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What is Critical Thinking?

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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18 July 2014 15:27
 
Nhoj Morley - 18 July 2014 12:10 PM

Can one engage in critical thinking unconsciously as in The Eureka Moment?

The religious view is that revelation comes from beyond and is a different form of learning than critical thinking. Can the non-religious have a revelation from within and does critical thinking play a role in revelation if that is one’s regular conscious inclination?

Good question! I don’t see why not, although I don’t know how you could ever determine that one way or the other. It’s possible to arrive at a “true” conclusion by accident, without using critical thinking, so a “true” conclusion doesn’t necessarily mean that critical thinking was employed.

It’s also possible to arrive at a “false” conclusion while using critical thinking, so arriving at a “false” conclusion doesn’t necessarily imply that critical thinking wasn’t employed.

The only way to tell if a person was subconsciously thinking critically would be to examine his thinking process—but since the process occurs without the thinker’s conscious awareness of it, we have no way to tell.

Maybe Sam can develop a machine capable of examining subconscious thinking processes—just as soon as he’s done with his Well-Being-O-Meter.

 
 
KathleenBrugger
 
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18 July 2014 16:04
 
Nhoj Morley - 18 July 2014 12:10 PM

Here’s a sidebar:

Can one engage in critical thinking unconsciously as in The Eureka Moment?

The religious view is that revelation comes from beyond and is a different form of learning than critical thinking. Can the non-religious have a revelation from within and does critical thinking play a role in revelation if that is one’s regular conscious inclination?

I also thought jefe’s post was great. Questioning subjective bias seems to be essential.

I just read Consciousness and the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene and his description of the unconscious mind sounds like a critical-thinking machine. He describes it like this: “Below the conscious stage, myriad unconscious processors, operating in parallel, constantly strive to extract the most detailed and complete interpretation of our environment. They operate as nearly optimal statisticians who exploit every slightest perceptual hint—a faint movement, a shadow, a splotch of light—to calculate the probability that a given property holds true in the outside world.”

Dehaene addresses the Eureka moment by talking about another book, An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field, Jacques Hadamard, 1945, Princeton Press. Hadamard divided mathematical discovery into four successive stages: initiation, incubation, illumination, and verification. Initiation includes all the preparation, study, and conscious exploration of a problem. Incubation is the process where the unconscious mind is working on the problem. Often a good night’s sleep or a walk will provide this time, then illumination occurs: the solution appears fully formed in the conscious mind. Then the conscious mind can come along and fill in details.

So from the info in this book it seems like, yes, critical thinking can happen unconsciously.

[ Edited: 18 July 2014 17:28 by KathleenBrugger]
 
 
icehorse
 
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18 July 2014 17:08
 

I’d say that “eureka moments” are orthogonal to CT. Sometimes they’ll overlap, sometimes not. In other words, sometimes a “eureka moment” is a crap idea.

 
 
Jb8989
 
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18 July 2014 17:16
 

We can get nitpicky because consciousness is not an all or nothing affair, and therefore neither is the unconscious.

There’s “locked in syndrome,” which technically isn’t a disorder of consciousness because these patients are fully conscious, however, they cannot move and are often mistaken for vegetative or minimally conscious. Many of these guys retain their ability to blink and move their eyes. Then there’s the “minimally conscious state,” which is where awareness and being able to follow command is substantially diminished but still present. There’s also the “vegetative state” which is essentially sleep-wake cycles responding only reflexively to stimuli. Finally there’s “coma” and “brain death.” They’re distinguishable by brain health and traceable by lack of oxygen or trauma to the brain.

If you think this is an incomplete understanding of consciousness, you can imagine that levels of unconscious thought are even more unknown. But I see no reason why a eureka moment- or as I’d like to call them “light bulb moments” - are solely a product of “consciousness.” In fact, speech-perception areas of the brain have been proven to be activated just as strongly when participants are sedated into unconscious states as when they are awake. The brain therefore processes certain stimuli (including speech) automatically, even when we’re not conscious or aware that we’re doing it.

The real question isn’t about a eureka moment. Rather the real question is what kind of activity we would have to observe to be convinced that a patient was conscious? It seems that measurable brain activity is present even where the traditional “squeeze-my-hand-if-you-can-hear-me” test fails.

 
 
icehorse
 
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18 July 2014 17:22
 

jb - all of this seems orthogonal to the OP - what’s the connection?

 
 
KathleenBrugger
 
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18 July 2014 17:32
 
jb8989 - 18 July 2014 03:16 PM

We can get nitpicky because consciousness is not an all or nothing affair, and therefore neither is the unconscious.

