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Don’t Forget to Live

What are you doing right now? Yes, right this very second? Got your answer? Okay, here’s what I think of your answer (no matter what it is): You might be wrong.

The choice(s) you’re making at this moment might be based on a mistake. How do I know? Because the process of making judgments of any kind is a fallible process. Your cognitive capacities are finite. Your understanding of logic is finite. Your knowledge of facts is finite. There’s always something you could be overlooking or underestimating.

Some people try to avoid this by not making any choices at all. But the decision to not make any choices is a decision that’s still subject to the same possibility of doing the wrong thing. Does that scare you? What do you do if any choice you make could turn out to be the wrong one? You simply do the best you can and leave it that.

Is it important to think things through? You bet. It’s more than important. It’s necessary.

Is it important to cross-check your opinions and decisions with contrasting points of view? Certainly.

Is it important to make sure you’re not avoiding the process of rigorously challenging yourself to think critically about everything you think and do? Absolutely.

But as a former philosophy professor of mine once said, “you’re never going to answer the final question.” At some point you have to get on with your life and make decisions. No matter what you do or where you go, there’s no possible way of taking a break from risks. Even if you could take a break from risks, you’d still be taking the risk of picking the wrong time to take a break.

If you’re living your life in fear of committing errors, here’s a bit of wisdom from C. Joybell C. that you may find useful:

“There’s that “margin of error” that you allow to exist in your mind, you want to give everything the benefit of the doubt, you want to look at another person and say “maybe we could be friends” and that’s all well at first, but then you have to reach that point in your life, wherein you don’t have time to live on the margins of error, and you have to say, “so what if there is a margin of error that exists? I don’t think that this person and I could walk down the same path together, because she’s like that, and I’m like this; I must relieve myself of fearing the error, the ‘what could have been’.” You know, sometimes we can be so afraid of the “what could have been” that we overlook the right here and now! And end up forsaking who we are and what makes us happy, and what we want and don’t want! There is an error that takes place; when living too much for the “what could have been.” There comes a time when you must give YOURSELF the benefit of the doubt! Know thyself. Color-in those margins of error with your favorite color; make them your own, make them work for you, let them be in your favor!”

Analyze your choices, but don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. Think critically, but don’t be paranoid about making mistakes. Examine your beliefs, but don’t forget to live the rest of your life in the process.

Although I agree with Socrates when he said “The unexamined life is not worth living,” I also think it’s important to remember that life must be examined along the way. Thinking is something you do *while* you live, not *before* you live.

Not too much, Not too little

The first challenge is to see the value of an idea without romanticizing away its limitations.

The second challenge is to see the limitations of an idea without losing the ability to make constructive use of its value.

Most fallacies are not the result of placing faith in bad ideas, but in making too much or too little of good ideas.

Thinking Caps Are Always in Style

Critical thinking isn’t just for stuff on the internet. It’s for every medium and every message that will ever exist.

Intelligence is the only technology that never gets outdated.

Our commitment to analyzing and assessing information will always be just as important as the credibility of the sources from which we gather that information.

Wherever we go, offline or online, it’s never a safe thing to leave our thinking caps behind.

 

Fallacies I See: “You ALWAYS Have An Answer!”

The Preemptive Strike Fallacy:

This fallacy is committed when someone assumes they’ve discredited your rebuttal to their arguments simply by forecasting the fact that you would dare to have a response at all. It’s usually expressed in the form of sarcastic statements like “I’m sure you’re going to have a response to this because you always have an answer for everything.” Then when you actually have a response, they say “SEE. I KNEW you’d have a response.” You are thus refuted by the sheer force of their predictive powers. By invoking this fallacy, your opponent in debate is free from having to address your actual arguments. Why should they? After all, they knew you’d have SOMETHING to say. The mere fact that you even had a response becomes evidence of its own invalidity.

Possible Underlying Concern:

Perhaps the person committing the fallacy has a legitimate concern that their conversational partner is an unfair debater who’s determined to have the last word no matter what. There are certainly cases in which this concern is justified. There are two things we should keep in mind, however, if we find ourselves feeling this way about the person we’re debating: 1) If we can’t presume sincerity on behalf of the person we’re debating, why argue with them at all? Why not just end the conversation as soon as evidence for their unfairness emerges? What does it say about us when we persist in arguing with people whose sincerity we mistrust? 2) Even if we’re correct in our judgment that the person with whom we’re debating is always going to have a response, that doesn’t mean their response in this particular instance is incorrect. No one is right all the time, but it’s still possible that they may be right this time. Dismissing people’s claims, based on the charge that they’re not as interested in truth as we are, is a very inefficient way of getting through to people. It’s far more effective to listen charitably, ask thoughtful questions, and explore the possibility of achieving a bit of clarity on the topic at hand.

Suggested response:

Well, I do tend to think quite a bit about the things I believe. So it’s not entirely unlikely that I’ll have some kind of response to many of the objections people raise about my points of view. But that doesn’t mean I’m closed to the possibility that I’m capable of being mistaken about things. If I am mistaken, however, I’ll need you to be patient if you wish to play a role in helping me see my errors. Since my beliefs are based on reasons that make sense to me at this time, I don’t want to hastily assume that I am wrong based on blind faith. If you wish to continue in our dialogue, I’ll do the best that I can to be open-minded towards the possibilities you suggest. I can’t promise that we’ll see eye to eye, but I can promise a stimulating and respectful exchange that will make us better thinkers and communicators in the process.

Is (insert activity here) For Everyone?

As Education Director for an alternative education program, I am frequently asked some version of the following two questions:

1) Is College for everyone?

2) Is Praxis for everyone?

Besides food, water, air, shelter, and love (and I’m sure there are some people who would even debate the necessity of the aforementioned elements), there aren’t many things that are for everyone.

This is true of going to college and this is true of skipping college. This is true of starting your own business and this is true of working for someone else. This is true of making a lot of money and this is true of taking a vow of poverty. This is true of being very ambitious about your career and this is true of not caring all that much about your professional life.

This is true of getting married young, getting married old, and not getting married at all. This is true of having a lot of children, having a few children, and not having children at all. This is true of having a very active social life and this is true of being an introvert. This is true of being a Lady Gaga fan and this is true of being a Miles Davis fan. This is true of almost everything.

There are no cookie cutter answers to the question “what path should I take?”

We’re all capable of helping each other evaluate pros and cons, but none of us have the final answer for anybody else.

No matter what the subject, it will always be necessary that we think for ourselves.

If you can find an easy answer whose application requires zero creativity, zero critical thinking, and zero personal risk, it’s probably not an answer worth having.

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