The Lost Art of Thoughtfulness: Dismissing Ideas Because We Fear Them

by Travis Dickinson

I love philosophy for a lot of different reasons. One of those is that philosophers often have a particular skill that is lost in many discussions of politics, religion and anything else in which people are deeply invested.

Here’s the skill: inviting and welcoming others to press one’s idea without being personally threatened by being pressed.

Call this: thoughtfulness.

An Intellectual Virtue

Thoughtfulness is a genuine intellectual virtue. It is hearing, and I mean really listening to, an objection for the purpose of finding truth. The reason why this is intellectually virtuous is when we get good objections, we are either going to be able to address those objections or we won’t. If a view can address a really difficult objection, one’s view is ipso facto now better supported. If it can’t, then we are going to have to reject or change our view. But our rejection or change will be due to something epistemic (rather than something nonepistemic, like social pressure). Either way, we’ll be on stronger rational grounds.

Now I’ll be quick to say that I’m generalizing about philosophers quite broadly. Let’s just say not ALL philosophers have this intellectual virtue and certainly no philosophers exhibit this virtue all of the time. We all (and I am chief) have our weak moments. Also, some are able to engage thoughtfully in certain areas (say, systematic theology or metaphysics) but then become unhinged as it relates to something else (such as politics, religion, or when they are on a church committee).

It’s hard work, but we should all strive to be thoughtful. We sometimes fail to be thoughtful, I suspect, because we are scared we are wrong. We don’t want to honestly look at an objection because there might just be something to it. So we distract ourselves from being thoughtful.

3 ways we distract from thoughtfulness

How do we do distract? Here are 3 ways we distract ourselves from being thoughtful and engaging the ideas of others…
 

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The Lost Art of Thoughtfulness: Dismissing Ideas Because We Fear Them