The Miniature Guide to The Human Mind (Thinkers Guide Library)

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We must be willing to fulfill our ethical obligations at the expense of our selfish desires and vested interests. Ethical reasoning implies an awareness of interrelated pathological dispositions inherent in native egocentric thought. We need to identify these tendencies in our lives, determining which of them are the most prominent and which the least. In fact, these are matters of degree. Too often, ethics is confused with these very different modes of thinking. It is not uncommon, for example, for highly variant and conflicting social values and taboos to be treated as if they were universal ethical principles.

Thus, religious ideologies, social "rules," and laws are often mistakenly taken to be inherently ethical in nature. If we were to accept this amalgamation of domains, then by implication every practice within any religious system would necessarily be ethical, every social rule ethically obligatory, and every law ethically justified.

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If religion defined ethics, we could not then judge any religious practices—e. In the same way, if ethical and conventional thinking were one and the same, every social practice within any culture would necessarily be ethically obligatory—including social conventions in Nazi Germany.

We could not, then, condemn any social traditions, norms, and taboos from an ethical standpoint—however ethically bankrupt they were. It is essential, then, to differentiate ethics from other modes of thinking commonly confused with ethics. We must remain free to critique commonly accepted social conventions, religious practices, political ideas, and laws using ethical concepts not defined by them. No one lacking this ability can become proficient in ethical reasoning. Ethics and Religion Theological reasoning answers metaphysical questions such as: What is the origin of all things?

Is there a God? Is there more than one God? Are there ordained divine laws expressed by God to guide our life and behavior? If so, what are these laws? How are they communicated to us? What must we do to live in keeping with the will of the divine? Religious Beliefs Are Culturally Variant Religious variability derives from the fact that theological beliefs are intrinsically subject to debate. There are an unlimited number of alternative ways for people to conceive and account for the nature of the "spiritual. These traditional ways of believing adopted by social groups or cultures often take on the force of habit and custom.

They are then handed down from one generation to another. Most of these regulations are ethically neither right nor wrong, but simply represent social preferences and culturally subjective choices. There is no definitive way to prove any one set of religious beliefs to the exclusion of all others. For that reason religious freedom is a human right. One can objectively prove that murder and assault are harmful to persons, but not that non-belief in God is. Indeed religious persecution is commonplace in human history. Humans need recourse to ethics in defending themselves against religious intolerance and persecution.

Consider this example: If a religious group were to believe that the firstborn male of every family must be sacrificed, every person in that group would think them-selves ethically obligated to kill their firstborn male. Their religious beliefs would lead them to unethical behavior and lessen their capacity to appreciate the cruel nature of their acts. Furthermore, a society must be deemed unethical if it accepts among its religious practices any form of slavery, torture, sexism, racism, persecution, murder, assault, fraud, deceit, or intimidation. Remember, atrocities have often been committed during religious warfare.

Even to this day, religious persecution and religiously motivated atrocities are commonplace. No religious belief as such can justify violations of basic human rights. In short, theological beliefs cannot override ethical principles.

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This guide deals with two primary ideas: 1. that the mind entails three main functions – thoughts, feelings and desires. 2. that our thoughts, feelings and desires. The Miniature Guide to Taking Charge of The Human Mind. © Foundation for Critical Thinking Dear Reader: To live well is to live Library (available for down-loading on Critical Thinking Community Web site.

We must turn to ethical principles to protect ourselves from intolerant and oppressive religious practices. Ethics and Social Conventions All of us are, in the first instance, socially conditioned. Consequently, we do not begin with the ability to critique social norms and taboos. Unless we learn to critique the social mores and taboos imposed upon us from birth, we will inherently accept those traditions as "right.

For more than a hundred years most Americans considered slavery to be justified and desirable. It was part of social custom. Moreover, throughout history, many groups of people, including people of various nation- alities and skin colors, as well as females, children, and individuals with disabilities, have been victims of discrimination as the result of social convention treated as ethical obliga- tion.

