Chapter3 Summary: Becoming a Fair Minded Thinker
Chapter3 Summary: Becoming a Fair Minded Thinker
Paul& Elder (2014) provide a discussion about critical thinking withthe main focus on the comparison between weak and strong criticalthinking, factors required for fair mindedness to be achieved, andhow interdependence of intellectual virtues can be recognized. Thispaper will summarize each of these sections by highlighting the mainpoints and their supporting ideas.
Weakversus strong critical thinking
Criticalthinking is a process that involves that use of intellectual skillsthat either leads to fair-mindedness or self-centeredness. Thedifference between fair-mindedness and self-centered ways of thinkingdepends on whether an individual has the tendency to identifystrengths in the opposing views or see mistakes in one’s ownthinking and the thinking patterns of other people. Thinkers can,therefore, be grouped into weak-sense critical thinkers orstrong-sense critical thinkers.
Theweak-sense critical thinkers always see mistakes in the thinking orthe views of other people. This type of critical thinking is termedas weak because it lacks the value of critical thinking as well assome significant higher level skills. In addition, the weak-sensethinking fails to find strengths in viewpoints held by opponents,which makes it lack fair mindedness. For example, people who opposethe idea of abortion see mistakes in the thinking of supporters ofthe idea. Sophistic thinking is another form of weak-sense criticalthinking that involves twisting of information and evidence in orderto support one’s idea or interests. This is a common practice amongunethical politicians and lawyers who use rhetoric to make their badthinking appear good or a good thinking appear bad. These politiciansand lawyers use trickery and emotionalism to support their self-fishthinking.
Strong-sensethinkers, on the other hand, apply their thinking in ethical mannerand endeavor to remain fair minded. This group of thinkers gives earsto arguments raised by their opponents, and they are always willingto change their thinking whenever confronted with the reasoning thatappears to be better than their own. This means that strong-sensethinkers use their thinking in a more reasonable manner instead ofmanipulating other people using their thinking. Acquiring thecapacity to think in a strong sense requires one to learn the basiccritical thinking ability and fair mindedness simultaneously. Thisincreases one’s ability to treat the reason of other people inequally high standards, be ready to accept the reason of other people(including the opponents), question one’s own evidence, purpose,implications, and conclusions using the same criteria used toquestion the thinking of other people.
Criticalthinking implies fair mindedness, thinking of higher order, quality,and in-depth thinking. Fair-mindedness helps people evaluate andidentify weaknesses as well as strengths in any type of reasoningthey come across. In intellectual thinker who tries to be fair-mindedstrives to develop essential traits of the mind, which includeintellectual autonomy, intellectual humility, intellectual integrity,intellectual perseverance, intellectual confidence, intellectualfair-mindedness, intellectual empathy, intellectual sense of justice,and intellectual courage. In addition, fair-mindedness implies higherorder thinking in that it leads to the development of a wide varietyof insights and skills that are rare to find in weak-sense thinkers.The positive traits acquired by fair-minded thinkers improve thequality of their thoughts. Some people (including businessmen)considered by the society to be successful are selfish thinkers.Selfish business thinkers use injustice methods to accumulate wealthand ignore the needs and rights of other people.
Requirementsof fair mindedness
Fair-mindednessentails the treatment of the viewpoints of other people in anunprejudiced way. This means that fair-minded thinkers assess theviewpoints of other free of their own feelings and interests or thefeelings and interests of people who are close to them, includingfriends and communities. Lack of fair-mindedness has becomecommonplace because traits that determine its development are rarelytaught and recognized by the society.
Intellectualhumility occurs when people acquire consciousness about the limits oftheir own knowledge. Intellectual thinkers are aware of their ownprejudices, biases, limitations of their viewpoints, and the extentof their ignorance. Intellectual arrogance acts as the perfectopposite of intellectual humility because it reduces individuals’capacity to acquire consciousness about the limits of their ownknowledge. Intellectual arrogance is characterized by possession ofone’s false beliefs, prejudices, misconceptions, myths, illusions,ignorance, and propaganda. For example, police officers andprosecutors demonstrate the lack intellectual humility when theyjudge the suspect on the basis of social characteristics (such asrace) or behavior, such as wearing an earring. Intellectual arrogancereduces one’s capacity to judge the views of other people fairly,which is inconsistent with the concept of fair-mindedness.Intellectually arrogant people tend to be overlay in their judgmentand too quick to judge others.
Intellectualhumility is important because it helps people recognize their falsebeliefs and prejudice as well as habits that result in fawnedlearning. For example, intellectual humility reduces the habit ofaccepting superficial learning (generalizing things from limitedinformation), and encourage the assessment of the views of others onthe basis of the available information. In addition, people who lackintellectual humility tend to accept the views of people in theirgroups or views that are consistent with their own beliefs withoutcritical assessment. In essence, intellectual humility helps oneavoid supporting arguments that have limited evidence on whichjudgment can be made and assuming that the views held by one’sgroup are always correct.
