You are not a critical thinker

You are not a critical thinker.

I’m sorry — you just aren’t.

You don’t know what it means. You haven’t put in the right kind of effort.

Despite what you think, “critical thinking” is not just doing an extra-good job of thinking the way you happen to have been trained to think — and, consequently, reaching the correct conclusions your correct and competent thinking reaches.

That is the opposite of critical thinking.

The problem is this: You have your criticism pointed in the wrong direction.

You think “critical thinking” is thinking up criticisms of how other people think. But, everyone does that.

The fundamentalists who send their kinds to Jesus Camp to learn ludicrous garbage and become braindead foot soldiers of the salvation army — they train their kids to memorize and recite arguments that demolish foolish worldly wisdom.

When they do it, it is easy to see that this is not education in critical thinking. It is only indoctrination.

But when you do the same thing, it is different because you are teaching what is true.

Are you really so dim that you cannot see that this attitude does not make you different from those dumb fundamentalists, it makes you exactly the same as them?

You, like they, have grown so smugly self-certain of your own correctness that you’ve lost the ability to put yourself on equal footing with others who, like you, have lost that ability. And you lost that ability because you, like they, have failed at critical thinking.* (see note below.)

The critique of critical thinking is pointed back at itself, not at others. This is what makes it different from what most ideological dummies do, and what makes it as rare as hen’s teeth.

Critical thinking examines its own presuppositions, its own conceptions, its own habits, its own blindness, and it breaks down its own certainty and its own clarity.

Critical thinking is a harrowing process. It leads directly to disagreement with anyone who has not engaged in it, themselves.

Critical thinking is essentially nonconformist and essentially anxious.

If you need your thinking to always be delightful and playful you can’t be a critical thinker.

If you need people to pat you on the head for being a good person, you can’t be a critical thinker.

As long as you cannot do without the comfort of being surrounded by a community of benevolent, like-minded kindred-kindred spirits — all of whom congratulate you and each other for their critical thinking, and for their ethical excellence and their deep concern for the marginal (or at least the like-minded marginal) — you most certainly can not be a critical thinker.

Of course, you can call yourself a critical thinker. I can’t stop you.

But I can laugh at you for calling yourself that. And you can’t stop me.

NOTE: * For instance, have you ever once asked yourself how, if other people can be unconsciously cognitively biased and prone to self-interested motivated reasoning, you can be sure that your use of these concepts isn’t biased and self interested? No you haven’t, because you’ve only deployed these critiques against other people, not against your own ideological dogmatism.

Or have you ever once wondered how, if “Whiteness” can be an identity that “erases” itself in order to continue enjoying unjust “privileges”, how you can be sure you yourself don’t enjoy unacknowledged self-erasing identities with unjust privileges — perhaps one that grants you the unjust privilege to be the arbiter of all matters of justice? No, you haven’t, because asking that question will knock you off your perch, and you love that perch.

Have you ever once noticed that your “offense”, your little “traumas”, your righteous “PTSD” tantrums bear a hell of a resemblance to what you call “fragility” and “rage” and “hate” and aversion to being criticized? Again, no, you have not, because you cannot take what you dish out. (I’m not kidding: I’ve seen people start blubbering, crying actual tears, when confronted exactly the way they confront others, and then actually complain of mistreatment, when they urge others in the same position to “lean into their discomfort.”) But no, you believe you should not have to be subjected to the discomfort of aggressive, radical, unwanted criticism of the kind you subject others to… because you are right and they are wrong.

But you are not right. You are only prejudiced toward your own views, because you are you, and you happen to have enough power to bully others with your ideology and force them to pretend to agree or at least shut up. Isn’t that a “power differential” of the kind your ideal is sworn to oppose? But, see, this is a good power differential. This is responsible bullying for a higher cause, meant to redistribute prestige and humiliation to make things more equitable. So say you, at least when cornered. Everyone else sees it as just the kind of bullying every powerful group does, and always finds a way to morally justify.

Critical thinking could help you overcome these profound intellectual and moral defects, but you won’t do it. You don’t want to be less certain, less, clear, less self-satisfied, less confident.  You’ll only try to make everyone else do it, because when their confidence and certainty is broken it gives you the advantage you unconsciously crave — a desire which, for your own advantage, you repress and disguise as justice. You are full of shit, and you are hated by the truly socially vulnerable — not those pampered, pseudo-vulnerable fellow overclassers you call “marginal” and “vulnerable” “protected classes” — for the very best of reasons. If that revolution you enjoy longing for ever comes — God forbid! — I think you’ll be quite surprised who gets lined up against the wall.

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