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Deep Thinking

If you can read this, you are capable of thinking, and of doing so in a more insightful way than is normal. You may or may not choose to look past the usual surface understanding of things, but it is certainly within your capabilities. You can even make deep thought a habit if you practice the following two key techniques for several weeks.

Dig Deeper

Every time you find yourself thinking about something, consciously choose to dig deeper. How do you know what's deeper? Depth is a metaphorical way to express it, but for the most part you can see it intuitively. For example, it is one thing to consider how cruel a person is to animals, but a deeper consideration looks at why that person is cruel, or why we feel the necessity to protect animals.

One way to judge the “depth” of an idea when compared to another, is to ask which one explains more, or which one could use the other as an example. Thus, we can see that thinking about a particular lie a person tells himself is not as deep as considering why people deceive themselves, because the latter explains more. A particular self-deception might also be an example of rationalization, so in this context (and context is important), exploring the nature of the latter is - relatively speaking - deep thinking.

Challenge Premises

Watch the arguments around you and in the news and see if you can identify the common premises that make these discussions possible. Then challenge those premises. You aren’t challenging the premises just to deny them, but to see if they make sense, and to see if you can gain a deeper understanding. In the end you may agree with the original premises, yet still learn something along the way.

For example, you might notice in the debate about immigration, as heated as the arguments get, virtually all participants share the premise that there should be an immigration policy. They just disagree on the methods for controlling the borders of “their” country and for deciding who comes into “their” country. Notice that like in all meaningful arguments, at least one premise must be shared by participants. In this case there is the unspoken premise of ownership of the country. A deeper understanding might result if we question that premise.

Can people “own” a country? How did they come to own the country, and who are the rightful owners? What powers does that ownership rightfully give them? You may decide that you are skeptical of the entire premise, or you may develop your own ideas about who has a right to decide who comes into a country and on what basis - who owns the territory and what that means. In any case, you’ll almost always get a deeper understanding from challenging premises.

These are just two of the most basic techniques for developing the mental habits necessary for a deeper understanding of the world.. Practice deep thinking methods like these daily for several weeks. That is usually enough to make the process habitual.

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