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Is CT the Foreplay of Understanding?


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Is CT the Foreplay of Understanding?


I consider CT (Critical Thinking) for all citizens as the only avenue for improving the judgment of our society in general. CT is, in my opinion, philosophy lite; it establishes the philosophical attitude but is less filling.


Everybody considers themselves to be a critical thinker. That is why we need to differentiate among different levels of critical thinking.


Most people fall in the category that I call Reagan thinkers—trust but verify. Then there are those who have taken the basic college course taught by the philosophy dept that I call Logic 101. This is a credit course that teaches the basic fundamentals of logic. Of course, a person need not take the college course and can learn the matter on their own effort, but I suspect few do that.


The third level I call CT (Critical Thinking). CT includes the knowledge of Logic 101 and also the knowledge that focuses upon the intellectual character and attitude of critical thinking. It includes knowledge regarding the ego and social centric forces that impede rational thinking.


I think that any normal human can easily comprehend the message of CT. Very few adults have been taught CT but it can easily be learned by anyone who recognizes its importance.


Anyone who can watch TV for a few hours a week certainly has the time to learn. The problem is lack of motivation and that is due to the fact that within our society few individuals recognize that thinking can be improved by study. Because our schools and colleges have only recently began to teach the subject few people have ever heard of the subject. Everyone thinks they are critical thinkers because they know nothing about it and that is the purpose of my sounding the horn.


Our first experience with ‘understanding’ may be our first friendship. I think that this first friendship may be an example of what Carl Sagan meant by “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy”.


I also think that the boy who falls in love with automobiles and learns everything he can about repairing the junk car he bought has discovered ‘understanding’.


I suspect many people go their complete life and never have an intellectual experience that culminates in the “ecstasy of understanding”. How can this be true? I think that our educational system is designed primarily for filling heads with knowledge and hasn’t time to waste on ‘understanding’.


Understanding must come in the adult years if it is to ever come to many of us. I think that it is very important for an adult to find something intellectual that will excite his or her curiosity and concern sufficiently so as to motivate the effort necessary to understand.


We have little comprehension of ‘understanding’ because our schooling has taught us only to know. Understanding is a step beyond knowing and our society which values production and consumption has little use for understanding. Those who make public policy do not want a population that cares about understanding. The bull that understands will hook at the Matador rather than the cape.


Understanding is generally not valuable in our society and so we have little comprehension of what it is. However there seems to be one application for understanding. I have on several occasions heard a professor say that “you never really understand a subject until you try to teach it”. Here is one occasion that people can begin to comprehend the meaning of the concept. I suspect we all have a sense of what the professor is saying. So here is a ‘use’ for understanding and in this example we who only value that which is ‘useful’ can begin to gain a comprehension of the concept.


We imply that reason can be depended upon as a guide but we do not help the individual understand what reason is. The problem is that our schools and colleges are only now beginning to teach CT (Critical Thinking), which is the art and science of how to think. We adults were never taught how to think we were only taught what to think. If we do not learn how to think and how to help others learn how to think then we are giving only empty words. We are as ignorant of what reason is as those we wish to give up dogma for reason. Until we learn the art and science of reason we cannot help others to learn how to think.


Search for meaning through self-actuated study can provide a purpose similar to the purpose believers find in religion. Understanding resulting from study, leading to meaning and purpose, is perhaps a legitimate foil to dogma.


I think that understanding happens in that rare conflation of emotion and intelligence when we create a meaning that happens like a tipping point, like when water becomes ice, it gives the person a jolt, a eureka moment. When we understand we are creating meaning that is subjective but is what we find we must believe is true.


Comprehension is a hierarchy, resembling a pyramid, with awareness at the base followed by consciousness, succeeded by knowing, with understanding at the pinnacle.


I have concocted a metaphor set that might relay my comprehension of the difference between knowing and understanding.


Awareness--faces in a crowd.


Consciousness—smile, a handshake, and curiosity.


Knowledge—long talks sharing desires and ambitions.


Understanding—a best friend bringing constant April.



I am a retired engineer and my experience in the natural sciences leads me to conclude that these natural sciences are far more concerned with knowing than with understanding.


Understanding is a long step beyond knowing and most often knowing provides the results that technology demands. Technology, I think, does not want understanding because understanding is inefficient and generally not required. The natural scientists, with their paradigms, are puzzle solvers. Puzzles require ingenuity but seldom understanding.

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