Critical thinking enables us to carefully understand things which we might have otherwise failed to comprehend. To be able to carefully analyze the things we barely know is to be able to avoid believing false information and claims that are not backed-up by sufficient and substantial evidence which, in the end, can bring us to our worst failures. Part of our critical thinking capacity is our ability to become skeptical not only when the need arises but for the most part of our lives. It is through our skepticism in which we are able to align our thoughts with what is factual and to steer clear from falsehood. When we are skeptical, we do not easily accept or completely reject certain claims. Rather, skepticism requires us to “hold our judgment and think for the moment”, gathering our sensibilities so that we may be able to look at the bigger picture (Schotch, p. 189). Skepticism urges us to stand back and look at all the possible angles available to any given circumstance in order for us to acquire a more comprehensive understanding of the situation.
It demands the capacity to not easily succumb to the temptation of submitting to dogma and conventional wisdom for it is not always the case that these things give us the final answers to some of life’s most difficult questions. Even with the simplest questions, skepticism requires us to take the matter with prudence so that we can keep away from ending-up with overtly tricky solutions which can lead to further problems. Accepting claims without sufficient and substantial evidence can result to certain dangers in our lives. For example, completely accepting superstitious beliefs as part of the normal course of our lives can lead to conflicting situations where we are forced to decide on false dilemmas.
Believing that black cats which we encounter along the way is a sign of an impending danger, for instance, can delay us from doing what must be done. Apparently, not going to work just because a black cat came across our way to the office can result to a day’s worth of tasks not done which are then carried-over to the following day, giving us more workload for a day at the office which could have been done earlier. It can also make delays in our work progress; the same is true even for students who decide not to go to school just because of a “feline” encounter, in a manner of speaking. Believing what other people say just because they are leading authorities in their profession does not always give us the answers we are looking for. It is only proper for us to make use of the benefit of the doubt. Regardless of whether or not a person is an authority who spoke thus and thus, we should be skeptical of what they are trying to say especially when their claims are not fully supported by proper evidence. For instance, when a politician speaks of conscripting the young population as part of the greater agenda of defending the country from internal and external threats to the nation without citing any evidence to support his claim, we should not easily take his words hook, line and sinker.
The fact that there is not enough evidence provided can only suggest that something is terribly amiss with his proposition. The same can be said of those authorities who play on the emotions of other individuals just to prove his point. For example, religious figures in local communities who speak of the need to convert the society into their religion—especially when violence is involved—without providing sufficient and substantial reasons to do so defeats the very purpose of religion, which is to make people live peacefully in tolerance. To be skeptic is to not easily believe the utterances of religious authorities who lack the evidence to seal their propositions with conviction. Given the fact that every society subscribes to its own set of legends, it is easy to see why people are easily absorbed into those same lines of thinking. Since deviating from the status quo is like sticking-out like sore thumb, people resist the need to go against the flow let alone the need to question the major assumptions of the society where they live.
Instead of being skeptic about what their respective societies deem as conventional wisdom and ordinary beliefs, people oftentimes freely embrace such wisdom and beliefs so that they will not be treated quite differently from the majority. As a result, the chance to be skeptical about the things that are raised and reaffirmed by conventional means is nipped right at the bud. When people deprive themselves of being skeptic at such a young age, there is the high probability that they will carry such a trait through the remaining parts of their lives. Children who are taught and raised in an environment that does not provide ample room for questioning and skepticism will later on turn into adults who are firm in their beliefs such that not even the most obvious contradictions and absurdities can make them think otherwise. The worse part is that such an attitude is taught from one generation to the next, thereby creating a whole lineage of families who cannot and do not see the value of skepticism.
Such a situation enables baseless beliefs and fictitious claims to become institutionalized not only within the family but also within the larger society. It becomes dangerous as only very few people within that society may very well be aware of the realities behind each of those beliefs and claims, thus making them a minority with a very ineffective dissent unable to prove the people otherwise. As for the individual, belonging to that minority in a society that believes in beliefs that are not founded on evidence becomes a danger when there is intolerance to that dissent. While they are still able to remain skeptic and to practice their critical thinking skills, they become prone to harassments and erratic behaviors done by the “uncritical” majority for they are firm in their belief that all of the members of the society should think in much the same way as them. For instance, bigotry on the part of individuals who abhor homosexuals in their community may resort to heinous crimes done to those homosexuals who publicly exhibit their sexual orientation. The mere act of walking in public sidewalks becomes hazardous activity for those homosexuals as the threat to their safety is as ever-present as the gender intolerance of the public. Those who think that the belief that homosexuality can cause harms to the community without citing substantial and sufficient evidence will hardly view the homosexuals in their community as productive members.
On the contrary, they will view these individuals as hindrances to the growth of the society—eliminating them through whatever means possible for the so-called benefit of the community becomes a primary task at hand for the intolerant members of the community. Only the skeptic individuals in that society will question the repressive beliefs of the people and will understand that such beliefs can bring harm to the society instead of doing any good. Critical thinking allows us to widen our mental horizons inasmuch as it gives us the capacity to question the status quo and the conventional beliefs in our society.
By being skeptic about the unfounded social beliefs and claims, we become less prone to intolerance and prejudice. Being less prone to intolerance and prejudice gives us the higher wisdom to understand things in life which we would have otherwise been unable to learn had we decided to blend with the beliefs of the public majority.Work CitedSchotch, Peter K. “Skepticism and Epistemic Logic.” Studia Logica: An International Journal for Symbolic Logic 66.1 (2000): 187-98.