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Key Idea #11: Developing Rationality Requires Work

Significant development of one's rational capacities takes many years. The "gotta have it now" attitude prevalent in our culture creates a significant barrier to the development of higher-order human capacity. If we want to reap the benefits of a developed mind, there are no easy shortcuts. If we want to become better at reasoning through the complex issues we inevitably will face, we must be committed to that end. Just as baseball players must practice the moves of baseball again and again to be highly skilled at the game, so must committed thinkers.

Strategic Idea

Because we understand that daily practice is crucial to the development of our rational capacity, we can develop the habit of asking ourselves what we are doing today to further our intellectual growth. We realize that we must make it a habit to identify our selfish interests—and correct for their influence over our thinking. When we discover that our selfish nature is often driving the decisions we are making, we can intervene through good-faith empathy with alternative points of view.

We can develop the habit of assessing the extent to which we use the intellectual standards of clarity, accuracy, logical, significance, breadth, depth, and justifiability to assess and improve our thinking. For example, to develop the habit of checking our thoughts for clarity, we can regularly elaborate, and give examples and illustrations when we are presenting our views to others. We also can regularly ask others to elaborate, illustrate, and exemplify their ideas when they are expressing them to us. We can aim to develop similar habits with respect to using the other standards, and periodically assess ourselves to determine whether and to what extent those habits are developing. We can, and should, practice developing an inner voice that leads to routine questioning of others and ourselves.

Test the Idea
Getting in the Habit of Daily Critical Thinking

During the next seven days, document something you do every day that develops your ability to think well. Complete the following statements for each day:

  1. Today I engaged in the following thinking/behavior that demonstrates my commitment to becoming a critical thinker…

  2. Before I started learning about critical thinking, in similar situations I would have behaved in the following way, rather than in the way described in number 1…

  3. My new way of thinking/behaving is better because…

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