There’s “locked in syndrome,” which technically isn’t a disorder of consciousness because these patients are fully conscious, however, they cannot move and are often mistaken for vegetative or minimally conscious. Many of these guys retain their ability to blink and move their eyes. Then there’s the “minimally conscious state,” which is where awareness and being able to follow command is substantially diminished but still present. There’s also the “vegetative state” which is essentially sleep-wake cycles responding only reflexively to stimuli. Finally there’s “coma” and “brain death.” They’re distinguishable by brain health and traceable by lack of oxygen or trauma to the brain.

If you think this is an incomplete understanding of consciousness, you can imagine that levels of unconscious thought are even more unknown. But I see no reason why a eureka moment- or as I’d like to call them “light bulb moments” - are solely a product of “consciousness.” In fact, speech-perception areas of the brain have been proven to be activated just as strongly when participants are sedated into unconscious states as when they are awake. The brain therefore processes certain stimuli (including speech) automatically, even when we’re not conscious or aware that we’re doing it.

The real question isn’t about a eureka moment. Rather the real question is what kind of activity we would have to observe to be convinced that a patient was conscious? It seems that measurable brain activity is present even where the traditional “squeeze-my-hand-if-you-can-hear-me” test fails.

You need to read Consciousness and the Brain, which I mentioned above. Dehaene and his colleagues have developed tests to look for consciousness in vegetative patients. In one they asked patients to visualize playing tennis, or walk through their apartments while in an fMRI machine. These mental activities engage precise locations in the brain which can be detected in a fMRI. If these brain areas light up when the patient is told to start imaging, and then cease when told to stop, it shows signs of some degree of consciousness. In one patient they asked yes/no questions: if the answer is yes, think of playing tennis, if no, think of walking in your apartment. They asked verifiable questions, like “do you have 2 brothers?” and they got correct answers.

Then they developed a simpler test of playing sounds, a sequence that goes: beep, beep, beep, boop. Brain reacts to unexpected boop at end with an electrical signal. Doesn’t require consciousness to do that. But if you play enough of these, then throw in a beep, beep, beep, beep, only a conscious mind will react. The unconscious mind will overlook it because it’s not novel. The conscious mind, on the other hand, notices that something new happened. Dehaene’s colleague Lionel Naccache has been applying this test in hospitals on vegetative-state patients; when he measures consciousness with the test, the patient almost always does regain consciousness to some degree.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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18 July 2014 17:45
 

Another way I like to describe critical thinking is taking honesty seriously.

 
 
Mike78
 
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18 July 2014 18:01
 

I don’t think the question is about measuring consciousness.  I think the question is about whether critical thinking can occur in the absence of the level of consciousness that allows for weighing and measuring inputs and reaching conclusions.  Secondarily, does it matter if the critical thinker is not simultaneously presently aware of the process unfolding?

 
LadyJane
 
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18 July 2014 19:37
 

The presence of mind to delude responsibly.

The ability to observe, allowing things to just be,
Then the triangles will appear as far as the eye can see.

(Is that too obtuse?)

 
 
samyag-drsti
 
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18 July 2014 21:38
 

The ability to be the user of your brain and not to be used by it.

 
SkepticX
 
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19 July 2014 14:51
 

I finally got around to that Peter Boghossian video cunjevoi posted ... he wins.

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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19 July 2014 16:07
 

There is a fair amount of talking around the edges of critical thinking but it may only have edges.

Sure, if Eureka is too ethnic a word, we can use Light Bulb Moment but future generations won’t know what it means.

It appears that we would agree that critical thinking does not assure that a conclusion is correct and true. An honest mistake of perception may be involved that leads the conclusion astray, but the point is that the thinking process is honest and bias-free. And correctable, once the mistake is discovered.

As for Mr. Dehaene, a nearly identical description of the sub-conscious thought processes is found in trioonity. Both are suggestive of a fairly logical inference. That is, the core of the process we call critical thinking must be the basic motif of our sub-conscious thought process.

Why? What about all the tiny little light bulbs and eureka moments that guide us through each day? There are always quick signals of thought that tell you that you found what you were looking for or that your checkbook is balanced or many little examples of this leading to that or things adding up to something. You may be conscious of the moment you arrived at it, but not necessarily conscious of exactly how.

Imagine if they stopped. You’re scanning around looking for a particular item. What if the signal that says you’ve spotted it never comes? You’re doing some basic math. What if the sums and differences didn’t just pop up? What if the subject is new and you have no previous learning to help you know what’s what? What alternative would you be left with? You’d have to walk your way through it and work it out consciously in a manner that did not rely on your sub-conscious thought processes. This can be done, and it might be serving to drag the sub-conscious thought processes out where we can see them.

