What makes someone a "GOOD" Thinker?

by Anna Blanch on August 16, 2008

Academic-type people often talk about people being top notch thinkers or describe colleagues they respect as having an incredible mind. But what do these terms really mean? Indeed, how can we judge another’s capacity to conceive of abstract concepts? Is what we are really expressing an assessment of a)how we feel we stack up (we don’t deem ourselves as having the same level of intelligence therefore they are a better thinker than we are) or b) that individual’s ability to express their ideas (whether verbal or in the written form).

Is someone a good thinker just because 99% of the general population cannot understand what they are talking about and we might fit into the 1% who (think they) can? Increasingly I have come to feel that someone’s ability to articulate their ideas is a very important marker to establishing their credibility. The old adage applies here:
You have to know what you don’t know to teach what you know

But should another measuring stick be considered? Is there a place for value judgments in the end point of one’s thought processes?

My learned colleague who prompted this train of thought pointed out the differences between Edith Stein (who began her philosophical studies as an Atheist and ended up a Carmelite Nun) and Martin Heidigger (who began as a Catholic, abandoned his faith along the way and ended up a Nazi claiming that he could separate his philosophical ideas from his political). What is significant in comparing these two philosophers is that they both had the same teacher, Edmund Husserl. As my colleague pointed out, Heidigger is much more widely held to be the better philosopher. But was he the better thinker? Stein arguably integrated her thought into her life more completely – her later work, after she had entered the convent, was to combine the philosophies of Aquinas and Husserl.

How do we learn to be better thinkers? Can one truly be a good thinker if their life is not integrated with their thought?

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