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dadmonson

How Can I Improve My Thinking?

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Many people on here write so eloquently and seem to know everything.  I remember first coming on this forum when I was having trouble debating a Marxist on another forum.  I posted the argument the Marxist was making on here and the members of this forum dissected and picked apart that argument like it was child's play.  I want to be like that.    I want to be able to find answers through reason instead of having to look up what people such as Leonard Peikoff said on a topic or post a question on here about it (I often play devil's advocate).  I want to have more structured thoughts and be able to put things more eloquently in my own words and write persuasively, instead of just quoting from Ayn Rand.

 

Does anybody here have any advice for me? Has anybody here intentionally improved their thinking?  If so, how?  Are there any specific exercises I can do?  Book recommendations would also be appreciated.  I don't have too much time to devote to this though since I'm in school (finance/accounting not philosophy).

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If you aren't especially familiar with various logical fallacies yet, getting to know them better may be useful. Tons of bad arguments ultimately rest on these basic errors and recognizing them being employed can quickly cut through the nonsense.

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Leonard Peikoff does a some audio presentations that you may find useful.

The Art of Thinking,

Objective Communication

Introduction to Logic, would be beneficial per bluecherry's observation,

 

Greg Salmieri's Outline of Epistemology mentions that while the goal of the course is not an improvement in thinking, if you implement some of the ideas from the course, should result in better thinking.

 

These lectures are available on the ARI website, and some of them may be available for free on the campus website.

 

 

Starting with what you know, when you go to express it, written or verbal, are the terms you are using clear to you, or somewhat fuzzy approximates of what you mean. If you find what you are stating is ambiguous or not fully clear to yourself, can you restate it in clearer terminology?

 

Quoting Ayn Rand is fine for precision.

Following it up with an example that concertizes the quote can help provide it with more depth, and automatize your ability to state it in your own words.

Providing a contrasting example, when appropriate, can help as well.

 

 

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You seem to believe, by the nature of your questions, that you can improve method (your function in thinking)  without reference to content (what you think about).  Consciousness is secondary to existence - that means, there is not thinking without content based in sense perception.

 

I was a Rand fan for many years before I could read something like your post and see what I mentioned above as an immediate analysis.  I can tell you what helped me in the last 12 years during which I have been retired and seriously studying.  I listened to Peikoff's old audio courses on western philosophy and supplemented with reading on Stanford's philosophy website, often linked to primary source material.  I then memorized a western philosophy timeline and matched the thinkers to the list of philosophical concepts (idealism, rationalism, empiricism, stoicism, skepticism, etc.) I had studied.

 

Point #1 - the value you gain is directly proportional to the time you spend with CONTENT not METHOD.  Point #2 - stop believing the issue is who said what - the fact that Rand or Peikoff wrote about the idea is not relevant to the truth or falsehood of the idea because, again, existence is primary to consciousness.  Giving due credit to the originator of an idea is a legal/political/ethical issue - it is only a metaphysical or epistemological issue as a derivative of the Law of Identity. I support dreamweaver's ideas in his post too.  Hope this helps.

Edited by jacassidy2

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I want to be able to find answers through reason instead of having to look up what people such as Leonard Peikoff said on a topic[...].  I want to have more structured thoughts and be able to put things more eloquently in my own words and write persuasively...

For what purpose do you want to achieve this end? Writing eloquently isn't necessary if you just want to understand something for yourself, but it is necessary if you want to communicate effectively to a certain subset of people. As Jack mentioned, focusing on arguing, convincing, or communicating is hitting the gas before the starter, if you don't first have some end you're looking to achieve.

 

That said, I, too, wanted to communicate better some years ago, half because I just wanted to win arguments. Eventually, I realized that winning arguments isn't possible unless you're interested and honest enough to consider many facts and viewpoints. That caused me to stop caring as much about winning the arguments, and to start caring more about knowing the truth for myself. Soon, I also began caring more about which truths I focused on, since I was now learning for myself rather than others.

The single most helpful thing I did (biggest bang for the buck) was making myself stop and think (even when I was embarrassed and didn't want to), "Do I really believe this? Why?" It may amaze you how little you actually know about something, if you stop to think about it. But that thinking will become habit, and soon produces compounding positive results for any given thing on which you choose to focus.

