Most people do not truly understand the patterns of their own thinking.
Return to the articles page.
#55. Most people do not truly understand the patterns of their own thinking.
I would include the patterns of general thinking that I describe in detail in #52 above but in this article I am considering the individual reasoning of each person and specifically his or her approach to learning or not. The concept I am going to describe in detail is something I have always thought of as the 'mental skip'. I have come to realize that my individual method of thinking is different from most people. I don't know if it is good or bad -- just definitely different. I have been told that I have excrement for brains (another word was used) and I have been labeled an 'original thinker' -- but no one follows me around or considers me a 'guru' so I remain humble. Perhaps writing this series of articles may change that -- but I doubt it. I know several things about how I think and why I remember some things and not others. See #3 for some specific examples of how memory works. Basically you remember what you review and I have reviewed my method of learning often. But why did I learn that or remember why I remember? It is all about the 'mental skip'. I can remember as a child watching television with my parents. As a child I did not understand much of what they were watching but I distinctly remember thinking when watching one of those parts that were over my head: 'that is something for adults and I don't need to know it now' -- skip. I still do it to this day when watching commercials for feminine napkins for example -- I suspect everyone tunes out or 'skips' parts of conversations, etc. that they have made a judgement to skip. The difference for me is that I realize that I am making a judgement to 'mentally skip' some things and more than that -- I make a further judgement to leave a blank or bookmark when it is a topic I will eventually need to know. It is as if I am writing a book on blank pages of a bound notebook and I want chapter 5 to detail something but I need to research it to do it properly and I intentionally leave some pages blank to be filled in later after some research. But more than that -- I have made a kind of mental note to watch for that topic of research and when I come across it I am able to fill in the blank pages left for the concept. I appear to 'care' about filling in the 'skipped' pages that I have judged as important and I feel some level of guilt at leaving them blank for too long. As I grew older and saw kids on the tv that clearly understood something I did not understand -- I was concerned and somehow put up a flag or marker on those blank pages and when the topic not understood came up -- I did the opposite of the 'mental skip' and concentrated on learning and understanding the topic or concept. An example I can give is in the area of the knowledge of philosophy. For most of my life I knew very little on the specifics of philosophy but I had made a judgement that it was important for me to know and as the years passed the blank pages came to bother me more and more. After the age of forty I began collecting and reading books on philosophy and searching the web for information. I found a website called 'friesian.com' and struggled to understand what the author of the site was stating. The basic philosophy of the author -- Kelley Ross -- was libertarian or perhaps libertarian/conservative -- not an extreme on either end. He has pages on Hume, Kant and some of the more modern conservative/libertarian philosophers such as Popper and Hayek. Ross was a professor of philosophy at Los Angeles City College (now retired) and he appears to have been able to read German and has studied many of the original works of the great philosophers in original or in translations. I find most of that type of book as unreadable and my information is more limited with my sources as commentary or books about the philosophy of the philosophers -- second-hand knowledge at best but written for a layman rather than an intellectual. I wanted to know what flavor of philosophy was a 'best fit' for me and it has taken years to fill in those blank pages and feel some satisfaction that those pages have for the most part been filled and that the guilt at not knowing has been replaced with some level of understanding and acceptance. I cannot even now explain to you exactly what Kelley has in mind in the naming of his site. Read the home page and it goes on and on and in general you come to understand that he is attempting to make a repository of the refined philosophy of apparently the successor students of Kant that kind of made a 'school' in the years after Kant. It is not the first such school but an attempt to revive past incarnations of that 'friesian' school. If that is in fact his goal -- it is odd that there are not other authors contributing their analysis. It appears to be a lot of history and is a good resource as far as it goes and I really recommend reading some of his articles on topics such as Star Trek, The Matrix, and Star Wars. My understanding of the Nolan chart (one of the icons in my banner is a scaled down Nolan chart from his site) and my understanding of cardinal and ordinal numbers as well as a lot of my info concerning topics such as the four humours -- blood, phlem, black bile, and yellow bile come from reading his web pages.
