Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Levels of Thought

Written by: on September 5, 2013

Can you count how many times you have encountered a person who, for one reason or another, has the belief, or thinks a certain way, that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  As you listen to them spout off what they think to be truth you realize that there is no logical reasoning to what they are saying or believing.

 In our daily interactions with the strange beings we know as fellow humans, we encounter specimens that have a basis of defining their worldview or their religious/spiritual views on faulty logic.  Just today I heard of a woman who believed in reincarnation because she had a dream/vision of her being taken back to her previous life. The dream was so intense and real to her that she now holds the belief that reincarnation is absolutely a fact.  Or, take for instance that family member of yours who always seems to base their logic on some old wives tale.  You know those beliefs or practices that stem from the days of yesteryears that have been handed done through the generations and passed off as fact or common knowledge.  If you are one of the “non-believers” you are made to feel ignorant and not in sync with the Universal truths, of, well, the Universe.  Yet, have we really ever taken the opportunity to approach these so called Universal truths with some kind of critical thinking?

 In the small guide by Richard Paul and Linda Elder Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools, we gain just the tools we need to properly address the myriad of non-logical “truths” around us.   The problem, as Paul and Elder put it, is that “our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced.”  Makes ya feel kind’a small doesn’t it?  Well, truth does hurt at times.  Since our entire existence as one of the specimens of the human race is based on our ability to think, cogito ergo sum – I think, therefore I am, we need to think properly.   Our very quality of life depends on our quality of thought.  Yet this quality of thought does not come without effort.  It must be systematically cultivated.  This “cultivating” process will keep us from pulling old wives tales into today’s world without any critical analysis given to the statement.

There are three levels of thought:

Level 1 – Lower Order Thinking.  This level is defined as unreflective, frequently relies on gut intuition,  and is largely self-serving and self deceived.  Kinda like that relative of yours, Bubba, who bases his life on what he read in one of those check-out-counter-magazines.  “It’s got to be true, it’s in print, right ‘cheer.  And I can feel it in my bones.” There you go, level 1 thinker.  Not to sure about his humanness, but he is thinking, albeit not much.

Level 2 – Higher Order Thinking:  This level is defined as selectively reflective, though lacks critical thinking vocabulary.  Is inconsistently fair and may be skilled in sophistry (use of arguments based on mistaken belief).  This is the character that will argue with you based on a point of fact that lacks intellectual integrity, but he will swear by it to his grave.  I liken this thinker to the pseudointellectual teenager that has caught wind of some fancy that he believes to be correct and is determined to convince and convert you.  Sit done son, let the adults talk for a while.

Level 3 – Highest Order of Thinking:  This level is defined as explicitly reflective.  This thinker routinely uses critical thinking tools in analyzing and assessing thinking.  He is consistently fair.   Now before we all go crazy and assume that each one of us reading this falls into this category we must look at some of the critical thinking tools.

Critical thinkers routinely apply intellectual standards to the elements of reasoning in order to develop intellectual traits.  The standards are such things as clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, and fairness.  These standards must be applied to the elements of purpose, questions, points of view, information, inferences, concepts, implications, and assumptions. By applying the standards to these elements we will eventually develop intellectual traits such as intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual autonomy, confidence in reason, intellectual integrity, intellectual empathy, intellectual courage, and fair-mindedness.

 Critical thinking is not something that one gains in a passive manner.  I do not think that I find myself in the highest order of thinking all of the time.  Ok, I have been there once or twice.  Critical thinking is self-directed, self-discipline, self monitored, and self corrective thinking that requires systematic cultivation.  If we are to battle the illogical statements of our fellow human beings that swarm around us on a daily basis then we need to cultivate within ourselves a critical thinking that is excellent in thought.   I am reminded of the admonition that Paul gave to the Thessalonians “test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

 Let us be a people who, with excellent in thought, test all things with a critical thinking process that allows us to cut through all the crazy beliefs and hold fast to that which is true wisdom.  For that true wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.  (James 3:17).

About the Author

Mitch Arbelaez

International Mission Mobilizers with Go To Nations Living and traveling the world from Jacksonville Florida

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