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I want to know the truth for myself, kind of like a scientist, but I also want others to know the truth and the world to not be so ignorant of it.  That is why I want to be an effective debater/teacher and help fight the good fight.  There are selfish reasons for debating/teaching as well. [quote name="JASKN" post="338135" timestamp="1441667503"] For what purpose do you want to achieve this end? Writing eloquently isn't necessary if you just want to understand something for yourself, but it is necessary if you want to communicate effectively to a certain subset of people. As Jack mentioned, focusing on arguing, convincing, or communicating is hitting the gas before the starter, if you don't first have some end you're looking to achieve.   That said, I, too, wanted to communicate better some years ago, half because I just wanted to win arguments. Eventually, I realized that winning arguments isn't possible unless you're interested and honest enough to consider many facts and viewpoints. That caused me to stop caring as much about winning the arguments, and to start caring more about knowing the truth for myself. Soon, I also began caring more about which truths I focused on, since I was now learning for myself rather than others. The single most helpful thing I did (biggest bang for the buck) was making myself stop and think (even when I was embarrassed and didn't want to), "Do I really believe this? Why?" It may amaze you how little you actually know about something, if you stop to think about it. But that thinking will become habit, and soon produces compounding positive results for any given thing on which you choose to focus.

  So for instance like this?   "Do I really believe Capitalism is the only moral social system? Yes. Why?  Because it is the only social system that leaves every man free to act on the knowledge that he gains through the moral process of thinking.  In order to survive man must act and before he can act he must gain knowledge.  The only way man can gain the knowledge and then choose the actions required for his survival, is by a process of thinking and that is why thinking is moral.  If a man is not free to choose his actions then he is not free to think.  His thoughts are being controlled.  Instead of being free to truly think you’re going to spend your money on new shoes,  the policeman’s gun forces you to think you’re going to give your money to the Government."

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*** Post copied from old version of forum. - sN ***

 

I want to know the truth for myself, kind of like a scientist, but I also want others to know the truth and the world to not be so ignorant of it.  That is why I want to be an effective debater/teacher and help fight the good fight.  There are selfish reasons for debating/teaching as well.

 

For what purpose do you want to achieve this end? Writing eloquently isn't necessary if you just want to understand something for yourself, but it is necessary if you want to communicate effectively to a certain subset of people. As Jack mentioned, focusing on arguing, convincing, or communicating is hitting the gas before the starter, if you don't first have some end you're looking to achieve.   That said, I, too, wanted to communicate better some years ago, half because I just wanted to win arguments. Eventually, I realized that winning arguments isn't possible unless you're interested and honest enough to consider many facts and viewpoints. That caused me to stop caring as much about winning the arguments, and to start caring more about knowing the truth for myself. Soon, I also began caring more about which truths I focused on, since I was now learning for myself rather than others. The single most helpful thing I did (biggest bang for the buck) was making myself stop and think (even when I was embarrassed and didn't want to), "Do I really believe this? Why?" It may amaze you how little you actually know about something, if you stop to think about it. But that thinking will become habit, and soon produces compounding positive results for any given thing on which you choose to focus.

 

  So for instance like this?   "Do I really believe Capitalism is the only moral social system? Yes. Why?  Because it is the only social system that leaves every man free to act on the knowledge that he gains through the moral process of thinking.  In order to survive man must act and before he can act he must gain knowledge.  The only way man can gain the knowledge and then choose the actions required for his survival, is by a process of thinking and that is why thinking is moral.  If a man is not free to choose his actions then he is not free to think.  His thoughts are being controlled.  Instead of being free to truly think you’re going to spend your money on new shoes,  the policeman’s gun forces you to think you’re going to give your money to the Government."

Edited by dadmonson

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*** Copied from previous version of forum. - sN ***

Many people on here write so eloquently and seem to know everything.  I remember first coming on this forum when I was having trouble debating a Marxist on another forum.  I posted the argument the Marxist was making on here and the members of this forum dissected and picked apart that argument like it was child's play.  I want to be like that.    I want to be able to find answers through reason instead of having to look up what people such as Leonard Peikoff said on a topic or post a question on here about it (I often play devil's advocate).  I want to have more structured thoughts and be able to put things more eloquently in my own words and write persuasively, instead of just quoting from Ayn Rand.

 

As long as you make sure those quotes say what you want to say, looking up those quotes, and using them, is actually one of the ways to end up eventually being able to use your own thoughts.   Of course, more in depth reading, and your own life experiences, are even more important. But just posting, and using those quotes (as long as you make an honest effort to make sure the quotes express what you believe) is probably more helpful than trying to use your own words when you're not sure of yourself. One thing I would do though is expand my sources a little, not just rely on Objectivist writers. Other people besides Objectivists have good ideas you know.   Most importantly, don't worry. As long as you are actively trying to improve your thinking, you will. It's just gonna happen naturally. Especially when you are already familiar with rational thinkers like Rand, and have a good appreciation for science, to help keep you on a rational track.

