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Mandatory Critical Thinking Classes Please!

July 25, 2012 10 comments

Critical Thinking classes should be mandatory for all schools, starting at an early grade. Right now the top four mandatory subject categories are Math, Science, English, and Social Studies. Five if you include Physical Education. All important, of course.

Critical thinking is, however, equally as important as any of these others. Currently it is only taught at higher level education, usually as an elective.  Because it is placed on such a low priority for most education systems, irrationality runs rampant. People are unable to discern propaganda, bias, distortion, and misinformation from the truth. They are unable to analyze information provided to them, no matter how skewed the information is.

And many of these people are intelligent in every other topic. Because it is not a requirement for most majors, a person can run the gamut of courses and entirely miss a single course on critical thinking.

There is a reason people believe in things such as alien abduction, big foot, homeopathy,  conspiracy theories, horoscopes, the nonsense purported in chain emails, and so on. Smart people! They just were never taught how to disseminate, analyze, and scrutinize information given to them.  They were never shown how to discern fallacies, how to question their own thinking, and the basics of language based logic. They were never informed of standards to acquire knowledge and why some standards are more consistent and reliable than others.

The lack of critical thinking skills does not just lead to benign thought, but thought that derives ones philosophical, ethical, and political viewpoints. Critical thinking not only benefits the student, but also the community at large. For a democracy, critical thought affects our policies  and practices. What we support and do not support.

The education system, in the U.S. at least, is riddled with problems. This is just one example of one of those problems that has huge implications.

What do you think? Should such courses be mandatory? Let me know why or why not in the comments below. 🙂


Sorry I have not posted in a while. Had a big move from the US to Canada and my scanner died as well. Now that I am relocated and I have a new scanner I will hopefully have some time to doodle, ramble, and post. In the meantime here is a ‘lil doodle I whipped up:

back seat driver

Don’t forget to visit my site at www.TrickSlattery.com.

10 Tips to Convince Others of Your Reasonable Beliefs

April 19, 2012 20 comments

Hold a belief that you really feel strongly about? Think it important to share your knowledge about something you have given a whole lot of time, effort, and thought to?

Below are some tips on assisting others to causally align with your strongly held, reasonable beliefs:

1) First and foremost, believe in what you are trying to convince others of, but don’t try to convince others just because you believe it. You want  people to align with something that you  find true or most likely true, but you want to have strong reasoning to support that truth (or likely truth) first. If you are unable to reason out your belief, and instead believe it due to an entirely psychological response or indoctrination, you may have some searching of your own to do before you should try to convince others of your position.

2) Lay out the groundwork for what you are trying to convince others of. You could have a perfectly logical structure to your argument (it could be entirely “valid”), but if there is not agreement on the premises that the logical argument is built on, the argument is meaningless. If a premise is wrong, your argument is not sound. Explain where your grounding comes from and why it should be granted.

3) Don’t be ambiguous with your word use. Clarify, clarify, clarify! If your belief is based on a word that you cannot clarify to yourself, maybe you shouldn’t try to change the minds of others until you understand the very word you are using. Try different words out instead. Some may make your point a whole lot clearer.

4) Don’t be insulted if people do not understand the case you are making. People have minds that have developed differently than your own. Do the best you can to understand which points of yours they are not grasping and try to put those points into different terms. Don’t be stuck explaining in the same way over and over if the person cannot parse the way you are explaining it.

5) Be careful not to be drawn into a drama debate. These kind of debates are unproductive. If communicating online, avoid turning into a debate monster. Rwaarrr.

6) Point out flaws in another persons reasoning, but do so tactfully. A good way is to, whenever possible, try to counteract your recognition of their flawed reasoning with something good they are saying. “I really like what you said here, but perhaps you could clarify for me this other point because it appears to me that it may conflict with X.”

