I Cannot Make Him Change His Mind

Jerry,

The presumption…is that critical thinking will get us all to arrive at the same place.

All that critical thinking does is increase the number of indices upon which disagreement can take place and therefore introduce axes of diversity and complexity (and hopefully viability) to the body of communication. What philosophy does is both generate branching distinctions that fine-grain the potential of conception, and also investigate the rough-grain basis and history upon which such branching is based, the trunk-roots and down-stems. But conceptions are like organisms, they function whole within ecosystems of thought. No particular grain-size is inherently the correct one. One person’s apparently abstruse and useless investigation may be another’s vital edge-of-crticality exploration. One person’s hapless repetition of hack and cliche, out-of-date thinking may be another’s constraint upon reckless and chaotic thought. No one spot on the branching tree of conceptions is the “right” one. If two people can’t communicate or convince, they are either operating on two different levels of grain-size, or on different conceptual branches, (or most fatally and all too commonly, both). The process is perhaps best seen as evolutionary - the production of difference so as to allow the immanent to unfold within the values and prescriptions of a community of thinkers. It is a creative, yet normative and very real process.

Dunamis

Dunamis,

I think we share the same idea about disagreements. (Maybe even the same gardener…). The prevailing attitude here, however, from what I gather, is that the differences we find, far from being seen as a basis for an evolutionary, creative process, are seen instead as proof that one side obviously just doesn’t know their rules of critical thinking.

This is troubling to me.

Jerry,

are seen instead as proof that one side obviously just doesn’t know their rules of critical thinking.

I think what happens is that people are aware of the assumptions they have made to a great variety of degrees, so arguments from a position occur sometimes within a fundamental disparty of awarenesses. If you cannot convince someone that they are even making assumptions and your assumption bases are not equivalent, there is no future prospect for discussion really. The guidelines that rule such a potential in conversation to me are, “is it interesting” to discuss this or that? If it is interesting that usually means that there is enough common ground where each party can possibly learn from the other. If its not “interesting”, then likely not, and the reasons for discussion become more reasons to rant or broadcast, which might be very good reasons for posting positions, but not really for discussing positions.

I don’t know why it should trouble you.

Dunamis

let me bring this back to earth for a minute boys. the problem arises when we work backwards from an established goal. this is not mere perception I’m talking about, looking at the fine grains and fibers of the universe and reporting on it in dense prose or mystical poetry. that’s fair game for anyone, since the end goal is to see what you want to see or must see. i’m talking about when we share the same goal but have wildly opposing approaches to attaining it…approaches that effect us all; how do we get people to stop dying in car accidents. well, we put in airbags, or we ask jesus’ help. you decide. the process of arriving at plan A we’ll dub “critical thinking.” It’s very similar to science in its strengths and weaknesses, but it has my vote, and as such, so do classes in “critical thinking.” Plan b, well, what can I say about plan b.

I might also add that setting up straw men, resorting to ad hominems, muddying the water, creating false dichotomies – all enemies of CT, and enemies to most endeavors of understanding. This seems like a no brainer guys.

Gamer,

the problem arises when we work backwards from an established goal.

And who do we, in philosophy, turn to get that “established goal”? I’m sure glad you brought the boys down back down to earth. Too bad your “earth” is about as remote as Sedna 2003 VB12.

Dunamis

An afterthought…

I think Socrates has shown us that critical thinking WILL bring people to the same place. If you can hold their hand and trick them into letting their guard down, the vast majority of people will be lead in the direction of a shared conclusion as sure as things fall down instead of up. I don’t think critical thinking is the business of establishing a premise. At some point the rock bottom premise by which we base our beliefs is rather up for grabs. But in building upward from a premise, critical thinking is as undeniably useful as any form of architecture. architecture itself is a highly regulated, unbiased and transparent process. thinking should be same, and more often, since so much is at stake.

It troubles me when I see people making assumptions about somebody’s position (without taking the time to explore said position), those assumptions being that the person holding the position in question has no ability to think critically. Laying my cards on the table, this is what I see around here time and time again from atheists with respect to the positions of theists. Theism, so goes the apparent thinking, is not a position one can hold if one is well-versed in critical thinking. So - end of discussion. And this, from the same people who claim theists to be close-minded somehow.

Now, from the standpoint that this thinking effectively ends any discussion, thus rendering any potential discussion, as you say, uninteresting, then I suppose you’re right. I shouldn’t be troubled. (I also shouldn’t eat so much, or wait so long between calls to my mother).

I did address goals and premises in my afterthought. I’m sure my “earth” is very distant from where you reside, Dunamis. And I don’t think the spirit of this thread has much to do with critical thinking in philosophy, per se, the way you practice it, but I may be wrong.

I KNOW there’s no such thing as critical thinking. It SEEMS we have no authority for such a thing in the end. It’s a game though, and a fairly ubiquitous one. The game has rules and the rules are actually pretty simple and universally and horribly under utilized. Dunamis, you reminid me of those Catholic nuns who are so in love with the truth of suffering they “forget” to feed the hungry.

Gamer,

I think Socrates has shown us that critical thinking WILL bring people to the same place. If you can hold their hand and trick them into letting their guard down, the vast majority of people will be lead in the direction of a shared conclusion as sure as things fall down instead of up.

He faired pretty poorly defending himself at his trial. In fact he should have demanded his money back, but he was smart enough to mind-seduce what someone once called a “hunky Val Kilmer type” to paint a beautiful picture of him in words, and rhetorically deepen what he was trying to say.

I can’t say that the results of the whole thing has lead to a bunch of people in history agreeing with Socrates, in fact Socratic methods have pretty much lead to greater and greater diversity in disagreement, rather than greater and greater unanimity. Or so it would seem.