This replacement method is well-established and is known as the Scientific Method. In this context, critical thinking is out where everyone can see it. Like the way Auntie S describes it:

I’d say that critical thinking is the process of arriving (or attempting to arrive) at conclusions based on material evidence and verifiable facts. As opposed to arriving at conclusions based on biases, beliefs and preferences.

The wording is curiously redundant in a useful way. Biases and beliefs could be called immaterial evidence or unverifiable facts but those are contradictions. Biases and beliefs come from a source other than facts or evidence. They come from authors and are taken on authority. Facts and evidence don’t have authors. They are direct perceptions that everyone can see for themselves.

How do we see evidence? How do we know when we are looking at it? What do we have to put into a single perception that makes what we see an undeniable fact or unquestionable evidence?

 
 
icehorse
 
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19 July 2014 17:58
 
SkepticX - 19 July 2014 12:51 PM

I finally got around to that Peter Boghossian video cunjevoi posted ... he wins.

Yup, that audio clip rocked… the first five minutes are worth the price of admission, Boghossian rules!

(BTW, I’m enjoying “A Manual for Creating Atheists”.)

Paraphrasing, I love the message: “To say: ‘who am I to judge?’ is toxic”.

 
 
Jb8989
 
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20 July 2014 23:44
 
Nhoj Morley - 19 July 2014 02:07 PM

The wording is curiously redundant in a useful way. Biases and beliefs could be called immaterial evidence or unverifiable facts but those are contradictions. Biases and beliefs come from a source other than facts or evidence. They come from authors and are taken on authority. Facts and evidence don’t have authors. They are direct perceptions that everyone can see for themselves.

He seems happy to everyone so you can’t see the fact that the man standing next to me feels sad.

[ Edited: 21 July 2014 00:17 by Jb8989]
 
 
Jb8989
 
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21 July 2014 19:36
 
KathleenBrugger - 18 July 2014 03:32 PM
jb8989 - 18 July 2014 03:16 PM

We can get nitpicky because consciousness is not an all or nothing affair, and therefore neither is the unconscious.

There’s “locked in syndrome,” which technically isn’t a disorder of consciousness because these patients are fully conscious, however, they cannot move and are often mistaken for vegetative or minimally conscious. Many of these guys retain their ability to blink and move their eyes. Then there’s the “minimally conscious state,” which is where awareness and being able to follow command is substantially diminished but still present. There’s also the “vegetative state” which is essentially sleep-wake cycles responding only reflexively to stimuli. Finally there’s “coma” and “brain death.” They’re distinguishable by brain health and traceable by lack of oxygen or trauma to the brain.

If you think this is an incomplete understanding of consciousness, you can imagine that levels of unconscious thought are even more unknown. But I see no reason why a eureka moment- or as I’d like to call them “light bulb moments” - are solely a product of “consciousness.” In fact, speech-perception areas of the brain have been proven to be activated just as strongly when participants are sedated into unconscious states as when they are awake. The brain therefore processes certain stimuli (including speech) automatically, even when we’re not conscious or aware that we’re doing it.

The real question isn’t about a eureka moment. Rather the real question is what kind of activity we would have to observe to be convinced that a patient was conscious? It seems that measurable brain activity is present even where the traditional “squeeze-my-hand-if-you-can-hear-me” test fails.

You need to read Consciousness and the Brain, which I mentioned above. Dehaene and his colleagues have developed tests to look for consciousness in vegetative patients. In one they asked patients to visualize playing tennis, or walk through their apartments while in an fMRI machine. These mental activities engage precise locations in the brain which can be detected in a fMRI. If these brain areas light up when the patient is told to start imaging, and then cease when told to stop, it shows signs of some degree of consciousness. In one patient they asked yes/no questions: if the answer is yes, think of playing tennis, if no, think of walking in your apartment. They asked verifiable questions, like “do you have 2 brothers?” and they got correct answers.

Then they developed a simpler test of playing sounds, a sequence that goes: beep, beep, beep, boop. Brain reacts to unexpected boop at end with an electrical signal. Doesn’t require consciousness to do that. But if you play enough of these, then throw in a beep, beep, beep, beep, only a conscious mind will react. The unconscious mind will overlook it because it’s not novel. The conscious mind, on the other hand, notices that something new happened. Dehaene’s colleague Lionel Naccache has been applying this test in hospitals on vegetative-state patients; when he measures consciousness with the test, the patient almost always does regain consciousness to some degree.

thanks for the recommendation!

 
 
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