Intellectualcourage simply means an individual’s willingness to challengebeliefs that one has not given a serious consideration in the past ofholds strong negative emotions about. An intellectual courageousperson is conscious enough to face and recognize that ideas that thesociety has always considered to be absurd can be rationallyjustified in part or in whole. Fair-minded thinkers use theirintellectual courage to identify some truths behind assumed by thesociety to be false or distorted. Intellectual cowardice is theperfect opposite of intellectual courage. People with intellectualcowardice often feel threatened by ideas that conflict with theirpersonal identities. This group of people feels that an attack oncertain ideas is equivalent to attack on their personal identities.For example, people who associate themselves with Christianity mightexperience some inner fears whenever Christianity is questioned.
Intellectualcourage has two major benefits. First, intellectual courage helpsprofessionals to question ideas that have always been consideredsacred in their professions or have been taken for granted for manyyears. For example, an employee with intellectual courage willquestion the source of gossip in their workplace instead of takingpart in those gossips. Secondly, intellectual courage overcomes thefear of being rejected by other people, especially those who havedifferent beliefs and who are most likely to reject people whochallenge their beliefs. The fear of being rejected provides anopportunity for powerful groups to intimidate those with intellectualcowardice. His in turns reduce the possibility of being fair to theviews that are contrary to one’s own views of the views held byone’s own group. In essence, people with intellectual courage donot fear being proven wrong and are free to admit their pastmistakes.
Intellectualempathy refers to one’s ability to reconstruct the viewpoints aswell as the reasoning of other people with accuracy and reason fromtheir assumptions, premises, and ideas instead of reasoning fromone’s own viewpoint. People with intellectual empathy putthemselves in the place of others in order to understand them in agenuine way. Intellectual self-confidence is the opposite ofintellectual empathy and it occurs when an individual thinks from theself-centered perspective. This reduces one’s ability to understandthe feelings and thoughts as well as emotions of other people. Inaddition, intellectual self-centeredness reduces one’s ability toconsider problems, issues, and questions from viewpoints that differfrom their own, which subjects them to the risk of changing their ownperspective.
Althoughthinking in the perspective of other people is not easy, it is anecessary practice that facilitates fair-minded judgment. This isbecause human reasoning emerges from different conditions of life,situations, and contexts. Putting one’s self in conditions,situations, and contexts of others is an effective way of thinkingfrom their perspectives, which in turn results in fair judgment ofthe views of others. For example, failure by parents to think in theviewpoint of their children makes them feel alienated andmisunderstood.
Intellectualintegrity is the act of being true to one’s own reasoning andassessing one’s thinking using the same standards that other peopleare expected to meet. Intellectual identity helps people identifyinconsistencies and discrepancies in their thoughts in an honest way.Intellectual hypocrisy acts as the opposite of intellectual integrityand it is defined as a state of mind that is less concerned withupholding of genuine integrity. Hypocrisy is characterized by deepseated inconsistencies and contradictions. Hypocrisy, as opposed tointegrity, makes people believe that others should adhere to somestandards that they themselves have failed to adhere to, but stilljudge themselves as being fair.
Intellectualintegrity helps people consider ethical questions that relate totheir lives. Actions and beliefs of people with intellectualintegrity are consistent. Lack of intellectual integrity, on theother hand, results in inconsistency in human behavior as compared totheir beliefs. For example, the act of CIA planning to assassinatepoliticians in foreign countries demonstrates lack of integrity onthe part of the government of the United Stated. Lack of integrity insuch an act can be revealed by guessing the response that the UnitedStates would give if foreign governments were to plot to assassinatethe U.S. senior politicians. This shows that intellectual hypocrisyleads to lack of fair-mindedness and reduced capacity to graspinternal inconsistencies that occurs in one’s thoughts.
Intellectualperseverance is an individual’s ability to work in one’s own wayin spite of frustrations caused by intellectual complexities. Peoplewith intellectual perseverance adhere firmly to the rationalprinciples succumbing to irrational oppositions from other people.Intellectual laziness, which is the opposite of intellectualperseverance, refers to one’s tendency to give in quickly whenfaced with irrational opposition or a challenging task. Lack ofintellectual perseverance (intellectual laziness) impedesfair-mindedness by reducing one’s capacity and willingness toundertake the intellectual work, which is a basic necessityunderstanding the view held by other people. For example, a Christianbeliever ought to do an intellectual work of reading andunderstanding factors that make atheists believe in what they do.Intellectual laziness on part of such a Christian would reduce thechances of reading about the faith of others, thus increasing theprobability of being unfair to the views held by others. In addition,intellectual perseverance promotes higher level thinking. This isbecause intellectual perseverance increases one’s ability to reasonout complex questions related to a given job.