Positive & Negative Liberties in Three Dimensions
I felt like I had found a feast but somehow I have come away hungry or still with some vitamin deficiencies so I have continued searching. A book on Kant's philosophy probably had the most meaning for me. Kant wrote several books on 'Critical' and 'Practical' reasoning and for me they are kind of like finding the tools to diagram a sentence in english. From Kant I came to learn that we really don't know anything -- but that based on the information we have considered -- we make judgements. I use the word 'judgement' in these articles as indicating that a kind of court case has been presented in the mind and based on the evidence presented or not presented -- on the competence of the lawyers, judge, witnesses, and jury -- you have made a judgement. But remember in this court case in your head -- that you own it all and control it all and you can make one of the lawyers incompetent or you can skip over some real evidence. You can decide when and if to hold the trial at all -- the 'mental skip' is a kind of court recess -- that perhaps becomes a permanent recess. Semantics becomes important in selecting the words you use in your adjudications. Do you use language such as 'convicted' when referring to someone in jail? Hopefully you use the word 'alleged' for someone in jail before the court case is completed and it is good to understand that at least in some cases -- new evidence may exonerate a 'convicted' person. But how many people realize that in their minds they are permanently exonerating or convicting ideas and concepts perhaps based on some flawed court elements. In your mini-court cases is the evidence preserved for possible testing with new technology like the DNA testing that has released many people over the years? Or is the evidence burned immediately after the trial? Kant breaks down critical reasoning by using two sets of criteria -- is the judgement/statement/fact/idea synthetic or analytic and is the judgement/statement/fact/idea empirical (testable by experience) or not (he uses apriori and aposteriori).
The analytic-synthetic distinction
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: (also called the analytic–synthetic dichotomy) is a conceptual distinction, used primarily in philosophy to distinguish propositions into two types: analytic propositions and synthetic propositions. Analytic propositions are true by virtue of their meaning, while synthetic propositions are true by how their meaning relates to the world. However, philosophers have used the terms in very different ways. Furthermore, philosophers have debated whether there is a legitimate distinction.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant was the first to use the terms "analytic" and "synthetic" to divide propositions into types. Kant introduces the analytic–synthetic distinction in the Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1998, A6-7/B10-11). There, he restricts his attention to affirmative subject-predicate judgments, and defines "analytic proposition" and "synthetic proposition" as follows:
analytic proposition: a proposition whose predicate concept is contained in its subject concept
synthetic proposition: a proposition whose predicate concept is not contained in its subject concept
Examples of analytic propositions, on Kant's definition, include:
"All bachelors are unmarried."
"All triangles have three sides."
Kant's own example is:
"All bodies are extended," i.e. take up space. (A7/B11)
Each of these is an affirmative subject-predicate judgment, and, in each, the predicate concept is contained with the subject concept. The concept "bachelor" contains the concept "unmarried"; the concept "unmarried" is part of the definition of the concept "bachelor." Likewise, for "triangle" and "has three sides," and so on.
Examples of synthetic propositions, on Kant's definition, include:
"All bachelors are unhappy."
"All creatures with hearts have kidneys."
Kant's own example is:
"All bodies are heavy," (A7/B11)
As with the examples of analytic propositions, each of these is an affirmative subject-predicate judgment. However, in none of these cases does the subject concept contain the predicate concept. The concept "bachelor" does not contain the concept "unhappy"; "unhappy" is not a part of the definition of "bachelor." The same is true for "creatures with hearts" and "have kidneys"; even if every creature with a heart also has kidneys, the concept "creature with a heart" does not contain the concept "has kidneys."
In the Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant contrasts his distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions with another distinction, the distinction between a priori and a posteriori propositions. He defines these terms as follows:
a priori proposition: a proposition whose justification does not rely upon experience. Moreover, the proposition can be validated by experience, but is not grounded in experience. Therefore, it is logically necessary.
a posteriori proposition: a proposition whose justification does rely upon experience. The proposition is validated by, and grounded in, experience. Therefore, it is logically contingent.
