Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Review: HOW WE THINK

'HOW WE THINK' by John Dewey examines the many facets of thinking, something that signifies everything that, as we say, is "in our heads" or that "goes through our minds".
"Thinking is not a case of spontaneous combustion; it does not occur just on general principles", the book tells, beginning a review of the process of thinking. There is something specific, which controls the occasions and evokes it appropriately. General appeals, whether to a child or to a grown-up, to think, need not work. It is possible for a grown up, or a child, to engage oneself in thinking, if and only if the difficulties that troubles one and disturb one's equilibrium, are properly addressed. Next chapter examines the possibility of training somebody to think. How we are not actively engaged in effective thinking always, the default being to be attracted to the bright. Which is why, logical attainment in one direction is no bar to extravagant conclusions in another. How thinking differs from absolute consistency, is then examined. How concentration is not an act of fixing or arresting the flow of suggestions. It means a variety and change of ideas mixed sensibly into a something of a unified conclusion. "Thoughts are concentrated not by being kept still and quiescent, but by being kept moving toward an object, as a general concentrates his troops for attack or defense."
The general problem of the training of mind is then discussed, dividing the complete act of thinking into identifiable steps and prescribing necessary conditions. Next is the interpretation of the results of thinking and arriving at a judgment. How our judgments get colored, sometimes killed, by both internal and external forces, like dogmatism, rigidity, prejudice, caprice, passion, and flippancy. We are then introduced to different types of thinking, the concrete and the abstract, as well as the empirical and the scientific.
To end, the author mentions of the importance of play activity or aimless fooling, as a part of our daily interactions with thought. A balance of playfulness and seriousness is the intellectual ideal, since exclusive interest in the result alters one's existence, or work, to drudgery.
I liked this book. It in fact is replete with some ideas dear to me, like the equal importance deserved by all our faculties, and whether we use those for thinking or not. In 1910, there existed good clarity of thought, about thoughts, this book can definitely show. And I agree with the author. Ardent curiosity, fertile imagination, and love of experimental inquiry, which is present in all instances of thinking, is very near, to the attitude of the scientific mind.