Yet, all social practices violating human rights are rejected, and have been rejected, by ethically sensitive, reasonable persons no matter what social conventions support those practices. Socially or Culturally Variant Practices Cultural diversity derives from the fact that there are an unlimited number of alternative ways for social groups to satisfy their needs and fulfill their desires. Those traditional ways of living within a social group or culture take on the force of habit and custom. They are handed down from one generation to another. And these social customs sometimes have ethical implications.

Who should be allowed to marry, under what conditions, and with what ritual or ceremony? Once married what role should the male play? What role should the female play? Are multiple marriage partners possible? Is divorce possible? Under what conditions? What should they teach the children as to proper and improper ways to act?

When children do not act as they are expected to act, how should they be treated? When should they be considered old enough to be married? Who should they be allowed to marry? With whom, if anyone, should they be allowed to engage in sexual exploration and discovery? What sexual acts are considered acceptable and wholesome? What sexual acts are considered perverted or sinful?

To what degree should their body be exposed in public? How is nudity treated? How are those who violate these codes treated? Who is responsible for obtaining food? Who for preparing it?

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How should it be served? How eaten? How is the society controlled? What belief system is used to justify the distribution of scarce goods and services and the way rituals and practices are carried out? How will it defend itself? How does the society engage in war, or does it? Who is allowed to engage in them? Who is allowed to participate in the religious rituals or to interpret divine or spiritual teachings to the group? Who decides who is right and who wrong?

How are violators treated? Schools traditionally function as apologists for conventional thought; those who teach often inadvertently foster confusion between convention and ethics because they themselves have internalized the conventions of society. Education, properly so called, should foster the intellectual skills that enable students to distinguish between cultural mores and ethical precepts, between social commandments and ethical truths.

In each case, when social beliefs and taboos conflict with ethical principles, ethical principles should prevail. These practices seem wrongly to be ethically obligatory to those socialized into accepting them. Ethics and Sexual Taboos Social taboos are often matters of strong emotions. People are often disgusted when others violate a taboo. Their disgust signals to them that the behavior is unethical.

They forget that what is socially repugnant to us may not violate any ethical principle but, instead, may merely differ from social convention. Social doctrines regarding human sexuality are often classic examples of conventions expressed as if they were ethical truths. Social groups often establish strong sanctions for unconventional behavior involving the human body.

Some social groups inflict unjust punishments on women who do no more than appear in public without being completely veiled, an act considered in some cultures as indecent and sexually provocative. Sexual behaviors should be considered unethical only when they result in unequivocal harm or damage.

Ethics and Political Ideology A political ideology provides an analysis of the present distribution of wealth and power and devises strategies in keeping with that analysis. It provides either a "justification" of the present structure of power or a "critique. It seeks to change things in small ways or in big ways. It compares the present to the past and both to a future it projects. Conservative ideologies "justify" the status quo or seek a return to a previous "ideal" time. Liberal ideologies critique the status quo and seek to justify "new" forms of political arrangements designed to rectify present problems.

Reactionary ideologies plead for a "radical" return to the past; revolutionary ideologies plead for a "radical" overturning of the fundamental "corrupt" structures. Conservative ideologies consider the highest values to be private property, family, God, and country. Liberal ideologies consider the highest values to be liberty, equality, and social justice.

Ideological analyses have highly significant ethical implications.

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Put into action they often have profound effects on the well being of people. What is more, the ideologies officially espoused by politicians are often widely different from the personal ends they pursue. Virtually ah political ideologies speak in the name of the "people. The same people often end up ruling, independent of the "official" ideology.

Thus, in the postsoviet power structure, many of those who were formerly powerful in the communist party are now among the most prominent and acquisitive neo-capitalists. The bottom line is that politicians rarely act for ethical reasons. Struggling against each other for power and control, political movements and interests often sacrifice ethical ideals for practical advantage. They often rationalize unethical acts as unavoidable necessities for example, "forced on them" by their opponents.

