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CRITICAL THINKING LEADS TO THE ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBLITY

5 September 2014 10 Comments

CRITICAL THINKING LEADS TO THE ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBLITY
By Father John Walsh

There is little doubt that we are living in a world turned upside-down. We are in desperate shape. Everywhere a person looks they find more frightening news of man’s destructive nature being made manifest. What is more gruesome than beheading a journalist to make a point! I am not prone to refer to a personified evil as many fundamentalists do, but I cannot help seeing evil in human beings when I see what they are capable of doing to each other. What evil lurks in the hearts of men? Only the shadow knows. The dark shadow that is cast over the earth. The dark side of our human nature that dispels darkness whenever and wherever it seizes the occasion to stir the heart with evil thoughts. The question is, Who is responsible for evil and how can evil be reduced, if not totally eradicated? Few answers seem satisfactory because evil seems to be increasing exponentially. Are we to envisage life on earth as a confrontation of good and evil? Is our life-struggle to fight evil and hope for good to be the victor? I believe it is too simplistic to think of life as two dimensional; good and evil … your choice. The question remains: is the human being fundamentally good but capable of doing evil things, or is the human being born good or born evil? Yet we must never forget to take into account our freedom to choose, to choose to do good or to choose to do evil. Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. The key to learning is to deal with reality and to interpret that reality to achieve the goals we set for ourselves and for all of humanity. We need to be equipped to be critical, we need the tools to make those decisions whose outcomes will respect the dignity and the worth of each human being. Many years ago, my philosophy professor taught me that the capacity for self-deception in the human mind is unlimited. We need to be critical to know what is right and what is wrong.
The art of being critical is not in any way to be equated with “criticizing;” a futile judgement of others without ever knowing what the motivations are for the criticism. To be critical is to seek to answer the question, how did you come to think what you are thinking, how did you come to believe what you believe? To be critical is to seek the basis of one’s thoughts or beliefs. It is a dialogical effort to know as much as we can about the world, what makes the world go round, and what makes the human being tick in relationship to that world. In the information age with high speed technological transfer of knowledge and a social media with which we are incapable of keeping pace we are reminded that Marshall McLuhan was right when he said there can be information overload. Critical thinking leads to the acceptance of responsibility for ourselves, the community, and the world.
Critical thinkers are clear as to the purpose at hand and the question at issue. They question information, conclusions, and points of view. They strive to be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. They seek to think beneath the surface, to be logical, and fair. They apply these skills to their reading and writing as well as to their speaking and listening. They apply them in history, science, math, philosophy, the arts and religion. Critical thinking is necessary and useful in every domain of living. Critical thinkers want to improve the quality of their lives and the lives of all of humanity.

Think cannot be left to itself: biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. Life is dependent on the quality of our thoughts. We must be in search of excellence. People who are satisfied with shallow reflections and its resultant thoughts create lives that are ineffectual despite the capacity they have to deceive themselves into thinking they have the only truth. Excellence of thought requires hard-work and must be systematically cultivated.
Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It requires rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

Critical thinking is essential to an understanding of religion. Saint Anselm wrote: Fides quaerens intellectum – Faith seeks intelligent understanding. Salvation is not an abstract concept, it begins and ends in the use of our intelligence, the one faculty that we human beings, of all creatures, singles us out in the whole of creation.

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