a)Differences between Epistemology and Psycho-epistemologyPsycho-epistemologyis a concept develop in objectivism in order to explain how one manages one’smind such that it has the right mind-set for applying the theory and have ahigher critical thinking skill.We haveseen in chapter 1 that epistemology is the method to understand how manacquires knowledge. So what is psycho-epistemology? B Branden definespsycho-epistemology as efficient thinking. Man’s mind is like an automobilewhich man must drive.
Epistemologydeals with the relationship between ideas and reality while psycho-epistemologydeals with mental processes. So, psycho-epistemology is the study of the mentaloperations that are possible to, and that characterize, man’s cognitive behavior.It aims at discovering general laws of mental functioning.Thesemental functioning processes could be the way memories are stored and recalled,the way ideas are integrated with previous knowledge, the way the unconsciousmind operates. Thequestions asked by psycho-epistemology are: “What are man’s mental processes?What is the nature of man’s cognitive self-sabotage that permits man to makeerrors?” Giveexample of social metaphysics guyPsycho-epistemologytells you that you will not be a good critical thinker if you let your mindwander around without choosing to focus it on reality, that if you give yourconcepts an emotional taint then you will not be able to use them logically, ifyou hold vague and unclear ideas they will not be usable to revealcontradictions in your thinking. Epistemologydefines the standards by which man can validate his knowledge, it is concernedwith the laws of logic, induction and deduction, conceptualization…Psycho-epistemologytells how your consciousness must function in order to be able to use theknowledge that epistemology provides you. It tells you how to turn yourconsciousness into an effective instrument, ready and able to gain and use anyknowledge or any information available to you. Psycho-epistemology is animportant method for developing and improving critical thinking skills and havean efficient mind.
b) Whypsycho-epistemology is more important than IQ?If youdo not think correctly then you are hampering yourself and you potential, evenif you have a high IQ. Inefficient thinking habits cannot be overcome byintelligence. They make the highest intelligence of no value to its possessor,because he will not know how to use it. Thinking is not automatic and correctthinking is not automatic. It is awide spread myth that everyone knows how to think, that good thinking isnatural. Most assume that o think correctly is self-evident. This myth can leadpeople to neglect the mistakes in think they make and to automatize them as ifthey were efficient ways of thinking. The method of thinking will beunquestioned and one will look for other explanations on why one is not a goodcritical thinker.
Thereis so many mental processes that people call thinking: having a blank mind,seeing a progression of images, worrying and remembering feelings. But as wesaw in the epistemology chapter, these are not ways of knowing. Fundamentaldifferences and efficiency exist in people’s method of thinking. Some people thinkmore efficiently than others and therefore are better critical thinkers. Themental processes, efficient or inefficient, are built in the mind.
b) TheCauses of Faulty thinkingThereis so many people who do not know how to use their mind efficiently andcritically to solve their problems. This happens because people have adoptedfaulty thinking habits.Oncefaulty thinking habits are established in the mind a vicious circle is set-upand after some time becomes unmanageable. This will have for consequence ofleading people to engage into self-defeating actions because of their inabilityto be critical thinkers. This will lead to a feeling of helplessness and ofdistrust in reason, as it seems to be inefficient. Then people will rely onlyon emotions and feelings to guide their actions, severing themselves withreason and logic durably.Themain faulty thinking cause is in not asking the right question.
When faced witha claim one should ask “What do these ideas mean? What are the evidences forthem?” but this is what most uncritical people do not do. The low criticalthinkers will not ask essential questions.So oneneeds to work hard in order to undo the automatic habits of thinking that areinefficient to replace them by efficient ones. The goal is to becomeself-conscious about the nature one’s mental processes, to observe what one’smind is doing and compare it with efficient thinking in order to correct it.
c) The4 presuppositions of efficient thinkingThecorrect functioning of a human mind rests on and implies the acceptance ofcertain basic philosophical principles. These principles are link a guide and aframe for reaching efficient thinking and critical thinking.Thefirst of these principles is that reality is an objective absolute, that it is whatit is, that it exists independent of man’s consciousness, independent of histhoughts, his desires, beliefs, ideas, wishes or fears.
Thesecond precondition of a good psycho-epistemology is the conviction that reasonis man’s sole means of achieving knowledge, and the rejection of any form ofmysticism.Thethird precondition of efficient thinking is the conviction that one has thepower to think, to use one’s mind, to be guided exclusively by logic, to arriveat rational, objective knowledge- that is, the conviction that one has freewill. Thefourth and most important principle is the conviction that reality isthoroughly knowable, that no aspects of it are closed to the human mind, closedto thought and knowledge. c1)first precondition, link with critical thinkingWhy theacceptance of objective reality, of “what is”, is a precondition of criticalthinking and efficient thinking? Because thinking means the identification of”what is”, a mind focused on objective existence, the conceptualization andintegration of the evidence of reality provided by the senses.
