Of late, I’ve been frustrated by the difference between sciences and the humanities. Scientists know the scientific method, but when it comes to implementation or abstracting principles from it, they get it all wrong.
On the other hand, humanities people are good at grasping concepts but often let language fool them since they don’t know the basic science, and assume that categorical containers outweigh a complex, multi-faceted reality.
Two different approaches, with two similar downfalls, and one solution in common: critical thinking.
As a Zen master might say, the first task in critical thinking is to define critical thinking. Here’s mine:
Critical thinking is the ability to understand concepts on the basis of their internal coherence and relevance to a consistent order to external reality. It encompasses partial skillsets from logic, debate, law, philosophy and politics. Its end is to make the user able to understand arguments, dissect them and asses their truthfulness, and conduct a debate according to the evolved ruleset which enables it to reach a conclusion.
That’s a definition from what I hope is the top angle or near-objective position.
Critical thinking does have its downfall. It’s very much in the Rationalist tradition, which means the idea that if we formalize something enough we can explain it to idiots and have them act like geniuses.
In the list above, you’ll see that the community college professors have hijacked a lot of debate into making it a study of simple methods. Logical fallacies are a great example; I think few great debaters spend any time on these because if you cannot explain why an argument is fallacious using pure logic alone, and have to use a template of logical fallacies, you are doomed and no amount of textbook material can help you.
Critical thinking in a literature mindset melds well with debate because the two intersect where they intend to be used as applied disciplines. Literature and politics cover some of the same ground, which is the cultivation of a moral awareness in the soul of each human that is also able to make tough decisions like allowing natural selection to eliminate idiots, or torturing bad guys to get good information.
Idiots will try to cling to absolutes, much like they cling to logical fallacies, because they think that memorizing something makes them the super-genius.
Critical thinking as a discipline suggests that the flexible, resilient, adaptive ability to analyze, think and compare is what makes someone rise above the herd, even if the loudest voices for “critical thinking” forget this.