The Thinker's Way - 8 Steps to a Richer Life, John Chaffee, 1998
Little, Brown, and Company (Canada) Ltd., 1998
John Chaffee, Ph.D., is a nationally recognized leader in the area of intellectual development and is the author of several books, including the text: Thinking Critically.  He is Director of the New York Center for Critical Thinking and Language Learning and Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.  He conducts Critical Thinking workshops and lectures around the country.

THINK CRITICALLY
LIVE CREATIVELY
CHOOSE FREELY

"I believe that people are free to choose their courses of action, and that they should be held responsible for the  choices they make."

Chaffee maintains that all actions are choices and we can not absolve someone of their responsibility for them.
"The child abuser freely chose to surrender to his destructive sexual  impulses and deserves to be condemned"
"The teenagers who murdered their new-born infant freely chose to deal with their fear of having an unwanted child by killing it and trying to hide the body (despite having many other alternatives available); and they should be held fully responsible for their choice"

He says that there are no excuses or insanity defences. Now this will probably offend a lot of Rights groups. He is saying that there are no victims, if they were presented with a choice and did not take it, their circumstances are their own fault. This includes addicts, abused women (and men), single mothers, welfare junkies, and the homeless. (Blood pressure rising yet?)
Well if it is, you are not thinking critically, that is looking at all perspectives. He says: Can you defend your beliefs intelligently, or are they just emotional reactions?

pp.13-15
I am sometimes asked by people, "Aren't you concerned about what would happen if everyone became a critical thinker?" Let's imagine such a world.  It would be a world in which everyone would be thoughtful.  They would not act rashly or speak foolishly without thinking.  They would be reflective, carefully considering different points of view and thinking deeply about important issues.  People would listen to what you had to say and treat your views with respect, and if they disagreed with your point of view, they would explain why by providing intelligent reasons.  At work, your boss would provide you with personal support and opportunities to take initiative, guiding you when you made mistakes, encouraging you to excel, and awarding you full credit for your accomplishments.  Your relationships with family members would always be loving and honest, as you worked together harmoniously for common purposes.  Your relationship with your romantic partner would be intimate and supportive, expressing deep commitment and emotional honesty.  Parents would nurture their children with unconditional love and raise them to have respect for the needs of others.  People of all ages would display enlightened values, empathizing with the needs of others and trying to help those less fortunate. ...  This would be a world filled with open-minded people who welcome diverse ideas, customs and personal differences.  Racism, sexism, agism, all forms of discrimination would be things of the past as all people would be treated with tolenrance and consideration.

... Everyone would work together to create a better life for all.  Wise and principled political leaders would be elected by a thoughtful citizenry, and they would govern with insight, honesty, and compassion. ... On the road, people would drive with safety and consideration, never letting their anger or desire to get ahead take hold of them at the expense of others.  When people did make mistakes, they would always accept responsibility, never trying to blame others. ...

... It is painfully obvious that we do not live in the "thinking world" just described, and we suffer the consquences of this every day of our lives.  Rather than cultivating the habit of thoughtfulness, people are chronically thoughtless.  They often act rashly and speak foolishly, advancing ignorant opinions with supreme confidence.  They frenquently don't listen to what you have to say, instead focussing on their own ideas.  At work, bosses typically give too little credit and too much blame, failing to respect adequately you or your ideas.  Family relationships tend to be competitive ... romantic relationships often turn into a viper's tangle of resentment and suspicion ... parents have diffuculty raising their children well, depriving them of sufficient love, attention, or guidance.

We live in a world full of close-minded and dogmatic people, convinced they are always right. ...  In may respects we are experiencing the answer to the question: "What happens when people live in an unthinking way?"

pp306-308
We live in a time of moral rootlessness in which idealism has given way to cynicism, altruism to self-interest, and charity to greed. ... We are a society that is morally adrift, lacking a clear system of values to guide our choices ... there is an increasing sense that we have lost our way.  The evidence of this moral breakdown is impossible to miss:

When I first started reading this book I thought: "Well, this is a waste of time... Either you are already a critical thinker, or you're not. If you are, this book will be redundant, and if you are not, nothing will help."  My experience is that the work required to break out of the cycles that most people live in is far too frightening (and painful) for them to attempt (back to the safety and comfort of my NORMAL life). A simple book to fix all the problems (in eight steps, no less) is a little bit of wishful thinking. On further reading, I found that it did have some points on ethics and morals that both intrigued me and offended me. I found myself jumping to the very conclusions that the book was telling me not too, but I read on. I guess my bottom line is take your life philosophy from a myriad of places and  if read with suspended judgement, this book can offer a few points (although the points you discover that mean something to you,  may differ from what appealed me) that may significantly add to the quality of your life... if you have the strength to apply them (but doesn't that couch look so much more safe and comfortable?). And don't worry, it's not your fault, you won't held responsible.
 


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