Dec 27, 2022
The Interdependence of the Intellectual Virtues
Let us now consider the interdependence of these virtues, how hard it is to deeply develop any one of them without also developing the others.
Consider intellectual humility. To become aware of the limits of our knowledge we need the courage to face our own prejudices and ignorance. To discover our own prejudices in turn we must often empathize with and reason within points of view toward which we are hostile. To do this, we must typically persevere over a period of time, for learning to empathetically enter a point of view against which we are biased takes time and significant effort. That effort will not seem justified unless we have the faith in reason to believe we will not be “tainted” or “taken in” by whatever is false or misleading in the opposing viewpoint. Furthermore, merely believing we can survive serious consideration of an “alien” point of view is not enough to motivate most of us to consider [it] seriously. We must also be motivated by an intellectual sense of justice. We must recognize an intellectual responsibility to be fair to views we oppose. We must feel obliged to hear them in their strongest form to ensure that we do not condemn them out of our own ignorance or bias. At this point, we come full circle back to where we began: the need for intellectual humility.
Or let us begin at another point. Consider intellectual good faith or integrity. Intellectual integrity is clearly . . .
Dec 07, 2022
I would generalize as follows: just as the development of intellectual humility is an essential goal of critical thinking instruction, so is the development of intellectual courage, integrity, empathy, perseverance, fairmindedness, and confidence in reason. Furthermore, each intellectual (and moral) virtue in turn is richly developed only in conjunction with the others. Before we approach this point directly, however, a brief characterization of what I have in mind by each of these traits is in order:
Intellectual Courage: Having a consciousness of the need to face and fairly address ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints toward which we have strong negative emotions and to which we have not given a serious hearing. This courage is connected with the recognition that ideas considered dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally justified (in whole or in part) and that conclusions and beliefs inculcated in us are sometimes false or misleading. To determine for ourselves which is which, we must not passively and uncritically “accept” what we have “learned”. Intellectual Courage comes into play here, because inevitably we will come to see some truth in some ideas considered dangerous and absurd, and distortion or falsity in some ideas strongly held in our social group. We need courage to be true to our own thinking in such circumstances. The penalties for non-conformity can be severe.
Intellectual Empathy: Having a consciousness of the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others in order to genuinely understand them, which requires consciousness of our egocentric tendency to identify truth with our immediate . . .
Nov 21, 2022
The Intellectual and Moral Virtues of the Critical Person
Our basic ways of knowing are inseparable from our basic ways of being. How we think reflects who we are. Intellectual and moral virtues or disabilities are intimately interconnected. To cultivate the kind of intellectual independence implied in the concept of strong sense critical thinking, we must recognize the need to foster intellectual (epistemological) humility, courage, integrity, perseverance, empathy, and fairmindedness. A brief gloss on each will suggest how to translate these concepts into concrete examples. Intellectual humility will be my only extended illustration. I will leave to the reader’s imagination what sorts of concrete examples could be marshalled in amplifying the other intellectual virtues.
Intellectual Humility: Having a consciousness of the limits of one’s knowledge, including a sensitivity to circumstances in which one’s native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity to bias, prejudice, and limitations of one’s viewpoint. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than one actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the logical foundations, or lack of such foundations, of one’s beliefs.
To illustrate, consider this letter from a teacher with a Master’s degree in Physics and Mathematics, with 20 years of high school teaching experience in physics.
After I started teaching, I realized that I had learned physics by rote and that I really did not understand all I knew about physics. My thinking students asked me questions for which I always had the standard textbook answers, but for the first time it made me start thinking for myself, and I realized that these canned answers were not justified by my own thinking, and only confused my students who were showing some ability to think for themselves. To achieve my academic goals I had to memorize the thoughts of others, but I had never learned or been encouraged to learn to think for myself.
This is a good example of . . .
Nov 02, 2022
Teaching for “Strong Sense” Skills
The term “critical thinking” can be used in either a weak or a strong sense, depending upon whether we think of critical thinking narrowly, as a list or collection of discrete intellectual skills, or, more broadly, as a mode of mental integration, as a synthesized complex of dispositions, values, and skills necessary to becoming a fairminded, rational person. Teaching critical thinking in a strong sense is a powerful, and I believe necessary means to moral integrity and responsible citizenship.
Intellectual skills in and of themselves can be used either for good or ill, to enlighten or to propagandize, to gain narrow, self-serving ends, or to further the general and public good. The micro-skills themselves, for example, do not define fairmindedness and could be used as easily by those who are highly prejudiced as those who are not. Those students not exposed to the challenge of strong sense critical thinking assignments (for example, assignments in which they must empathetically reconstruct viewpoints that differ strikingly from their own) will not, as a matter of abstract morality or general good-heartedness, be fair to points of view they oppose, nor will they automatically develop a rationally defensible . . .
Oct 18, 2022
Many are tempted to separate affective and moral dimensions of learning from cognitive dimensions. They argue that the cognitive and affective are obviously separate since many intelligent, well-educated people lack moral insight or sensitivity and many less intelligent, poorly-educated, or uneducated people are morally good. By distinguishing “strong” and “weak” senses of the terms “critical thinking,” “moral integrity,” and “citizenship” Richard Paul suggests a novel answer to this objection.
Critical thinking, understood as skills alone separate from values, is often used to rationalize prejudice and vested interest. Moral Integrity and responsible citizenship understood merely as “good heartedness,” are themselves susceptible to manipulation by propaganda. The human mind, whatever its conscious good will, is subject to powerful, self-deceptive, unconscious egocentricity of mind. The full development of each characteristic – critical thought, moral integrity, and responsible citizenship – in its strong sense requires and develops the others, in a parallel strong sense. The three are developed together only in an atmosphere which encourages the intellectual virtues: intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual good faith or integrity, intellectual perseverance, intellectual fairmindedness, and faith in reason. The intellectual virtues themselves are interdependent.
Educators and theorists tend to approach the affective and moral dimensions of education as they approach all other dimensions of learning, as compartmentalized domains, and as a collection of learnings more or less separate from other learnings. As a result, they view moral development as more or less independent of cognitive development. “And why not!” one might imagine the reply. “Clearly there are highly educated, very intelligent people who habitually do evil and very simple, poorly-educated people who consistently do good. If moral development were so intimately connected to cognitive development, how could this be so?”
