Everyday thinking is what fills in the time when you are neither asleep nor dead.
Just as you notice a car engine only when it is not running smoothly so you become aware of everyday thinking when it is not running smoothly.
Everyday thinking is involved in
planning a holiday;
what to do about the dog when you want to go away for the week-end;
thinking of an excuse for getting to work late;
finding an easy way of getting through your work;
educating the children;
opening a bottle of beer when you have lost the opener;
keeping your end up in a political argument;
and possibly trying to make the world a better place to live in.
There is no law requiring one to think for oneself or to make one's own ideas.
In important matters it is usually easier to accept other people's ideas ready-made and this saves one the trouble of doing any thinking for oneself—though one may still have to do it in minor matters.
Often one has no choice but to accept the ideas of others because thinking things out for oneself can be so difficult.
Education unfortunately provides little help in this matter.
You can probably remember things you were taught at school
about geography (valleys, river deltas, rice-growing countries, etc.) and
about history (dates of battles, names of kings, etc.).
But can you remember what you were taught about thinking?
Or is thinking something that one knows all about anyway—like walking or breathing?
The truth is that thinking is too important a matter to do anything about.
So we have left it to the philosophers who over the ages have amused themselves with the most intricate analyses which have little relevance to everyday life.
Some time ago a man (Rudolf Carnap), who was described as being one of the most influential philosophers of the century, died.
Influential on his fellow philosophers, but hardly on anyone else.
Just how much influence does logical positivism have on everyday thinking?
Why truth is best described as a particular constellation of circumstances with a particular outcome.
In everyday thinking both sides in a fight are always right.
This is because being right is the feeling of being right.
This is what guides your actions, not the abstract philosophical rightness of your ideas.
In this book the four practical ways of being right are explored:
currant cake (emotional rightness);
jig-saw puzzle (logical rightness);
village Venus (unique rightness);
measles (recognition rightness).
In addition to picking out and naming the four different ways of being right the book also picks out and names the five levels of understanding and the five major mistakes in thinking.
The purpose of picking out and naming these patterns of thinking is to make them recognizable.
It then becomes possible to recognize these patterns in your own thinking and in the thinking of others.
You can also talk about them in as definite a way as you might talk about a car or a hamburger.
Without such named patterns thinking is vague and intangible and hence very difficult to talk about.
As soon as one can talk about thinking one is on the way to regarding it as a skill like playing tennis or cooking.
Far too many people regard thinking as a matter of inborn intelligence—which it is not.
In my researches and experiments I have again and again come across very intelligent people who turned out to be very poor thinkers.
Nor have I found that thinking skill has much to do with education, for some of the best educated people (Ph.D.s, university lecturers and professors, senior business executives, etc.) have also been poor thinkers.
To regard thinking as a skill rather than as a gift is the first step towards doing something to improve that skill.
The book looks at practical everyday thinking which allows us to use something effectively without knowing all the details—for instance a TV set.
Other aspects of thinking explored include imagination, creativity, the YES/NO system, the deadly danger of arrogance and the huge importance of humour in thinking.
Thinking may seem to be too complex a process to be understood but the two basic steps are quite simple (carry on and connect up further down the page).
The book also explains the extraordinary paradox that man may be able to think so much better than animals only because he is stupider.
In writing about thinking it is very easy to get lost in word dances with ideas chasing ideas in a confused whirl.
In order to avoid this confusion the book is based on a direct experiment in thinking and not on fancy speculation.
This simple experiment provides the backbone that runs through the book and keeps it from flopping into a shapeless metaphysical mess.
I really do believe that the most optimistic thing about the human race is its relative stupidity.
There would be little hope if the human race was as bright as it thinks it is and still got itself into so much trouble.
I believe that if we started paying attention directly to the subject of everyday thinking it would be rather more useful than shooting for the moon.
At the moment, for instance, there are more professors in England concerned with Sanskrit than with thinking as a skill.
Why not try a page search for “right” on this page and this page?