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.
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.
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 arent 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, youll 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.