And they systematically use propaganda to further vested interest agendas. Ethics and the Law Anyone interested in developing their ethical reasoning abilities should be able to differentiate ethics and the law. What is illegal may or may not be a matter of ethics. What is ethically obligatory may be illegal. What is unethical may be legal. There is no essential connection between ethics and the law. Laws often emerge out of social conventions and taboos.

And, because we cannot assume that social conventions are ethical, we cannot assume that human laws are ethical. What is more, most laws are ultimately made by politicians, who routinely confuse social values with ethical principles. As we have said, their primary motivation is, except in special cases, power, vested interest, or expediency.

For example, from through , American politicians, in response to an electorate dominated by fundamentalist religious believers, passed laws which made it illegal for anyone, including doctors, to disseminate any information about birth control. The consequence was predictable: hundreds of thousands of poor and working class women suffered severe injuries or death from the effects of illegal drugs and unsanitary abortions.

To "criminalize" behavior that goes against social conventions is one of the time-honored ways for politicians to get re-elected. Acts that are Unethical In-and-of-Themselves For any action to be unethical, it must inherently deny another person or creature some inalienable right. The following classes of acts are unethical in-and-of themselves.

The Elements of Ethical Reasoning Ethical reasoning has the same basic structures that underlie all reasoning. If we are to reason well ethically, we must learn to identify and assess our use in ethical reasoning of these basic intellectual structures. Here is the basic idea: Whenever we think, we think for a purpose within a point of view based on assumptions leading to implications and consequences. We use ideas and theories to interpret data, facts, and experiences in order to answer questions, solve problems, and resolve issues. We can target our ethical purposes.

We can formulate our ethical questions in various ways to identify the question that best embodies the issue. We can determine whether we have the information we need to solve the ethical problem. We can identify the inferences we are making and consider alternative inferences or conclusions. We can figure out the ethical concepts and principles we are using to reason through the issue. We can check our assumptions before coming to conclusions.

We can determine whether more than one ethical viewpoint needs to be considered. And we can follow out the ethical implications of our decisions. Implications Humans are capable of distinguishing ethics from other modes of thinking, grasping fundamental ethical principles, and acting consistently with them. The Logic of Ethical Reasoning Seeing the world as a place wherein individuals and groups often act so as to harm Innocent penons and creatures; seeing humans as obligated to help, rather than harm others. How should we act so as to help rather than harm others? Information Information about our options for action, with special emphasis on the information that helps us avoid harming others.

Ol on on How to Figure Out the Logic of an Ethical Question Whenever you reason through an ethical question, you can use the following template, which highlights the elements of your reasoning. By doing so, you can better analyze and assess the parts of your thinking as you move through the question. Considering my own rights and needs as well those of others in this situation, my purpose should be Here you are trying to determine the ethical goal you hope to reach.

What do you want to accomplish? Write out the issue you are facing in several ways until you have identified the precise ethical issue you need to reason through. Then formulate the key ethical question s embedded in the issue. Focus on the most important ethical questions.

Make sure you take into account the point of view of relevant others in formulating the question.

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The most important information I will need to answer this ethical question is You should identify the information that will enable you to understand and take into account the needs and viewpoints of relevant others, as well as your own. The key ethical concepts and principles that should guide my thinking are Identify the ethical concepts and principles most relevant for reasoning through the issue.

Do any of these concepts or principles compete for significance? If so, which should take precedence? Make sure you are using ethical principles and not social rules, religious doctrines, or laws to guide your thinking. See examples of ethical concepts on page The main assumptions I am using in reasoning through this ethical issue are What are you taking for granted? Should you question your assumptions or are they justifiable in the context? How do your assumptions affect the way you see the ethical issue? Are there other reasonable assumptions you should begin with?

