WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A FAIR-MINDED CRITICAL THINKER? – CRITICAL THINKING SERIES – PART 8

Disclaimer: Good Day, Readers.  WealthBuildingPowers blog is a financial literacy/competency blog and does not provide specific investment recommendations.  

STYRON’S INTRODUCTION

As I read today’s blog, I evaluated my past ability to be a Fair-minded Critical Thinker. Do you remember those tests you tried to hide from Mom? That is how I felt. 

If you check one or more bullets, you should Critically Read this week’s blog.

  • You are married, dating, using several apps, and desperately searching for a date.
  • You supervise or manage others and just purchased a bulletproof vest.
  • You have family members that refer to you as a $^#$@ EVERY DAY!
  • You are down to your last man-standing friend, and she is mumbling under her breath $^#$@ as soon as you walk in the room! 

The good news is that we can and WILL utilize the below blog to improve.

Jim Leemann, Ph.D.

Over the past several years, we have been subjected to a new use of the terms Misinformation and Disinformation when it comes to the censorship of data and information by certain government institutions, private firms, and even politicians that considered the COVID vaccines information being published by certain groups and individuals to be “fake news” or conspiracy theories.  These decisions to withhold information from the public domain contributed in part to individuals deciding whether to take the jab and subsequent booster jabs.   According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 80.9% of the USA population has had at least one vaccine dose, 69.1% completed the primary vaccine series, and 15.9% has had the updated Bivalent booster dose.  Ask yourself, do you think this precipitous decline in individuals not taking follow-up vaccine boosters could be due to the increasing public release of so-called vaccine misinformation/disinformation that has turned out to be the TRUTH?

PART 8. What does it mean to be a Fair-minded Critical Thinker?

In this column, we will consider the attributes of a Fair-minded Critical Thinker and what one needs to consider to avoid thinking in a self-centered fashion.  I will draw upon Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s explanation of becoming a fair-minded Critical Thinker, which they present in their Critical Thinking – Learn the Tools the Best Thinkers Use.

Every day the mainstream media and social media platforms feature highly skilled thinkers, such as politicians, heads of government agencies, and private corporations, that use their thinking skills for self-centered purposes.  They make statements that cannot be validated with empirical data or promises they have no intention on delivering.

On the other hand, a fair-minded Critical Thinker recognizes the lure of selfishness and avoids the temptation by utilizing traits of the mind to include intellectual humility, intellectual integrity, intellectual courage, intellectual autonomy, intellectual empathy, intellectual perseverance, and confidence in reason.

Weak vs. Strong Critical Thinkers

Drs. Paul and Elder describe weak-sense Critical Thinkers as self-centered thinkers who fail to consider the viewpoints that contradict their own viewpoints.  In other words, they lack fair-mindedness.  They call weak-sense thinkers sophist.  Sophistry is the art of winning arguments regardless of the methods used to win.  All of us have encountered sophists in our daily lives.  They tend to say anything in order to get whatever they want.  They will appeal to your emotions, use criticism, personal attacks, projection, etc. to get their way.  In their minds, it is all about winning and they could care less how they go about achieving that end.

To counter the sophists, Drs. Paul and Elder stress the need for strong-sense Critical Thinkers. Strong-sense Critical Thinkers are not easily persuaded by sophistry or superficial arguments.  They strive to be ethical and avoid taking advantage of others.  They seek to understand the viewpoints of others exhibiting empathy towards them.  Fair-mindedness requires the strong-sense Critical Thinker to master “a family of interrelated and interdependent states of mind.”  

Fair-Mindedness Requirements

We all are guilty of prejudging the views of others based on their agreeing with us or disagreeing with us.  Let’s face it, its simply human nature to prejudge someone; especially, when we harbor a bias for or against the person.  Fair-mindedness involves treating all viewpoints relevant to a specific situation in an unbiased, unprejudiced fashion.

The opposite of fair-mindedness is intellectual unfairness, which involves lacking any sense of fairly presenting viewpoints with which one disagrees.  As Drs. Paul and Elder point out, when we are intellectually unfair, we usually see ourselves as being fair.  Sound familiar?  That’s OK if it does, because at one time or another we are all intellectually unfair thinkers.  The key is recognizing when we are unfair thinkers and adjusting our thought process to become fair-minded.

