a)
Differences between Epistemology and Psycho-epistemology

Psycho-epistemology
is a concept develop in objectivism in order to explain how one manages one’s
mind such that it has the right mind-set for applying the theory and have a
higher critical thinking skill.

We have
seen in chapter 1 that epistemology is the method to understand how man
acquires knowledge. So what is psycho-epistemology? B Branden defines
psycho-epistemology as efficient thinking. Man’s mind is like an automobile
which man must drive.

Epistemology
deals with the relationship between ideas and reality while psycho-epistemology
deals with mental processes. So, psycho-epistemology is the study of the mental
operations that are possible to, and that characterize, man’s cognitive behavior.
It aims at discovering general laws of mental functioning.

These
mental functioning processes could be the way memories are stored and recalled,
the way ideas are integrated with previous knowledge, the way the unconscious
mind operates.

The
questions 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 make
errors?”

 

Give
example of social metaphysics guy

Psycho-epistemology
tells you that you will not be a good critical thinker if you let your mind
wander around without choosing to focus it on reality, that if you give your
concepts an emotional taint then you will not be able to use them logically, if
you hold vague and unclear ideas they will not be usable to reveal
contradictions in your thinking.

Epistemology
defines the standards by which man can validate his knowledge, it is concerned
with the laws of logic, induction and deduction, conceptualization…Psycho-epistemology
tells how your consciousness must function in order to be able to use the
knowledge that epistemology provides you. It tells you how to turn your
consciousness into an effective instrument, ready and able to gain and use any
knowledge or any information available to you. Psycho-epistemology is an
important method for developing and improving critical thinking skills and have
an efficient mind.

 

b) Why
psycho-epistemology is more important than IQ?

If you
do not think correctly then you are hampering yourself and you potential, even
if you have a high IQ. Inefficient thinking habits cannot be overcome by
intelligence. 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 correct
thinking is not automatic.

It is a
wide spread myth that everyone knows how to think, that good thinking is
natural. Most assume that o think correctly is self-evident. This myth can lead
people to neglect the mistakes in think they make and to automatize them as if
they were efficient ways of thinking. The method of thinking will be
unquestioned and one will look for other explanations on why one is not a good
critical thinker.

There
is so many mental processes that people call thinking: having a blank mind,
seeing a progression of images, worrying and remembering feelings. But as we
saw in the epistemology chapter, these are not ways of knowing. Fundamental
differences and efficiency exist in people’s method of thinking. Some people think
more efficiently than others and therefore are better critical thinkers.

The
mental processes, efficient or inefficient, are built in the mind.

 

b) The
Causes of Faulty thinking

There
is so many people who do not know how to use their mind efficiently and
critically to solve their problems. This happens because people have adopted
faulty thinking habits.

Once
faulty thinking habits are established in the mind a vicious circle is set-up
and after some time becomes unmanageable. This will have for consequence of
leading people to engage into self-defeating actions because of their inability
to be critical thinkers. This will lead to a feeling of helplessness and of
distrust in reason, as it seems to be inefficient. Then people will rely only
on emotions and feelings to guide their actions, severing themselves with
reason and logic durably.

The
main faulty thinking cause is in not asking the right question. When faced with
a claim one should ask “What do these ideas mean? What are the evidences for
them?” but this is what most uncritical people do not do. The low critical
thinkers will not ask essential questions.

So one
needs to work hard in order to undo the automatic habits of thinking that are
inefficient to replace them by efficient ones. The goal is to become
self-conscious about the nature one’s mental processes, to observe what one’s
mind is doing and compare it with efficient thinking in order to correct it.

c) The
4 presuppositions of efficient thinking

The
correct functioning of a human mind rests on and implies the acceptance of
certain basic philosophical principles. These principles are link a guide and a
frame for reaching efficient thinking and critical thinking.

The
first of these principles is that reality is an objective absolute, that it is what
it is, that it exists independent of man’s consciousness, independent of his
thoughts, his desires, beliefs, ideas, wishes or fears.

The
second precondition of a good psycho-epistemology is the conviction that reason
is man’s sole means of achieving knowledge, and the rejection of any form of
mysticism.

The
third precondition of efficient thinking is the conviction that one has the
power to think, to use one’s mind, to be guided exclusively by logic, to arrive
at rational, objective knowledge- that is, the conviction that one has free
will.

The
fourth and most important principle is the conviction that reality is
thoroughly knowable, that no aspects of it are closed to the human mind, closed
to thought and knowledge.  

c1)
first precondition, link with critical thinking

Why the
acceptance of objective reality, of “what is”, is a precondition of critical
thinking and efficient thinking? Because thinking means the identification of
“what is”, a mind focused on objective existence, the conceptualization and
integration of the evidence of reality provided by the senses. Critical
thinking requires that one learn how to identify reality. It requires that one
learn how to avoid misidentification, how to form concepts on the basis of
facts.

