An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical and Creative Thought

FOURTH EDITION

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical and Creative Thought

FOURTH EDITION

THINKING An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical

and Creative Thought

GARY R. KIRBY JEFFERY R. GOODPASTER

UPPER SADDLE RIVER, NEW JERSEY 07458

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Thinking: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical and Creative Thought, Fourth Edition, by Gary R. Kirby and Jeffery R. Goodpaster. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Kirby, Gary R. Thinking : an interdisciplinary approach to critical and creative thought / Gary R. Kirby,

Jeffery R. Goodpaster.— 4th ed. p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Thought and thinking. I. Goodpaster, Jeffery R. II. Title. BF441.K49 2006 153.4’2—dc22

2006003331

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ISBN 0-13-220974-8

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Thinking: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical and Creative Thought, Fourth Edition, by Gary R. Kirby and Jeffery R. Goodpaster. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc.

WHAT IS THINKING?

We are such stuff as thoughts are made on. —ADAPTED FROM

OUR CULTURAL LEGACY

In this book we encourage you to engage your mind and plunge into thinking. But first, let’s meet some powerful thinkers who have preceded us.

Humans were speaking, and thus thinking, many millennia before the Sumerians, the Egyptians, and the Phoenicians learned to write their thoughts. The Greeks took their alphabet and burst forth into song, literature, philosophy, rhetoric, history, art, politics, and science. They needed to know how to argue their positions in their free democracy, and Corax of Syracuse, perhaps the first rhetorician, taught them how to use words to pierce into other minds. The sophists, skeptics, and cynics questioned everything, including their own ques- tioning. What would our world be like if we still held primitive beliefs such as Zeus throws thunderbolts ? Socrates probed and prodded the Athenians to think: “The unexamined life is not worth living,” he said. And he threw down to us the ultimate gauntlet : “Know thyself.” Plato was so caught up with Socrates and with the pure power of the mind that he thought we were born

CHAPTER 1CHAPTER

1

SHAKESPEARE

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Thinking: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical and Creative Thought, Fourth Edition, by Gary R. Kirby and Jeffery R. Goodpaster. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc.

2 CHAPTER 1 ■ What Is Thinking?

with ideas and that these innate ideas were as close as we could come to divinity. Plato’s pupil, Aristotle, sharpened his senses to make impressive empirical obser- vations that climbed toward first principles; then he honed his mind into the ab- solute logic of the syllogism that stepped inexorably, deductively downward.

The Roman rhetoricians, Cicero, Tertullian, and Quintilian needing to argue their political and legal positions, built massive mental structures that rivaled Rome’s architectural vastness.

The medieval thinkers, mental to a point that matched their ethereal (heav- enly) thinking, created mental structures mainly based on Plato, fortified with the logic of Aristotle. Aquinas, in his Summa, forged an unmatched mental cre- ation that, if one grants his premises, still stands as an unassailable mountain of the mind. In contrast to much of this abstraction was the clean cut of Occam’s razor, slicing off unnecessary entities, and the welcome freshness of Anselm, who preempted Descartes by stating, “I doubt, therefore I know.”

The Renaissance thinkers turned their minds and energies to earthly navi- gation, sidereal science, art, pleasure, and empire. Some of these thinkers, like Leonardo da Vinci returned to the Greeks (Archimedes); some, like Montaigne, recovered rich ore in the Romans, sifted by the skepticism described on a medal around his neck: Que sai-s je? (“What do I know?”).

Pascal called his whole book of aphorisms Thoughts. Descartes echoed Anselm—“I think, therefore I am”—and challenged our pride by telling us that “it is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well” (Les Dis- cours, Vol. 1). Those were the French rationalists.

No less rational, the British empiricists progressed from Locke’s Aristotelian focus on the senses (the mind as a tabula rasa), to Berkeley’s idea that we can be sure only of our perceptions’ to Hume’s radical skepticism.

Hegel looked on all history as an idea unfolding, and Marx concretized and capitalized that idea.

More modern thinkers like Wittgenstein, Whorf, and Chomsky all enter the open, unfolding, and marvelous arena of the mind. They welcome us to come, enter with them, and think. . . .

WHY THINK?

Is anything more important than thinking? Is anything important that is not connected with thinking? STOP! Did you think about the first question before you read the second one? Our guess is that many of you kept reading; conse- quently, you may have missed a chance to think.

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Thinking: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical and Creative Thought, Fourth Edition, by Gary R. Kirby and Jeffery R. Goodpaster. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc.