In this paper, I provide the outline of an answer to that objection by suggesting an intimate connection between critical thinking, moral integrity, and citizenship. Specifically, I distinguish a weak and a strong sense of each and hold that the strong sense ought to guide, not only our understanding of the nature of the educated person, but also our redesigning the curriculum.
There is little to recommend schooling that does not foster what I call intellectual virtues. These virtues include intellectual empathy, intellectual perseverance, intellectual confidence in reason, and an intellectual sense of justice (fairmindedness). Without these characteristics, intellectual development is circumscribed and distorted, a caricature of what it could and should be. These same characteristics are essential to moral judgment. The “good-hearted” person who lacks intellectual virtues will act morally only when morally grasping a situation or problem does not presuppose . . .
Oct 06, 2022
Sep 26, 2022
Using Cooperative Learning to Foster Dialogical and Dialectical Thinking
Cooperative Learning fosters dialogical and dialectical thinking since individual students will inevitably have different points of view and will need to argue out those differences. The key is students learning to assess their own thinking so that they can make logical choices among the various proposals and suggestions they meet in cooperative learning. For example, we want students in cooperative groups to Socratically question each other in a supportive way. We want them to develop confidence in their capacity to reason together to find insightful answers to important questions. To do this they must probe each other’s thinking for its support and implications. Along the way they must develop a sensitivity to what they and others are assuming. Most importantly if cooperative learning is not to be cooperative mislearning, it is essential that students learn how to bring intellectual standards into their work, how to hold themselves and their classmates to standards of good reasoning and analysis.
Assessing Dialogical and Dialectical Thinking
Since dialogical and dialectical activities focus on the process rather than the product of thinking, it is essential that both students and teachers learn how to assess thought processes. To do this it is essential that definite standards for thinking be established. Unfortunately, few teachers have had an education that emphasized the universal standards for thought. This deficiency is linked with the fact that the logic of thinking is not presently emphasized in schooling. Teachers must learn – while already in the classroom – how to distinguish and explain the difference between . . .
Sep 20, 2022
Access to literature is now increasingly at risk as censorship becomes more common in U.S. libraries. Of course, throughout history ideas have been censored by powerful groups interested in keeping people from considering ideas they themselves find intolerable. Today these attacks are coming primarily from radical conservative groups. But a preeminent conservative thinker, H.L. Menken once said:
I believe in liberty. And when I say liberty, I mean the thing in its widest imaginable sense — liberty up to the extreme limits of the feasible and tolerable. I am against forbidding anybody to do anything, or say anything, or think anything so long as it is at all possible to imagine a habitable world in which he would be free to do, say, and think it. The burden of proof, as I see it, is always upon the policeman, which is to say, upon the lawmaker, the theologian, the right-thinker. He must prove his case doubly, triply, quadruply, and then he must start all over and prove it again. The eye through which I view him is watery and jaundiced. I do not pretend to be “just” to him — any more than a Christian pretends to be just to the devil. He is the enemy of everything I admire and respect in this world — of everything that makes it various and amusing and charming. He impedes every honest search for the truth. He stands against every sort of good-will and common decency. His ideal is that of an animal trainer, an archbishop, a major general in the army. I am against him until the last galoot’s ashore (On Liberty, The Nation Magazine, Dec. 5, 1923, pp. 193–194).
For those concerned with censorship at our libraries, I recommend this article entitled: “We’ve moved backwards”: US Librarians Face Unprecedented Attacks Amid Right Wing Book Bans:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/sep/20/librarians-banned-books-attacks-library?CMP=share_btn_link (The Guardian, September 20, 2022).
The article illuminates the problem of censorship in our libraries; and it points out the burden librarians now face in attempting to defend our freedom to access literature that narrow-minded persons find offensive. Retired Texas school librarian Carolyn Foote has teamed up with other people to establish FReadom Fighters, a kind of support group for librarians in distress. How sad that we now need a support group for librarians trying to defend our right to ideas.
Without freedom to read ideas that may expand our minds, we are limited to the ideas we do have access to; when books are censored, the ideas we can consider are themselves limited. Rather than suppressing access to books, which only illuminates fear of ideas, we need to foster in students the critical thinking abilities and characteristics they need to open their minds and think within alternative views with intellectual courage and intellectual autonomy. We need to teach them tools for internalizing ideas that are reasonable, enlightening, deep, and which help us progress to higher ways of thinking and living. We need at the same time to teach students to reject ideas that do not stand the test of reason – ideas that are narrow, confining, self-serving, parochial, or which thrust us back into antediluvian or archaic mindsets. We do this by helping students develop confidence in reason, intellectual empathy and fairmindedness. We do this by expanding and enlarging the mind’s ideas through access to the best thinking. On the other hand, limiting access to ideas, which our censors would have us do, can only constrict already narrow, biased, prejudiced, and bigoted views.
Sep 12, 2022
Socratic Questioning and Dialogical Discussion
Dialogical discussion will naturally occur if teachers learn to stimulate student thinking through Socratic questioning. This consists in teachers wondering aloud about the meaning and truth of students’ responses to questions. The Socratic teacher models a reflective, analytic listener. One that actively pursues clarity of expression. One that actively looks for evidence and reasons. One that actively consider alternative points of view. One that actively tries to reconcile difference of viewpoints. One that actively tries to find out not just what people think but whether what they think is actually so.
Socratic discussion allows students to develop and evaluate their thinking in comparison to that of other students. Since inevitably students respond to Socratic questions within their own points of view, the discussion inevitably becomes multi-dimensional.
By routinely raising root questions and root ideas in a classroom setting, multiple points of view get expressed, but in a context in which the seminal ideas, which must be mastered to master the content, are deeply considered and their interrelationships established.
Over time, students learn from Socratic discussions a sense of intellectual discipline and thoroughness. They learn to appreciate the . . .
