Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Critical thought and truth

It is a staple of current popular thought that critical thinking is the most important skill a person can have. A person who cannot doubt and deconstruct ideas is not intelligent, but little more than a gullible moron.

Critical thought is indeed important to the thought process of evaluating truth. It treats all ideas, old and new alike as propositions that need to be tested. In doing so it attempts to separate fact from fiction by subjecting ideas to cross examination.

But critical thought is simply a tool. It allows us to look at ideas and test their consistency. It asks if a proposition is valid and can withstand the scrutiny of reason.

Critical thought however has limits to what it can discover. It can demonstrate ideas are valid. That is, that ideas are logically consistent. But the truth of an idea, the proposition that an idea possesses the quality of being true, is beyond the ability of critical thinking.

Critical thought at it's heart doubts all propositions. It subjects each and every proposal to the notion that an idea is false. It cannot, by process, prove something is true. It is not equipped for the task.

Religious ideas, like philosophical ones, are either true or they are not. Critical thinking can reveal inconsistencies in religious tenants, just like philosophical principles. As such critical thinking can help us with the evaluation of religious ideas by showing that if they are not valid, then they cannot be true.

But critical thinking cannot prove something to be true. It can only show that ideas are valid. In order to find truth, at som point the thinker must choose to believe. The transition from "possible truth" to actual truth requires an act of will.

That is what faith is at the intellectual level. The holding of valid ideas to be true. It is an act of will as much as reason. We can test our faith to reason, but we will not be able to believe by doubting. It is the wrong tool for the job.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

No comments: