Critical Thinking as Purposeful Questions

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A POSITIVE THINKER IN A WORLD WITH SO MUCH INJUSTICE?

WHY ARE OTHER PEOPLE SO FREQUENTLY ATTRACTED TO OTHERS WHO ARE "SO POSITIVE"?

 

i assume we have all heard expressions of affection directed toward those who are "positive."  I am puzzled by what that accolade even means, but I sense it means the other person places a positive gloss on whatever he sees or hears. A positive gloss is associated with smiles and contentment.  Who among us at least to some degree does not welcome smiles and apparent serenity? However, seriously, 490 quotes touting positive thinking?

But when I read the popular and scholarly positive thinking literature, particularly the more circumspect work by Christopher Peterson, I think I understand the seemingly benign sentiments of Mihaly Csikszentmihayli and Martin Seligman mean when they claim that 

We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise that achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities.

However, when they say something like that, do they really think that "thriving has some homogeneous meaning such their statement means much at all?

As an antidote to what to me is that grandiose quote above, I hope you have all seen or will read Barbara Ehrenreich's BRIGHT-SIDED: HOW THE RELENTLESS PROMOTION OF POSITIVE THINKING HAS UNDERMINED AMERICA.

Do you share my irritation with positive thinking, both the Norman Vincent Peale and the Martin Seligman versions? I do not mean to conflate the two forms.  Doing so is unfair to Seligman, but at the same time, both versions seem to me to simply assume that a metaphorical smile is more valuable than a perplexed Socrates as a model for human development. Furthermore they seem to suggest some positive purpose to viewing a world where safe drinking water is an exception and some 70% of Americans believe there are angels in our midst as one we should approach with a sunny disposition and optimism

When a person tries to abide by the intellectual standards of critical thinking, there are going to be many instances where "Why", "Are you sure?" , "Have you considered counter-evidence", and "What information would you need to be more certain about the claim that you just made?" are apt responses to what we hear. Deliver those responses to an assertive expression of questionable belief with a smile, and you would be engaged in improper affect, don't you think?

 

There is certainly no reason for the social tone of critical thinking to be pinch-faced.  However, most of us are much more comfortable around an affirming audience.  Questions reflecting doubt are more than welcome because we know we need to hear them.  And yet, those questions create a tension in the conversation unless you are in those rarefied venues where people gather in a shared recognition of their human fallibility and the consequent likelihood that their contentions are not exactly wonderful. A BROAD SMILE WOULD ORDINARILY  BE OUT OF PLACE AS WE ASK QUESTIONS LIKE THOSE IN THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH.

Is it not sensible to be open to the positive and the negative, but not to build habits that make one automatically negative or positive toward experience and belief?

IS IT POSSIBLE TO PERSUADE A LARGE COHORT OF PEOPLE THAT SEEING THE WORLD IN A POSITIVE VEIN MAKES SENSE ONLY WHEN THE WORLD WE ARE EXPERIENCING DESERVES THAT COMPLIMENT?

 

Posted
AuthorM Neil Browne