The points of view I need to consider before coming to conclusions about this ethical issue are If the ethical issue you face is complex, you will need to consider more than one way of looking at the situation, and you will need to do so with an openmind, not in a way that dismisses reasonable alternative views. What viewpoints would a reasonable person consider in reasoning through this issue? Is there more than one way to interpret the information? After considering all the information, what is the most reasonable answer to the ethical question?

What alternative answers should you or have you considered? If I come to the conclusions stated in number seven above, some of the important implications for myself and others are If I come to alternative conclusions, some of the important implications are What consequences are likely to follow if you act on the conclusions you have come to? What consequences are likely to follow if you act on alternative conclusions?

Language as a Guide to Ethical Reasoning Ideas are to us like the air we breathe. We project them everywhere. Yet we rarely notice this. We use words and the ideas they express to create our way of seeing things. What we experience we experience through ideas, often funneled into the categories of "good" and "evil.

We assume our enemies to be evil. We select positive terms to cover up the "indefensible" things we do. We select negative terms to condemn even the good things our enemies do.

The Miniature Guide to The Human Mind by Linda Elder

We conceptualize things personally by means of experience unique to ourselves often distorting the world to our advantage. We conceptualize things socially as a result of indoctrination or social conditioning our allegiances presented, of course, in positive terms. Ideas, then, are our paths to both reality and self-delusion.

To the uncritical mind, it is as if people in the world came to us with our labels for them inherent in who they are. THEY are "terrorists. Thus we see others not sharing a common human nature, but as "friends" and "enemies," and accordingly "good" or "bad. We apply ideas, however, as if we were simply neutral observers of reality. We often become self-righteous when our ideas are challenged. To develop as ethical reasoners, we must come to recognize the ideas through which we see and experience the world. We must become the master of our own ideas. We must learn how to think with alternative ideas, and within alternative "world views.

The word is not the thing! Word and thing become one and the same in our minds. We are unable then to act as free and ethical persons. The ideas we have formed in personal experience are often egocentric in nature. The ideas we inherit from social indoctrination are typically ethnocentric in nature. Both can limit our insight significantly. This is where understanding the ethical terms in our native language can help us. The ideas we learn from academic subjects and from the study of distinctions inherent in the uses of language can take us beyond our personal egocentrism and social ideology.

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Ethical reasoning entails doing what is right even in the face of powerful selfish desires. We can determine whether we have the information we need to solve the ethical problem. Laws often emerge out of social conventions and taboos. Be fair! He asked his They apply them in all subjects and throughout life. Quarrelsome: suggest pettiness and eagerness to fight for little or no reason.

When we learn to think historically, sociologically, anthropologically, scientifically, and philosophically, we can come to see ignorance, prejudice, stereotypes, illusions, and biases in our personal thinking and in the thinking common in our society. In addition, command of ethical distinctions implicit in established linguistic usage can have a significant influence upon the way we shape our experience.

Through such command, for example, we distinguish ethics from religion, social convention and politics. This ability impacts the judgements we make and the way we interpret situations. Fundamental Ethical Concepts Embedded in Natural Languages To reason well through an ethical question or issue requires that we identify and apply the ethical concepts relevant to it. But where do we find these concepts? They are inherent in all natural languages 1 To identify them, we need only refer to a good dictionary. In this section we list some ethical concepts.

Refer to the glossary for a more detailed list. Doing ethical good involves: promoting kindness, compassion, understanding, openmindedness, forbearance, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, benevolence, thoughtfulness, considerateness, civility, respect, generosity, charity, empathy, justice, impartiality, evenhandedness, integrity, and fair-play.