7) Use analogies to help others relate to your points, but do not rely on analogies alone. They are of great use as clarifying tool but are not stand alone arguments. Also, be careful of faulty analogies that add in excess unnecessary baggage which skew a point in a direction it would not take if not for the excess baggage.

8) Don’t limit yourself to words. If you are a visual person with some artistic inclination, use that to your advantage.  A picture or drawing can help a person comprehend where you are coming from.

9) Watch out for fallacies in your argument. A single fallacy in the right place can strip all of the soundness from your position.

10) Last but not least,  don’t be a jerk to those you cannot convince. It is quite difficult to immediately go from viewpoint (A) to opposing viewpoint (B), no matter what kind of awesome case is given for (B). A change of beliefs takes time – sometimes days, sometimes weeks, sometimes years, and sometimes even decades. Sometimes you giving your case is just one tiny event that can lead another on the path to a change of mind. Consider it a long term process.

And sometimes your own mind might even change. Feel strongly about beliefs that are supported with evidence and sound reasoning, but do not close yourself off to new information that may arise. It is possible you have missed something along the way. You can strongly hold a position and still be humble.

Let me know what you think and your experiences with trying to change minds? Were you successful? Has anyone ever changed your mind? If so, what worked best?

The Philosophy of Indie Publishing – Introduction

February 20, 2012 13 comments

bookinvasion

Indie (Independent) publishing is becoming more popular every day. As someone concerned with the best way to publish my book once it is complete, I’ve read every book, listened to every podcast, watched every video, and read every blog post I could get my paws on within the last few years. Throughout this time I have developed my own take on where I think things are heading for the book publishing industry and why some publishing models will, in the long run, be better for both the author and consumer.

Technology has given authors the means to bypass the traditional route. The Internet is a game changer – and it is an exciting one for writers. Even though the industry is changing, and the stigma of “self” or “indie” publishing is diminishing day by day…there still is a lingering  group of people vying for the traditional route. Holding on dearly to the dream of having their book on a physical bookshelf for a limited time within brick and mortar shops. Shops that are getting scarcer by the day as more and more people buy ereaders and consider the convenience of online shopping.

My “Philosophy of Indie Publishing” blog posts will address various aspects of indie publishing (vs. traditional publishing).

Some questions that may be pondered and addressed are:

  • What are some of the pros and cons?
  • Why will the consumer be benefitted with Indie?
  • What does it mean that the author holds all of the rights to their book?
  • Does the author have to do more work because they have to do all of their own marketing?
  • How has the Internet changed the way people can bring their book to people?
  • What does indie publishing mean for time frames to publish?
  • How do we get around the issue of quality control if anyone can publish a poorly written book?
  • Who will determine the quality of a book if not some traditional gatekeeper?
  • How will indie publishing help with education?
  • How does it support freedom of speech?
  •  What does it mean that people can display their ideas and concepts with the only gatekeeper being the reader, rather than a small group of people who say “no”?
  • Are ebooks the future of reading?
  • Why will indie publishing be important for philosophers and the expansion of ideas?
  • What are some future possibilities for ereaders?
  • What of formatting and cover art?
  • How is indie publishing a better model for the environment?

…and a whole lot more.

This is the first of a series of blog posts on this topic that I plan to write.  Each post beginning with the title “The Philosophy of Indie Publishing – X” (X being the specific topic) will address specific questions or points about indie publishing. On the right hand side these posts can be filtered by clicking the “Publishing” category. Stay tuned!

Subscribe to my blog if this is a topic of interest to you.  I also talk about other topics pertaining to philosophy and the nonfiction and fiction books I am currently in the process of writing. I also post new doodles that you can use for free on your own blog or website, and plan on more free content at www.TrickSlattery.com. Here is another doodle I just put up on the site for your use:

moonfairy

moonfairy

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a spiffy day!

