Using critical thinking when forming opinions
It feels like it’s been a while since I had an opportunity to write. If you’ve been paying attention, there’s a lot going on in the world, especially in the United States. The topic I want to touch on in this post is opinions.
There’s something to be said about our divisions. Perhaps we’ve always been divided since our inception yet we could, at times, find commonality.
Yet now, as in the past, we see our divisions. Maybe we see them more often and have access to see how deep these divisions can be.
People have used their opinions as a basis for their employment. We also have a rise in our electronic renaissance, it’s easy for anyone to send their opinions out into the world.
I do it all the time. I’m doing it right now with this post.
Foundations of an opinion
Opinions are judgments or viewpoints we hold that don’t necessarily have a basis in what we know to be true.
We form opinions based on our experiences, our culture, our belief systems, and sometimes based on the information or feedback we receive.
We don’t have to go far to hear opinions. Some opinions are based on specific reasons and some opinions are based on no reason at all.
It then becomes difficult to have a conversation when we can’t agree on what the facts are.
When I reference education, I don’t mean everyone has to go to college in order to have an informed opinion. People have a college education can also form uninformed opinions.
Critical thinking involves using reason and an ability to think of yourself within your environment. To think about how we impact our environment and how our environment impacts us. It sounds simple, yet producing this action is often difficult, it takes work.
I define critical thinking as our ability to view information and evaluate their accuracy leading to their stated conclusions. This helps us form opinions or support claims in a clear way.
Without this, we are held saying this is what we believe because it’s convenient for our beliefs.
Breaking uninformed opinions
With our ability to send thoughts out into the world with or without feedback, it seems to me that we’ve taken opinions to mean personal facts.
What I mean by this is a lot of people say I believe in X because I think X is true. Therefore, since I think X is true, it must be true.
When we become closed to new or contradictory information, it’s hard to have meaningful conversations with people. Conversation and exchanges of ideas break down when we cling to what we believe in the face of being wrong.
We can have our opinions yet it’s our responsibility to ourselves and others to have informed opinions. With informed opinions, we can explain and support our claims without resorting to saying “this is just what I believe”.
Critical thinking is the metaphorical bridge that connects what we see and learn to how we solve problems or challenges we face on a daily basis.
We can break a cycle of uninformed opinions by learning about a topic and explaining our positions from a position of learning and not a gut feeling.
If we come across a topic we don’t know about then it’s fine for us to say we don’t know enough about it to form an opinion. That is an application of critical thinking to acknowledge what we don’t know.
Our responsibility to ourselves, as critical thinkers, is to form the best possible opinion using the most accurate available to us at the time.
This enables us to form an opinion supported by facts we can point to when explaining our positions.
When we do have differences in opinion, preferably between informed individuals, these differences should be based on the difference in the interpretation of information not in the gut reactions based on protecting our egos.
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