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Thread: Critical Thinking

  1. #91
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    I have been following this discussion with interest, I am a great believer in the concept of critical thinking, the problem is that it is a specific skill that takes time and effort to master, even when you have tried to master the concept, ego and conditioning can quite easily result in less than constructive thinking.

    In several suttas, the Buddha warned against this with the phrase "is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full awakening, Unbinding."

    Some of recent posts are, I think, veering toward this warning, it is important to incorporate discernment / critical thinking into the investigation of what Buddhism means for you, as has been pointed out there are a lot of dead ends you can travel along, these are often not in accordance with the Buddha's advice in the Pali Canon.

    For me it is always a balance between a discerning intellectual investigation and a mindful awareness of the present moment effect of my actions, a middle way.

  2. #92
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    McKmike,
    Thanks for the post I found your sutta excerpt ("is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full awakening, Unbinding.") at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipit....002.than.html and found in that same sutta a couple of excerpts which I think would be good to bring to the discussion:
    And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by restraining?....
    ....
    Reflecting appropriately, he dwells restrained with the restraint of the intellect-faculty.
    and
    And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by developing?....
    .....
    He develops analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening..
    I view these as an indication that the buddha is teaching that there is certainly a place for intellectual effort in the practice and a place where intellectual effort should not intrude.

    chownah

  3. #93
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    Is coming to the conclusion that such things as rebirth and kamma are superstitions or cultural biases, a result of applying critical thinking?
    Last edited by binocular; 09 Aug 17 at 08:27.

  4. #94
    Quote Originally Posted by McKmike

    I have been following this discussion with interest...
    Good to see you posting again, Mike.



  5. #95
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    Quote Originally Posted by binocular View Post
    Is coming to the conclusion that such things as rebirth and kamma are superstitions or cultural biases, a result of applying critical thinking?
    They are not superstitions. They are real things. But they become superstitions when they are misinterpreted.

    There is no single word for 'rebirth' in the original scriptures. Generally, what is translated as 'rebirth' does not necessarily mean 'reincarnation'.

    The way most 'rebirth' teachings are expressed in the suttas would indicate there is no result of kamma until after 'death'. Obviously, this is illogical.

    Thus all of these various terms/words need to be examined so the Buddha is properly represented as a noble, enlightened & honest human being rather than a bullshit artist.

    The suttas in many places depict the Buddha condemning blind faith. Buddhism since its beginning has defined its Dhamma as 'visible here-&-now'. Therefore, a proper understanding of 'kamma & rebirth' arises from respect for the Buddha-Dhamma and respect for the Buddha as fully enlightened.


  6. #96
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    Quote Originally Posted by binocular View Post
    Is coming to the conclusion that such things as rebirth and kamma are superstitions or cultural biases, a result of applying critical thinking?
    I think that to exactly answer your question: If one applies whatever abilities one has for critical thinking and one comes to the conclusion that such things are superstitions or cultral biases then clearly one could say that that conclusion is a result of critical thinking.

    I think you will find my answer inadequate. Are you meaning to ask if critical thinking will inevitably lead to the conclusion that rebirth and kamma are supersititions or cultural biases ?

    Note: I think I used critical thinking in conjuring my answer. Actually I think I used some of the cognitive skills on the list of cognitive skills commonly called "critical thinking". (The wikipedia article on cognition warns that "The term "cognition" is often incorrectly used to mean "cognitive abilities" or "cognitive skills.") To list the skills I used would be difficult I think even for conjuring this simple reply. Understand the skills needed in a "critical thinking" project directed at rebirth or kamma would be much more difficult I think but don't know for sure.

    Is anyone up for relating what cognitive skills might be used in evaluating rebirth or kamma? Even a partial list would be impressive. I doubt that anyone is up for this but maybe I am wrong. I doubt that any of us here have the knowledge to give an informed talk about those various skills and how they are coordinated....it is not as simple as just saying "use critical thinking" if you really want to understand what is going on to the extent that you can conceptualize the coming to a conclusion concerning rebirth of kamma.

    Of course one could just answer the question "yes" or "no" and then thrash around with a bundle of poorly defined (or probably undefined) concepts and then even if agreement can be reached it will be an agreement not grounded in critical thinking....but then that does not mean that it would be worthless.....worthwhile things sometimes come from places other than "critical thinking".

    No time to proof read now....hope it is readable.

    chownah

  7. #97
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    Hi Chownah

    I think your post #96, neatly illustrates the problem with the concept of critical thinking, the idea that by thinking sceptically equals critical thinking, actual critical thinking is more like the scientific method of proposing an hypothesis, gathering information and devising a test that can be repeated, then drawing conclusions that are bias free, from the results, this is not then put forward as truth, but a state of the current understanding which is then open for the next round of critical thinking, as and when understanding in related areas move on.

    It is not your own biases, favoured theories, closely held prejudices dressed up in a little sceptical garnish and presented as critical thinking, this is why formal training is required in the skill of critical thinking, without it there can be nothing else but opinion, as I am fond of saying nothing comes from nothing, I think it is magical thinking to believe you can critically think without some study into the method.

    For me this alone means that few people have the skills necessary to use critical thinking effectively in the study of the dhamma, the best I hope for is some discernment and a deliberate open mind that has the willingness to recognise what I do not understand and put that aside for further study rather than attempt to fit it into a paradigm I hold dear

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