Aug 29, 2022
Part II: Pedagogy
Everyday life, in contrast to school, is filled with multilogical problems for which there are competing answers and so require dialogical thinking. Furthermore, even when subject matter can be algorithmically and monologically expressed, students need to approach that subject matter through dialogical thought which brings their own thinking into play. Teachers do not, by and large, recognize these facts, nor when it is pointed out to them, do they know how to take them into account in the classroom. Being habituated to didactic instruction, dialogical instruction that does not result in predictable “correct” answers is a puzzle to them. They do not know how to foster it. They do not know how to assess it. They do not know how to use it to aid students in mastering content.
There are four interrelated things teachers need to learn: 1) how to identify and distinguish multilogical from monological problems and issues, 2) how to teach Socratically, 3) how to use dialogical and dialectical thought to master content, and 4) how to assess dialogical and dialectical thought. I should add that one does not master these understandings overnight, but only by degrees over an extended period of time. They cannot be taught, for example, in a one-day workshop. Let us consider each of these four learnings in order.
Learning to Identify and Distinguish Multilogical from Monological Problems and Issues
This involves distinguishing problems for which there is an established step-by-step procedure for solving them . . .
Aug 15, 2022
Absolutistic Thinking in Early School Years
Young children do not recognize that they have a point of view. Rather, they tend to make absolute judgments about themselves and others. They are not usually given an opportunity to rationally develop their own thoughts. Their capacity to judge reasons and evidence is usually not cultivated. There intellectual growth is stunted.
As a result, young children uncritically internalize images and concepts of what they and others are like, of what, for example, Americans are like, of what atheists, Christians, communists, parents, children, business-people, farmers, liberals, conservatives, left-wingers, right-wingers, salespeople, foreigners, patriots, Palestinians, Kiwanis Club members, cheerleaders, politicians, Nazis, ballet dancer, terrorists, union leaders, guerrillas, freedom fighters, doctors, Marines, scientists, mathematicians, contactors, waitresses, are like. They then ego-identify with their conceptions, which they assume to be accurate, spontaneously using them as guides in their day-to-day decision making.
Children need assignments in multilogical issues to break out of their uncritical absolutism. They need to discover opposing points of view in non-threatening situations. They need to put their ideas into words, advance conclusions, and justify them. They need to discover their own assumptions as well as the assumptions of others. They need to discover their own inconsistencies as well as the inconsistencies of others. They do this best when they learn how to role-play the thinking of others, advance conclusions other than their own, and construct reasons to support them. Children need to do this for the multilogical issues – issues involving conflicting points of view, interpretations, and conclusions – that they inevitably face in their everyday lives. But they also need to do so for the disciplined monological questions that they must of necessity approach from within the context of their own undisciplined minds.
Because children are not exposed to dialogical and dialectical activities, children do not learn how to read, write, think, listen, or speak in such a way as to rationally organize and express what they believe. They do not learn how uncritically they are responding to the mass media . . .
July 20, 2022
This paper is divided into two sections. Part I is theoretical. In it, Richard Paul discusses the importance of dialogical and dialectical thinking. He argues that students learn best in dialogical and dialectical situations, when their thinking involves dialogue or extended exchange between different points of view or frames of reference. Part II is pedagogical. In it, Paul discusses what can be done in a classroom to engage student thought dialogically and dialectically. He discusses how to distinguish multilogical issues (those having many logics) from monological issues (those having one logic). He then discusses Socratic questioning as a way to effectively involve students in a discussion and engage their thinking about an issue or topic. The value of cooperative learning is then discussed. Paul stresses that dialectical discussions are disciplined, that students must “learn how to bring intellectual standards into their work, how to hold themselves and their classmates to standards of good reasoning and analysis.
Part I: Theory
When as the result of a trial, the jury comes to a verdict of guilty or innocent; when as a result of a political debate, a citizen decides to vote for one of the candidates; when as a result of reading the case that can be made for alternative political systems, one concludes that one is superior to the others; when as a result of hearing various sides of a family argument, one becomes persuaded that one side is more justified and accurate; when as a result of reading many reports on the need for educational reform, one is prepared to argue for one of them; when as a result of entertaining various representations of national security, one reasons to a position of one’s own; when after reading and thinking about various approaches to the raising of children, one concludes that one is better than the others; when after interacting with a person for a number of years and entertaining various conflicting interpretations of her character, one decides that she would make good marriage partner – one is reasoning dialectically.
Whenever students discuss their ideas, beliefs, or points . . .
Jul 13, 2022
Jul 03, 2022
Thank you to all who participated in our recent webinar: What Critical Thinking Can Do for Human Societies. Those of you who were not able to attend can view the webinar recording in our A/V Library here.
It is essential that humans embrace fairminded critical thinking for our survival and the health of the planet. In this latest webinar we explored some of the principles that guide ethical critical societies as well as essential values entailed in critical societies and embraced by critical persons. We also briefly discussed intrinsic human barriers to cultivating critical societies. I hope you will view the webinar recording, which included a rich, fruitful question and answer session; I welcome your feedback here.
Please join us for our regular webinars. See the schedule here.
Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive announcements of upcoming webinars, study groups and other community events. To do this, go to your profile page and open account options button at top right. There you will see an option to join our email list.
We hope to see you at our community webinars, and invite you to participate in the study groups we offer throughout the year - all focused on deepening your understanding of and ability to apply critical thinking in your life. We will announce our fall study group presently.
Jun 21, 2022
Jun 06, 2022
One final sobering thought. When, between 1917 and 1934, inductees into the armed forces were systematically tested using the Army Alpha Tests (an I.Q. test based on the Stanford Benet) It was estimated that the average U.S. citizen was probably somewhere between 13 or 14 years of age intellectually – the same intellectual age to which, I understand, most present day T.V. programming is geared. Can we conclude then that most North Americans are intellectually incapable of rising above childish reasoning, or should we rather hypothesize that as a nation both socially and scholastically we have not yet challenged most people to think for themselves beyond the most primitive levels? Are we, and if so will we remain, what William J. Lederer characterized us as being in the 1960’s, A Nation of Sheep? If Boyers, Sizer, Adler, Bloom and others are right, if the Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities, the International Educational Achievement Studies, the College Board, The Education Commission of the States, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and the Association of American Medical Colleges are right, then our overemphasis on “rote memorization and recall of facts” does not serve us well. We must exchange our traditional picture of knowledge and learning for one that generates and regards “active, independent, self-directed learning” so that students can “gather and assess data rigorously and critically”. We need to abandon “methods that make students passive recipients of information” and adopt those that transform . . .
