Critical Thinking Tools

Critical Thinking Tools

Deconstruct the concepts of ‘Necessary vs. Unnecessary’, ‘Fixed vs. Fluid’ and ‘Relative vs. Absolute’. Also outline what the similarities and what the key differences between the three concepts are?

These three concepts are binary oppositions that aid in understanding situations from a critical perspective. 

Necessary vs Unnecessary

An obvious process of arriving at a solution that I have been coming to learn in the past year or two–especially since becoming a father and needing to use my entrepreneurial ambition to develop disciplined time management.

As explained in the TT video, this explores the efficiency of arriving at a solution. This concept can be employed as a replacement for value judgment on circumstances or outcome. Instead of right and wrong (another pair of binary opposites), we have the simple question: did the problem stop? Or maybe the problem got worse. That’s what it’s really about, at the end of the day: effectiveness. 

A mother-baby analogy was used in the video that I disagree with—it relates to any situation in which there is a learning curve, but especially with babies, it takes time to understand what the baby is crying for… I would argue that even if the mother had to take the long way to finally figure out how to soothe the baby, it was still necessary because that’s how she gets to know her baby better. It would be when she already had that knowledge that the long way around would be deemed unnecessary… I doubt anyone in that video would disagree with that, but it wasn’t so explicit in the talk. 

Fixed vs Fluid

Obvious? This contrasts a mindset for receiving (or transmitting) information.

Someone’s POV may be fixed and un-budging, closed off by beliefs and thus interfering with critical analysis—this is fixed.

Fluid, meanwhile, is an open and non-attached framework for communication. This pair of opposites are ways of perceiving emotional responses in decisions or argumentation. Fluid communication strives to be as objective and neutral as possible, while efficiently listening to information as opposed to filtering it through the lens of belief and subjective control. 

Absolute vs Relative

Finally, this one relates to feelings of personal control in situations, simple or complex. Absolute thinking is easier because it makes humans feel like they are in control. Relative thinking is more in line with the nature of a universe of synchronized chaos. Assumptions can make sense for periods of time but at any moment they still can be blasted apart with a black swan event. 

On a long enough timeline, everything becomes relative. Human subjectivity is bound to the constraints of our vulnerabilities that cause things like life to appear absolute—because one day death will arrive. Or that night follows day, man and woman make love, things can feel right and things can feel wrong (all more binary pairs)… but the “absolute truth” is that everything is relative from a different scale. Decisions are always subject to time, and the only absolute is found in deriving value from those decisions.