Critical thinking, ideologues, moderates, and predictability

ultimate_seeker was poking at some of what I said on the “What is a moderate?” post (post + comments here). I thought I’d pull my most recent comments up to the top here, as they raise an interesting question about the relationship between critical thought and Grant’s definition of a moderate.
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I’ve always felt like genuine critical thinking drags you away from the poles. We all have out ideologies at some level, but critical thinking is a process devoted to examining and challenging those core assumptions. If you haven’t turned the guns on your beliefs, you’re not a real thinker.

Lately I’ve been pondering the notion of unpredictabilty. There are a lot of people out there who, once you know two or three things (or less, in some cases), you really know all you need to predict their take on most any issue. To that extent, then, really strong critical thinkers tend to be harder to predict, because their minds have gone places you might not know about and have thought about issues in ways that others don’t really think about them.

The people I have a hard time predicting fall into three categories:

1) those about whom I don’t have any data
2) those who are legitimately crazy
3) those who are really very smart

The more easily I can predict what somebody is going to say on a subject we haven’t talked about before (assuming I have a bit of general data to work with), the less likely they’re somebody who thinks very seriously. We’re probably talking about somebody what has neatly slotted him or herself into one of our society’s easy categories – “liberal” or “conservative” being two of the most relevant pigeonholes here of late.

And from a personal standpoint, the less interesting they’re likely to be for me.

That said, ideologues tend to be really easy to predict…

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6 thoughts on “Critical thinking, ideologues, moderates, and predictability

  1. I’m not sure…
    I am perplexed by the notion that predictability = poor critical thinking skills.
    I don’t believe that thinking critically on a topic is defined as such only when ones viewpoint on the topic changes. People who define or align themselves with a specific category or group may have done so for a variety of reasons.
    I agree that true critical thinkers may be less predictable, due to their ability to think outside of the box. I can also agree that, in some cases, those lacking good critical thinking skills are more apt to pick a group and stick with it without first examining their own values and beliefs.
    So I’m not saying that I disagree with the notion, I just don’t know if it should be made into a broad generalization.
    Hummm….
    Is one who predicts who can be predicted predictable?

  2. Re: I’m not sure…
    I think that your post basically reinforces lullabypit’s point on unpredictability. Not that it would make it broadly generalizable (is this a word at all?)…
    Even though we see this often, I think that aligning yourself with something you believe in should not make you stick your head in the sand and not listen to con arguments fearing that you might end up losing your faith in the issue you held dear. This is why allowing yourself to be unpredictable makes you more valuable, a “true critical thinker.” There will always be topics which will not allow you to become unpredictable, due to their stability – nothing to really examine and re-consider about them. This is why it seems hard to generalize “predictability = poor critical thinking skills.”

  3. Re: I’m not sure…
    >>I don’t believe that thinking critically on a topic is defined as such only when ones viewpoint on the topic changes. People who define or align themselves with a specific category or group may have done so for a variety of reasons.<<
    I didn’t say your opinion necessarily had to change in any given instance. Sometimes you think hard, challenge yourself, and conclude that for now, you still believe what you did before. However, if you find that your opinion almost never changes, you may not be thinking as honestly as you think you are.
    >>So I’m not saying that I disagree with the notion, I just don’t know if it should be made into a broad generalization.<<
    Well, I’m mainly describing how it is for ME at present. Not offering a rule of human behavior or anything. I suspect that what I’m saying is probably somewhat common to others, but for the moment I’d be happy if people simply pondered the idea. I may well be missing something…..

  4. Re: Greetings
    I won’t be able to add your site to the links list, if I understand your request. It only allows me 30 slots and I already have a bunch of news sites I don’t have room for. We may have to start removing the community listowner sites (including mine), for that matter.

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