A Bit About Me!
First I want to relate why the concept of dialectical thinking is personally relevant to me. As both a Mormon and an intersectional Feminist, I tend to get into a lot of deep discussions on a wide variety of issues. The people I am discussing with usually have some very incorrect preconceptions about what I believe, which manifest quickly in conversation. Now, I don't see this as a problem, but an opportunity for us to get to understand each other better! However, all too often I find that as I try to respectfully explore and clear up misconceptions that we both might have, my peer is rarely interested in hearing it; rather, they stick to their beliefs like a sailor to the last remnants of a sinking ship, and seem interested only in proving themselves correct.
Does this situation sound familiar at all to you? My guess is that it does...
Learning =/= Losing!
In a TED talk by Daniel Cohen (2013, Colby College), he talks about how we often percieve argument in a very warlike, adversarial framing. Imagine for a moment that two people have a discussion where Person A has an idea/concept, and Person B brings up a multitude of objections/questions to challenge that concept; Person A explains them all with a degree of competence, and thus Person B walks away with a deeper respect for - or maybe even, gasp! believing in - Person A's idea. Most would tend to judge this interaction and say that Person A "won" this argument. This mindset, however, betrays the belief that to learn is to lose. Furthermore, in a TED talk by Jesse Richardson (2014, Brisbane) he states that humans have a tendency to feel like it's bad to be wrong. He opines that it would be good for us to learn that the ideas we hold are not us, and that we shouldn't feel the need to defend them to the death; rather, it is liberating and will fundamentally change our approach to the world if we allow ourselves to change our ideas.
Dialectical Thinking And Government
This is why we need to be capable of thinking dialectically!
And "Dialectical" Means...?"Dialectical thinking" means to be able and willing to understand and recognize the truth behind opposing viewpoints. Not only that, but it means that you are willing to find a solution that meets the needs of both opposing views. When people think dialectically, a healthy dialogue able to occur where each side is examined and understood objectively, and it actually leads to results!
The consequences of not thinking dialectically are worse than simply not accomplishing things, however...
Why It MattersThe psychological term for the way someone processes information when they are not able or willing to think dialectically is confirmation bias. This refers to mankind's natural tendency to filter out information they are exposed to through a process that weeds out/ignores facts, evidence and ideas that may be at odds with their own, and to emphasize information that supports their own viewpoints. If we are not aware of and put effort into avoiding these tendencies, we are no longer capable of seeing the objective world around us, instead inhabiting a self-supportive fantasy world where everything works the way we want it to work. When confirmation bias rules our perception, instead of arguing opposing views in order to reach a workable well-rounded compromise, arguing opposing views becomes an exercise in futility and an act of aggression.
This will in turn push people apart and create a feeling of otherness, lending towards dehumanizing the "others," and as any student of history may tell you, these are the first steps which have been taken towards any meaningless conflict in history!
Explosion of CommunicationImage from here.
We are entering an age of unparalleled facilitation of communication, and like any technological revolution, it brings with it a higher level of opportunity for amazing advances, as well as much more painful consequences for failure. With the click of a mouse (or tap on my phone) I can be exposed to an astoundingly wide variety of ideas, and then (with a considerable amount of dedicated effort) use an understanding of those in figuring out what the best solution for any problem might be. In contrast, much more easily, I can learn about these other ways of thinking just enough to decide that I disagree with them and strengthen my own convictions that my worldview is absolutely right, and maybe even that I should do whatever is in my power to get others to conform to it.
Importance Of Literacy
Critical thinking is difficult and takes a lot of attention and effort, but I believe that the progress we are capable of making both as individuals and as a society at large will be well worth the sacrifice!