May 31, 2022
Mindfulness is a term now showing up in various arenas of life, including education, business, and personal life. But what is mindfulness? How does it make sense to think of mindfulness as a useful term in our lives? Is the concept of mindfulness ambiguous, or is it clear and accessible as a transformative idea? Why do we need the term mindfulness, or do we? What does it add to our conceptual network of essential understandings? How does it help us, or does it help us, live at a higher level of self-fulfillment and concern for the common good? In short, how does adding the concept of mindfulness to our theory of mind help us live better?
These are the types of core questions critical thinkers ask when approaching new trends and fads in the language. In other words, they routinely ask questions like: How is this new term being used? Do these new terms improve upon how we have viewed things in the past? If so, how? And how might we therefore live in the future?
Before considering how the term mindfulness is now being used, we may begin our conceptual analysis by considering the term mindfulness, and asking what it might mean, logically, by taking apart the word itself. One possible interpretation is to think of mindfulness as having full control of one’s own mind (as in developing to the fullest one’s own mind, or in other words, achieving the fullness of one’s own mind). The concept of mindfulness may also imply being concerned to respect the rights and needs of others, as in being mindful of how your behavior affects people and other sentient creatures.
And though developing the capacity of one’s own mind and living an ethical life are essential to the rational, compassionate person, neither of these aims are apparently yet connected with the term mindfulness. Instead, it seems to focus on letting the mind go, accepting oneself unconditionally, and not being self-critical.
The concept of mindfulness originates from Buddhist teachings focused on the importance of living in the here and now, and on fully appreciating what is available to you in the moment. This concept has been brought into the mainstream through psychology, and refers to:
1. a technique in which one focuses one's full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them: The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
2. the mental state maintained by the use of this technique.
An article in Psychology Today provides a brief overview of mindfulness, and opens with this paragraph:
To live mindfully is to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. To be mindful is to observe and label thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body in an objective manner. Mindfulness can therefore be a tool to avoid self-criticism and judgment while identifying and managing difficult emotions.
Even the very brief overview above reveals significant contradictions and problems in current uses of the term mindfulness.
First, and of course, it is important to fully live in the moment and appreciate life’s simple everyday pleasures, such as laughter, a sunset, a smile, the scent of a flower, the budding language of a child, the sound of an owl in the night. And it is essential not to dwell unproductively on negative thoughts, including those in one’s past. We can and should certainly relax the mind for a given period of time each day; but our future, if not planned, will probably be less than satisfactory, and will likely not lead to self-fulfillment (which should connect with a reasonable conception of mindfulness). In other words, though we do want to appreciate and fully live in the moment, it is impossible not to anticipate the future to some degree, and we undoubtedly want to plan our futures according to reasonable goals and principles.
Second, it is elemental to “observe and label thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body in an objective manner.” Naturally this connects with critical thinking since objectivity is a primary intellectual standard, or critical thinking standard. But this point contradicts the last sentence in the Psychology Today overview, which focuses on avoiding “self-criticism and judgment while identifying and managing difficult emotions.” Certainly, self-criticism – in the sense of unproductively disparaging oneself – is not helpful and can lead to mental health problems. But self-critique, which is sometimes confused to be self-criticism as described above, is essential to living a reasonable life. And human beings continually make judgments, though the quality of those judgments will vary. Good judgment is required for identifying and managing all emotions, including difficult ones.
In the final analysis, it is through the tools of critical thinking that we can skillfully examine uses of the term “mindfulness,” or indeed any term whatsoever.
When we take critical taking seriously, we come to see that it is essential to live in the moment, appreciate the good things in one’s life, and be aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and desires. But if we are to live a reasonable, ethical life, we must appropriately critique our own thoughts and behaviors. To live in the moment and find appreciation in the joys of everyday living, some people feel the need to engage in such things as meditation. And adequate amounts of relaxation are essential to a reasonable lifestyle. At the same time, we must learn, through discipline and commitment, to command the thoughts, feelings, and desires that are controlling us. For this we need tools of criticality. Yet critical thinking continues to mainly be ignored in human societies, as it seems to be ignored in current uses of mindfulness (with its numerous contradictions).
To learn more about the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and desires, I suggest that you work through the activities in our academy:
To go further, and learn to command the egocentric and sociocentric tendencies that keep people from appreciating the good things in our lives, work through the activities in the wall barriers:
The definitions of mindfulness in this blog were taken from dictionary.com:
You can read the rest of the Psychology Today article here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/mindfulness
(This article is part of the forthcoming book Critical Thinking Therapy for Mental Health by Linda Elder.)
May 20, 2022
In 1860 the average North American spent little more than a year in school, and by 1900 spent little more than 2 years. In 1880, 17 percent of the population still could not read or write. Increasingly in this time period the question of empire was before the public and the electorate was expected to decide, for example, whether or not it was justifiable to “rule a people without their consent”. Those, like Senator Beveridge, who favored imperialism, as did the majority of voters, easily formulated a logic whose fallaciousness as not penetrated by the voting majority:
The opposition tells us that we ought not to govern a people without their consent. I answer: The rule of liberty, that all just government derives its authority from the consent of the governed, applies only to those who are capable of self-government. I answer: We govern the Indians without their consent, we govern our territories without their consent, we govern our children without their consent . . . Shall we save them . . . to give them a self-rule of tragedy? It would be like giving a razor to a babe and telling it to shave itself. It would be like giving a typewriter to an Eskimo and telling him to publish one of the great dailies of the world. (US Senator Albert Beveridge, 1899.)
Senator Beveridge could link, without fear of significant dissent from an electorate of thinking people, the voice of liberty, Christ’s gospel, and our profit. . . .
May 16, 2022
Our hearts go out to the victims of the mass shootings in Buffalo, NY, Laguna Woods, CA, and all the places in which innocent people have been murdered by ideologues, or by mentally ill people, throughout the past few years. These murders have now become so routine that we seem to become numbed to them, unless of course we are directly affected by them. The families of those killed in these mass shootings systematically call for us to do away with the bias, prejudice, hatred that underlies these crimes. Though we know that mass murderers act for differing reasons, based in differing assumptions and world views, we also know that their reasoning which leads them to these heinous crimes is fundamentally and dangerously flawed.
