Gustaaf Cornelis: the banks of our comfort zone

Critical thinking starts from yourself.

Gustaaf Cornelis, VUB looking into the lens
critical thinking starts from yourself

“You must have courage” to paraphrase Kant. From the moment you have the clarity to dare and truly ‘think through’ something, you are acting critically. The seeds thereof are part of your own world view. Or not. At a certain moment you will begin to question that world view. If you don’t, you remain anchored in a closed chain – a cycle that is hard to break.

Reliable sources are essential in a process that we must consequently approach in a critical manner. Still, that is no guarantee since you can act dogmatic and simultaneously handle your sources correctly. Furthermore a dogmatic system offers answers and a form of certainty.

Critical thinking does not lead to certainty. Science doesn’t offer truth either, but it is a fine instrument to expose dogmatism. We have a tendency to want to confirm that what we know, while actually it is exactly that which we should question.

Obviously it is impossible to question your entire worldview on a daily basis, for that would lead to an existential crisis and eventually mental inertia.

Micro steps

Why would one think critically? Since critical thinking is not about finding the truth, from time to time an individual finds itself in a cognitive comfort zone. By thinking critically we can alter that comfort zone in the most reliable way and that to me is the main advantage of critical thinking. Not that critical thinking offers certainties, but a sense of wellbeing. It works inductively and that is why meeting people is essential: listening and talking, testing and confronting. Critical thinking happens in micro steps. The only condition is a certain openness, no matter how little, to take steps, to expand, reduce or alter your knowledge comfort zone. We can be a catalyst to question each other’s comfort zones and to evolve to the next level. Critical thinking is thus more hedonistic than it sounds: it truly contributes to a sense of wellbeing.