Why What I Think Matters Less Than How I Think

Today I began my first intentional step on the road to becoming a more organized thinker.

In November of 2020, when I enrolled in my coaching course, I was hoping that it would provide me with unprecedented (relative to my experiences with formal education) levels of intellectual challenge. It turns out that the methodology of this course is based in intuitive learning, and experiential learning, which is already the way I learn best.

Given how much time I have had available to me over the last year, I realized that this was a perfect opportunity to try my hand at university level academics for the first time EVER. As the holder of one extremely useful (not) Bachelor of Fine Arts, I didn’t have much opportunity to test my academic mettle when I was originally in university, and I have been curious for quite some time about how I’d do in a structured learning environment that does not cater to the needs of the individual.

Upon reviewing the course options, however, I came to the conclusion that most areas of study are designed to tell us WHAT to think, not teach us HOW to think, and I was reminded of why I pursued a fine arts degree and then ultimately found myself in business. I already know a lot because I am a self-directed lifelong learner and I’m pretty old. I’m not particularly interested in learning more of what I already know. I’m much more interested in learning what I don’t know. The question of what I don’t know is infinite whereas what I know is limited, right?

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Lately, the theme of intersectionality has been recurring in my life, and it’s no coincidence that I began to read about philosophy around the same time that my coaching course began. Prior to this, however, as a result of this great social experiment we are all participating in, I became more acutely aware than ever of conflicts between my own methods of evaluating the validity of a theory and the way that the society I live in determines the validity of theories. The intersection of this conflict, and the space to explore the why of my rumination over these conflicts, lies in the study of philosophy. And hence, I found myself enrolled in a course called Philosophy of Science. Because I want to understand the significance of the spaces between us.

So here’s what is really amusing – to date I’ve only sat through one lecture out of 26. And yet, the topic covered in this session, what philosophy is in its essence, has given me enough information about the human need to classify patterns of thought and inquiry to begin the subtle process of truly understanding HOW I think. What is funny is that this information has been accessible to me all this time had I considered it a viable course of study, but I really didn’t realize that I had the foundations of a philosopher until a couple of months ago.

I’ve come to realize that those of us who think differently spend a lot of time defending what we think, and unless our talents are recognized and directed, we don’t get a lot of opportunity to cultivate our differences and our abilities.

I’ve been so caught up in defending the right to think what I think because I think differently that I haven’t left any space to consider HOW I think.

My greatest failing as I’ve moved through my life and collected bits of knowledge has been that I did not develop a formal method for organizing my own inquiry process. My coaching education is wonderful for this, as the Six Whats model that we are employing provides us with a clear set of steps that lead to critical and deep understanding. I’ve been able to laterally apply this model to my own exploration of the topics that dart in and out of my mental spaces, and to understand how to lead others to question their own processes. But again, this process is more intuitively based than anything else .

Today in class I learned the following:

  1. Philosophy, or the “spirit” of inquiry, is a general attitude towards things rather than a body of conclusions, and there must be a method. The methods that history has manifested are, a) Rationalistic, mathematical, deductive (based on the work of Réné Descartes), b) Scientific, Empirical, Inductive (à la Francis Bacon), and c) Mystical, Intuitive, Romantic (as per Pascal Blaise).
  2. My process fall into the category of mystical or intuitive, with a side of logic. A man recently told me that I had one of the most scientific minds he’d ever encountered, and I didn’t understand why he’d even say such a thing until I realized that philosophy IS SUPPOSED TO BE the basis of scientific inquiry. And that while intuition was once considered as valid as any of the other processes, it is currently not very well received. Given that our consumerist social model relies on scientific conclusion (concluding is not very scientific, btw), there’s really not much room for people who think like me to be anything other than dismissed. You can’t make money off of questioning EVERYTHING that is. In fact, our entire economic system would have collapsed long before it was forced to collapse if everyone was allowed to run willy nilly with their out of control pesky feelings like I do. Conclusion – I know nothing worth knowing and my questions are stupid and pointless. Also, there is no link between science and capitalism.

    You know what really makes a person anti-science? Concluding. There. I said it.
  3. Circular arguments are bad and can be really hard to spot (will come back to my thoughts on this if ever I get the guts to write about what I really want to write about). Throwing in this point is a subtle commentary that will hopefully serve to remind me to continue to examine a critical flaw in the current “scientific” method of inquiry that’s got us all caught in a trap. See point 2.

What I learned from the book The Art of Somatic Coaching is that our society is structured around the philosophy of René Descartes, aka Cartesian logic or Rationalism, and that this philosophy seeks to deny the mystical and the intuitive because it can’t be seen or measured, quantified and therefore lacks the potential to be converted in a transactional manner. It’s also the basis, in theory, for modern scientific inquiry, so based on the points I’ve meandered around you can see why I take issue with the fact that we use a philosophical method of inquiry to justify consensus science which discounts any process that does not conclude. It’s simply an illogical approach to understanding life. How can we conclude anything about the majesty of the natural world? I will think more on this one and maybe write something else about it one day.

My mother asked me the other day what science and philosophy had to do with each other. Did you know that the equivalent of our modern day scientists identified as philosophers not too long ago? Now you, too, know the answer, because that’s what I’ve been alluding to and am now concluding.

Ultimately, my methods of inquiry will always leave room for questions because what I FEEL, intuitively, leaves me to question what I’m told simply IS. I credit this ongoing connection with my gut to not having had a formal education that told me how and what to think. This meant that I could stay in touch with my own childlike sense of curiosity and wonder about the world around me. What I have always felt, what I have used to guide my decisions and to form my beliefs, cannot be quantified through rational, mathematical, scientific, or deductive reasoning. And the way I have historically approached the problems of modern society, as I see them, has not fit the PHILOSOPHIES upon which our society is founded. Philosophy as a concept has fallen out of fashion and been replaced by modern Scientism, so there simply isn’t room for those of us of who fall into other categories of intuitive understanding and vision to comfortably be who we are. The result is that many of us end up feeling like we have to cling so tightly to WHAT we feel and therefore think in order to get a sense that we could possibly know something about something and that we aren’t complete brainless idiots who just can’t seem to get with the program. Because if you’re not for us, then obviously you’re against us…

So with this understanding under my belt thanks to lecture one of PHIL 220, I can now accept with much less judgement what I think, because it’s simply the outcome of how I think, and therefore not of very much importance overall. If I were designed/conditioned to think differently, I would perhaps would have come to other understandings about the nature of things, the ontology. In other words, I think what I do because of how I think, and how I think is a matter of conditioning. So I’m not so smart and my ideas aren’t so original after all.

Today I learned that one way to describe philosophy is “thinking about thinking”. That the spirit of inquiry is more important than drawing conclusions. That questions can be questioned. And that it is entirely okay to find fulfilment in a life of questions that can never be answered, thanks to the inherent paradoxical nature of life on the planet.

“An unexamined life is not worth living”, said Socrates, and I totally get what he meant.

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