Examples of a priori propositions include:
"All bachelors are unmarried."
"7 + 5 = 12."
The justification of these propositions does not depend upon experience: One does not need to consult experience to determine whether all bachelors are unmarried, or whether 7 + 5 = 12. (Of course, as Kant would have granted, experience is required to know the concepts "bachelor," "unmarried," "7", "+" and so forth. However, the a priori/a posteriori distinction as employed by Kant here does not refer to the origins of the concepts but to the justification of the propositions. Once we have the concepts, experience is no longer necessary.)
Examples of a posteriori propositions, on the other hand, include:
"All bachelors are unhappy."
Both of these propositions are a posteriori: Any justification of them would require one to rely upon one's experience.
The analytic/synthetic distinction and the a priori/a posteriori distinction together yield four types of propositions:
1.analytic a priori
2.synthetic a priori
3.analytic a posteriori
4.synthetic a posteriori
Kant thought the third type is self-contradictory, so he discusses only three types as components of his epistemological framework. However, Stephen Palmquist treats the analytic a posteriori not only as a valid epistemological classification but also as the most important of the four for philosophy.
The possibility of metaphysics
After ruling out the possibility of analytic a posteriori propositions, and explaining how we can obtain knowledge of analytic a priori propositions, Kant also explains how we can obtain knowledge of synthetic a posteriori propositions. That leaves only the question of how knowledge of synthetic a priori propositions is possible. This question is exceedingly important, Kant maintains, as all important metaphysical knowledge is of synthetic a priori propositions. If it is impossible to determine which synthetic a priori propositions are true, he argues, then metaphysics as a discipline is impossible. The remainder of the Critique of Pure Reason is devoted to examining whether and how knowledge of synthetic a priori propositions is possible.
--end of quoted text -- start of more commentary from A M
Note the statement about the debate on whether or not there is a distinction. In my mind there is a definite distinction but that is where I differ from people who can believe in modern scientific and political fairy tales.
Also note the lack of validity for the third set -- analytic a posteriori -- and that last paragraph on the possiblility of metaphysics. Delving into these little mysteries appears to be what most philosophy books are about and because I am somewhat practical and tied to reality -- I find that kind of philosophy unreadable -- like jargon meant only for other professional philosophers. Kant also wrote a book on Practical Reasoning and this is more applicable to understanding life in general. Further investigations into different flavors of philosophy also made me find that America has its own flavor of philosophy -- pragmatism. That actually was some help but probably the most practical research I have found is anything that explains the differing politics in the world and Kelley Ross has a page with a quiz and the Nolan chart that was really helpful but I was still vitamin-deficient until I found Karl Pribram's book on 'Conflicting Patterns of Thought'. You could say I am not educated in philosophy -- at least the intellectual styles and flavors that appear to be more discussions of impractical mysteries and personal fantasies. Now I feel I have the tools to answer some of the important practical questions in life and therefore I write these articles. But it has taken years to accumulate this start and I am getting long in the tooth.
We can now get back to the 'mental skip' and realize that I am just filling in the blank pages -- in my possibly 'unique' way of thinking. If you have understood my explanation of how my thinking is organized -- what is your concept of how you have become the dedicated thinker that you must be if you have reached this article? I have explained my thinking -- in somewhat less detail -- to other people and never heard them offer to explain how they personally organize their thinking -- nor do they say that they do anything remotely similar to mine. What do you do? Give me something worthy and understandable and I will insert it here -- credited to you of course.
