[extropy-chat] Critical Thinking

Lee Corbin lcorbin at tsoft.com
Fri Mar 10 03:42:27 UTC 2006

Samantha writes

> On Mar 8, 2006, at 5:46 AM, Lee Corbin wrote:
> > This month's Skeptical Inquirer has a very fine article
> > titled "Critical Thinking, What is it good for?
> ...
> > He finally comes around to The Claim, to wit, that we
> > must be better at teaching critical thinking. But I very
> > seriously doubt that it can be taught!
> On what do you base this doubt?  

See my next paragraph

> > By their natures, it seems (speaking in the identical
> > twin sense), some people are more judicious than others,
> > that is, capable of more carefully and objectively
> > weighing evidence.
> This "seeming" seems to be stating only that we observe that some  
> people of equal training or lack of it in critical thinking exhibit  
> unequal levels of same.  This says nothing about whether critical  
> thinking is teachable.

I was emphasizing *natures* in the essentialist sense that
for (mostly genetic) reasons some people are more judicious
than others (poorly written, perhaps but I thought that 
the clue "identical twin sense" would carry it).

> If critical thinking can be shown to  
> be useful and the components essential to critical thinking can be  
> identified along with techniques to deploy them and this information  
> and these techniques can be learned then I see no basis for "serious  
> doubt".

Well, that's a big *if*.  I was saying, "I don't think so."

> > (Claiming that critical thinking can be taught reminds
> > me very much of the arrogant believe that *we* are so
> > superior that *we* can rehabilitate criminals, but not
> > they, us.)
> What?  Surely this adds nothing to your thesis and is at best a  
> useless diversion.

I see a strong parallel: "teaching criminals to change their 
tendencies" is as difficult---I claim---as changing people to
become critical thinkers. As Gibbon said, "The power of 
instruction is seldom of much efficacy except in those
happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous."  You'll
only succeed teaching people who want to learn.

> > And if one more time I hear religionists or nonbelievers
> > denouncing each other as "irrational" I may lose my supper.
> > *Beliefs* may be irrational; but we need to reserve the
> > criticism of being irrational for people who should be
> > locked up for their own good.
> Why?

Because religious people may be just as rational as I. They're
simply wrong.


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