.All that is needed to obtain true knowledge can be learned through reality itself. Real, lasting knowledge, not just facts and figures you don’t understand in the first place about people you’ve never met and places you’ve never been. Not to say that these things are to be scoffed at or that they have no intrinsic value here, because they obviously do. But dates and names and places and events don’t bring with them the same kind of self-examination that is needed to think critically.
Modern society puts an emphasis on the facts and figures portion of education, and while that is perfectly acceptable, it unfortunately seems to come with a squandering of reality based education. The two need to go hand-in-hand. What good is it for someone to rattle off facts about historical events, if they are unable to derive the reason these events occurred in the first place? People have relegated their brains to that of a list of ingredients – able to pick out a date here, a name there, a nice quote over yonder and so on, but not being able to see the end of those ingredients or why those ingredients were required in the first place.
I find myself to be guilty of this. My high school education was, to put it nicely, lacking. The number of times Socrates, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Dante or anyone in that ilk was mentioned or referred to in four years there was exactly zero. The word philosophy was not uttered. The only “critical thinking” we ever worked on was trying to identify with the inner anguish of Johnny Tremain. I’ve spent the last eight years trying to play catch-up.
If you are able to identify a problem, but are unable to identify why that problem occurred, then there is a serious disconnect in your thinking that needs to be resolved.
This extends itself to decision-making and morality as well. How can you know what is right and moral when you are just subjectively picking items out of a hat and viewing each one as this independent event disconnected from all other events that you can examine in a vacuum. This sort of singular analysis of events is superficial. It is the soft layer of snow covering the soil and goes no deeper than that.
To be without knowledge – real, lasting knowledge – is to be a slave to authority. This has to be the most dire consequence of parroting subjective names and figures: the appeal to authority. When someone does not, or cannot, think critically they are delegating the use of their mind to someone else – they cede autonomy.
Ceding autonomy over yourself also brings with it the abdication of moral responsibility. You see this in politics all the time: “Well, the Republicans/Democrats want to do this so it must be OK because they have my best interest in mind, and they wouldn’t have gotten elected if they weren’t really smart!”
Remaining ignorant makes you complicit with immorality. The abdication of moral responsibility is itself an immoral act.
I’m not sure where I’m going with all this at this point, so let’s wrap it up.
How do I know what I know – except that it’s been told to me by others?
What is truth?
What is right and wrong?
How do I know what is right and what is wrong?