The danger of critical thinking

In the current issue of First Things, editor R. R. Reno writes about the danger that arises when critical thinking operates more in fear of error than desire for truth.

Some excerpts:

Clear-minded and scrupulous analysis clears the underbrush of error—a very good thing to do—but it cannot plant the seeds of truth; it burns away the weeds but won’t fertilize the fields. To do so we must be receptive rather than cautious. We need to develop the habit of credulity, which literally means the capacity and willingness to accept or believe, for that is the only way truth can enter into our minds. 


A mentality too quick to find reasons not to nurture convictions runs the risk of ending up more empty than accurate.


If we see this danger—the danger of truths lost, insights missed, convictions never formed—then our approach to reasoning changes, and the burdens of proof shift. We begin to cherish books and teachers and friends who push us, as it were, onto certain trains of thought, romancing us with the possibilities of truth rather than always cautioning and checking our tendency to believe. Errors risked now seem worth the rich reward of engrossing, life-commanding truths—the truths that are accessible only to a mind passionate with the intimacy of conviction rather than coldly and critically distant.


Read the entire piece here: "Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking." Scroll down; it starts in the middle of the page.