If we lived in a world where fairminded critical thinking were advanced and actively cultivated, rather than being given lip service, we would be able to better address this problem at a foundational and systemic level. But egocentric and sociocentric thinking, the opposites of rational, reasonable thinking, remain the norm in human societies, as has been the case throughout human history. Group think is rampant at all levels of human society, from which prejudice and bias emerge. Distorted views keep us from seeing things as they are, and many social networking sites deliberately or inadvertently encourage these distorted views. Supremacist forms of thinking seem to be on the rise across the world. How sad that it is taking humans so long to understand and embrace basic ethical principles that all reasonable persons should readily give assent to.
To learn more about the problems of prejudice and bias running through human life, see excerpts from Liberating the Mind: https://community.criticalthinking.org/viewDocument.php?doc=../content/library_for_everyone/128/LiberatingtheMind-OvercomingSociocentricThoughtandEgocentricTendencies.pdf&page=1
Until we do begin to actively foster, throughout schooling and society, understanding and embodiment of intellectual virtues such as intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy, confidence and reason, and fairmindedness, we will not be able to address the root problem of prejudice in human cultures. It is this prejudice, through distorted thinking, that frequently leads some imbalanced people to take the lives of innocent persons due to their skin color, religious creed, or country of origin.
Until we do achieve fairminded critical societies, which appears to be a long way into the distant future for the human species if it ever is to occur, we can address the problem of mass murderers, to a large degree, through reasonable gun legislation. It is the responsibility of our politicians to protect the public interest. By refusing to pass reasonable gun laws, politicians reveal that they are not concerned with protecting innocent people. They themselves are therefore implicated in these crimes. We the people are also to blame for failing to elect and support politicians concerned to act according to the common good who would pass reasonable laws in our common interest. How sad it is that, after the imbalanced murderers complete their sick, distorted “missions,” and the politicians once again fail in their duty to protect innocent people, the grandmothers, the parents, the young people stopping off at the store for a few items, or those attending church, lose their lives, and their families are left with grief, torment and anguish. This pattern we are now witnessing again and again, with the same calls for change, and with nothing changing. It is beyond time to enact preventative gun laws which will not bring back the innocent victims of sick people with cart blanche to weapons of mass destruction. But it will greatly reduce the chances of further such atrocities and further sadness.
May 11, 2022
Let us not forget that schools in the US were established precisely to transmit by inculcation self-evident true beliefs conducive to right conduct and successful “industry.” The best seller of 17th Century North America was Michael Wigglesworth’s Day of Doom, a detailed description of the terrifying fate of condemned sinners. To questions this fate was heresy. In 1671, governor Sir Williams Berkeley of Virginia could say with pride:
. . . there are no free schools, nor printing in Virginia, for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy . . . into the world, and printing has divulged them . . . God keep us from both!
“Free schools” were set up, as in Massachusetts (1647), “to teach all children to read and write . . . [to combat] that old deluder Satan,” or, (1675) to ensure that “children and servants” are “catechized.” In Plymouth Colony (1671) “Education of Children” was mandated because “Children and Servants” were “ . . . in danger [of] growing Barbarous, Rude, or Stubborn” and hence were becoming “pests.” This was hardly the climate in which analytic thinking and critical questioning could thrive. All questioning began and ended with a “Nil desperandum, Christo duce.” (Don’t despair, Christ is leading us.) This sense of having a mission or mandate from God has discouraged self-reflective questioning. At times it has generated arrogant self-delusion.
As late as 1840, U.S. schools taught the ordinary students nothing but the three R’s, some basic catechism, and a smattering of patriotic history. The school term was short and attendance irregular. In 1800, for example, the average American attended school only 82 days out of their entire lives. By 1840 it has increased to only 208 days.
When the time in school increased, it was not because of a demand for critical thinking but for better reading and writing, skills increasingly necessary in the commercial and industrial activities of . . .
May 01, 2022
Many people across the world are justifiably horrified at the destruction, murders, rapes, and other terrifying actions in Ukraine at the hands of the Russian government and soldiers operating under their direction. Unfortunately, our usual human inclination is to uncritically accept the agreed-upon story fed to us through mainstream media.
I just read an excellent interview of Noam Chomsky by C.J. Polychroniou entitled Noam Chomsky: Russia’s War Against Ukraine Has Accelerated the Doomsday Clock (March 30, 2022. Truthout), in which Chomsky delineates some of the complexities in this war and the lead-up to the war. In this interview Chomsky also points out some of the responsibilities of the United States government that remain unfulfilled, leading to tremendous suffering. Toward the end of the interview, Chomsky says:
“We live in dangerous times. We may recall that the Doomsday Clock abandoned minutes and shifted to seconds under Trump, and is now set at 100 seconds to midnight — termination. The analysts who set the clock give three reasons: nuclear war, environmental destruction, and collapse of democracy and a free public sphere, which undermines the hope that informed and aroused citizens will compel their governments to overcome the dual race to disaster.
The war in Ukraine has exacerbated all three of these disastrous tendencies. The nuclear threat has sharply increased. The dire necessity of sharply reducing fossil fuel use had been reversed by adulation of the destroyers of life on Earth for saving civilization from the Russians. And democracy and a free public sphere are in ominous decline.
It is all too reminiscent of 90 years ago, though the stakes are far higher today. Then, the U.S. responded to the crisis by leading the way to social democracy, largely under the impetus of a revived labor movement. Europe sank into fascist darkness.
What will happen now is uncertain. The one certainty is that it is up to us.”
I highly recommend this interview to you, which you can read here: https://chomsky.info/20220330/
Apr 27, 2022
In this paper, originally published in National Forum (1985), Richard Paul discusses the history of education in the United States from the standpoint of critical thinking. He stresses the traditional U.S. emphasis, evident from the earliest days of education, on passive learning, training, and indoctrination. He begins with a characterization of 17th century attitudes and then traces the dominant view of education from initial European settlers to 20th century critiques of education.
