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Within nearly every field of study, it is important to be a fair in one’s thoughts and actions. By being non-judgmental towards the thoughts, actions, and beliefs of others and not giving into hasty generalizations, an individual can become a fair-minded critical thinker and understand the strong and lasting biases within society. The key intellectual virtues listed below are adapted from The Aspiring Thinkers Guide to Critical Thinking, which was written by Linda Paul and Richard Elder in 2009. This book is a key aspect of the study of philosophy and promotes the ideas of thinking critically and not giving into societal biases.

1. Intellectual Integrity

Having a consciousness of the limits of one’s knowledge, including a sensitivity to circumstances in which one’s native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity to bias, prejudice, and limitations of one’s viewpoint. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than one actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the logical foundations, or lack of such foundations, of one’s beliefs.

2. Intellectual Independence

Figure out things for yourself. Do not just believe what you are told by others, use intellectual standards such as accuracy, relevance, significance, and fairness to inform your opinions

3. Intellectual Humility

Having a consciousness of the limits of one’s knowledge. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than they actually know. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. Instead, it implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the logical foundations, or lack of such foundations, of one’s beliefs.

4. Intellectual Courage

Having a consciousness of the need to face and fairly address ideas, beliefs or viewpoints toward which we have strong negative emotions and to which we have not given a serious hearing. This courage is connected with the recognition that ideas considered faulty are, at times, rationally justified. To determine for ourselves which is which, we must not passively and uncritically “accept” what we have “learned.”

5. Intellectual Empathy

Understanding the need to put oneself in the place of others in order to genuinely understand their beliefs, which requires the consciousness of our egocentric tendency to identify truth with our immediate perceptions of long-standing thought or belief. This trait correlates with the ability to reconstruct the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than our own. This trait also correlates with the willingness to remember occasions when we were wrong in the past despite an intense conviction that we were right.

6. Intellectual Perseverance

Understanding the need to use intellectual insights and truths in spite of difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations; firm adherence to rational principles despite the irrational opposition of others; a sense of the need to struggle with confusion and unsettled questions over an extended period of time to achieve deeper understanding or insight.

7. Confidence in Reason

Confidence that one’s own higher interests and those of humankind at large will be best served by giving the freest play to reason, by encouraging people to come to their own conclusions by developing their own rational faculties; faith that, with proper encouragement and cultivation, people can learn to think for themselves, to form rational viewpoints, draw reasonable conclusions, think coherently and logically, persuade each other by reason and become reasonable persons, despite the deep-seated obstacles in the native character of the human mind and in society as we know it.

8. Fairmindedness

Having a consciousness of the need to treat all viewpoints alike, without reference to one’s own feelings or vested interests, or the feelings or vested interests of one’s friends, community or nation; implies adherence to intellectual standards without reference to one’s own advantage or the advantage of one’s group.

the author

Matt is a graduate of Monmouth University. Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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