批判思考 Critical Thinking

最近我開始對人性某些層面感到疑惑。我無法想像任何形式的暴力能讓人更親近神。我的感知源於身為一個自由之人,受過良好教育也見識廣博。我尚未遇過能擊垮一個人靈魂,或是其希望的邪惡。最近我在一個課堂上問學生,如果我們從未體驗過,要如何理解精神上與生理上的絕望?學生們面無表情,也沒有答案。不過有位聰明人認為解決之道在於謙遜的藝術當中,而這要從互相尊重的對話做起。

這樣想來,最有意義的政治角色之一必然是外交家與大使。這一類型的人有不勝枚舉的特質。外交家克萊門斯•梅特涅(1773-1859)就是一位現實政治1的傑出典範,「他是十九世紀初最重要的外交官之一,自1809年任職奧地利帝國外交大臣,1821年擔任總理2,直至1848年革命爆發,被迫下野3。在短暫流亡英國與盧森堡的期間,他在1851年回到維也納法院,成為費迪南德接班人,弗蘭茲約瑟夫的顧問。他於1859年辭世,享年86歲,以當代政治家來說算長壽了。」直至死前,他都致力於將維也納議會的和平帶進歐洲,現代的好戰分子真該向他看齊。

受良好教育的人時常還是缺乏批判思考的藝術,歷史上一向如此。那天發生了一件有趣的事情,我一直困惑為何俄羅斯帝國的羅曼諾夫王朝會在屹立三百年後的1917年瓦解,最簡單的答案就是慣性與腐敗。不過這樣只回答了一半。大多數俄羅斯人支持沙皇,農民們相信沙皇是被玩弄權勢的厭世者包圍。若人們能夠直接與沙皇對話,一切就會好轉。但不幸地,末代皇帝尼古拉二世將這份信心給擊潰了。他於1896受到加冕,在慶典當天的清晨五點,在沙皇館前的霍登卡平原(Khodynka Field)已有成千上萬人聚集。「開始有傳言說啤酒與餅不夠分給群眾,但盛裝的容器裡有金幣。僅一千八百名的警力無法控制人群,這一陣不幸的恐慌推擠造成1389人被踩死,約有1300人受傷。但王室並沒有停止活動,且即刻開始悼念。這件意外彰顯出執政者的疏忽與對危機處理的不足,以致犯了眾怒。」1905年的血腥星期日更強化了人民的不滿,其始於官方對手無寸鐵的請願者的血腥鎮壓。革命的種子已然播下。偉大的教育家兼思想家羅伯特•梅納德•哈欽斯(Robert Maynard Hutchins)曾說:教育的目的在於讓青年做好準備在一生中教育自己。

本週散心時,也想想教育在你生活中扮演的角色吧。

每天試著尋找生活中神奇、美麗的事物。

 

Recently, I’ve come to questions some forms of humanity. I truly cannot understand how violence of any form will lead me to a better communion with God. My perspective, of course, comes from a person who is enfranchised in the world, quite well educated and travelled. I have not been exposed to the demons that sour an individual’s view of life and, more importantly, hope. In one of our classes recently I asked how we can understand spiritual and physical despondency if we have never experienced this range of feelings in our lives. My students were stone-faced and could present no answers. One rather clever man, however, suggested that the solution lay in the art of modesty, which adumbrated respectful dialogue.

With that thought in mind, one of the most meaningful of political relationships has to be the role of the emissary or ambassador. The qualities of this unique kind of individual are too numerous to list. An excellent example of such a person who dealt in the world of realpolitik, 1and had a system of diplomacy named after him, was Prince Klemens von Metternich (1773-1859). “He was one of the most important diplomats of the early 19th century, serving as the Austrian Empire’s Foreign Minister from 1809 and as Chancellor 2 from 1821 until the revolutions of 1848 3forced his resignation. After a brief period of exile in England and Luxembourg, he returned to the Viennese court in 1851: in an advisory position to Ferdinand’s successor, Franz Josef. Having outlived his generation of politicians, Metternich died at the age of 86 in 1859.” He is credited with bringing peace to Europe from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 until his death. Our present crop of warmongers should take note.

The great art of critical thinking is often strangely absent in many educated people and this is equally true in world history. One little interesting piece of trivia “fell into my lap” the other day. I have always been perplexed as to how the Romanov dynasty of The Russian Empire suddenly collapsed after 300 years in 1917. The easy answer is systemic inertia and corruption. That is nevertheless only half the story. Most Russians, curiously, supported the Tsar. The peasantry, for one, believed that he was a good man surrounded by Machiavellian misanthropes. If they could only speak to him directly, all could be put well and bounty would once again return to Mother Russia. The last emperor, Nicholas II sadly, and rather ridiculously, tossed that faith away. He was crowned in 1896. At about 5 o’clock in the morning of the celebration day, thousands of people were already gathered on Khodynka Field in front of the Tsar’s Pavilion, near Moscow.“Rumorsbegan to circulate that there was not enough beer or pretzels for everybody, and that the enamel cups contained a gold coin. A police force of 1,800 men failed to maintain civil order, and in a catastrophic crush, and resulting panic to flee the scene, 1,389 people were trampled to death, and roughly 1,300 were injured. The royal family did not stop the festivities and immediately declare a period of mourning. In the aftermath of the accident, the negligence, the naive response and the human insensitivity of the imperial authorities caused further public indignation in Russia.” This was more profoundly magnified just seven years later in 1905 on Bloody Sunday when imperial troops mowed down unarmed petitioners: the seeds of revolution had been sown and watered. The great educator and thinker Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977) leaves us with a thought: The objective of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.

This week on your proactive walk, please contemplate the role of education in your life.

Every day look for something magical and beautiful.

Footnote:

1) The German word realpolitik refers to a political system based on practical rather than moral grounds.

2) The chancellor is the head of the government–analogous to a prime minister.

3) The Revolutions of 1848 were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. They remain the most widespread revolutionary upheaval in European history, but within a year government forces had regained control, and the revolution collapsed.

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