Edited by softwareNerd

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*** Copied from previous version of forum. - sN ***

Many people on here write so eloquently and seem to know everything.

From the to and fro, it sounds like you're more interested in the former: i.e. how to grasp ideas in a more firm and integrated way. Even if you want to present these ideas better, the grasp is the key.

I think Jaskn's advice to ask yourself "Do I really believe this?" is a good way. You really have to question what you "know" if you feel that knowledge is shaky. Seek out intelligent criticism. Also, don't be too hard on yourself because sometimes it takes a while to grasp the core of an idea. One could be an accountant for years and grasp the rules and even many abstractions of double-entry bookkeeping, and yet be hard-pressed when someone asks: How come Assets (good stuff) are debits in this account and Expenses (bad stuff) are too!

Have you listened to Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" lectures? Those have some good examples of taking some point you think you understand and agree with and chewing it down to the bone.

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*** Post copied from previous version of forum. - sN ***

From the to and fro, it sounds like you're more interested in the former: i.e. how to grasp ideas in a more firm and integrated way. Even if you want to present these ideas better, the grasp is the key.

I think Jaskn's advice to ask yourself "Do I really believe this?" is a good way. You really have to question what you "know" if you feel that knowledge is shaky. Seek out intelligent criticism. Also, don't be too hard on yourself because sometimes it takes a while to grasp the core of an idea. One could be an accountant for years and grasp the rules and even many abstractions of double-entry bookkeeping, and yet be hard-pressed when someone asks: How come Assets (good stuff) are debits in this account and Expenses (bad stuff) are too!

Have you listened to Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" lectures? Those have some good examples of taking some point you think you understand and agree with and chewing it down to the bone.
 

I was just about to recommend those. It's worth mentioning that Peikoff also has a book out that has transcripts of those lectures. Personally, I don't like listening to audio lectures - I prefer something that's written down so that I can mull it over. http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Objectivism-Guide-Learning-Philosophy/dp/B00BDI6KK2

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*** Post copied from previous version of forum. - sN ***

From the to and fro, it sounds like you're more interested in the former: i.e. how to grasp ideas in a more firm and integrated way. Even if you want to present these ideas better, the grasp is the key.

I think Jaskn's advice to ask yourself "Do I really believe this?" is a good way. You really have to question what you "know" if you feel that knowledge is shaky. Seek out intelligent criticism. Also, don't be too hard on yourself because sometimes it takes a while to grasp the core of an idea. One could be an accountant for years and grasp the rules and even many abstractions of double-entry bookkeeping, and yet be hard-pressed when someone asks: How come Assets (good stuff) are debits in this account and Expenses (bad stuff) are too!

Have you listened to Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" lectures? Those have some good examples of taking some point you think you understand and agree with and chewing it down to the bone.
 

I was just about to recommend those. It's worth mentioning that Peikoff also has a book out that has transcripts of those lectures. Personally, I don't like listening to audio lectures - I prefer something that's written down so that I can mull it over. http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Objectivism-Guide-Learning-Philosophy/dp/B00BDI6KK2

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*** Post copied from previous version of forum. - sN ***

I was just about to recommend those. It's worth mentioning that Peikoff also has a book out that has transcripts of those lectures. Personally, I don't like listening to audio lectures - I prefer something that's written down so that I can mull it over.
 
http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Objectivism-Guide-Learning-Philosophy/dp/B00BDI6KK2

Yes. I haven't read the book and since it is an edited version I don't know how different it is from the lectures. In these lectures, there are some mock arguments conducted by people pretending to step through a topic. There is hesitation etc. that comes in a lecture, and given the nature of the topic, I thought that worked very well... if one is patient.

But, like I say, the main reason I pointed to the lecture is because I've not seen the book.
I am glad to see the lecture is so cheap now!

 

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*** Post copied from previous version of forum. - sN ***

From OP: I want to be able to find answers through reason instead of having to look up what people such as Leonard Peikoff said on a topic or post a question on here about it (I often play devil's advocate).  I want to have more structured thoughts and be able to put things more eloquently in my own words and write persuasively, instead of just quoting from Ayn Rand.
 

Over the past 35 years I have seen the foremost Objectivists talk about the importance of grammar in writing and thinking. A few have flatly stated that "if you can't write, you can't think." So, money spent on grammar books and tapes will be well spent.
 
You may want to try The Art of Thinking by L. Peikoff, (MP3 download from the ARI Bookstore), as well as Principles of Grammar (another MP3 download).

 

 

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