After reading each of the qualities needed to be a fair-minded thinker, pick one quality you feel you possess and describe how you fulfill this quality. Then choose two qualities that you need
to improve upon and describe why you chose these two qualities. You will need
to include a detailed plan for overcoming the obstacles that are preventing you
from fulfilling the characteristics of the two qualities you have chosen.
Paul and Elder’s (2006) Characteristics of a Fair-Minded Thinker.
There are several things to consider when we are analyzing our own character. We have to analyze how we think about ourselves, our world around us, and how we interact with the world around us. Critical thinking takes the presence of mind to analyze all facets of a situation. As you review the characteristics of a fair-minded thinker we must understand the terms involved.
Intellectual: A confidence or faith in reason. Confidence that in the long run one’s own higher interests and those of humankind at large will best be served by giving the freest play to reason by encouraging people to come to their own conclusions through a process of developing their own rational faculties; faith that (with proper encouragement and cultivation) people can learn to think for themselves, form rational viewpoints, draw reasonable conclusions, think coherently and logically, persuade each other by reason, and become reasonable, despite the deep-seated obstacles in the native character of the human mind and in society. Confidence in reason is developed through experiences in which one reasons one’s way to insight, solves problems through reason, uses reason to persuade, is persuaded by reason. Confidence in reason is undermined when one is expected to perform tasks without understanding why, to repeat statements without having verified or justified them, to accept beliefs on the sole basis of authority or social pressure.
Intellectual virtues: The traits of mind and character necessary for right action and thinking; the traits of mind and character essential for fair-minded rationality; the traits that distinguish the narrow-minded, self-serving critical thinker from the open-minded, truth-seeking critical thinker. These intellectual traits are interdependent. Each is best developed while developing the others as well. They cannot be imposed from without; they must be cultivated by encouragement and example. People can come to deeply understand and accept these principles by analyzing their experiences of them: learning from an unfamiliar perspective, discovering you don’t know as much as you thought, and so on. They include: intellectual sense of justice, intellectual perseverance, intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual empathy, intellectual courage, (intellectual) confidence in reason, and intellectual autonomy.
Intellectual autonomy: Having rational control of one’s beliefs, values, and inferences. The ideal of critical thinking is to learn to think for oneself, to gain command over one’s thought processes. Intellectual autonomy does not entail willfulness, stubbornness, or rebellion. It entails a commitment to analyzing and evaluating beliefs on the basis of reason and evidence, to question when it is rational to question, to believe when it is rational to believe, and to conform when it is rational to conform. See know, knowledge.
Intellectual courage: The willingness to face and fairly assess ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints to which we have not given a serious hearing, regardless of our strong negative reactions to them. This courage arises from the recognition that ideas considered dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally justified (in whole or in part), and that conclusions or beliefs espoused by those around us or inculcated in us are sometimes false or misleading. To determine for ourselves which is which, we must not passively and uncritically “accept” what we have “learned.” Intellectual courage comes into play here, because inevitably we will come to see some truth in some ideas considered dangerous and absurd and some distortion or falsity in some ideas strongly held in our social group. It takes courage to be true to our own thinking in such circumstances. Examining cherished beliefs is difficult, and the penalties for non-conformity are often severe.
Intellectual empathy: Understanding the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others to genuinely understand them. We must recognize our egocentric tendency to identify truth with our immediate perceptions or longstanding beliefs. Intellectual empathy correlates with the ability to accurately reconstruct the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than our own. This trait also requires that we remember occasions when we were wrong, despite an intense conviction that we were right, and consider that we might be similarly deceived in a case at hand.
Intellectual humility: Awareness of the limits of one’s knowledge, including sensitivity to circumstances in which one’s native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity to bias and prejudice in, and limitations of one’s viewpoint. Intellectual humility is based on the recognition that no one should claim more than he or she actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the strengths or weaknesses of the logical foundations of one’s beliefs.
Intellectual integrity: Recognition of the need to be true to one’s own thinking, to be consistent in the intellectual standards one applies, to hold oneself to the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof to which one holds one’s antagonists, to practice what one advocates for others, and to honestly admit discrepancies and inconsistencies in one’s own thought and action. This trait develops best in a supportive atmosphere in which people feel secure and free enough to honestly acknowledge their inconsistencies, and can develop and share realistic ways of ameliorating them. It requires honest acknowledgment of the difficulties of achieving greater consistency.
Intellectual perseverance: Willingness and consciousness of the need to pursue intellectual insights and truths despite difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations; firm adherence to rational principles despite irrational opposition of others; a sense of the need to struggle with confusion and unsettled questions over an extended period of time in order to achieve deeper understanding or insight. This trait is undermined when teachers and others continually provide the answers, do students’ thinking for them or substitute easy tricks, algorithms, and short cuts for careful, independent thought.
Intellectual sense of justice: Willingness and consciousness of the need to entertain all viewpoints sympathetically and to assess them with the same intellectual standards, without reference to one’s own feelings or vested interests, or the feelings or vested interests of one’s friends, community, or nation; implies adherence to intellectual standards without reference to one’s own advantage or the advantage of one’s group.
Opposite of these characteristics are countervailing traits. Consider your thoughts, actions, and emotions when you review these traits. Do you identify with any of these traits? What do they mean to you?
- Intellectual hypocrisy
- Intellectual arrogance
- Intellectual unfairness
- Intellectual laziness
- Intellectual disregard for justice
- Intellectual distrust of reason
- Intellectual cowardice
- Intellectual self-centeredness
- Intellectual conformity
As you better understand each of these characteristics fill in the table with descriptive words:
|Humility||Being aware of our own faults|
|Courage||Facing challenges head on:|
|Empathy||Understanding other people’s viewpoint|
|Integrity||Holding yourself to the same standards you hold others|
|Perseverance||Working through challenges despite obstacles|
|Confidence in reason||Respecting the evidence and other’s viewpoints|
|Autonomy||Value independence in other people’s thinking|
|Sense of justice||Fairness|