Thoughts about my thinking?
January 20, 2009 5:20 AM   Subscribe

Previously on AskMe: a whole bunch of questions about how to think more, better, etc. But what if I'm finding myself not interested in deliberative thinking?

I love argumentation and discourse, but I've realized recently that deliberative thought holds very little interest for me. Unfortunately, as a college student and member of a post-industrial society, that skill seems almost essential.

I've got a strong interest in law, and am on my school's mock trial team, where I'm the lead attorney, although I'm only a sophomore. It's the most fun experience I've had in a long time, and it makes me think I might like to pursue litigation, trial lawyering, or a judging as a career.

I was diagnosed last year with dysthymia and have been undergoing counseling for nearly a year and a half, along with anti-depressants for a little over a year now. Aside from any chemical imbalances, my philosophy tends towards the nihilistic and can't quite make the reach to existentialism; it pushes an attitude towards life of a certain degree of apathy, although even when I do care about something, my self-discipline and interest are usually not enough to get me to do it thoroughly.

That makes me question whether my disinterest might actually be related to laziness, or to the fact that it's a difficult skill, as I've never developed serious critical thinking skills. I cruised through school intellectually on natural intelligence, although my grades reflected my boredom and disinterest in the environment, which challenged only my tolerance for seemingly-unnecessary work.

Assuming my lack of interest in deliberative thought isn't a function of either my depression, the medication, laziness, or a lack of practice (and if it is, please say that, too):

a) What could it be due to?
b) What should I do? I've been thinking "Maybe college just isn't right for me, if I really don't like this central activity." But dropping out doesn't seem like a sensible option, either.
c) Is there a field of study which might be better suited for me than others? I'm currently a political science major, and philosophy and legal studies double-minor, at a second-tier liberal arts college. Oddly enough, I like political theory more than the other stuff in the field, and I loved talking with my professor for tens of hours last semester, but I don't like thinking about the arguments.

In sum: I do like thinking, to some extent. I like being smart. I like gathering knowledge, although not by memorization. I like arguing about and discussing ideas. I don't like deliberative thinking. And it seems that's a problem.

Thanks.
Anonymous for any of my professors who are seeing this. Also my mother, who would probably flip if she thought I was going to waste tens of thousands of dollars at this point in my career.
posted by anonymous to Education (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you mean by "deliberative thinking" the working through of ideas, rationally looking at all facets of a problem and then working through potential solutions?

If that's what you mean, I look at it like this- I like gathering knowledge and knowing stuff too. But I also value the correctness or wisdom of said information- it is worth it to me to take time to gather all relevant data, see as many sides as I can, and then work through to come up with a solution that's the best I can.

Consider that you might be a "visual" thinker. You might see a problem as objects to be manipulated, rather than a stream of words? This makes pure memorization difficult- without knowing what they actually mean, it's just gibberish. So, if that's the case, strive to understand. That obviates the need to memorize, because you just know it...?
posted by gjc at 6:31 AM on January 20, 2009


This is tough, what with the anonymous posting, because I want to ask you what you mean by "deliberative thinking." Given this definition...

de·lib·er·a·tive
adj.
1. Assembled or organized for deliberation or debate: a deliberative legislature.
2. Characterized by or for use in deliberation or debate.

... your statements "I like arguing about and discussing ideas. I don't like deliberative thinking." seem contradictory. Does the phrase "deliberative thinking" have some specific academic jargon sort of meaning that isn't conveyed by dictionary definitions? Feel free to email me a clarification; I'd be happy to post it for you. I guarantee I am neither a professor nor a mother.
posted by jon1270 at 6:32 AM on January 20, 2009


.. your statements "I like arguing about and discussing ideas. I don't like deliberative thinking." seem contradictory. Does the phrase "deliberative thinking" have some specific academic jargon sort of meaning that isn't conveyed by dictionary definitions?

This is the same problem I'm having when I read the question. To me, arguing about and discussing ideas is deliberative thinking. I'm not sure how to proceed.
posted by Nattie at 6:45 AM on January 20, 2009


Many students find themselves uninterested in the pure study of argumentation (what I take you to mean by "deliberative thinking") until they encounter some group of people who present arguments for a view to which they are steadfastly opposed.