Drs. Paul and Elder emphasize that achieving and maintaining true fair-mindedness is difficult, but once mastered one is far less susceptible to being manipulated and far more capable of seeing the truth.  The remainder of this column will focus on the states of mind to achieve fair-mindedness, which include intellectual humility, courage, empathy, integrity, perseverance, confidence in reason, and autonomy.

Intellectual Humility

Intellectual humility involves being aware of one’s limitations with respect to the extent of what one knows, biases, prejudices, and viewpoints.  Having a clear understanding of the foundations of one’s beliefs is critical.  Knowing your own areas of ignorance will improve your overall thinking because as a fair-minded Critical Thinker you will likely be prone to filling the gaps in your knowledge.  Being cognizant of your biases and prejudices will provide you with an internal alarm to listen carefully before drawing the wrong conclusions.  

The opposite of intellectual humility is intellectual arrogance.  In other words, thinking you know more than you actually know.  Intellectual arrogance will pull you into the trap of assuming false beliefs, misconceptions, prejudices, illusions, myths, propaganda, and ignorance are the truth.  When challenged, you will become defensive, arguing your thinking is not defective.

Intellectual Courage

Intellectual courage is the state of mind where you fairly address ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints even when you disagree with them, and it is painful to do so.  For example, extreme pressure was applied toward individuals who refused to take the COVID vaccine jab(s).  Knowing a few individuals who did not take the jab, each of them spent time researching the literature and consulting with their medical professionals before deciding to not take the jab.  For some, failing to conform resulted in severe consequences.

The opposite of intellectual courage is intellectual cowardice, which is the fear of ideas that do not align with one’s own beliefs.   Settling on who we are through our emotional commitment to our beliefs often will lead to fear when our beliefs are questioned, which leads to intellectual cowardice.

Another reason to develop intellectual courage is to avoid falling prey to the old adage of “going along to get along.”  Naturally, we fear denunciation of our beliefs and allow ourselves to be intimidated by others.  In other words, many of you are motivated by affiliation (i.e., the need to be liked by others) and fear rejection by your friends and colleagues for taking a contravening stand on a topic (e.g., politics, religion, etc.).  As a Critical Thinker, Drs. Paul and Elder encourage us to identify ourselves according to the processes we use to formulate our beliefs versus our defined personal beliefs.  By doing this you will be open to changing your beliefs when you are introduced to new knowledge.

Intellectual Empathy

Intellectual empathy occurs when you mentally insert yourself into the place of others on a routine basis, so that you can understand their point of view.  The key is to understand the premises, assumptions, and ideas of others that likely will not be the same of your own.  As Drs. Paul and Elder state, Fair-minded judgement requires a good-faith effort to put oneself into the mind-set of another.  

The opposite of intellectual empathy is intellectual self-centeredness.  Thinking from a self-centeredness perspective results in ignoring the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of others.  Self-centeredness leads to focusing our attention on ourselves as being far more important than concern for others.

Failing to understand the perspectives of others prevents us from fairly judging their ideas and beliefs; especially when we disagree with them.

Intellectual Integrity

Drs. Paul and Elder describe intellectual integrity as being true to your own disciplined thinking and holding yourself to the same standards you expect of others.  It also requires you to be honest about admitting discrepancies and inconsistencies in your own thoughts and actions.

The opposite of intellectual integrity is intellectual hypocrisy wherein one is not concerned with true honesty.  Intellectual hypocrisy leads to expecting others to hold themselves to higher standards then we hold ourselves too, even though we believe we are being fair.

Intellectual Perseverance

Intellectual perseverance involves having the determination to work yourself through complex and frustrating problems.  Perseverance entails methodical reasoning through a problem as opposed to leaping to first impressions and simple solutions.  As Drs. Paul and Elder state, Intellectual perseverance is essential to almost all areas of higher-level thinking because virtually all higher-level thinking involves some intellectual challenges.

The opposite of intellectual perseverance is intellectual laziness, which involves being prone to giving up as soon as the work becomes difficult.  The intellectually lazy have a low threshold for intellectual pain and frustration.

Intellectual perseverance is integral to fair-minded Critical Thinking because it takes intellectual work to appreciate and understand the complexity of another person’s views; especially if those views differ from our own.  If we are not willing to extend the effort to understand others’ views and analyze the basis for those views, we will not be able to think fairly within their viewpoint.