‘Trick

Next Philosophy of Indie Publishing Post –>

The Important Focus of Ethics: The Consequence

December 11, 2011 3 comments

consequentialismI am currently focusing my first book on the lack of free will. This is for a number of reasons. One important reason is that I want my next philosophical book to be on the topic of ethics. Understanding the lack of free will is an important base understanding for any ethical system. It needs to come prior.

In this post I want to briefly talk about why the consequences of our actions should be the primary focus of any ethical system. Ethics that focus on the consequence are called… take a guess… you guessed it… consequentialist ethics. The consequence is the output of the action. In other words, what will happen if you do something. It is this that needs to be the focus.

Some would think this obvious, but there are different types of ethics with different focus’s. Some are “rule based” ethics (called deontological ethics), in which rules or “duties” are the focus, regardless of the consequence. Some are virtue based ethics, where as the character of the person is the focus (and what an action means for that character), regardless of the consequence. These ethical systems, for the most part,  place the consequence as secondary.

I am certainly not suggesting virtue is unimportant, or that rules and duties should not be part of an ethical system. I am saying that those should always be contingent on the potential consequence of the action. On our predictive ability and output of what may or will happen later given a certain action.

I would argue that rules or duties make no rational sense outside of what they lead to. Outside of the consequence. One might say that it is always unethical to lie. That may be their rule: One ought not lie. And in general, this may be a good rule. What makes it a good rule is the consequence. A world of constant liars is a world where trust is impossible. But when something happens where the consequence outweighs the rule, such as a Nazi asking a person if another person is hidden and if so where, certainly it is not the ethical thing to tell the truth.

The consequence should always trump any rule based system. Likewise with virtue, it may be a virtue to tell the truth, but the consequence should always trump such “virtue”.

This simplistic example makes the point. The end output is more important than if someone is “virtuous” or if someone  holds a rule or duty. Rules, duties, and virtue should point to action that lead to the best consequence. This is by no means an elaborate argument for consequentialism and my second book will go into great detail about this. This is just a lil’ something to get a person thinking about where their own ethics are focused.

The question to ask someone that gives you a moral or ethical rule is, why is such rule ethically important? Or why is an action virtuous?  I bet they will have a hard time justifying it without pointing to an actual consequence.

Protesting Against Inequality (‘Occupy’ X)

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

freewillscaleThe big news recently is the ‘Occupy’ protests which first started out as Occupy Wall Street and have become a larger global movement. These are demonstrations “mainly protesting against social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government, among other concerns”.

Without getting into too much depth as to why such protests are important, I want to focus on something a little more at base. Something that should be at the heart of such protests but that is hardly ever thought about. The understanding of the lack of free will.

There seems to be this belief by some who are against the protests that: if there is inequality, it is because those that do not have are to blame and those that do have are more deserving.

I explain in detail within the book I am writing that: without free will, these notions of “blameworthiness” and “more deserving-ness” need to be abandoned. People are at the position they are in life due to events that were and are entirely out of their control.

This is one reason (of many) why the topic of free will is so important and why the belief in free will is not a benign belief. The belief in free will creates this allowance of inequality. It allows people to blame others for their lack of wealth and to condone excess wealth of others who are deemed deserving of such wealth.

Understanding that free will cannot (and hence does not) exist is the great equalizer. It strip away the ego that creates such an imbalance in wealth and quality of life. It is a base subject that is given little consideration.

And without free will, the implications are gigantic.

Regardless, these ‘Occupy” protests are not asking for complete equality nor is the world ready to accept that. Most people still think free will exists. The protesters are only asking that we curve the extreme side of the inequalities. These inequalities that make the game so ridiculously unfair that only a teenie tiny percentage of the population can play.

Given that free will does not exist (which is the point of the book I am writing), and that we should be asking for much more in regards to equality, I don’t think reducing the extreme unfairness is too much to ask at all. Do you?

“Free Will” is Incoherent

October 11, 2011 4 comments

Free Will is IncoherentIn the book I am currently writing titled Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind I not only argue that we do not have free will, but I argue that free will is logically incoherent. That it is nonsensical. That it is something that cannot coexist with reality.