The lack of input I have received so far makes me want to insert a hypothetical thought here that different people not only think differently but there may be some real differences in how people read. One of my friends said he took a course in speed reading and it brings to mind another kind of skipping -- that of scanning rather than reading. I usually try to understand what I am reading and will re-read a section that I did not understand before going on in the book but even I find some 'unreadable' pages and I have to admit I just skip those parts. Is that what other people are doing -- but to a much larger scale. When I was a teen-ager I used to read a book or two every week and I remember my mother taking some of the books and reading them after me. Imagine my surprise when I found that I could have no meaningful discussions on the books we read together. Reading for her must have been somehow mechanically and mentally different. Perhaps she read then immediately forgot and I should have been having the discussions as she read each page. In #7 I mention how for a lot of people what is in their brains is kind of like a gift-wrapped package where all of the labelling has been removed -- kind of like the cropped pictures of the A M introduction page.
I can relate a few personal stories here of my interactions with co-workers and friends that illustrate odd thinking. One co-worker at the medical device company I worked for for 25 years had a subscription to Popular Science since he was 12 and considered himself science literate. He really knew a lot about new cars and innovations in aircraft and computers but in two instances he proved to have just superficial knowledge with strong and wrong opinions. When the Challenger Shuttle had its problems we were togther listening to the radio at work. Everyone knew of the huge explosion and the large amount of liquid hydrogen and oxygen and the question came up about what happened to the crew. Speculation on the radio said that they may have been vaporized and my co-worker agreed. Why NASA did not immediately know what happened to the crew is still unexplained to me but apparently one of the falling pieces of debris was the shuttle cockpit with the crew and they were not vaporized but probably died when the cockpit hit the ocean. But consider the superficial and wrong knowledge of science imparted to us by Hollywood. They would have all cars explode and burn fiercely upon impact and large explosions that leave no traces. Reality is that to vaporize something you would have to hold it in a flame for a fairly long time and an exploding bomb or grenade will have all of the explosive material burned up but the metal casings exist -- unvaporized -- as shrapnel or debris. The explosion of the fuel tanks would have created a large blast that instead of vaporizing the shuttle -- it would have made the shuttle move away just as shrapnel flies away from the blast. The second instance of odd science was when the twin towers went down on 911. The fuzzy pictures of the collapsed buildings kind of had a look showing something left standing. In the end it was the stainless steel facade of the buildings' lower stories. But my friend 'knew' that structurally all such buildings have much stronger lower stories and he thought that maybe 13 stories or so survived. News reports had survivors sailing down on sheets of plywood but in reality only a few people survived in basement staircases and the buildings collapsed pretty much completely into the multi-story basements. As in the shuttle disaster, I did not really know and did not hazard a guess -- only the resident alpha-geek had an opinion. Another instance of odd organization of knowledge was with another co-worker when the first guy -- who was single -- was given a gift from one of the office girls of a Pez dispensor with a Garfield head. This second guy was an all american guy of about 28 or so and had lived his entire life in Portland, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City. He saw the dispensor and honestly did not know what it was for -- he knew who Garfield was but drew a blank on Pez. We kidded him about it and his only response was that he should not be expected to know such trivia.
When my mother died last year I spent a few days in cars and motels with my brother and his wife. My brother was originally a conservative but he married an extremely liberal woman and he appears to have moved into the liberal camp. I used the time to ask some questions about the important political issues of the last few years in an attempt to see how much real information they knew on the issues. As all good liberals know -- Gore should have won the 2000 election -- and I asked them some pertinent questions on that subject. As you may have gathered from my method of thinking -- as that convoluted process unfolded I was leaving some blank pages to be filled in as the real data became available. As I was paying attention I knew that after the election was settled (about 2 months later than election night) and the voting documents became available all of the liberal newspapers would send in teams to do their own 're-counts'. See the FactCheck.org webpage below which states that 8 newpaper organizations sent teams down there and all results stated that Bush would have won if the recount had proceeded in the four counties Gore requested. There is some question about what would have happened in a statewide recount (not requested by Gore and the basis for the equal protection ruling against him). I have mentioned elsewhere that the liberal attitude toward conservatives is somewhat condescending and I kind of think the entire state was not counted because he assumed there would be mistakes made by conservative voters in the non-democrat counties that would not favor him -- but in reality I suspect that the mistakes were probably made by the least competent voters statewide -- democrats in any county. The preservation of ballots was really not effective enough to validate the extent of voter errors. But look at the differing press releases by the newspapers -- some spinning I assume. My liberal relatives knew nothing of this massive effort after the election and more than that -- they did not know of the butterfly ballot or why the hanging chads occurred. The butterfly ballot cost Gore the election -- but it was made up by a democrat (who went independent afterward because of the abuse she got over it) and its odd format had one line of punch holes but with the multitude of candidates alternating on the two pages of the butterfly. Over 30000 votes went to Buchannan because voters assumed the second hole was for Gore when an arrow from the opposite page clearly indicated that Buchannan had the second hole and Gore the third. At least some of the hanging chads appeared to have been caused by the excessive percentage of voters for Gore and a lack of proper maintenance by the democrat controlled counties probably left a build-up of years of punched chads under the Gore punch-hole. You have to wonder what level of diligence these science geeks and liberals exercised in the organization of their modes of thinking. Such astounding gaps would seem to indicate 'skipping' or scanning even on what should be considered topics very important to them.