Dunamis

Jerry,

Theism, so goes the apparent thinking, is not a position one can hold if one is well-versed in critical thinking. So - end of discussion.

Where exactly though do you imagine such a conversation should go? Are not atheists correct to end the conversation there? Or is there some argument that you imagine would suddenly turn you into an atheist. I can’t recall if it was with you, but it seems we a while back got into long, multi-post theist discussion of some kind and it ended up with you (forgive me if it wasn’t you), saying “everything you are saying makes perfect sense, but I prefer to think of things my way” or something to that effect. Where else does one go?

Dunamis

Yes, critical thinking eventually does seem to lead, again, to chaos. The rules you use to sit on a bus get thrown out the window at the sub-atomic level. I’m not after perfection. I just want to find cures, get along, that sort of thing. The irony is that that’s what we all want…or think we want. IN the end, Jerry’s theist was never interested in developing a belief based on critical thinking, no matter what they say. The fact is that sound logic does lead to one answer, and theist and atheist are dealing with different equations altogether. Theist “yellow + blue = green!” Atheist: “You dolt…3+3=6!”

They are both right…but colors don’t build bridges. Math does.

Gamer,

And I don’t think the spirit of this thread has much to do with critical thinking in philosophy, per se, the way you practice it, but I may be wrong.

And perhaps I am wrong, but I didn’t imagine from the OP that the kinds of things being discussed were of the type:

how do we get people to stop dying in car accidents

I assumed it had to do with convincing people to change their opinions in a more abstract sense, the kind of critical thinking I do engage in, and not problem-solve definable difficulties in the world with falsifiable theories and physical demonstration.

Dunamis

Not me. Doesn’t sound like something I’d say.

I think where the conversation should go depends on the context of the conversation. A discussion about, say, abortion, just as one example, among many people but including an atheist and a theist, may incorporate the theistic beliefs of the theist. Should the position of the theist simply be dismissed by the atheist because, according to the atheist, the theist is untrained (by definition, according to the atheist) in critical thinking? Is that a conversation that should just end?

Look, our goals sort of emerge out of this haze, we use certain tools to chase after our goals, and when we realize our goals we are often no better off. The tools, though, seem to be something that can be taught. And I’m foolish perhaps for wanting to speed us on our way toward an unimproved end, but I think we can teach these tools to more people. I’m just talking basic rules of discourse and consistency. I’m not attacking Acquinas, here, far from it! He’s just dandy in my book. I’m attacking assholes like Mohammad Atta, or your next door neighbor who hates all “niggers.” I also think there are more things than CT that could and should be taught, like the Dunamis style of a still center, that which allows you to be steady and detached while you probe deeper into the secrets (and fools) around us. The difference between you and me, for instance, these are differences that can be taught.

Jerry your point illustrates precisely how it’s more about the premise than what happens after it. Atta, Bin Laden, anti-abortionists…all being VERY consistent with their premises. Talmud scholars can critical think me out of my socks. But how did they arrive at the…premise? Was it via critical thinking? My contention is no.

Well I can’t speak for Atta or Bin Laden. I can assume that some anti-abortionists have come to their conclusions based on theistic beliefs that are in turn based on critical thinking. It may surprise you to learn that there are a multitude of philosophical arguments for the position that God exists, argued by some pretty sharp minds throughout history.

Jerry,

I can assume that some anti-abortionists have come to their conclusions based on theistic beliefs that are in turn based on critical thinking.

Yes. I find this hard to believe. What does it mean to have conclusions based on theistic beliefs that are in turn based on critical thinking? How does this differ from just having beliefs based on critical thinking - why insert the theistic stage in your description? And what is the difference between “conclusions based on beliefs” and “beliefs based on critical thinking”. It sounds like a bunch of word-hodgepodge, keep your eye on the pea under the walnut, to make certain positions sound like they have rhetorical double teflon coating of “faith” and “logic”.

Dunamis

Jerry, I have spent most of my philosophical journeys studying the arguments of St. Thomas, Maimon, Pascal, Kuzari, Soloveitchek, Cardozo, the discovery center, Permission To Believe, Permission To Receive. I know EVERY argument. None of them are arrived at via critical thinking… though they go to great pains to appear critical to most people who simply don’t have the background to judge. Again I think of the pea and shell game. It’s true. They switch between logic and metaphor as it suits them. I can see the merits of debating a first cause, but the word Theism is so loaded. Also, most non-theists arrive at their beliefs non-critically! I concede that. There are only a very few who have earned an opinion. I’ve witnessed the impasse first hand when you get a brilliant torah scholar to the end of his bag of trick. He shruggs and tells a parable. Burden of proof indeed.

sometimes i wonder if dunamis isn’t really an impenitent imprint.

Well I’ve no doubt you know all the arguments, Gamer. Unfortunately so do others who have come to other conclusions. I’m not going to be able to take your word over theirs. I am willing, however, to admit that the limits of time and knowledge (and my own intellectual limitations) render me, personally, unable to examine every single argument ever made for or against the existence of God. “There are only a very few who have earned an opinion.” That may be right. But if that’s the case, I would argue that none of them are here at ILP. And if one hasn’t earned an opinion, I’m not seeing as how one can even tell who, among other thinkers, has earned an opinion.

We do the best we can given the limits, whether we are atheists or theists. We read the expert testimony from the great minds of history. We examine the “evidence” that they have produced for us. We experiment. We discuss. We deliberate. We use the tools of the philosopher and we critically think things through even while arguing over what critically thinking means.

For some, this means arriving at a belief in God. For others, it does not. It’s nothing but pure, unadulterated arrogance to claim unequivocally that if you’ve arrived at one place, all others who have arrived elsewhere are wrong.