Criticalthinking requires that one learn how to identify reality. It requires that onelearn how to avoid misidentification, how to form concepts on the basis offacts.But ifreality is not objective, if it is a function of whatever one believes orwishes it to be, then the problem of critical thinking, of identifying a solid,firm reality, simply does not arise. There is nothing outside of consciousnessto think about. One need to be concerned only with introspection, with thecontent of consciousness. That alone is one’s guide to reality. One has no needto turn the spotlight of consciousness outward. There is nothing out there tobe known.
There are only one’s feelings and thoughts.On thepremise of subjectivism, on the premise that consciousness is the creator ofreality, there is no standard by which to measure efficacy in identifyingreality. Anyone conclusions and feelings, however arrived at are as good asanyone else’s. This is against critical thinking.Fewpeople are openly and consciously subjectivists.
But many people arephilosophically and psycho-epistemologically subjectivists, not in the full,consistent sense, but in more limited areas of life. For example most peoplewho would believe that reality is objective are subjectivists in the realm ofmorality. They hold that one cannot know what is right or wrong, good or evil,in the sense of knowing objective facts about the world and about man. What isgood or evil is what one believes or feels to be good or evil. This issubjectivism.
Theconsequence of such a view is that the mind stops, it goes into a blank. Afterpronouncing such a subjectivist judgment, the mind does not consider moralityfurther, because there is nothing further to consider. Ironically, intelligentmen that would never dream of offering as proof for the law of gravitation thefact that they feel it so, argue for or against a moral code on the basis oftheir feelings, functioning like subjectivists, which means abandoning reasonand thought and therefore abandoning critical thinking.Tobecome a critical thinker one needs to be intellectually convinced that realityis objective and that the purpose of thought is to identify and evaluate it.
How cansomeone fall into subjectivist errors? There are several ways. I will considerthree fundamental ones.Thefirst is evasion, which is the willful closing of the mind to certainfacts or knowledge, or the refusal to think about an issue one knows requirescritical thinking. If a man evades on an issue for any reason at any time, heis implicitly acting on the premise that reality, in some aspect, is unreal,that only is acknowledgement can make it real, that his refusal to seeunpleasant facts can alter those facts, that if he ignores some aspect ofreality, it will go away, that reality is a function of the actions or therefusal to act, of his consciousness.Toevade is to act on the premise of subjectivism. Evading reality is to impairone’s psycho-epistemology.
We live in an integrated reality. Every aspect ofreality is connected to every other aspect. If we close some part of reality toexamination, we have impaired our power of perception.Thesecond error is to react to frustration by the policy of sulking, whining,complaining and generally feeling sorry for oneself rather than reacting bycritical thinking. The implicit meaning of such an attitude is: “Reality haslet me down; it should have given me what I wanted; it should have permitted memy desires.
Which means: reality should have been what I wanted it to be, itshould have adapted itself to my emotions.What isthe consequence of such an attitude? One turns off one’s mind, the mind goesblank. One does not think anymore. In effect, one prefers instead to stampone’s foot at a recalcitrant reality.
Any such refusal to face a problem in theform of sulking, or tantrums, or passive complaining, amounts to subjectivism,to the rejection of the fact that emotions do not interest or alter reality,the refusal to admit that problems can be solved only by thought and action,and not by emotional explosions.Thethird error of subjectivism is the phenomenon of passive wishing. That is thephenomenon of holding a value or a desire, without attempting to discoverwhether it is rational but merely contemplating the desire, focusing on itsemotional meaning to one, longing for it, and wishing that one possessed it.Here again one is implicitly on the premise that one’s consciousness willsomehow alter reality, that thought and action are not necessary, that all thatis required is to desire, and reality, somehow will adjust and will provide it.TheExtent to which a man sits passively and wishes is the extent to which he doesnot think. The consequence of all three of these phenomena is the turning offthe thinking process. One evades of thinks critically, one sulks or thinkscritically, one passively wishes or thinks critically. To the extent that onechooses any of these alternatives to thinking one is creating a mental havocthat will progressively thwart one in any future attempt to use one’s mindrationally.
c2)Second precondition and critical thinkingThesecond precondition of a good psycho-epistemology is the conviction that reasonis man’s sole means of achieving knowledge, and the rejection of any form ofmysticism. Why theacceptance of reason as man’s only means of achieving knowledge and knowingreality, is a precondition of critical thinking and efficient thinking? Toaccept reason is to simply recognize Aristotle law that A is A, thatcontradiction cannot exist. It is to accept the fact that one’s rationalfaculty, focused on existence, is the source of all one’s knowledge.Mysticism means the view that reason is notman’s exclusive means of knowledge, the view that emotions, or revelations, orfaith, or intuition, or some other non-rational source is a valid tool ofcognition