I show that thoughts are events, and that there are only two possibilities for events. I show why these possibilities are entirely incompatible with free will.

I also explain why compatibilist notions of free will, which basically is a redifining of the term ” free will” in such a way that it fits in with one of these possibilities, misses the point entirely. That these notions of free will are not helpful in any way, and that they just allow people to contrive their own notion of free will that does not relate to the compatibilists notion.

In other words, the book I am writing is not one of those books that do not take a side. It is not one that suggests that there is any possibility what-so-ever that we can or do have free will. It is a firm stance on one side of a controversal issue.

But just because the book only takes one side does not mean it is not for everyone. The book is for both people that already understand that free will is impossible as well as people that hold a belief in free will.

For those that already disbelieve in free will, the arguments will strengthen their conviction or give them some new ways to think about the topic.

For those that believe in free will, the book is a challenge. It is a challenge for them to see if, after reading the book, their belief in free will still holds water. Maybe they will be able to. Maybe they have a good argument I have missed. I doubt it, but who knows? So I throw the challenge out to them.  Prove me wrong. And who isn’t up for a challenge?

If they fail the challenge, which I think they will, it is my hope that the book changes minds. That people begin to understand this important fact about reality. The book goes into depth of why this is so important. Hence the second part of the title “… for the Betterment of Humankind”.

I invite people with dissenting  points of view to read my book once it is out.

And if you are one of those with a dissenting point of view, do me a favor. After you read the book:

Send me an email.
In it explain how “free will” really is logically coherent.

I betcha can’t. 😉

Life’s Little Distracting Annoyances

August 31, 2011 2 comments

I sit at my computer, thinking of the next word to type. Suddenly a spitball smacks me in the face. “How annoying” I think as I wipe my face and refocus on the screen. A finger comes close to my eye and I hear “Isn’t this annoooyyying. Isn’t this annnooooyyying!” in a voice that can only be described as “annoying”. I swipe the finger and plug my ears. The sound goes away. “Ahhh”, a sense of relief. A thought comes into my head and I start to type. “Brilliant” I think as I press on a key. Suddenly I see the light above me flickering. “Errrgh” I say as the thought I had leaves my head.

This is how I feel sometimes.

Little “life” annoyances make it difficult to get a book written during my spare time. Things happen, “urgent” matters occur, and “life” interrupts writing patterns. Little annoyances build up to larger nuisances. These annoyances seem to work together to make sure they all happen within the same timeframe.

It isn’t just that these events consume the time normally spent on book writing. They also create a stress in the mind that interferes with the will, excitement, and motivation necessary to drive progress forward. Individually they are manageable, but together they build up to energy sapping annoying little creatures that you just want to “knock it off”!

These are happenings with their own time constraints, and they are happenings that demand attention. They need to get done for the sake of my own life and wellbeing.

My book, however, is something I desire to accomplish for a cause I believe in. For a purpose that I deem beyond me. For something that may exist even after I die and can reap any benefit. For the wellbeing of future consciousness.

This is why I find it annoying when life, my life, and goals that only pertain to my life and those close to me, cause distractions from a goal that I find much greater in the bigger picture. And I can’t just ignore these things. They would only cause larger problems in the long run. They weigh heavily on my mind until resolved.

So all I can do is be annoyed. Annoyed by the necessities and stresses that life imposes.  Annoyed that I am not doing what I want, and distracted by what my life requires. At least I live in a country and at a time were annoyances are the concern, and not starvation, lack of shelter, threat of enemies or predators, or other harsher realities. Comparatively, I’ll take my annoyances any day. They are, however, a distraction. A causal distraction that truly hinders progress. Hindering the ability to make a decent blog post even.

“Phttthhht!”

“Knock it off – Life!”

Does life ever hinder you from something you desire to accomplish?