Critical Thinking And Cognitive Distortions—How Liberal Thinking Distorts The Way Even Some Conservatives Approach The Process Of Coming To A Conclusion
It seems it is time, once again, to address the obscene notion often propagated by liberals that if one claims to know anything it is proof that one knows nothing. The problem is that this somewhat twisted reasoning has now infected the thought process of some who should know better and it is to those individuals I address the bulk of this article. The irony is that many people, particularly liberals, make far more ludicrous claims than conservatives based on far less, if any, evidence and yet somehow those claims are considered to be “main stream” and thus not extremist.
This particular article will focus on how and why some fall into a trap of their own making by using their own brand of “black and white” thinking when making blanket statements about “black and white” thinking. In essence, what those who go this route do is attempt to cut off further debate and dismiss various conclusions based solely on the fact that those conclusions exist. Their faulty premise which claims that there is no “black and white” answer is, in itself, a “black and white” premise.
The search for a site which addressed the issue in its proper context was a bit more difficult than one might originally imagine. This is not to suggest that the other definitions were in error when taken in the context of the particular article, or list, but rather they became problematic as a result of their tendency to generalize their conclusions based on a number of unwarranted assumptions which again evidenced their own “black and white” thinking. The only way I can see for them to have reached their conclusions is that they labored under one or more of the following fallacious assumptions.
These assumptions seem to rest on an apparent belief that, in their view, all issues are the same, all issues can be approached in the same way, individuals are unable to differentiate between different types of issues, individuals are unable to use different strategies when investigating different issues, individuals are unable to use their critical thinking skills as a tool to reach valid conclusions, logical thought is essentially an illusion, and other really rather close-minded and simplistic assumptions too numerous to list. What they all share in common is the apparent inability to understand the complexity of the subject itself.
Luckily there was one site which did make some distinctions, and thus I am able to more fully express my view.
Cognitive distortions are exaggerated and irrational thoughts–faulty patterns of immature thinking. Cognitive distortions result in drawing incorrect and limited conclusions, thus restricting the capacity to ‘see’reality
Here we see that cognitive distortions are “exaggerated and irrational” thoughts. This is an important distinction to remember, and one that is not always either mentioned or emphasized on some of the other lists I had occasion to read.
In adulthood some of us have gained the capacity for abstract thought;
Certainly true, and yet it doesn’t suggest that “the capacity for abstract thought” somehow negates the ability to reach firm conclusions.
All-or-Nothing Thinking: Thinking in absolute terms, “always”, “never”, “every”. Seeing things in black and white categories, either/or terms, also called polarized thinking. Rather than either/or, move to both/and, which appreciates the grayness, the complexity of life.
Now here is where the conclusions begin to move away from the previous assertions. What is being suggested here is that “all or nothing thinking” is “always” evidence of a cognitive distortion. Obviously this means that the statement itself provides evidence of the cognitive distortion of the person making the claim about all or nothing thinking. What their claim here fails to take into account is that all or nothing thinking, in and of itself is not evidence of a cognitive distortion, but that it requires the presence of “exaggeration” and “irrational” thoughts. In other words, it is not enough to claim, as some are wont to do, that a particular position evidences black and white thinking and thus ipso facto that position can and must be dismissed on that basis alone, rather the real truth is that the position must be refuted based on the merits of the position itself.
Interestingly, I find my view to be quite well supported on another site in an article fortuitously entitled “You Can’t Judge An Argument By Its Conclusion.” The author makes some solid points in a clear and comprehensible way and I highly recommend it to all my readers. In an attempt to proactively address the fact that the author may not be that well known I would suggest that it is the points which are important, not necessarily the person making them. That being said, the quote I provide sums up the issue quite well.
Scientists don’t judge conclusions. Scientists judge arguments. Scientists look at the whole argument – the assumptions, evidence, and methodology that make up the premises as well as the logic that holds them together – and judge if the conclusions logically follow from those premises.
The point here is that one cannot simply dismiss a conclusion based on a personal bias against that conclusion or dismiss it because it is a conclusion. The fact that one asserts that some issues are not subject to black and white answers does not prove that all issues are not subject to black and white answers and, in fact, to suggest that there are no issues which are subject to a black and white answer is patently absurd. The reason, in my opinion, that some don’t see this absurdity is that they make no distinction between an invalid assumption and a valid conclusion. In other words, they seem to make no distinction between two very different types of reasoning. In order to understand this distinction I now introduce the twin concepts of deductive and inductive reasoning.
The definition of deductive reasoning, per Wikipedia, is encapsulated in the following quote:
Deductive reasoning, also called deductive logic, is the process of reasoning from one or more general statements regarding what is known to reach a logically certain conclusion. Deductive reasoning involves using given true premises to reach a conclusion that is also true. Deductive reasoning contrasts with inductive reasoning in that a specific conclusion is arrived at from a general principle. If the rules and logic of deduction are followed, this procedure ensures an accurate conclusion.
In other words, if one uses the process of deductive reasoning, the associated conclusion is considered to be accurate. This is not necessarily the case when one uses deductive reasoning, a brief description of which, again from Wikipedia, I provide below:
Inductive reasoning consists of inferring general principles or rules from specific facts.
The problem inherent in the claim that all black and white conclusions provide prime facae evidence that those particular conclusions are false is both a result of using inductive reasoning to reach that conclusion as well as the apparent failure to differentiate between the two different types of reasoning.
Deductive reasoning, by definition, results in black and white answers. Those who suggest otherwise are rejecting the entire basis on which logical arguments are made. In rejecting the conclusions which result from the application of the dictums of deductive reasoning, those individuals are rejecting one of the primary foundational premises of Western Civilization itself. If this is not the intent of those who argue against certain conclusions on the basis that the referenced conclusions cannot be true for no other reason than they evidence black and white thinking, than I would suggest they need to re-examine their positions and argue against those conclusions by attempting to refute the premises on which those conclusions are based.
Thank you for your interest.