Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The weathervane points north but that doesn’t make it a compass

The concept of opening oneself to new things has been presented regularly through the Wire both in terms of introductions and specific expositions on the subject, but I have noticed that too little attention has been paid to critical thinking.

This isn’t entirely surprising as “being open” and “being critical” can make for strange bedfellows. It's down to timing, the reservation of judgment until such point that contemplation has been given some room to breathe, and some introspection.

As an extreme example, I recall going to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in a cinema in Florida and when the first subtitles appeared, some people exclaimed, “It’s not in English?” before walking out and presumably asking for their money back. I have heard similar comments in regard to films in black and white. But it goes deeper than just sitting through the duration though that is obviously important.

Now, at this point, it may seem like this is all a means of stifling gut reaction but this isn’t so. That would equate a “knee jerk” with the “gut reaction” and there is, or rather, there should be a difference. To clarify, let’s define them. A “knee jerk” reaction makes no effort to strip away preconceptions and outside influences whereas as a “gut reaction” is entirely personal and does not succumb to paradigms.

My feeling is that if the circles of “knee jerk” and “gut reaction” overlap then some effort needs to be spent in separating them unless the individual concerned is from a Utopian society where outside influences are entirely benign. So really, in my own roundabout way, I am stating that to be an effective critical thinker, aim should not solely be squared against the target for which one observes but the actual observer as well—oneself.

Returning to the “knee jerk”, it may seem as if it has no useful purpose but it is quite the contrary. Many of my own observations are an evaluation of these reactions. To experience properly, one should also look within themselves to understand the feelings (or lack of) evoked by an experience be it reading the newspaper(or blog), watching a film, listening to music, visiting the ballet, reading a book, or looking at a painting, particularly when the reaction is strong.

And sometimes, the "knee jerk" reaction is right. It's just foolish to put much weight on it until tested.

This is the first of some of my notes that I have mercifully divided and will continue in serialized form in the coming weeks.

Associated Links
Cognitive Psychology (@simplepsychology)
Perception (@simplepsychology)
Cognitive Bias Wiki
"The Critique of Judgement" - Kant (search for "Fine Art")
Immanuel Kant
Aesthetic Wiki


Anonymous said...

im sorry, this esoteric blog is far too complex. I must move on ;)

Siouxfire said...

I think any other reaction is probably unhealthy :)

Betty C. said...

Actually, this post gave me some food for thought, which I don't eat enough of.

Is there really a difference? Or are you basically saying that clods have knee-jerk reactions (ie the reaction to the film you mentioned) whereas intellectuals get to have gut reactions?

Siouxfire said...

Aha, I'm glad you asked that. Intellectuals can become set in their ways as much as the clods. Our brains are prone to falling into patterns and it takes effort to keep one's perspective open to new things.

I think I was unwise using the terms "kneejerk" and "gut reaction", I probably should have come up with something new like "immediate reaction" and "considered reaction" to clarify things.

Thanks for the reply. I'm glad this managed to get you thinking.

Betty C. said...

The second pair of terms makes a lot more sense.

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