19.554 critical thinking

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 9 Jan 2006 06:49:36 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 554.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Mon, 09 Jan 2006 06:46:27 +0000
         From: Ryan Deschamps <Ryan.Deschamps_at_Dal.Ca>
         Subject: Re: 19.546 critical thinking


I read this comment:

   "Another one "pet phrase" is in my eyes "critical thinking". Why
"thinking" is not enough?"

and had one of those "aha!" moments. Thank you for taking my
thinking back a step here. While we may speak of a fear of computer
processes (like statistical software) as a potential impediment to
"critical thinking" -- which, to this point, I was taking to mean
evaluative, introspective, and perhaps self-reflexive as well -- I
believe a missed a whole other realm of the problem in the batch.

For instance, I can see how a statistical package can have serious
implications on "creative" thinking, which also falls into the Kant
quote previously mentioned, but in a different way. If you have a
statistical package that sets your observations in the context of a
pedigree of OPM (other people's math), this would have serious
implications on the quality of research. It means that you may
choose to run a quantitative test a) because it holds recognition in
the scientific community and b) because it can be rather
quickly. But maybe there is another, better way to analyse the
data, without the package -- and maybe if the researcher takes a bit
of time to "think for oneself" a new method can be developed. But, I
wonder if there is a place out there for non-standard methods of data
analysis? I mean, do you always have to reject the null hypothesis
at 5% alpha to say something interesting has happened in your world?

I, myself, have only dabbled in research, but I am a constant
observer of phenomenon. My frustrations around the former have
always been around the ritual of setting one's thoughts and ideas in
the context of a scientific or philosophical tradition. It's not
that I have not learned anything from a pedigree of scholarship. Nor
is it that I do not wish to properly give credit to those who have
thought of something before I did. It's just that I always found
myself "thinking" in ways that are either peculiar, or difficult to
mates in the tradition of scholarship. When forced to provide the
pedigree in a literature review, I have always found my idea bounced
into something that I hardly recognize as my own by the time I am
finished. This may be a good thing in the end, because it doesn't
hurt to hear the thoughts of others -- but it is still very
frustrating. In this sense, I am glad to be finished with the world
of scholarship and to be just speaking my mind in fora like these.

And now for Francois' comparison of the carpenter and the accountant.
I have, for a long time now, come to the conclusion that an
accountant is a high-status librarian. High-status, because the
information that the accountant catalogues and manages is
money. While we do not often call on a librarian to organize our
personal collections, there would also be a critical mass required
for an accountant to be useful. Accountants and Human Resource
managers are in a game of large populations and must strategize in
worlds that are extremely uncertain. This is why we should not be
surprised when the default setting for a managerial process does not
value rebels nor the conlict and/or imagination that often comes with
those guys.

There are organizations out there that choose diversity as a default.
I would argue, however, that the rebel hiring organization needs also
a high capacity to hire and fire these rebels. So long as there are
alot of organizations out there who are willing to look at rebels,
this is not such a bad thing. The historical climate, however, has
always had more hemlock than espresso for the local Socrates.

Ryan Deschamps
Received on Mon Jan 09 2006 - 02:04:59 EST

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