How We Think (3)

And to my last dichotomy . . .

Can-Do Attitude and the Intellect

Our thinking methodology is shaped by our culture. That fact became very clear to me when I studied Asian languages and realized that their linguistic logic was quite different from that of western languages. The secret of mastering them was learning to think in a way compatible with their underlying culture, their way of seeing life.

I’ve written in this blog before about the American can-do culture. We believe that we’ll find a way to achieve our objectives by keeping at it until we succeed. Oddly inherent in that approach is an unspoken disparaging of thinkers, who are not seen as doers.

The can-do bias affects our thinking. One quote that describes our outlook comes from the scientist and writer Isaac Asimov (1920-1992):

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

Whereas other cultures, particularly Asian cultures, revere the learned, we Americans often denigrate our intellectuals and artists. We want to get things done rather than thinking about them. That approach, frequently personified in our politicians and especially President Trump, leads to national calamities such as the current government shutdown.

We can do better. We all need to improve our thinking skills. But most of all we need to learn to respect thinkers.

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