Finding What and Why – A Rationale for Mindful Inquiry
Why am I writing about this? Because of my interest in investigative precepts about thinking critically? But why right now? Let's see … what have I been reading lately?
Methods of Critical Inquiry
Well, for the last number of months I've been reading detective novels by Michael Connelly. His Detective Bosch character is always contemplating the what and why of various homicides. Although obviously fictitious, Bosch's cases demonstrate excellent methods of critical inquiry, motivated by a search for the truth. The cases also show the good and bad aspects of rushing to conclusions.
I also just finished reading Molly Worthen's academic tome, Apostles of Reason. It supplies a near exasperating level of the historical what's and why's concerning her topic "The Crisis of Authority in American of Evangelicalism." Why did I find it frustrating? Did I have presuppositions about the outcomes of her analysis? Was I in a hurry for her to share her conclusions? It took about 250 pages before she got to them.
Inspiration and understanding often comes at unexpected times …
ONE (is the loneliest number) – Three Dog Night
That song just played and reminded me of a quote by Émile Chartier …"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when you have only one idea."
Connelly's Detective Bosch is always suspicious of conclusions provided by others and especially if there is only one source for the conjecture. It's not that he's against conjecture and sometimes circumstantial evidence is all you have, but he must fully checkout all sources and try to uncover the motivations behind them.
Investigation is a long and arduous process
Investigation is a long and arduous process … maybe having to read 250 pages of detailed scholarly information about who said and did what and when, drained me, but I have to say it did help me decide if I ultimately agreed with Worthen's drawn conclusions on a crisis of authority.
There's no getting around it … the critical thinker must walk through the muck of facts, conjecture, data, and fully research the motivations behind them all.
The consequence of outcomes obtained based on faulty judgement made can loom large. If something is really important … then think about it long and hard. Critical thinkers like the fictitious Detective Bosch and the real Molly Worthen, dive deep into their subject area to understand the motives and outcomes they uncover in the course of their inquiry.
It takes time to find the truth, don't rush it. Ask yourself questions…
What assumptions am I making?
What am I believing?
Should the source be questioned?
What if the opposite was truth?
What habits and assumptions are I forming, even as I investigate the situation?
Critical thinking requires mindfulness and I encourage all of us practice it.