on critical thinking, with nine books and more than 200 articles on the subject."

These two individuals and their "Foundation for Critical Thinking" dominate the field of critical thinking itself, and have a huge influence in academia, education, industry, and government. Almost every link to "critical thinking" on the Internet will reference the "Foundation for Critical Thinking." The following two documents, The Miniature Guide to The Human Mind and Understanding the Foundations of Ethical Reasoning are produced by that foundation.

From The Miniature Guide to The Human Mind:

"To live well is to live as a reasonable and ethical person.

"Yet humans are not by nature rational or ethical. Humans are predisposed to operate in the world in narrow terms of how it can serve them. Their brains are directly wired into their own pleasure and pain, not that of others. They do not inherently consider the rights and needs of others.

"Yet humans have the raw capacity to become reasonable and ethical persons, to develop as fair-minded skilled thinkers."

To live well as a human being one must live in total compliance with the requirements of human nature, as conscious, rational, volitional beings. That necessarily means living by means of objective reason, and in terms of the values that reason leads them to. To say, "humans are not by nature rational or ethical," is an absurd contradiction that implies our nature requires us to live by means of reason and values but it is not our nature to reason or have values. If it is not human nature to be rational and ethical, where do reason and ethical values come from?

The rest demonstrates what is being put over, and the name of it is, "altruism," the ethical view behind collectivism, that assumes that the purpose of an individuals life is not their own life, but others, which is anyone but themselves, their neighbors, their community, their society, or the whole world.

The absurd statement, "their brains are directly wired into their own pleasure and pain, not that of others," is like saying, "they can only see with their own eyes, not those of others." If these idiots really see something wrong with this, the problem is nature's, not anyone's ethics.

But here's the punch line, "They do not inherently consider the rights and needs of others." This is actually a lie, but it is true that the needs of others cannot be anyone's first concern, but all rational individuals are always concerned with the rights of others, that is, their true right to their own life, free from the interference of anyone else, and no productive individuals can be successful without considering at least the desires of others if they wish to sell their products or services.

[NOTE: This "needs" idea must always be explained. Needs are relative, there are only desires. One who has no desires, needs nothing. Needs are whatever is required to fulfill a desired goal or objective.]

From Understanding the Foundations of Ethical Reasoning:

"The proper role of ethical reasoning is to highlight acts of two kinds: those which enhance the well-being of others—that warrant our praise—and those which harm or diminish the well-being of others—and thus warrant our criticism. The study of ethical reasoning is crucial given the powerful human tendency toward egotism, prejudice, self-justification, and self-deception. To develop ethically, these tendencies must be resisted and diminished."

There are three lies here: false dichotomy, package dealing, and human depravity.

False dichotomy. The lie that all human acts fall into one of two categories, those that benefit others and those the harm others, is simply a lie. It implies that whatever is a benefit or gain to an individual can only be by means of harm or loss to someone else. It is the uncivilized view that anything one does from their own self-interest automatically harms others, or that anything an individual gains is at the cost of someone else. It intentionally evades the moral view that what any individual does of value for himself, will either benefit others or have no affect on them at all. It is a vile denial of the basis of civilized human relations, that the only proper relationship between men are those entered into by each individual for their own mutual benefit.

Package deal. This is perhaps the most common means of putting over a lie. By grouping ideas for both good and bad, and presenting the entire group as either good or bad, good is represented as bad (as in this case) or bad is represented as good. "Egotism, prejudice, self-justification, and self-deception are actually contradictory concepts."

"Egotism," is a slur word for, "self-interest." If one is truly interested in what is best for themselves, they would never allow their thinking to be compromised by prejudice or self-deception, which are both contrary to one's self-interest. As for self-justification, if one is just, it would be morally wrong to accept false blame. The target of this package deal is the repudiation of the individual in an attempt to convince him, he is only ethical or reasonable when acting as the self-sacrificial slave of others.

Human depravity. It is not the Christian view of depravity, but the socialist view of humanity that all are born with "the powerful human tendency toward" the supposed evils presented in the package deal. This assault on the volitional nature of man implies that humans are born with some kind of natural "tendency" toward evil which much must be controlled. Not to worry, the "critical thinking" evangelists are here to save mankind from his "sinful" (e.g. selfish) nature by teaching him how every thought for his own welfare is evil, and only thoughts "for others" are rational and ethical.

The whole of the "critical thinking" swindle is both pervasive and very dangerous. I have addressed it before in the article, "Critical Thinking about Critical Thinking", devoted entirely to this very dangerous pseudo-concept which I'll include in this series.

—(01/19/11)