I've encountered many a slouching Freshman ethical relativist who frowns, sits up straight, and begins concentrating when he hears a good argument against the legalization of abortion.

This is of a piece with a more general strategy that successful students use. The difference between a good student and a bad one is just this: if a good student recognizes that he isn't interested in something as an instructor has presented it, he looks for different angles of approach that do bear his interest. The bad student, on the other hand, simply stops paying attention.
posted by voltairemodern at 6:51 AM on January 20, 2009


I love argumentation and discourse, but I've realized recently that deliberative thought holds very little interest for me. Unfortunately, as a college student and member of a post-industrial society, that skill seems almost essential.

I hope it is consolation to you that this is the type of question only a college student would ask.

Once you are "in the real world" (as much as I hate that phrase) the issue of whether or not you are "interested" in "deliberative thinking" will go away.

It sounds like you are bored with the various intellectual charades that take place in college, and you are trying to draw an unwarranted conclusion that you are uninterested in a certain type of thinking.
posted by jayder at 6:53 AM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know the first thing about dysthymia, and I don't understand what you mean about "deliberative thinking" any more than jon1270 or nattie does, so you should ask your therapist this question, too.

But I'm reading Robertson Davies and thinking about Myers-Briggs lately, so I'm looking at the question that way (apologies in advance to MBTI haters). Basically, it sounds like you're an ENTP. E because of long conversations and leading the team, N because you prefer theories to details, T because of the interest in law and debate, and P because you find fast-paced debates fun (but I could see "J" also as a possibility, since leaders are often NTJs).

I'm thinking that your dislike of deliberative thinking is a strong N, that you quickly understand the big pattern and aren't interested in explaining which facts and details led you there. The P vs. J could play into your impatience here as well. Ps are good at being spontaneous but tend to find being organized and systematic somewhat painful. You call it laziness, but it's not a moral failing, it's having a tendency or predilection toward one thing over another. (Ps can also develop J coping skills.) On the other hand, Js might dislike deliberation because they want everything to be decided and hate re-opening questions.

In any case, I don't see what the career question is. If you really like law, I'd go that way; I think the INTP or ENTP type is often called "the lawyer." If you're bored with the thinking part of "deliberative thinking," you might also try strengthening your feeling capacities. The book The Deptford Trilogy features an attorney discovering some of his F side.
posted by salvia at 10:53 AM on January 20, 2009


Soooo... getting motivated is the problem?

I'd go and explore your other options - take some other classes in other fields. It sounds like you are stagnating and coasting on your intellect when you should be developing it.

New experiences will help you grow.
posted by HolyWood at 2:04 PM on January 20, 2009


follow-up from the OP
As jon1270 pointed out, "deliberative" doesn't make sense. I should have said "deliberate", by which I mean contemplative or reflective.

That said, I'm pretty good at introspection, although it usually comes as a realization and while talking to another individual, rather than during considered thought.
posted by jessamyn at 3:40 PM on January 20, 2009


Really? You're asking why you don't like reflective, contemplative thought? How the heck should I know? Seriously, I think you ought to look closer at whatever gets in your way when you try to think this way. I'd especially try to examine your emotional reactions. Do you get bored? Impatient? Anxious? If you're inclined to actively avoid contemplative, reflective thought then it's pushing some button for you, bringing you up against something you'd rather avoid. Do you simply not give a crap about the topics you're trying to contemplate? Are you so addicted to easily coasting through your academic life that problems with subtle, multifaceted grey areas make you uncomfortable because you can't go right to the correct answer and get your 'I'm a smarty-pants' ticket punched? Is it that contemplation and reflection are typically silent and internally motivated rather than being energized by competition with someone else? I know you can't easily answer these questions, but they're threads you might follow. Getting down to the bottom of this might require some quiet, reflective contemplation.
posted by jon1270 at 5:33 PM on January 20, 2009


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