5.03.2005

Bravo for Critical Thinking!

Errol Morris on All Things Considered:

I believe in truth. And in the pursuit of truth....

There is such a thing as truth, but we often have a vested interest in ignoring it or outright denying it. Also, it's not just thinking something that makes it true. Truth is not relative. It's not subjective. It may be elusive or hidden. People may wish to disregard it. But there is such a thing as truth and the pursuit of truth: trying to figure out what has really happened, trying to figure out how things really are....

It's not that we find truth with a big "T." We investigate and sometimes we find things out and sometimes we don't. There's no way to know in advance. It's just that we have to proceed as though there are answers to questions. We must proceed as though, in principle, we can find things out -- even if we can't. The alternative is unacceptable.

Joy Ralph on The Internet Review of Science Fiction:

I don’t think there’s nearly enough of [critical thinking] around, and some days I believe it is actively discouraged in some quarters.... Science Fiction is a natural genre to encourage critical thinking, because the minute you begin to read or watch or listen to something, you are forced to begin to solve the mystery of how the situation being described differs from normal expectations.... “Saving the World Through Science Fiction” strikes me as a banner worth rallying behind to actual effect....

Perhaps I’ve tipped my hand here to some ulterior motives behind IROSF. No, not politics (right or left) — reality. I’m of the opinion that the essentialness of the universe is sturdy enough to withstand close examination, and by a means far more invasive than your average cyclotron. How about the human imagination, unleashed? Speculative fiction can open up politics, culture, religion, and all those uncomfortable topics in ways other literature can't.


Amen, sister.

This could probably said of any genre but through different means. Traditional SF at its best does tackle such issues head-on, and through which, it may be argued compellingly, presents them in more depth than if presented through subtlety.

Certainly, Poetry magazine, which has a cool new look but is unfortunately more expansive, has recently been analyzing such issues as what poetry should be about though of course I didn't bring it with me to quote from it. Sadly, they included an opposing point of view by Franz Wright that simply double-dog dared the magazine to print his objection to the magazine--only he didn't demonstrate he had anything worth saying. He just said down with Poetry magazine because it hasn't been relevant since the 70s, as though that were critical thinking enough. Where is your proof Franz? I wish Christian Wiman had printed another poem instead.

Unfortunately, it takes a lot of effort to develop a compelling argument. I recommended the interview with William Gass below because he presents some interesting cases. As I pointed out below, even prize-winners don't always think through what they have to say. I've written a number of essays I haven't published because I argue with myself whether or not it's true. I wish other essayists did the same, but then would they be able to blog everyday if they did?