Doing harm involves: thoughtlessness, egotism, egocentricity, cruelty, injustice, greed, domination, selfishness, disrespect, prejudice, narrow-mindedness, inconsiderateness, hypocrisy, unkindness, insensitivity, meanness, brutality, malice, hatred, spite, vindictiveness, mercilessness, avarice, bigotry, discrimination, chauvinism, small-mindedness, duplicity, insincerity, callousness, heartlessness, viciousness, ruthlessness, intolerance, unfairness, favoritism, pettiness, trivial-mindedness, dishonesty, cunning, deception, fraudulence, deceit, fanaticism, disingenuousness, violence, sadism, cheating, and lying.

To act ethically we must understand and become sensitive to ideas, such as those above, that shed light on the difference between acting in an ethical or unethical manner. If we are to act so as to do good and avoid doing harm to others, we must learn to monitor and assess our own thoughts, feelings, dispositions, and actions.

We must recognize how common it is for humans to act without respect for the rights and needs of others. We must recognize how often we behave like those we condemn. We must come to see the "good" in our enemies and the "evil" in ourselves. As William Graham Sumner has said "That we are good and others evil is never true.

They should be a guiding force in ethical reasoning. To become skilled in any domain of reasoning we must understand the principles that define that domain. To be skilled in mathematical reasoning, we must understand fundamental mathematical principles. To be skilled in scientific reasoning, we must understand fundamental scientific principles principles of physics, of chemistry, of astronomy, and so on. In like manner, to be skilled in ethical reasoning, we must understand fundamental ethical principles. Of course, in many cases identification and application of ethical principles is simple.

In some cases it is not. Consider some simple cases. Lying about, misrepresenting, or distorting the facts to gain a material advantage over others is clearly a violation of the basic principle implied by the concept of honesty. Expecting others to live up to standards that we ourselves routinely violate is clearly a violation of the basic principle implied by the concept of integrity.

Treating others as if they were worth less than we take ourselves to be worth is a violation of the principles implied by the concepts of integrity, justice, and equality. It is unethical to kill people to get their money or to torture people because we think they are guilty and ought to confess. Complicated ethical questions arise when conflicting ethical principles seemingly apply to the same case and we are in a dilemma as to which should be given precedence.

In those cases we should engage in dialogical reasoning between conflicting ethical perspectives. We should judge the reasoning used by each perspective as we would in any other multilogical question open to reasonable debate. Of course, whether or not a question is or is not multi-logical may itself be a matter of dispute. Most importantly, we must approach complex cases with intellectual humility, avoiding the tendency toward self-righteousness in applying ethical principles. Universal Ethical Principles As we have said, ethical principles, are inherent in ethical concepts.

Most ethical principles are clear, though their application to complicated cases may not be. Among the most clearcut ethical principles are the following: that it is ethically wrong to cheat, deceive, exploit, abuse, harm, or steal from others, that we have an ethical responsibility to respect the rights of others, including their freedom and well-being, to help those most in need of help, to seek the common good and not merely our own self-interest and egocentric pleasures, and to strive to make the world more just and humane.

There is no nation, no religion, and no ethnic group that openly argues for the right to cheat, deceive, exploit, abuse, harm, or steal from others. Neither is there anyone who publicly attempts to justify slavery, genocide, torture, terrorism, denial of due process, politically motivated imprisonment, sexism, racism, murder, assault, rape, fraud, deceit, or intimidation. Of course, all groups violate some if not many of these principles, covering up such violations with misleading uses of language. All groups are skilled in telling their story in self-serving and self-justifying ways.

The problem, then, is not that we lack ethical principles. The problem is that we are naturally adept at hiding our own violations of them. Every nation without exception has signed it. It globally defines the domain of ethics. It consists of a preamble, a general proclamation, and 30 detailing articles.

The recognition of inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people. This declaration was conceived as "a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.

Though the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are universally accepted in theory, virtually every country violates them though not to the same degree. Rights Violations," p. All reported that Amnesty International was citing the United States for violating fundamental human rights. According to the Amnesty International report, "police forces and criminal and legal systems have a persistent and widespread pattern of human rights violations" in the United States.

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