The “critical thinking movement” is beginning to have a palpable effect on the day-to-day life of American schooling. California is a bellwether in this regard. Four years ago, the massive 19-campus California State University system instituted a graduation requirement in critical thinking intended to achieve:
. . . an understanding of the relationship of language to logic, leading to the ability to analyze, criticize, and advocate ideas, to reason inductively and deductively, and to reach factual or judgmental conclusions based on sound inferences drawn from unambiguous statements of knowledge or belief.
Within two years the even larger community college system established a parallel requirement. And now, two years further down the line, the California State Department of Education is preparing to test all 8th grade students in three areas: reading and written expression, math, and social studies. Remarkably, and representing a strikingly new testing emphasis, approximately one-third of the items were designed to test critical thinking skills. David Gordon, California’s Associate Superintendent of Public Instruction, recently said that he considered the state at the very beginning of a series of reforms in this direction, including textbooks, curriculum, staff development, and teacher education.
Until recently the movement was no more than a small scattered group of educators . . .
Apr 15, 2022
I invite you to view the video of Simon Rilling’s recent interview with me, which you can find here in our community:
This will also be made available soon with a German translation through Simon’s team.
Thank you, Simon, for inviting me to discuss theory of the human mind, with emphasis on egocentric and sociocentric thinking as barriers to criticality. We need more interviewers and reporters interested in advancing fairminded critical societies through their work, like Simon.
Apr 01, 2022
There Is a Need to Foster Critical Thinking in the Education of the Ordinary Citizen
There is little hope that the leaders of powerful nations and groups will of their own volition take ethical considerations seriously in formulating policies and practices that bear on the well-being and development of all. They must be pressured by those not deeply involved in the struggle for political and economic power. But such persons are traditionally ill-prepared to exercise the critical thinking necessary to address the problem of development. Though the relevant ethical principles have been formulated, ordinary people have not been taught those formulations. They have not been encouraged to seek out sources of information not readily accessible in their national public media nor in how to analyze the media critically. They have not developed the conceptual sophistication to see through the bias of their own groups’ conceptualizations.
Unless educators in all countries can begin to . . .
Mar 17, 2022
There Are No Practical Incentives for the Powerful to Comply
If actions speak louder than words, then the powerful nations and groups (for example, international corporations) tell us that there is no reason to limit the pursuit of their vested interests, profit, and advantage because of the demands of ethical principles.
The overwhelming majority of nations have condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for example, but this condemnation has not persuaded the Soviets to withdraw. The overwhelming majority of nations and the World Court have condemned the U.S.-sponsored invasion of Nicaragua, but the condemnation has not persuaded the U.S. government to desist. Amnesty International and other organizations have documented the extensive use of torture, assassination and terrorism by many nations, but have failed to significantly reduce these ethical violations. Although powerful nations and groups attempt to maintain a positive image in the world press, clearly this image-fostering has little to do with ethical scruples or a willingness to respond to ethical critique. Furthermore, powerful nations spend a great deal of money on covert actions of their intelligence wings, enabling them to evade responsibility for much of their own unethical behavior. Hence the fact, for example, that Idi Amin was brought to power by collaborative efforts by the CIA, MOSSAD (Israel), and the MI6 (Britain) is not common knowledge, even though scholarly documentation is readily available. Consequently, nations can easily take a strong public stand condemning terrorism while financing it with a lot of money and technical expertise.
The amoral and immoral activities of powerful nations and groups, whether overt or covert, are often at odds with the social, political, and economic development of less powerful nations and groups, so there is a crucial link between the manner in which power is obtained and used and the problems of third-world development.
Do not assume I am implying that the leaders of powerful governments and groups are self-consciously or deliberately amoral or immoral in the formulations of their policies and decisions. This I do not intend or believe. Rather my view is that many who rise to political and economic power have highly developed their capacity for rationalizing their vested interests and ignoring viewpoints or lines of reasoning which question what they do. Most discussions over pressing policy decisions focus on ways and means for advancing specific interests; to raise ethical issues in such discussions would seem to the participants “irrelevant”, “idealistic”, or “hopelessly philosophical”. If nothing else, groups vying for power would hesitate to restrict their own use of power, based on . . .
Mar 14, 2022
Many of you are new to critical thinking. There are many resources available in our libraries and in the Academy for you to develop your understanding of critical thinking. But where should you begin? You can enter critical thinking at almost any point. For an overview of our framework for critical thinking, I recommend that you view this video first:
Then to deepen your understanding of critical thinking fundamentals, I suggest that you read the excerpts in these publications:
The Miniature Guide To Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools:
The Thinkers Guide To Analytic Thinking
The Thinkers Guide To The Human Mind
Then you should begin to work through the activities in the academy – see the main blue menu, that you can reach from any page in the community when you click on the thinker in the top left corner.
Once you have watched the video and read the publications above, you will recognize the Wheel of Reason in the Academy as the elements of reasoning, Criteria Corner in the Academy as intellectual standards, Virtuous Virtues as intellectual virtues. The Triangle of Thinking, Feelings, And Desires and The Wall of Barriers in the Academy focuses on material found in the Thinker’s Guide to the Human Mind. If you want to develop as a critical thinker, it is essential for you to work through activities that force you to see your thinking in a new light, to find problems in your thinking, and to find paths for correcting those problems.
Once you have watched this video, and completed these readings, as well as the activities in these sections of the academy, you are in a good position then to go anywhere in the library and the Academy to further develop your thinking. You will want to watch all of the Richard Paul videos that you find in our audiovisual library, since Richard is the originator of our work and our school of thought.
I also strongly recommend that you attend our bi-weekly webinars – you will find the schedule here:
I hope that you will also attend our workshops and summer conference to learn from our scholars and fellows in a more intense setting – see www.criticalthinking.org for information on these events, or email email@example.com. Registration fees are required for these workshops and our conference.
Learning critical thinking is like learning any complex skills set. You need integrated, sound theory that you then apply regularly in your life. Our community is designed to help you learn this skill set – you will need to do the work to incorporated the ideas into your thinking.
I hope to see you soon in one of our webinars. All are welcomed.
