The process of personal mastery can not be approached without proactively and skillfully framing, implementing, synthesizing, and testing our knowledge and beliefs to reach conclusions that are objective and useful. Granted that this process of continual mental self-regulation is not easy at first, it is a learnable and improvable skill though, and so with time, one can become highly efficient at it. According to an essay written by Dr Peter A Facione, in 2011 called “Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts”, critical thinking is:
Thinking critically also enters the larger domain of what is known as ‘critical social theory’ that was defined by Max Horkheimer the philosopher, sociologist and critical theorist; as an orientation towards critiquing and changing society as a whole, rather than merely explaining a society as being simply what it ‘was’. The Idea behind critical social theory is that of radical emancipation towards being able to question the validity of authoritarian structures and improve societies by integrating all of the major sciences like psychology, geography, anthropology, economics, political science, sociology and history into the realm of general understanding for the populace.
As was seen with Nazism, without utilizing the faculties of critical thinking it becomes very easy to be swept along by the wave of popular mass delusion. Where questioning the reasons and factual basis of certain practices beginning with simple demanded rituals of hierarchical obsequiousness and ending with abasement to the incarnate embodiment of their own malevolent intent. Rituals which sowed the nettles that could not but blossom into heinous acts of self-aggrandizing barbarism and xenophobic genocidal mania, executed by mutually consensual self inculcated lowbrow lickspittles, who stood arrogantly tall all whilst cowering and clicking their heels together in the shadow of a misanthrope’s pompous flick of the wrist and callous snap of the finger.
.” Max Horkheimer – The End of Reason
When we engage with the processes of critical reasoning it is vital that we cultivate them the same way one does habits, these habits are not merely being developed for the sake of winning an argument with someone about whether their religion or political party are correct. Critical thinking as a tool to personal mastery is about building a set of abilities and engagement strategies, with people and information. It is a set of methodologies that gives an individual the ability to work out the real nature of problems and find functional ways to solve challenges. There comes with it an ability to create order and appropriately sequential prioritization.
One can discern and discard useless information and focus on what the real data is that one should be working with. With critical mastery, our judgments about things will be more accurate as we constantly engage in investigation to be certain that we are looking at the true causes. The system of critical mentation acts as an inoculation against getting locked into rigid patterns of perception that are not open to new information. One approaches what other people are saying with refined scrutiny that can pick out the unstated assumptions that sit at the core of their values, and by being aware of this we can behave more appropriately and sensitively to what is transpiring ‘behind the scenes’ that the individual making the claims may themselves not be entirely aware of.
The critical discipline will demand of us that we truly and accurately comprehend the meaning of the words that we and others are using. This mastery is not something that is arrived at only once and then it is smooth sailing, this mastery exists in the constant practising of it. We will not get it ‘right’ every time that is certain, but even in the moments when we do get it wrong, we are given the clearer ability to discern ‘how’ it was that we got it wrong. The essence of the process is that of examination in both senses of the word. The first, wherein we must constantly look and observe, the second sense is the one in which we are the ones being examined by the very nature of how life tests us.