Confidence in Reason

Drs. Paul and Elder present Confidence in Reason as a belief that one’s own higher interests and those of humankind at large are best served by giving the freest play to reason and by encouraging people to come to their own conclusions through the use of their own rational faculties.  The key is to use good reasoning to judge whether to accept or reject any belief or position.

The opposite of confidence in reason is intellectual distrust of reason, which occurs as a threat that reasoning and analysis pose to an undisciplined thinker.  Individuals that have a distrust of reason often have complete confidence in the truth of their beliefs, even though their beliefs may be flawed.

To be fair-minded one has to have Confidence of Reason in order to be open to reasoning that one has not considered before, to reason in good faith, and to change one’s reasoning when confronted with more reasonable reasoning.

Intellectual Autonomy

Intellectual autonomy is thinking through issues using one’s own thinking as opposed to accepting others’ points of view and thinking.  Critical thinkers are influenced by others’ thinking when those views are worth accepting based on the evidence supporting their views.  This is to say that Critical Thinkers do not passively accept others’ viewpoints.  They analyze the evidence and decide to accept or reject the viewpoint based on their research.  For example, Critical Thinkers do not take things for granted just because the evidence agrees with their point of view, the source of the evidence is reputable, their friends and colleagues accept the evidence, etc.

The opposite of intellectual autonomy is intellectual conformity.  Because intellectual autonomy is difficult to practice due to the influence of the status quo, thinking independently often leads to unpopular outcomes that are unacceptable to the general public.  As the path of least resistance, many people lack the energy and intellectual skills to think for themselves and resort to being conforming thinkers.

Conclusion

Applying fair-mindedness takes considerable effort on the part of Critical Thinking.  Relying on the intellectual skills described here will often lead to new areas of thought that will likely be contrary to what has been accepted lines of thinking by conformity thinkers.  Always be fair-minded to those who confront you with their beliefs that you may disagree with and seek out their reasoning for their beliefs to better understand the basis for their beliefs.  Who knows, you may be convinced to change your beliefs based on understanding the basis for your friend’s or colleague’s beliefs.

For a deeper understanding of Critical Thinking, I invite you to explore the following reference sources by Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, published by Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD:

  • Critical Thinking – Learn the Tools the Best Thinkers Use (Concise Edition)
  • The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking – Concepts and Tools.
  • The Foundation for Critical Thinking https://www.criticalthinking.org/

I have added another reference that I meant to include in the last column that should help in your writing as a Critical Thinker.

  • Critical Writing – A Guide to Writing a Paper Using the Concepts and Processes of Critical Thinking by Dr. Gerald Nosich, published by Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD.

Bio: Jim Leemann, Ph.D.

Dr. Leemann has had a 45-year career that has included being in the forefront of the safety, occupational health, and environmental fields in both the private and public sector. In addition, for 22 of those years, Dr. Leemann was an adjunct assistant professor teaching a variety of environmental and public health courses in the country’s oldest school of public health. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, master’s degrees in industrial hygiene and environmental engineering, his doctorate is in systemic management, which he has used to apply systems thinking methods to address organizational management problems.  

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I am a proud nerd (as my beautiful wife and daughter have told me) investment and finance blogger with an N.C.  State, Chemical Engineering, University Rutgers, MBA and Harvard University, Advanced Management education.

I left a corporate career because I desired to make a difference as a speaker and writer.  I was blessed to be coached and mentored by strong women and men in my family and professional life.  It is my time to serve and give back.

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I started my first business at ~13 years of age (a small but brilliantly created plant nursery). I am a successful investor in stocks, options, real estate and am happy to share my finance and investment lessons.  I am NOT a licensed financial advisor.  Please do not construe my suggestions on this blog as recommendations for your situation.  As an investor, you must establish your risk/loss tolerance.  Investment in any asset involves risk, including complete loss. 

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This blog will provide, information and simple strategies, that will assist you to achieve YOUR financial objectives and long term targets. For over 30 years, I solved multi-million dollar problems, for Fortune 10-250, companies. My formal education includes: Business, Finance and Chemical Engineering {Problem Solving} at: Harvard, Rutgers and North Carolina State. And an additional 30+ years, managing my family’s investment decisions. I currently manage/advise people with net-worths ranging from the tens of thousands to several million dollars.

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