World Thinking Day | There are Only Four Ways of Thinking
Today, February 22nd, in addition to being Be Humble Day and, of course, George Washington’s birthday, is International World Thinking Day. Let’s think about this. World Thinking Day was originated by, of all people, The Girl Scouts. It was meant to be a way to encourage Girl Scouts to think of others around the world. Think of other girls in the world, and they’ll be thinking of you (This year’s Thinking Day theme is “Connect”). Others, however, have reshaped the World Thinking Day to mean something more general. This is where the know-it-alls at Crave will come in.
You may find that many, including us, have used the name of the holiday as a way to encourage deep thought in general. Too many of our days are dictated by a kind of cognitive auto-pilot, and encountering new, truly challenging ideas is a rare occurrence. When, for instance, was the last time you came upon a profound new way of thinking? Whether you agreed with it or not? Probably back in your Philosophy 103 class. We are not experts over here, but we are mildly-learned philosophy enthusiasts, and we’ve read a few fat books by long-dead thinkers, so we can fancy ourselves worthy – with enough drink, primary texts, and smarmy know-how – to pontificate on world philosophy. So we are free to make vast and broad generalizations about thinking.
So here’s our generalization: There are only four ways of thinking.
Is this going to be reductive? You bet it is. But that’s the fun of philosophy: Coming up with universal systems of thought that may or may not be pertinent but may work well for certain people. So here are the four ways of thinking, as far as we declare. Let’s epistemologize!
#1. The Metaphysical, Dreamy, We’re-Not-Seeing-Everything Because of Thoughts Thinking
This was started by Plato way back in the day. Plato said that we live in the physical world, but that we experience the world through a lens of perception. We cannot see the world as it truly is because our perception is limited. He believed that when we encountered an object – say, a Slinky – we met it on two levels: There was the basic physical sense input on the object, but there was also, in our minds, a much more real, perfect version of the object. That perfect version was more how we interact with everything. We live in the world, and we’re subject to its external whims, but all of that is secondary to the way we think about it. We are, through this way of thinking, aspirational beings who seek to know more about the world and come to a real understanding. This mode of thinking essentially built the Western World. Ideas first. Rationalism.
#2. The We Need to Trust Our Physical Senses and the Physical World Exclusively Thinking
Countering Plato – to his face – was Aristotle, who was a scientist. He believed that thinking is all well and good, but perceiving the world as a bundle of thoughts wasn’t quite right. Aristotle talked about modes of measuring and observing that would, centuries later, be called The Scientific Method. He believed real knowledge came from the world around us, and that true understanding about ourselves and our minds. Idealism be damned, what sort of physical truths can we all agree on? Every scientist and empiricist to come since is essentially repeating these sentiments in one way or another. Aristotle was also a bit of a bitch to Plato, having once said: “Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.” Oo. Sick burn.
#3. To Heck with Ideas and the Physical World, The Only Person Is Me Myself Thinking
There is a mode of thought that is devoted me, me, me. There are many world philosophies that dictate one’s personal view of the world to be the most correct, no matter what it is. This was the thinking behind people like Epicurus and Nietzsche. Why be bogged down with the outside world of ideas or the idolatry of the sciences, when I already have the answer. That answer is me. My will dictates the world, and all the world needs to conform to me. This can be benign – i.e. seeking personal enlightenment – to aggressive and selfish – i.e. screw all y’all. It can be edifying to think that your view is the be-all and end-all of the world, and since we can only experience our own minds (we’re not quite psychic yet), then it kinda makes sense. It’s just not good if you want to get along with a great deal of other people.
#4. Can’t We All Just Get Along?
And then there’s the frustrating philosophy of pragmatism. It’s frustrating to philosophers and most people because it does away with the notion that any one philosophy can be the “right” one. The “Can’t We All Just Get Along” thinking says that we, as a diverse people, all must learn to live in a society together, so it would behoove is to adopt a philosophy beyond philosophy; we need to agree that several truths – even contradictory ones – can be true simultaneously. Kids, kids, we’re all correct. The truth is malleable. After all, we can change our minds and our worldviews, so why can’t Ultimate Truth also change? This, of course, feels like a dodge when it comes to some of the “bigger questions” of our minds and the world, but it’s a great way for getting along in the world.
And what is the final truth? Why can’t it be a blend of all four? After all, however unique we like to fancy ourselves, we’re mostly built by the philosophies that came before us. We’re unique, but we’re unique blends of existing ingredients. All four views are correct simultaneously, even as they disagree. And isn’t that the fun of thinking?
Think about that.
Top Image: Andrew Horne
Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.