We all have a system to break down how we understand things, how the world looks to us, how we make sense of the world. The ways we think are called the Elements of Thought.
But once we have thought about something, how do we know if we’re right? How do we know if our thinking is any good?
Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t think well. We tend to favor decisions and ideas that favor us, put our own group over other groups. We are…ego-centric and socio-centric. So, we need to force ourselves to look at things the way they truly are. So, to assess the quality of our thinking, we use the Intellectual Standards.
A standard is a measure of how good something is. The ancient Romans used symbols on the top of long poles to show the troops where they should stand and which way to face. It brought order to a crazy and chaotic battlefield. In much the same way, we use standards in thinking to make sure that hold our feet to the fire, to make sure that what we say and do is actually right.
There are nine Intellectual Standards we use to assess thinking: Clarity, Accuracy, Precision, Relevance, Depth, Breadth, Logic, Significance, and Fairness. Let’s check them out one-by-one.
Clarity forces the thinking to be explained well so that it is easy to understand. When thinking is easy to follow, it has Clarity.
Accuracy makes sure that all information is correct and free from error. If the thinking is reliable, then it has Accuracy.
Precision goes one step further than Accuracy. It demands that the words and data used are exact. If no more details could be added, then it has Precision.
Relevance means that everything included is important, that each part makes a difference. If something is focused on what needs to be said, there is Relevance.
Depth makes the argument thorough. It forces us to explore the complexities. If an argument includes all the nuances necessary to make the point, it has Depth.
Breadth demands that additional viewpoints are taken into account. Are all perspectives considered? When all sides of an argument are discussed, then we find Breadth.
Logical means that an argument is reasonable, the thinking is consistent and the conclusions follow from the evidence. When something makes sense step-by-step, then it is Logical.
Significance compels us to include the most important ideas. We don’t want to leave out crucial facts that would help to make a point. When everything that is essential is included, then we find Significance.
Fairness means that the argument is balanced and free from bias. It pushes us to be impartial and evenhanded toward other positions. When an argument is objective, there is Fairness.
There are more Intellectual Standards, but if you use these nine to assess thinking, then you’re on your way to thinking like a pro.