Editor, The Beacon:

“I may make you feel, but I can’t make you think.”

— Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), 1972

This would further drive the passion of Mortimer Adler, an American educator and philosopher of the 20th century, whose apparent mission in life was to encourage others to think; most importantly, to think for themselves.

Adler was an advocate for the reintroduction of the Great Books and the Socratic method in public schools. The Socratic method is a form of cooperative, argumentative dialogue based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and drawing out ideas and presuppositions. Currently in society, it seems that cooperative and argumentative dialogue do not coexist; critical thinking is lacking (oh, we can be critical, but with thoughtlessness), and we enter our dialogues laden with presuppositions.

We do not have to like another’s opinion, but we can only truly disagree with their argument if we can find fault in their reasoning, facts or premises. Facts come from practical knowledge that can only be challenged by one whose understanding equals that of the other, the comprehension of which is best learned from the person who first achieved said understanding, best when received from an original communication rather than a re-re-post or a re-re-tweet.

Adler believed that practical knowledge, though teachable, cannot be truly mastered without experience. To know anything, to learn, requires immersion in the process of understanding. Our understanding of anything can only be achieved by thinking about it — thinking with our own minds, bringing together what we already know to consider that which we do not. Our receipt of new information would best be as close to the source as possible and from those with the background consistent with the material.

It is still us, processing with our own minds, from our own experiences and previous knowledge gained and trusting reliable sources, that will consider where we stand on an issue. Since it is within our own minds, they are our own thoughts. Own them. If they differ from another’s, defend them rationally and be prepared to provide clear reasoning; this is critical thinking. Presuppositions can block critical thinking if we are unwilling to consider the reasoning of others.

Above all, think your own thoughts. “… your wise men don’t know how it feels, to be thick as a brick.”

Dr. Christopher Jordan



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