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Level Thinking

(Wed Jun 17 14:46:19 2009)

Ever since I began philosophizing, I've considered that there are three

Ever since I began philosophizing, I've considered that there are three "levels" of thinking. The first level is passive, accepting or rejecting ideas based solely on the (unchecked) input of another. The second level accepts or rejects ideas on personal experience, while the third level carefully considers as many outside factors as possible before reaching a decision.

when I was a little kid, I believed everything my parents told me, like any other kid would. I was great at parroting what my parents, teachers, and friends said, so I seemed very smart, but I didn't really understand it. No child can, as it's not until later that humans develop logical thinking skills.
Children are first level thinkers, for good reason; imagine if an infant wanted to debate whether to eat or not. Sure, kids may argue, but it's never a logical argument - "But I don't WANT to!"
A first level thinker is a gullible "blind follower." He may quote truth and argue his point, but he is only repeating the arguments of others, and really doesn't understand them; in fact, while he never even attempts to understand the other side of the argument, he rarely even understands his own side. If he's confused, he'll cling to his own ideas, repeating previously disproved statements. An emotional argument will usually sway him, at least temporarily.

By the time I was a teenager, I had enough information and logic skills to be convincing, and check my own facts. I had knowledge and logic skills, but no broad experience. I may have read a lot of books, and I knew what I believed, but I couldn't always give a sound argument.
Teens, usually, are second level thinkers. They have a lot more experience than younger kids, and usually have a sense of logic. However, teens can get pretty hot-headed, because their worldview is based on their own experience; if you challenge their worldview, you're challenging their very being.
A second level thinker personalizes debates, often becoming cynical. Viewpoints that disagree with his own are attacked, rather than contrasted or debated. He will often research things, but rarely on both sides of the issue. If his theories are about to be disproved, he will lash out with personal attacks, or refuse to continue the debate, rather than change his worldview.

By the time I graduated college, I had a mature worldview - it's still changing, but I can and have debated with others, even so far as convincing others to believe differently than they had. I have built my worldview in part on my own experiences, but have strengthened it down to the foundation with the knowledge of others.
Many adults don't push themselves that far, though. The first-level-thinking statement "ignorance is bliss" is taken to heart by many people. Others cross their arms and demand, "prove it!", refusing to be budged from their experience-driven second level thinking.
A third level thinker is patient. Instead of jumping into a debate, he'll hold off until he sees a flaw. When he researches - which is often - he tries to see both sides of the issue, as much as is possible. Rather than taking a fact and running with it, he'll check its origin and reliability first. If what he believed is truth is shown to be false, he will try to change his worldview, regardless of what changes that entails.

A first level thinker can sometimes be annoying. Since they base all their actions on the thoughts and ideas of others, they will often bleat, "Why can't we just get along?", rather than join a debate. Instead of forming an opinion, they will just copy the opinion of others. As long as you don't try to argue a point, though, they'll be happy. Just don't try to figure out what they believe, though, as they'll have a hard time explaining it.

A second level thinker is hard to be around, too, unless you agree with them (or manage to stay off touchy subjects). Any idea that doesn't fall inside their worldview will be savagely attacked. The chances of convincing them that they are wrong are slim, though the chances of them convincing others are pretty slim as well.

A third level thinker can be much easier to get along with, but not always. Any argument will be carefully considered, and you can bet that the counterpoint will be thought out. However, if you refuse to have an opinion on an important issue, prepare for a lecture; if you lash out with a personal attack, don't think it will do much good. Even if you present your point well, don't assume that you'll have an instant convert.

It can often be hard to see the difference between one level and another, too. If I refuse to buy Intel, it could be because my friends dislike them (1st level), because I stopped buying them after the bugs in the Pentium 133 chip, even though that was 15 years ago (2nd), or because I've researched for hours and found that all their new models simply don't meet my requirements (3rd). It is also hard to grasp that any given level of thinker can agree with any other thinker. A first level thinker can latch onto the ideas of a third level thinker, or a second level thinker could agree with what a first level thinker has said. Even stranger is that a first level thinker could be correct, while a third level thinker could be completely wrong.

A first level thinker, realizing he is wrong, knows only that the person he based his worldview on was wrong, and moves on to make the same mistake again. Thus, it's easy to convince a first level thinker, but there is no change inside.
A second level thinker, realizing he is wrong, has nothing to fall back on; he is completely crushed. He based his worldview off his own experiences, and since his experiences are wrong, his entire life to that point must be wrong. Thus, convincing a second level thinker is difficult and costly; attacking his logic is attacking his very being, and once proven wrong, he will be a broken man.
A third level thinker, realizing he is wrong, must step back and rebuild his worldview. He is hard to convince, since he is sure of his arguments, but if his logic is disproven, he will concede. Thus, convincing a third level thinker invokes true change. If you convince him of a point, he will research that point himself, and possibly become a very strong ally.

I strive to be a third level thinker. I don't want to believe things because everyone else believes them, or because my limited personal experience has thus far proved it out; I want to believe things because I've carefully tested every piece of my beliefs for holes, all the way back to their foundation. Being a third level thinker is hard - it's much easier to fall back on others, or on your own untested experience. Being a third level thinker means that you are prepared to admit that you are wrong, and actively change yourself to reflect that.

So what kind of thinker are you?

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This blag is tagged: Thoughts, Worldview, All