Announcing a New Wednesday Series on Critical Thinking: is anyone interested?

Critical thinking

During the last couple of weeks my blogs have addressed the Boston Marathon bombings. I’ve suggested the application of elementary principles to clarify thinking about such tragedies. One of them I’ve termed the “principle of reciprocity.” The meaning I’ve assigned the term has to do with the application of a single standard to all cases involving response to tragedies like the Boston bombing on the one hand and U.S. drone attacks on the other.

Reciprocity is related to judgments about nuclear weapons. If the U.S., Israel, Pakistan, and India are allowed to possess them, so should North Korea and Iran. The principle of reciprocity holds that what I judge as good for me should be good for you as well; what is bad for me is bad for you. Any child can understand such a guideline. It’s what we learned in Kindergarten and Sunday school.

Yet our “leaders” seem incapable of grasping what is perfectly clear even to children.

The principle of reciprocity and its implicit challenge to “American” exceptionalism has elicited energetic response on the part of some who have read the blogs as anti-American, insensitive and judgmental. Those responses in turn have led me to perceive a need on my part to explain in a more detailed manner just where I am coming from. The idea would be to help others come to grips with their own principles of critical thought. (We all have them whether we’re aware of it or not.)

You see, over my 36 years of teaching at Berea College in Kentucky, I’ve taught many courses on critical thinking. And this has led me to bring to consciousness my own approach to the discipline. That approach has centralized what I’ve learned in my years of study under Third World thinkers – especially under liberation theologians in Brazil, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Zimbabwe.

If you’re wondering what I mean by “liberation theology,” just click on the entries in that category located just below the masthead of this blog site. In a single sentence, “liberation theology” is reflection on the following of Jesus of Nazareth from the viewpoint of those committed to the liberation of the world’s poor and oppressed. I consider it the most important theological development of the last 1700 years and the most important intellectual movement of the last 150 years – going back to the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848.

I guess what I’m saying is that my understanding of critical thinking comes from a faith perspective.

In any case, inspired by what I’ve learned, my teaching has led me to develop ten principles for critical thinking. I’ve used feature film clips to illustrate what I’m talking about. I’d like to share those principles and clips with readers in bite-sized portions, in Wednesday blogs over the next several weeks.

I hope there will be an audience out there to follow along. If so, please make a simple “I’m on board” comment below. If there’s no audience, at least my entries will serve as a vehicle for talking to myself in order to clarify my own thinking.

The same holds true for my observations about Hitler, his victory in what liberation philosopher,Enrique Dussel calls “the Second Inter-capitalist War,” and the resurfacing of Hitlerism in the United States over the last 35 years. During the coming weeks, on Fridays, I’d like to give an account of that sad and highly threatening process and its relevance to our own day. Is anyone out there interested in following a series on the topic? I wonder.

None of this would change what I consider the anchor of this blog site. In my view, what holds the whole thing down are my Sunday homilies. My project there is to do my small part to rescue interpretation of the Christian tradition from the political right and religious fundamentalists, and to provide reflections on Sunday liturgical readings from the viewpoint of liberation theology as referenced above.

If any of this interests you, please sign up as a “follower” of this blog, so that you’ll receive automatic notification of the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posts. If you’re reluctant to sign on as a “follower,” do something to remind yourself to check in from time to time. Your critical feedback will be greatly appreciated.

I await responses.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

20 thoughts on “Announcing a New Wednesday Series on Critical Thinking: is anyone interested?”

  1. Excellent! I am on board. Thank you for offering this.

    On Wed, May 1, 2013 at 1:01 AM, Mike Rivage-Seul’s Blog: . . .about things th


  2. I have written about the how to’s of critical thinking myself. It is sorely needed in this country. I’ll be interested to see what more I can learn from you.


  3. Thanks for this great opportunity. I haven’t commented in the past but almost always agree with your analysis – including the one on the Boston Marathon bombing.


  4. Definitely worth reading! And I just have to add: Conversely, if we do not trust North Korea with nuclear weapons, what on earth makes us trust our so called good governments? People are.human and mistakes can happen anywhere, any time.

    Thinking about how NASA and others in the business of space can now measure to the micron how fast the rotation of, and document its changes after every major earthquake (recall Japan is now seven inches closer to the United States since the 3-11 triple disaster) do we trust ANYONE to deploy nuclear weapons above or below ground? What does that do exactly to our spin, to our weather patterns, to the wobble of the poles?
    These things have to be measurable. So why is this information no shared?


    1. Kathy: I highly recommend your reading Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s “The Untold History of the United States.” It shows how willing (and even anxious) several presidents were to use nuclear weapons. The story underlines the well-founded nature of your mistrust of our governments


  5. it’s like i’m back in one of your classes Mike 🙂 Love reading your entries and look forward to more of your insights.


  6. You are correct: critical thinking is sorely lacking in our society. That said, I would hope to see you acknowledge that it is as absent from the viewpoint of the left as it is from the right. A number of instances come to mind: the deafening silence of the liberal press and Planned Parenthood about the abortion trial now underway in Philadelphia; the total absence of criticism from NOW over Bill Clinton’s sexual exploitation of a White House intern; the refusal of leaders in the African American community to concede that it is possible to be both black and thoughtfully conservative. A long time ago, I asked Dan Berrigan what his message meant for the guy in Detroit who was bolting fenders on cars, struggling to pay a mortgage and scrimping to save for his kids’ education. His reply was a contemptuous, “Nothing!” I don’t think that’s what Isaiah or Jesus would have said. That is why, for the last forty years, I have sustained a jaundiced view of elitists of the Left or the Right


    1. Bill: I share your jaundiced view of right and left. The critical thinking I’m interested in should be relevant to that Detroit worker — especially if she or he is a union member committed to a discussion circle considering the historical and structural causes of their daily problems. Let me know if that proves true. Your critical input will help me clarify myown thought.


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