3Why Think?

THINKING ACTIVITY 1.1

Things More Important Than Thinking

Let’s start thinking now. Can you list anything more important than thinking?

1. ____________________________________________________________ 2. ____________________________________________________________ 3. ____________________________________________________________ 4. ____________________________________________________________

What is on your list? How did you determine its value?

Thoughts Richer Than Gold

Take a look at the following very different lists. Are the items on any one list more important than thinking?

List A List B List C money breathing goodness good job eating life nice house exercising love new car mating truth

Think about list A. Although money is high on the list of American dreams, it cannot be earned or spent without the ability to think. Imagine a chimpanzee (limited ability) or a mannequin (no ability) trying to earn money or even spend it. Thinking is often behind the making of money. Larry Ellison, one of com- puter software’s financial giants, says: “I observe and I plan and I think and I strategize” (Ramo, 1997, p. 58). Clearly, the ability to think is more important than money, jobs, houses, or cars.

What about list B? Is breathing more important than thinking? At this point we need to think more sharply and define the word important. If important means a sequentially first or necessary condition for something else to exist, then breathing is more important than thinking, for without oxygen the thinking brain quickly dies. But if important means a higher order or value, then thinking is of a higher order than breathing because breathing “serves” the brain (which, by the way, uses a disproportionately large amount of the oxygen). Rarely, however, does the cerebral cortex “serve” breathing, such as when one is studying to be a respiratory therapist.

Another way to understand that thinking is of a higher order than breathing is to realize that many philosophers since Aristotle have defined humans as “thinking animals.” In other words, horses and horseflies breathe, but thinking

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Thinking: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical and Creative Thought, Fourth Edition, by Gary R. Kirby and Jeffery R. Goodpaster. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc.

4 CHAPTER 1 ■ What Is Thinking?

makes us human; if humans are of a higher order than animals, it is our think- ing that makes us so. As a quality of a higher order, thinking is more important than eating, mating, or breathing.

And what do we think about list C? Are not goodness, life, love, and truth vast concepts of great importance? To weigh their importance against that of think- ing would take many pages and much thought; but to judge quickly the worth of thinking, we can again ask the question, is anything important that is not connected with thinking?

If we have thought of anything, we have just used our thinking process; thus we have connected thinking to the item we thought of, regardless of how important the item is. Similarly, love, life, truth, and goodness are necessarily con- nected with thinking. We may be able to mate without much thinking, like two fireflies, but we cannot love without thinking. Thus we think as we live life.

Just how important is thinking in relation to life? Since we think largely with language, consider how Wittgenstein connects life and thinking: “The lim- its of my language are the limits of my life.” Is this an accurate statement? Does language limit life so strictly? If so, does this limitation show the importance of language and thinking? We will meet this idea again in Chapter 5, “Language: Our Thinking Medium.”

Thinking as Possibility

Our life at this moment, as we read this book and make choices about our actions today, is strictly limited by how much we have learned and by the thinking pat- terns we have developed. We can only choose to do what we know; for example, we simply cannot search for a sunken treasure unless we know that it sank. And the more we know and the better we can think with our knowledge, the more successful we are likely to be. If we know that a Spanish galleon, laden with Inca gold, sank in the Caribbean, and if we can think about the route it might have followed, the ocean currents, and its last reported sighting, then we might find the gold. More importantly, by thinking we might find the gold in our own lives.

THINK ABOUT IT: Your thoughts

become your words become your actions

become your habits become your character

become you

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Thinking: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical and Creative Thought, Fourth Edition, by Gary R. Kirby and Jeffery R. Goodpaster. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc.

5What Is Thinking?

Thoughts Accumulate

Tennyson tells us that “we are a part of all that we have met.” Likewise, we are also part of all that we have thought; to a degree, we have become what we have thought about, and who we will become is limited by how and what we think. If we reflected earlier about language limiting life, we probably realized that our thinking has set the boundaries for our past choices in life. We have chosen from what we have known and how we have been able to think about our knowledge.

Life Without Thinking

Ignorance is the night of the mind, a night without moon or stars. —CONFUCIUS

What if we acquired no new thoughts for the next ten years? Could we hold our jobs? What would we think about quarks and nanotechnology? How well would we talk to people?

If in the next ten years we choose to read many thoughtful books, will our mind be different? Will we be markedly different because of the books we read, the people we listen to, the thoughts we have, and the way we express those thoughts? Certainly, thoughts accumulate. We grow as we think, and thus we change our future ability to think.