Mar 01, 2022
In this paper, presented at the International Conference on Hie Ethics of Development, held at the University of Costa Rica (1987), Richard Paul argues that mass education is essential to ethically sensitive economic and social development. There are two main reasons Paul advances to support this view: 1) politicians, despite their rhetoric to the contrary, do not typically respond to ethical concerns unless those concerns square with their vested interests, and 2) the mass media in each country — the main source of information regarding development for most people — must be critically analyzed to understand the ethical issues implicit in social and economic development options. As Paul puts it, "neither the leaders of powerful nations and groups nor their followers” are likely to analyze or apply the ethical principles relevant to development in a way likely to do justice to those principles. The thinking of the leaders verges toward manipulations, rationalizations, and narrow ways-and-means analysis while the thinking of the followers tends toward naivete, closedmindedness, and intellectual servitude fostered by their restricted sources of information, limited access to education, and traditional egocentric and ethnocentric prejudices."
We Have Appropriate Ethical Principles
The problem of ethics in economic development is neither verbal nor philosophical, but operational. It isn’t that appropriate ethical principles have never been formulated. On the contrary, one could easily identify and set out appropriate ethical principles. The problem is, rather, how to make those principles morally operational, to put them into action when policies and decisions are formulated and implemented by persons and groups in power.
In the next few paragraphs I will provide an incomplete but illustrative list of some moral principles relevant to economic development. For example, the U.S. Catholic bishops, in a pastoral letter on the economy, gave the following “basic and social moral principles” as “guidelines for economic life:”
1) Every economic decision and institution should be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person. The economy must be at the service of all people . . .
Feb 25, 2022
We are now being bombarded with information and opinion about the war in Ukraine, which is well underway. How sad for the people of Ukraine. The mainstream news in the US, fundamentally highlights Vladimir Putin's unscrupulous behavior and places blame for the war on Russia. Putin’s dictatorial attitude may seem clear, but it is important that we understand the inside story insofar as we can, to understand the entire picture, in so far as we can. Only in this way can we reach a reasonable position on the war.
When reasoning through any significant problem and making any significant decision, it is vital to gather all information relevant to the situation prior to acting. This is something we recognize when we seek to advance as critical thinkers. We “teach” it to our students. We hopefully apply it explicitly at least to some degree in our lives.
But do you use the tools of critical thinking to reason through political issues? How good are we humans at doing this?
If gathering all important relevant information is essential to reasoning critically in a situation, how do we gather information relevant to understanding what is really happening, in, for instance, the war in Ukraine? How do we learn about, or gather information about:
1. the various Russian viewpoints relevant to the issue, such as those of Putin, other Russian government officials, and the Russian people?
2. the various Ukrainian viewpoints relevant to the issue, such as those of its President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, other Ukrainian government officials, and the Ukrainian people?
3. the differing factions within the country and how they line up either with Russia or the United States, and the rest of the world?
4. how the outside world views the situation?
5. the United States’ interest in Ukraine?
6. Putin’s interest in Ukraine? (In other words, what is it about Ukraine that appeals to each of these countries?)
7. the actual history of Ukraine?
To answer these and related questions and begin to get the full picture of what is going on in the Ukraine war, or indeed any war, recognize that you cannot count on mainstream news companies to give you that picture. In searching for alternative perspectives, I readily found these stories (and this is only a beginning; we need to continue our search for relevant information):
Bernie Sanders’s Smart Take on NATO, Ukraine, and Diplomatic Options
Everyone Loses in the Conflict Over Ukraine, Ralph Nader
Is It Too Late to Avert a War with Russia?, Dee Knight
Eyewitness Reports Indicate Ukrainian Army Fired First Shots in War with Russia, Don Hank and Jeremy Kuzmarov
I do not intend in this blog to vouch for any of these perspectives, nor take a political position. Rather I want to stress the importance of being generally aware of media bias and turning to alternative news sources for a fuller picture of political events.
If you find other alternative perspectives that help us fully understand what is going on in the Ukrainian war, please add your comments to this blog.
To understand more about media bias and propaganda, visit https://community.criticalthinking.org/viewDocument?doc=../content/library_for_everyone/55/FactOverFake.pdf&page=1 for a partial copy of our Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias and Propaganda.
For a full copy of our new revised version, visit our publisher for Fact Over Fake: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias and Propaganda.
Feb 22, 2022
Question: National standards will result in national accountability. What is your vision for the future?
Paul: Most of the national assessment we have done thus far is based on lower-order learning and thinking. It has focused on what might be called surface knowledge. It has rewarded the kind of thinking that lends itself to multiple choice machine-graded assessment. We now recognize that the assessment of the future must focus on higher—not lower—order thinking, that it must assess more reasoning than recall, that it must assess authentic performances, students engaged in bona fide intellectual work.
Our problem is in designing and implementing such assessment. In November of this last year, Gerald Nosich and I developed and presented, at the request of the U.S. Department of Education, a model for the national assessment of higher order thinking. At a follow-up meeting of critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and testing scholars and practitioners, it was almost unanimously agreed that it is possible to assess higher-order thinking on a national scale. It was clear from the commitments of the Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce that such an assessment is in the cards. [See figure 1, “Today's and Tomorrow’s Schools”.]
The fact is we must have standards and assessment strategies for higher order thinking for a number of reasons. First, assessment and accountability are here to stay. The public will not accept less. Second, what is not assessed is not, on the whole, taught. Third, what is mis-assessed is mistaught. Fourth, higher-order thinking, critical thinking abilities, are increasingly crucial to success in every domain of personal and professional life. Fifth, critical thinking research is making the cultivation and assessment of higher-order thinking do-able.
The road will not be easy, but if we take the knowledge, understanding, and insights we have gained about critical thinking over the last twelve years, there is much that we could do in assessment that we haven’t yet done at the level of the individual classroom teacher, at the level of the school system, at the level of the state, and at the national level. Of course we want to do this in such a way as not to commit the “Harvard Fallacy”, the mistaken notion that because graduates from Harvard are very successful, that the teaching at Harvard necessarily had something to do with it. It may be that the best prepared and well connected students coming out of high school are going to end up as the best who graduate from college, no matter what college they attend. We need to focus our assessment, in other words, on how much value has been added by an institution. We need to know where . . .
Feb 15, 2022
Question: One important aim of schooling should be to create a climate that evokes children’s sense of wonder and inspires their imagination to soar. What can teachers do to “kindle” this spark and keep it alive in education?
