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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

We Are

      Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. The opposite is superficial, careless, shallow thinking.

      To think critically, one must be aware of one’s own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. This can, indeed, be tough. But it is also vital in the quest to discover and live truth.

 

      Mahatma Gandhi said: “A man is but the product of his thoughts, what he thinks he becomes.” This was mirrored by the late Jesuit priest and author John Powell when he said in a lecture: “We are what we think.”

     

While we are what we eat physiologically, what we think (and how we subsequently live our lives) is eminently more important.


      Examples:

   If one thinks non-Causasian people are subhuman, there are no problems associated with owning them like cattle, or lynching them at one’s whim.


           If one’s own religious beliefs are considered universally inviolate, it is thought justifiable to force these beliefs on any and everybody.


            If one embraces the concept that there are no desirable self-imposed moral limits on

            wealth/possessions while children are malnourished and/or living in cardboard boxes, there are no issues with living in a $10,000,000 home and owniing a $100,000,000 yacht for fun.

 

      By my lights, these three examples are illustrations of a lack of critical thinking . . . in other words, careless, shallow thinking. Either a lack of cogent cogitation, or an I-don’t-care attitude after critically

examining the facts.


      George Fitzhugh, in Sociology for the South, or the Failure of Free Society, wrote in 1854:


“There is no rivalry, no competition to get employment among slaves, as among free laborers. Nor is there a war between master and slave. The master’s interest prevents his reducing the slaves’ allowance or wages in infancy or sickness, for he might lose the slave by so doing. His feeling for his slave never permits him to stint him in old age. The slaves are all well fed, well clad, have plenty of fuel, and are happy. They have no dread of the future; no fear of want.”


It is left to the reader to judge to what degree Fitzhugh’s thoughts were based on critical thinking, or a conscious rejection of such.

 

      In 1985 I participated in a dialog about apartheid (correct pronunciation: apart-hate) in a church in Johannesburg, South Africa. One of the discussants was a young adult Africaaner who grew up indoctrinated by the hardline apartheid philosophy that Black Africans were intrinsically inferior to and meant to be servants of all White people. He described for us how he came to reject that erroneous and damaging outlook, and supported the anti-apartheid movement to free all Africans and treat them as fully human, liable for the same human rights as Caucasians. What changed caused this change in the young man? While he didn’t use the term per se, what he described was a conscious, intentional process of critical thinking.

 

      The point: To live righteously is, first, to think rightly. There will always, of course, be debates about what is or is not right thinking. But the starting point is critically analyzing the facts with the goal of discovering the truth.


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