Posts Tagged ‘thinking’

Intellectual Docility

May 8, 2018

It is good to get others’ viewpoints, others’ interpretation of the world and the way things work.

All of us do this to differing degrees.

Some seem to merely parrot the teachings and thinking of their parents but even in those cases there has to be some evidence that it is the correct view and the proper way to think.

Some get their concepts and opinions from studying others, discussing with people, and so forth, balancing the input with what they KNOW to be true from their own experience.

Unfortunately, for most people, the growth stops at some point.

They get comfortable with what they know and decided nothing else could be more correct or more perfect to hold as opinions on a subject. Intellectual docility has set in.

Though there may be a vast array of untapped knowledge out there, they decided that what they knew now, what concepts and ideas they embraced in totality, was the culmination of all points in the known (or viewed) universe.

This applies to their political leanings, their concepts on race, religion, and so forth; all their biases are covered within the data sets they hold dear.

Many people stuck in this stage for too long a period seem to become upset easily with other forms of knowledge, especially with people of differing opinions. Whether it is religion or science or anything in between, they have come to the very firm conviction that anyone who does not think like they do are “stupid”, ignoramuses incapable of understanding the simplest of things.

Then, like radical adherents of some religious cult or other, they vilify different thinking and might even become violent, trying to force their singular opinions down other, less capable people’s “pie holes”.

This fixidity on a single level of stratum of knowledge may come about at any age.

I’ve known people who formed all their later mature opinions when they were only four or five years old. How they can fixate on such data so young is amazing. How it comes out as a middle-aged person, of course, then sound very immature but what would one expect of a four-year-old intellect. And, no, it never looks very pretty when coming from – chronologically, at least – a mature person’s mouth.

Many people can get quite knowledgeable on certain subjects to which they have become affixed.

They read and study in great depth a plethora of works approving or supporting their ideas; they can quote facts and figures along such lines for hours but when confronted with any portion of the opposing view they can only resort to ad hominem attacks because they really don’t know the subject – or possible variants – at all, no matter how well read on the subject they become.

I’m not saying any of this is wrong. This is just the way it is. I am not even suggesting such things need to be cured or fixed – heaven’s no!

Just as we can learn a lot in this world from the people who reject the borders, scoff at the boundaries, and lead themselves and us into exciting new worlds, new thoughts, blazing trails into new conceptual universes the likes of which have never been thought before, we can also learn a lot from those people who simply stop learning at a certain point, assured they have reached the summit of all available knowledge and that this, here and now, as conceived by them, is truly the best of all possible worlds.

If those of us who truly want to learn as much as we can about all things, these people are of interest as they can show you where you might be doing the same… fixating on one perceived fundamental universal truth (that is really nothing more than your labeling of such a concept) rather than testing the boundaries of reality to broaden the human vista into realms hitherto never even imagined.

Like Agent K said in Men In Black, “Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

And like the Dowager in Alice in Wonderland, “Think six impossible things before breakfast.”

To do any less means you’ve become complacent about the wonder…

Not that there’s anything wrong with such contentment.


the Nature of Opinion

November 9, 2012

Everyone has an opinion and they have every right to be entitled to it.

They also have a right to change it, on occasion, as often and as freely as they choose.

However, many people come to believe that their opinions are somehow “right” even though it is only an opinion. Facts are different though many people cannot tell the difference between their opinion and fact.

I have a few thoughts that may be different than what you’re used to hearing. Feel free to disagree or be welcome to be inspired. The choice is entirely up to you.

The fact that I write about a lot of different things doesn’t make my opinions any righter. But I created this blog so I could write my opinions down. Share them, if you will.

But, they are still my opinions.

If you follow my blog for any length of time, you might find that my opinions change over time. As I learn more, discover move, try more, my understandings of nature may change as well. And with the changes in understanding, so will come a change in opinion.

That is the nature of opinion, to be changeable, to grow and morph into something that might surprise you. It is not something to hold fast to year after year, to spout repeatedly like some religious mantra… boring to your relations, your friends… probably even yourself.

Opinions need to be refreshed.

Opinions need to be updated.

Opinions not capable of being changed are no longer opinions.

They become “fact” in the eye of the holder, however erroneous they may be.

More Cultural Differences

November 6, 2012

An article in the May issue of Scientific American magazine talks a little about cultural differences in practice.

The article is by Alice P. Gast and is entitled “Boundary Conditions”.

Most people with scientific training assumes there is only one way to attack a problem based in engineering and mathematics. It was the method they were taught.

What Ms. Gast found from working with a team from different countries was that the Mexican physicists were willing to relax the “laws” a bit to allow them more flexibility in attacking the problem while their German counterparts bridled at the relaxing of the constraints and boundary conditions; they saw it could lead the research astray.

But, once they had seen the architecture in the differing schools of thought, they learned to work together. One allowed more laxity in investigating the problem while the other saw keeping close to the rules, designing a tactical approach to the problem, afforded better results.

Many people think that all people think in essentially the same way. Actually, that could not be further from the truth. The thought processes differ from person to person on the pathways they built earlier in life, pathways that have proven results.

And while a person can add a wealth of data into their “onboard computer”, the method of thinking rarely changes for them. Until, of course, they encounter other methods that provide good results.

Just as the physicists above could tweak the way they handled problems, so should we all be on the lookout to clear out preconceived notions and biases that are no longer relevant in our lives.

When I was younger, I could not stand to eat peas – my gag reflex was extreme on this item – and would never touch broccoli, cauliflower, or any form of squash.

Later, after realizing that our own physical biochemistry changes over time, I would try again those foods I had disliked. To my surprise, many of them had become tasty to me. Today, I eat all of those but still find beets not to my liking. Maybe someday…

Opinions, preconceived notions, and tastes can change over time and we need to be willing to retry things that seemed distasteful before.

A little revolution is a good thing now and again, Jefferson told us, and it applies to the patterns of our own lives as well as the greater society.

The attitudes embraced by people in varying cultures may assist in overcoming problems both politic and private.

But we have to be open enough to allow any change to come.