Paul: First of all, we kill the child's curiosity, her desire to question deeply, by superficial didactic instruction. Young children continually ask why. Why this and why that? And why this other thing? But we soon shut that curiosity down with glib answers, answers to fend off rather than respond to the logic of the question. In every field of knowledge, every answer generates more questions, so that the more we know the more we recognize we don’t know. It is only people who have little knowledge who take their knowledge to be complete and entire. If we thought deeply about almost any of the answers which we glibly give to children, we would recognize that we don’t really have a satisfactory answer to most of their questions. Many of our answers are no more than a repetition of what we as children heard from adults. We pass on the misconceptions of our parents and those of their parents. We say what we heard, not what we know. We rarely join the quest with our children. We rarely admit our ignorance, even to ourselves.
Feb 11, 2022
One of the great barriers to the creation of fairminded critical societies is that all of us see ourselves as fairminded critical thinkers. We all see ourselves, when it comes right down to it, as the source of ultimate truth. In other words, to get to the truth, just ask me. We assume our way of thinking to be best, our values the highest, our perspective the most well-rounded.
Republicans and Democrats alike see themselves as critical thinkers. Atheists and Christians, teachers and administrators, employers and the employed, husband and wife, parent and (at least grown) child—all see themselves as critical thinkers.
The tendency to lack insight into our ignorance is part and parcel of the human mind. Everyone has this tendency, whatever his or her level of intellectual skill or ability. The phenomenon is similar in us all, from highly trained medical doctors and scientists, to factory workers and farmhands.
Though the development of critical thinking requires diligent practice and deep commitment, as does the development of any complex skill set, people tend to think their thinking is good enough without practice. Most people readily admit, if asked, that they know little or nothing about what it takes to play the violin, because they have never studied it. But they do not take the same approach to thinking. They would not say that they know little or nothing about thinking because they haven’t studied it. Instead, they would uncritically defend their thinking.
The problem is that thinking, the cultivation of fairminded critical thinking, is not studied seriously enough in human societies. Critical thinking is rarely . . .
Feb 01, 2022
Question: But there are many areas of concern in instruction, not just one, not just critical thinking, but communication skills, problem solving, creative thinking, collaborative learning, self-esteem, and so forth. How are districts to deal with the full array of needs? How are they to do all of these rather than simply one, no matter how important that one may be?
Paul: This is the key. Everything essential to education supports everything else essential to education. It is only when good things in education are viewed superficially and wrongly that they seem disconnected, a bunch of separate goals, a conglomeration of separate problems, like so many bee bees in a bag. In fact, any well-conceived program in critical thinking requires the integration of all of the skills and abilities you mentioned above. Hence, critical thinking is not a set of skills separable from excellence in communication, problem solving, creative thinking, or collaborative learning, nor is it indifferent to one’s sense of self-worth.
Question: Could you explain briefly why this is so?
Paul: Consider critical thinking first. We think critically when we have at least one problem to solve. One is not doing good critical thinking, therefore, if one is not solving any problems. If there is no problem there is no point in thinking critically. The “opposite” is also true. Uncritical problem solving is unintelligible. There is no way to effectively solve problems unless one thinks critically about the nature of the problems and of how to go about solving them. Thinking our way through a problem to a solution, then, is critical thinking, not something else. Furthermore, critical thinking, because it involves our . . .
Jan 27, 2022
Everyone lives according to principles which we can see manifest in their behavior. These principles are based on personal guides for conduct and are usually at the unconscious level. But these principles are not necessarily rooted in a “guiding sense of the requirements and obligations of right conduct,” which is a different use of the term principle.
What principles guide your thinking, your decisions, and your actions? To what degree do you control these principles? To what degree do you even know what these principles are? Can you identify them in your thinking? What would other people say your principles are, based on what they see in your behavior?
In his autobiography,Benjamin Franklin presents a list of principles he had developed over time and aspired to live in accordance with.
Here is an excerpt from his book which illuminates how a person might conceptualize principles upon which to live and then hold himself or herself accountable to adhere to them:
PLAN FOR ATTAINING MORAL PERFECTION
It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish'd to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employ'd in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent . . .
Jan 24, 2022
In this interview for Think magazine (April '92). Richard Paul provides a quick overview of critical thinking and the issues surrounding it: defining it, common mistakes in assessing it, and its relation to communication skills, self-esteem, collaborative learning, motivation, curiosity, job skills for the future, national standards, and assessment strategies.
Question: Critical thinking is essential to effective learning and productive living. Would you share your definition of critical thinking?
Paul: First, since critical thinking can be defined in a number of different ways consistent with each other, we should not put a lot of weight on any one definition. Definitions are at best scaffolding for the mind. With this qualification in mind, here is a bit of scaffolding: critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better. Two things are crucial: 1) critical thinking is not just thinking, but thinking which entails self-improvement and 2) this improvement comes from skill in using standards by which one appropriately assesses thinking. To put it briefly, it is self-improvement (in thinking) through standards (that assess thinking).
To think well is to impose discipline and restraint on our thinking—by means of intellectual standards—in order to raise our thinking to a level of “perfection” or quality that is not natural or likely in undisciplined, spontaneous thought. The dimension of critical thinking least understood is that of intellectual standards. Most teachers were not taught how to assess thinking through standards; indeed, often the thinking of teachers themselves is very "undisciplined" and reflects a lack of internalized intellectual standards.
Question: Could you give me an example?
Paul: Certainly . . .
Jan 18, 2022
Happiness is a state of mind that can be achieved, not every minute of every day, not at every time of life, of course, but as an overall orientation to life. It entails feelings of pleasure, contentment and joy. And it is tied to higher purposes worth achieving and worth living for.
When happiness does not come naturally to you, you will need to think critically about your life to determine how to achieve higher degrees of happiness, which includes pursuing your own needs and desires, while being concerned with contributing to the common good.
When was the last time you felt happy, contented, joyful? What were you doing? Were you alone or with someone? Write out your answer with details. [Realize that if you are experiencing a period of grief due to, for instance, the loss of a loved one, you will not expect to be happy and joyful until the grief subsides over some period of time.]
What do you want to . . .