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Distinguishing Between Inert Information, Activated Ignorance, Activated Knowledge

It is impossible to reason without using some set of facts, data, or experiences as a constituent part of one’s thinking. Finding trustworthy sources of information and refining one’s own experience critically are important goals of critical thinkers. We must be vigilant about the sources of information we use. We must be analytically critical of the use we make of our own experience. Experience may be the best teacher, but biased experience supports bias, distorted experience supports distortion, self-deluded experience supports self-delusion. We, therefore, must not think of our experience as sacred in any way but, instead, as one important dimension of thought that must, like all others, be critically analyzed and assessed.

The mind can take in information in three distinctive ways: (1) by internalizing inert information, (2) by forming activated ignorance, and (3) by achieving activated knowledge.

Inert Information

By inert information, we mean taking into the mind information that, though memorized, we do not understand-despite the fact that we think we do. For example, many people have taken in, during their schooling, a lot of information about democracy that leads them to believe they understand the concept. Often, a good part of the information they have internalized consists of...

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