Confidenceto reason is concept that is based on the belief that the interestsof humankind are better served when reason is given the freest play.Free reasoning allows people to make rational conclusions. Inconclusion, confidence reason increases individuals’ capacity tomake reasonable conclusions, insightful viewpoints, and developaccurate, clear, logical, and relevant thought processes. Apart fromarriving at individual conclusions, people with confidence reason areable to convince others by demonstrating sound evidence andattractive reason. Intellectual confidence in reasoning means thatone has to use a good reasoning to judge whether beliefs or positionsheld by other people should be accepted or rejected. Intellectualdistrust, which is the opposite of confidence in reason, ischaracterized by undisciplined thinking. Undisciplined thinkers areprone to emotional reactions that lead to the validation of presentthinking and expression of petite confidence in reason. Peopleexperiencing intellectual distrust of reason have confidence in theirown belief system, even if it is flawed.
Currently,many people are holding on to irrational behaviors and beliefs thatare commonplace in the contemporary world. For example, a largenumber of people who ignore the plausible evidence provided byscience and believe in unproven systems, including astrology. Thismeans that a few people have confidence in reason in the modernworld. However, some of the things (such as social institutions) thatpeople believe in are to some extent compatible with confidence inreason. This means that a genuine confidence in reason can bedistinguished from other forms of faith by determining the grounds onwhich it is based on evidence or sound reasoning.
Intellectualautonomy refers to possession of rational self authorship of one’sown values, beliefs, and the way of thinking. People withintellectual autonomy take charge of their lives and avoid beingcontrolled by immature emotions. People with intellectual autonomy donot rely on the beliefs of other people when forming their beliefs,but they think through issues and situations. This allows them toreject all beliefs that are not justifiable. In addition, criticalthinkers with intellectual autonomy question practices and traditionsthat have been accepted by the society unquestioningly. This meansthat autonomous thinkers are not limited by traditions when formingtheir beliefs. However, critical thinkers with intellectual autonomyare not stubborn to suggestions made by other people, but they seekto choose their values freely and function as per the values theyhave selected.
Intellectualconformity, which is the opposite of intellectual autonomy, refers toemotional dependence or dependence on beliefs and values held byother people. The general practice of passive reception of the statusquo in the modern society reduces the probability for the developmentof intellectual autonomy. The large number of rewards associated withpassive acceptance of actions and thoughts as a result of socialpressure increases the risk of conforming with thoughts of othersunknowingly. Consequently, many members of the society are equated tomirrors that reflect the beliefs and values held by the society.Uncritical acceptance of values and beliefs also affect academicallyelite people who passively adopt faulty practices. Intellectualautonomy facilitates fair-mindedness by allowing people to evaluatemultiple perspectives as opposed to intellectual conformity thatpermits people to only consider the viewpoints that have already beenaccepted by the society.
Recognitionof interdependence of intellectual virtues
Traitsof mind that influence critical thinking are mutually dependent oneach other. In the case of humility, one should have intellectualcourage to address the knowledge limits associated with ignorance andprejudices. The discovery of one’s prejudices requires anindividual to intellectually empathize with views that areinconsistent with one’s system of beliefs. This in turn requiresintellectual perseverance, which is a learning process that needs theapplication of efforts. Justification of efforts applied requires oneto have genuine confidence in reason to avoid being tainted by falseviewpoints. Confidence in reason may not be enough for some peopleand this requires an intellectual sense of justice to help themconsider the efforts applied in perseverance more serious. Gettingback to the origin of the circle, humility is required when listeningto opposing viewpoints in their strongest form. This ensures thatthese views are judged with fair-mindedness.
Similarly,other intellectual virtues depend on and influence each other. Thereaction to the workplace situations is an example of experiencesthat depict interdependence of the intellectual virtues. For example,for a company that is undergoing reorganization where some peoplehave to be retrenched one would need to empathize with employees wholose their jobs as well as the managers who made the decision toreorganize the firm. In addition, intellectual humility would benecessary to help the empathizing person recognize things that theyalready know as well as things that they do not know. Moreover, anindividual with intellectual humility would still need to reasonautonomously to avoid being trapped by the reactions of others. Theintellectual sense of justice would be necessary to ensure that allparties affected by reorganization are involved. Reasoning withintellectual integrity would result in the treatment of all partieswith the same standards.
Paul& Elder (2014) conclude that excellence in critical thinking goesbeyond the isolation of intellectual skills. Some people unknowinglydisplay the lack of intellectual virtues, and they insteaddemonstrate undisciplined mindedness. The tendencies to believe inviewpoints that are comfortable to conform with the reduceindividual’s capacity to function in a rational way. Some peopleare unconsciously motivated to believe in things that support theirselfish interests. Intellectual virtues that encouragefair-mindedness helps people enter all viewpoints that are consideredto be relevant to complex challenges before arriving at the finalconclusion. The capacity to see all sides of these issues increasesone’s ability to support the sound viewpoint and oppose the flawedones.
Paul,R. & Elder, L. (2014). Criticalthinking: Tools for taking charge of your professional and personallife (2nded.).New Jersey: Pearson Education Incorporation.