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Rational Thinking

Although irrationality plays a significant role in human life, human beings are in principle capable of thinking and behaving rationally. Humans can learn to respect evidence even though it does not support their views. We can learn to enter empathically into the viewpoint of others. We can learn to attend to the implications of our own reasoning and behavior. We can become compassionate. We can make sacrifices for others. We can work with others to solve important problems. We can discover our tendency to think egocentrically and begin to correct for that tendency.

Hence, though egocentrism causes us to suffer from illusions of perspective, we can transcend these illusions by practicing the thinking that takes us into the perspective of others. Just as we can assimilate what we hear into our own perspective, so can we learn to role-play the perspectives of others. Just as egocentrism can keep us unaware of the thinking process that guides our behavior, critical thinking can help us learn to explicitly recognize that thinking process. Just as we can take our own point of view to be absolute, we also can learn to recognize that our point of view is always incomplete and sometimes blatantly self-serving. Just as we can remain completely confident in our ideas even when they are illogical, we can learn to look for lapses of logic in our thinking and recognize those lapses as problematic (Figure 10.5).


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