The Art Of Thinking

Jun 21 20:41 2007 Steven Gillman Print This Article

Thinking efficiently requires more than just logic. Here are some tips on developing the art of thinking.

What do I mean by the art of thinking? It may seem that powerful thinking should simply be logical,Guest Posting and nothing more. The ideal thinker then, might be Spock, the "Vulcan" in the "Star Trek" television show and movies. Of course, if you watch the program, you may recall that the humans aboard the spaceship had most of the solutions and new ideas. Spock only knew how to analyze.

The most useful processes of thought need to do more than run a "logic program." After all, we need to choose what to think about, and we also sometimes need new ways to think about things. These tasks are not a matter of applying logic, but of choosing values and pursuing them creatively.

This is where the art of thinking comes into play. A definition of art: "Disciplines, or those parts of disciplines, which do not rely solely on the scientific method." This includes such arts as economic forecasting and psychological therapy, which might someday rely solely on the scientific method. However, at the moment neither these nor thinking can be described, taught, or practiced solely as a scientific method.

To understand this it might help to use another art as a metaphor. Painting, for example, can shed some light on thinking. The goal is to express something on canvas. You start with the paints, brushes, palettes and other tools. But all the best tools aren't enough.

You need to learn how to paint. You learn to draw, and perhaps learn the geometry of creating perspective in a scene. You learn how to mix the colors and how to show light reflecting. This is the science of painting.

The tools and science still aren't enough, though. You need to practice, so you paint again and again to learn how to best get various effects. Then, with the tools, the knowledge, and the practice, you are ready to create something new of your own. Perhaps. Of course there is nothing in your painting books that says, "This is what you want to say with your painting." Here, the "art" enters. First, you choose according to your values what you will paint.

Then you find a way to express yourself creatively. You rely on your intuition to show something new, some unique perspective that means something to you (and hopefully others).

How do you know how well you did? First, the painting either makes sense to you or it doesn't. Second, it makes sense to others, or not. Of course, some won't appreciate a good painting, but if nobody sees the value in your painting, it isn't likely that they are all aesthetically "blind." Feedback matters, because painting is not just about expressing yourself, but also about communicating your vision to others.

Painting With Thoughts

Want to improve your art of thinking? Start with better tools. Just as a better paintbrush can help produce a better painting, better reasoning skills, or more observation, or more experience can lead to more useful, valuable, and even beautiful thoughts. Your intuition, which guides you in the use of these other tools, should be developed. But good tools are not enough.

You need knowledge. Knowing more things gives you more options in combining those things into new ideas. Practice gives you more skill in doing this as well. Expand the base of your knowledge then, and practice thinking of new ideas. But tools, knowledge and practice are still not enough.

Like a painter, you need to start with your values to decide where to apply your thinking. What is worth thinking about? Then you need to look at your thoughts and ask if they make sense. You also need to throw them out there into the public sphere - at least among friends - to see if they make sense to others. Do at least some people understand the picture you are painting with your words?

By the way, talking to others is a form of thinking (at least it can be). Just as the communication between the various parts of your brain creates new ideas, so does the interplay of two minds in a conversation. Good conversation can be an important part of the art of thinking.

What else? Like a painter, you should experiment. You should mix those "paints" up differently from time to time, just to see what you get. You should try a new type of canvas (think on paper, in poetry, in stories?), or a new subject matter.

You should watch the process of your own thoughts, learn from it, and adapt accordingly. Much of what you learn will be at a level below consciousness. To use this, even as you guide your thoughts consciously, you have to allow for the intuitive as well. It is in this interplay between the conscious and unconscious that the art of thinking really blossoms.

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Steven Gillman
Steven Gillman

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