Sunday, January 28, 2007

Critical Thinking on Critical Thinking

The question arose recently as to why I am such a mean, nasty, hypercritical person.

Rather than answering that question, I think I will tell the story about how my being a mean, nasty, hypercritical person managed to get me kicked out of a department of the University of Utah.

I was in a politically correct department at the University, toiling away on a politically correct degree. My politically correct teachers emphasized that they were employing a method called “critical thinking.” I had studied a ton of mathematics and logic. I had even read that long tedious work called the Principia by mathematics's patron Saint Bertrand Russell. I had also read Hegel, Marx and Chomsky. I knew rhetorical technique of critical thinking. Anyway, in my classes, we would do little exercises where we applied “critical thinking” to Conservative causes. I wrote a wickedly stinging indictment of Ronald Reagan. My teachers wanted me to add some snarl words to make the piece even more hateful (and consequently more effective). The next thing I did was write a really mean and hateful piece about the Catholic Church that my teachers praised and passed among each other as it said mean things in an original way.

So, with two successful pieces of critical thinking under my belt, I was riding pretty. Now, we had to do one more piece of critical thinking. In order to show that I was balanced in my critical thinking, I decided to aim critical thinking at a political correct cause. I did not use snarl words, but the piece cut straight to the core of some logical fallacies that I saw as detrimental to the politically correct cause. My conclusion was essentially that the politically correct issue was full of merit; however care needed to be taken to prevent the core fallacies of the PC effort from undermining itself.

A few days later, I was taken aside by my teachers. They told me that they were the gatekeepers of the department and told me to leave the department. The changed the grades on my first papers from A+s to Ds, and told me that they could guarantee I would flunk the quarter if I did not transfer out of their department. That was the end of several quarters of work at the U. I ended up getting snagged by no fewer than four political litmus tests at the nest of mediocrity called the University of Utah. The hard sciences still have some good departments.

I was totally dedicated to the art of critical thinking. I am a mean hateful person because I end up applying it to both sides of any debate.

It is a little bit strange. When you apply the “critical thinking” methodology taught in schools to traditional American Culture, you end up with the political correct thought that teachers love. When you really know the technique and start applying “critical thinking” to the politically correct world, you end up with a view remarkably similar to the neoconservatives. Rush Limbaugh and Culture Warrior Bill O’Reilly are people who moved to this higher level of thinking.

This is similar to the world’s experience with Marxist Dialectics. When you start with the dialectics, you feel that you are on a bubbly progressive path to Communism. When you start applying the dialectics to the path, you end up with Stalinism or Nazism.

A really bizarre thing happens when you start applying “critical thinking” to the art of critical thinking itself. You end up realizing that, critical thinking on its own completely lacks foundation.

Both progressives and their counterpart--the neocons--end up surrounding themselves with walls of ideology that completely stifle communication. As I mentioned in the last posts, we are currently at a point where we should be engaged in a debate about the next step in Iraq. Progressive, led by a star studded line up of Hollywood actors, march around in their own little fantasy world, while they perfect their counter culture chic hoping that the protest appearance will land them an Oscar winning role in their next film.

The groups, practicing their own patented brands of critical thinking, are not only incapable of communicating; they hold their inability to communicate up as a badge of honor. Bush points at the protesters, and says that it is impossible to communicate with such an incoherent rabble, therefore, we should stick with the Constitution which consolidates power in the executive during times of war. The left is using the inability to communicate in some sort of strange plea to overthrow the executive, to what end I none of us have a clue.

I sit here and watch the circus with my modern education, and realize that my modern education has repeatedly failed me, and the people around me. When you apply critical thinking to the many sides of modern life, you find that all of our fearless leaders are being childish.

There is one side of the debate that I think does quite well. This is the classical liberal side of things. Both the progressives and neocons have fallen into the trap of using "critical thinking" as a rhetorical tool. It is simply a tool you use to criticize your opponents. You may notice that progressives tend to react to critical thinking about their arguments as a personal attack.

The classical liberal uses critical thinking as an analytic tool.

Of course, since I have a modern education, I've never learned how to do decent analysis. Not really knowing how to move beyond critical thinking, I sit here as a mean hateful person who criticizes everything with the hope that maybe people will figure out that our problems are not simply the problem of Bush being a horrible person while ???? is a great leader. Our problems arise because our modern education system has failed the people on both sides of the modern cacophony.

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