What happened to the ballots after they became available for inspection
But my liberal relatives knew nothing about the real recounts after the election -- but why? It all goes to my theory that it is not that liberalism is actually taught like a science -- it is that liberalism is kind of absorbed from the air -- when surrounded by liberals -- or living with one. In such cases the 'mental skip' is clearly not intentional as in committing a sin but is more of a sin of omission in that what is omitted is unconciously judged as politically incorrect and not something to spend much time thinking about. I should have asked them if they knew much about the Terri Schivo case -- especially the autopsy report afterward. Most liberals would know that the brain had shrunk and proved them right -- but I wonder if their normal process is that all of the opposing facts were actually heard -- not skipped -- but leaving the memories relating to such issues placed in short-term memory resulting in the completed memory with the 'skipped' gaps. It is more of a 'karma' thing where the liberal side of the argument somehow is 'better' since the intentions are better since they are politically correct. I know with many religious people there is the attitude that they can be 'in the world but not of the world'. This mentality allows a mental skip whenever anything is discussed that would conflict with their internalized belief system and more than that -- the 'karma' aspect has them somehow generating positive points toward their afterlife by not even thinking about controversies or 'the mysteries'. I remember a radio article about Faun Brodie and how one person wanted to read her biography of Joseph Smith. When he asked the library if they had a copy he could check out -- he was asked to state exactly what he wanted to do with the book. Apparently many copies had previously disappeared -- presumably destroyed -- by people who just wanted Brodie's biography gone from the library -- a kind of exorcism to feel good about.
News reporting is famous for 'skipping' facts if they are not 'spinning' the facts -- see AM number 2 about spinning. I remember hearing only once that the Aurora 'Batman' shooter had purchased all of his guns and ammo using his money from a grant from the NIS. He was unable to get a job with his degree but was able to get government grant money for some study that he was unable to actually accomplish. I think I just heard once that the real reason for the Columbia Shuttle disaster was due to ozone layer karma. The original design of the foam insulation used freon and apparently the replacement methods for making the foam gave the poor results with brief-case sized chunks falling on the shuttle's wings and making the holes and cracks in the heat shielding that brought her down. In Obama's Ben Gahzi scandal it is rarely reported that there were 30 or so people in the consulate and so far none of those people have been allowed to tell their story -- as it apparently would conflict with the White House line. See AM number 54 on the assymetry of the political war between liberalism and conservatism. Also see my article on 'Digital Thinking' -- especially the part where Socrates refuses to use the written Greek language. He believed his method of orally teaching allowed him to see on the student's face whether or not he understood the concepts and being face to face Socrates could ask questions to verify that the student was understanding the concept correctly. When something is just 'read' in a book -- how does the author ever know if it was understood as the author intended or just 'mentally skipped'. It makes me want to see more 'home schooling' where you would expect the mother or father teaching the subject could actually know that they are getting their points across to the kids.
Return to the articles page.