Russell Unpopular Essays Summary

Russell Unpopular Essays Summary-73
With respect to impartiality, thinking for oneself, the importance of feelings and relational skills, the connection with action, and the problem of generalizability, Russell shows a deep understanding of problems and issues which have been at the forefront of recent debate.The ideal of critical thinking is a central one in Russell's philosophy, though this is not yet generally recognized.His comments on critical thinking are scattered throughout numerous writings, never systematized into a comprehensive account; nor did Russell tend to use the now dominant terminology of "critical thinking".

With respect to impartiality, thinking for oneself, the importance of feelings and relational skills, the connection with action, and the problem of generalizability, Russell shows a deep understanding of problems and issues which have been at the forefront of recent debate.

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Such critical skills, grounded in knowledge, include: (i) the ability to form an opinion for oneself, which involves, for example, being able to recognize what is intended to mislead, being capable of listening to eloquence without being carried away, and becoming adept at asking and determining if there is any reason to think that our beliefs are true; (ii) the ability to find an impartial solution, which involves learning to recognize and control our own biases, coming to view our own beliefs with the same detachment with which we view the beliefs of others, judging issues on their merits, trying to ascertain the relevant facts, and the power of weighing arguments; (iii) the ability to identify and question assumptions, which involves learning not to be credulous, applying what Russell calls constructive doubt in order to test unexamined beliefs, and resisting the notion that some authority, a great philosopher perhaps, has captured the whole truth.

Russell reminds us that "our most unquestioned convictions may be as mistaken as those of Galileo's opponents." There are numerous insights in Russell's account which should have a familiar ring to those acquainted with the recent critical thinking literature.

The ideal of critical thinking is, for Russell, embedded in the fabric of philosophy, science, rationality, liberalism and education, and his views emerge as he discusses these and other themes.

Russell's conception of critical thinking involves reference to a wide range of skills, dispositions and attitudes which together characterize a virtue which has both intellectual and moral aspects, and which serves to prevent the emergence of numerous vices, including dogmatism and prejudice.

Russell's name seldom appears in the immense literature on critical thinking which has emerged in philosophy of education over the past twenty years.

Few commentators have noticed the importance of Russell's work in connection with any theory of education which includes a critical component.

First, Russell's language, especially his emphasis on judgment, suggests the point that critical skills cannot be reduced to a mere formula to be routinely applied.

Critical judgment means that one has to weigh evidence and arguments, approximate truth must be estimated, with the result that skill demands wisdom.

There are useful distinctions to be drawn among these, but it is often clear from the context that, despite terminological differences, the issue concerns what is now called critical thinking.

Russell uses a wide variety of terms including, occasionally, references to a critical habit of mind, the critical attitude, critical judgment, solvent criticism, critical scrutiny, critical examination, and critical undogmatic receptiveness.

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