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Travis Tokarek

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Is it wrong to sympathetically represent the viewpoints of others?

I am taking a class that is introducing us to the art of critical thinking. One of the elements to the method of critical thinking is "Fairness". When weighting a thought for its fairness, is it wrong to weight something more heavily based on sympathy? I feel that sympathy is important in our development of mankind, however, I believe that sympathy can be dangerous when making decisions. What is the difference between understanding another viewpoint and sympathizing a group that holds that viewpoint?

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    Gail . 50+

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    Sep 12 2012: If you are arguing to an emotional point, you are not using critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills speak of reason, and emotions or cultural norms do not have to be reasonable - they just have to be popular.

    to understand another viewpoint, take the idea as far as you can take it rationally - like mathematically. To do this, you have to willingly set-aside - if only temporarily - all beliefs that you have about the matter, and allow only the facts to shine through. In this way, you will see the difference between a hope and a fact, and in this way, you can begin to tap into critical thinking any time that you want.

    Fear-based emotions CAN be dangerous when making decisions. Find COMPLETE facts to support that statement. Truthiness - or only those facts that support your argument - though technically true are so incomplete as to be untrue - is not truth. If it's not founded in truth, it's not critically thought out.
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    Sep 13 2012: Thank you all for your opinions!
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    Sep 12 2012: I feel sorry for a wounded bear. However to approach it to offer help is not a wise decision.

    FACT: I feel sympathy for the wounded bear.

    FACT: Knowledge tell me that to approach is dangerous.

    Want to go with sympathy or knowledge on this one? Both are facts .. chose one.

    Good luck in your studies. Keep and open mind and a sense of humor.

    All the best. Bob.
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    Sep 12 2012: Pity is the difference between understanding and sympathy.
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    Sep 9 2012: The missing word is Empathy. I.e understanding and entering into another's feelings . . I don't know if we should necessarily erase our own viewpoint in other to empathize or sympathize with someone. There is a context to viewpoints - people think the way they do due to experience, situation, feelings and what have you. It is OK to share those feelings with them and understand where they are coming from BUT to drop your own experience and understanding, that help shaped your own viewpoint, is something beyond me.

    YES it is right to identify that if you were in the same position you'd probably behave the same way but it is a different question to start representing that position from another point.

    Its hard to go on without an example. I understand that if i were a Palestinian I'd probably fight with the last drop of my blood to reclaim my land - does it then mean that i should join the fight?
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    Sep 9 2012: It is important to symphatize; it is a good starting point. But symphathy should lead to investigation and a quest for knowledge; and sometimes it has to lead to self examination.
    There are believable lies, and a liar can be convincing. That is why symphathy is nothing but a good start; but understanding and morality are important so that you know the view that you are representing as it really is.
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    Sep 8 2012: Your teacher very likely wants you to learn to consider different viewpoints as objectively as you can rather than sifting through information looking only for evidence that confirms your biases. Many people seek support for their own positions and only look for counter evidence for other people's points of view. Some people decide they hate religious people or America or lawyers or some other group (perhaps out of sympathy for the victms of their bad decisions) and therefore see only the bad in these groups. This is not good critical thinking.

    Critical thinking requires you to look for the weaknesses in the position you hold as well as the strengths of arguments to which you may not immediately be disposed.

    In terms of sympathy for others, sympathy is always good, as long as you understand how it does, or does not fit, into critical thinking. For example, would you want to push an idea more heavily because you know the boy making that case just broke up from his girlfriend? If the question is which cafe to go to, you might want to sway the decision his way, because the issue doesn't matter and why not indulge him?. But in a classroom debate about something, the disappointment in his personal life should not affect how many points you give him.

    If a person seeks a patent for a medication with dubious benefits, your sympathy for the fact that this person's patents keep getting turned down, to his great disappointment, has no place.