Thoughts accumulate not just arithmetically but exponentially. Each thought has the potential to merge with others and create an enormous num- ber of new thoughts; for instance, just forty-six items (your chromosomes) can be assembled into 25,852,010,000,000,000,000,000 combinations. With a six- thousand-word active vocabulary, imagine the creative combinations! In Chapter 7, “Creative Thinking,” we will learn how to form some of these combinations.

WHAT IS THINKING?

Tell me what is a thought and of what substance is it made? —WILLIAM BLAKE

Right now you are thinking. Think about it. What exactly are you doing now? What is happening in your head as you think? Can you figure out how you have just processed these words into meaning? Simply put, how does your brain work?

The Mystery

Do not feel bad if you do not know the answer because neither do the experts. The Nobel laureate author Gerald Edelman at the beginning of this millennium said, “What goes on in your head when you have a thought . . . the answer must

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Thinking: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical and Creative Thought, Fourth Edition, by Gary R. Kirby and Jeffery R. Goodpaster. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc.

6 CHAPTER 1 ■ What Is Thinking?

still be: we do not really know” (2000, p. 201). Humans have learned much about areas of the brain and neuroelectrochemical processes, but much is still to be discovered. We know more of the basic principles of the universe, of the atom, and of our bodies than we do of our brains. Newton drew the lines of forces connecting the earth to the stars, Einstein formulated the energy in mat- ter, Watson and Crick cracked the genetic code, but the model for the brain has not yet been found. (Some possible models include tabula rasa, or blank tablet, memory grooves, a computer, a hologram, and recently the metaphor itself.) Despite our fast accumulating knowledge of the brain, it remains a mystery.

Toward a Definition: Thinking as Communicating

If we do not understand the workings of the brain, if we cannot enter its inner sanctum and unfold its mystery, then how can we define thinking? One way to reach a definition is by observing the results of thinking as expressed in human communication. But what if some people claim that they do “thinking” that is to- tally internal and can never be externally communicated? We will not argue with them, but if they cannot talk about it or share it with us, their thinking cannot be useful to us. Therefore, we can define thinking as the activity of the brain that can potentially be communicated. The media of communication are multiple: language (speaking, writing, signing, paralanguage, miming), images (computer graphics, blueprints, charts, symbols), art (drawing, painting, sculpting, model- ing, architecture, music, dance), scientific formulas, and mathematics. All of these forms of communication have their special subtleties and strengths, but far and away the primary form of human communication is language; therefore, this book focuses on thinking as the activity of the brain that can potentially be expressed in speaking or writing.

The potential to express our thoughts includes, of course, the unexpressed thinking that is almost always in our heads: we plan the day and imagine sce- narios; we worry through problems and search for solutions; we daydream; we discover, invent, and create systems; we enjoy reflecting on our ventures, and sometimes we redesign our failures. Unexpressed thinking is valuable, and we use it often before speaking or acting.

COMMUNICATING: THE MIRROR OF THOUGHT

How do we think about our thinking? That’s not an easy question because we are caught in a circle: trying to know our mind with our mind is analogous to trying to see our eyes with our eyes. The eyes need a reflector such as a mirror or a still pond to see themselves. Similarly, to understand our thinking we need a mirror for our mind. Writing or talking can provide just such a mirror. Expressing our

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Thinking: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Critical and Creative Thought, Fourth Edition, by Gary R. Kirby and Jeffery R. Goodpaster. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc.

7Communicating: The Mirror of Thought

thoughts allows us to look at them more objectively; others, then, can share their ideas about our thinking, and so, ultimately, we can think better.

Writing records our thinking on a piece of paper so that we can then exam- ine it. Try writing for sixty seconds as fast as you can on whatever comes to your mind without censoring any thought. In that way you will be able to externalize some of your thinking.

This externalization will probably not give us an exact replication of our thinking but will generate a cloudy mirror. The clouds will begin to clear if we repeat this activity often and learn to chart our thinking with our pen. Penning our thoughts is a challenge because the brain moves much faster than the pen, much faster than a “rapper” rapping 300 words per minute. The exact speed of the brain is not known, but let us guess that it is about 500 to 700 words per minute. Often the brain moves even faster because it does not think every word. Sometimes it leaps over phrases and whole groups of ideas to jump to almost instant insight.

We can also find out much about ourselves by looking for patterns in those sixty-second sketches: What are th