Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sometimes I feel that the only assured reward for clear thinking is frustration. It is fruitful to you when you practice it, but will generally go unappreciated and thrown in the dung heap with every other opinion. People only care if you agree or not, and not generally WHY. I think it safe to say the majority of people have never considered any of this and will just assume you, like them, are throwing facts on top of opinions instead of the other way around.

Maybe it’s my upbringing. I was uber-logical as a child, but then came Eastern thought at the start of my tweens. Eastern scientific process (yes, there is such a thing, and I’m doing a presentation on this next March) is in a way the opposite of the West.

In the West, we make a cursory observation, hypothesize, and test. Intellectually this means finding proof for or against the hypothesis, and all the bias that may entail and need to be minimized.

In the East, we observe, and build on the observation, forming the hypothesis at the end, not near the beginning. The mind is kept open and fluid, where revision is part of the overall process, not a brick in the all of trial and error.

It’s like putting together a puzzle, not forcing shapes into holes. Deconstruction versus synthesis, etc..

What this means intellectually is that I generally and purposely do not have opinions on things before I research them, rather than start with an opinion and then spend all my energy fighting the almost unavoidable subjectivities of confirmation bias. (And again, most people have never even given this any such thought, and are stuck with the first uninformed opinion they “choose” bolstered by half-truths even unto the grave.)

That’s why I change my mind sometimes. Not because I want to, but BECAUSE I CAN and am mostly or entirely willing to conform to facts as they arise.

But the reward is still being told “you just believe what you want to believe” when you’ve written off that luxury long ago. Sure, some beliefs are by their nature more (or even entirely) subjective, and therefore rightfully a choice. But intellectually, some of us choose not to believe — or disbelieve — most things until we take a closer look. While others “think” many assertions are obviously true or not based on gut instinct, we hesitate because we take the time to consider “is this really true?” and they just wonder if we’re idiots for not just accepting their unfounded, unexamined conclusions.

The hardest thing of all is putting aside the assumptions any one person at any on time is doing one of the other of these. We want to assume people are stubbornly clinging to manipulated opinions based on media-fed facts. And I would suggest most of the time we’d be right. But if we do NOT assume that, we at least have a chance to acknowledge those people and times they ARE making an assertion based on clear thinking.

It doesn’t mean you have to agree with their analysis, but you can usually benefit from an understanding of their analysis — facts and reasons you may have missed, or a different, yet reasonable way to weigh some of the facts and arguments.

But we will never break this barrier between debate and dialectic unless we start, openly, with the single word — WHY.