But if
reality is not objective, if it is a function of whatever one believes or
wishes it to be, then the problem of critical thinking, of identifying a solid,
firm reality, simply does not arise. There is nothing outside of consciousness
to think about. One need to be concerned only with introspection, with the
content of consciousness. That alone is one’s guide to reality. One has no need
to turn the spotlight of consciousness outward. There is nothing out there to
be known. There are only one’s feelings and thoughts.

On the
premise of subjectivism, on the premise that consciousness is the creator of
reality, there is no standard by which to measure efficacy in identifying
reality. Anyone conclusions and feelings, however arrived at are as good as
anyone else’s. This is against critical thinking.

Few
people are openly and consciously subjectivists. But many people are
philosophically and psycho-epistemologically subjectivists, not in the full,
consistent sense, but in more limited areas of life. For example most people
who would believe that reality is objective are subjectivists in the realm of
morality. 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 is
good or evil is what one believes or feels to be good or evil. This is
subjectivism.

The
consequence of such a view is that the mind stops, it goes into a blank. After
pronouncing such a subjectivist judgment, the mind does not consider morality
further, because there is nothing further to consider. Ironically, intelligent
men that would never dream of offering as proof for the law of gravitation the
fact that they feel it so, argue for or against a moral code on the basis of
their feelings, functioning like subjectivists, which means abandoning reason
and thought and therefore abandoning critical thinking.

To
become a critical thinker one needs to be intellectually convinced that reality
is objective and that the purpose of thought is to identify and evaluate it.

How can
someone fall into subjectivist errors? There are several ways. I will consider
three fundamental ones.

The
first is evasion, which is the willful closing of the mind to certain
facts or knowledge, or the refusal to think about an issue one knows requires
critical thinking. If a man evades on an issue for any reason at any time, he
is implicitly acting on the premise that reality, in some aspect, is unreal,
that only is acknowledgement can make it real, that his refusal to see
unpleasant facts can alter those facts, that if he ignores some aspect of
reality, it will go away, that reality is a function of the actions or the
refusal to act, of his consciousness.

To
evade is to act on the premise of subjectivism. Evading reality is to impair
one’s psycho-epistemology. We live in an integrated reality. Every aspect of
reality is connected to every other aspect. If we close some part of reality to
examination, we have impaired our power of perception.

The
second error is to react to frustration by the policy of sulking, whining,
complaining and generally feeling sorry for oneself rather than reacting by
critical thinking. The implicit meaning of such an attitude is: “Reality has
let me down; it should have given me what I wanted; it should have permitted me
my desires. Which means: reality should have been what I wanted it to be, it
should have adapted itself to my emotions.

What is
the consequence of such an attitude? One turns off one’s mind, the mind goes
blank. One does not think anymore. In effect, one prefers instead to stamp
one’s foot at a recalcitrant reality. Any such refusal to face a problem in the
form 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.

The
third error of subjectivism is the phenomenon of passive wishing. That is the
phenomenon of holding a value or a desire, without attempting to discover
whether it is rational but merely contemplating the desire, focusing on its
emotional meaning to one, longing for it, and wishing that one possessed it.
Here again one is implicitly on the premise that one’s consciousness will
somehow alter reality, that thought and action are not necessary, that all that
is required is to desire, and reality, somehow will adjust and will provide it.

The
Extent to which a man sits passively and wishes is the extent to which he does
not think. The consequence of all three of these phenomena is the turning off
the thinking process. One evades of thinks critically, one sulks or thinks
critically, one passively wishes or thinks critically. To the extent that one
chooses any of these alternatives to thinking one is creating a mental havoc
that will progressively thwart one in any future attempt to use one’s mind
rationally.

 

c2)
Second precondition and critical thinking

The
second precondition of a good psycho-epistemology is the conviction that reason
is man’s sole means of achieving knowledge, and the rejection of any form of
mysticism.

 

Why the
acceptance of reason as man’s only means of achieving knowledge and knowing
reality, is a precondition of critical thinking and efficient thinking? To
accept reason is to simply recognize Aristotle law that A is A, that
contradiction cannot exist. It is to accept the fact that one’s rational
faculty, focused on existence, is the source of all one’s knowledge.

Mysticism means the view that reason is not
man’s exclusive means of knowledge, the view that emotions, or revelations, or
faith, or intuition, or some other non-rational source is a valid tool of
cognition

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