Episode 10

Published on:

3rd Nov 2022

Intro to Critical Thinking

In this episode of the Awareness to Action Enneagram podcast, Mario Sikora, María José Munita and Seth "Creek" Creekmore continue their deep dive into critical thinking as a fundamental thing they believe is important for the Enneagram community. They discuss a few ideas on how to think critically and why it’s important.

“If you are positioning yourself to be a teacher of the Enneagram, but you are not working on your critical or clear thinking skills, then you are being irresponsible.” -Mario [20:41]

“When we’re working with the Enneagram, if we were seekers after truth, we need to think critically, and that involves seeing other people for who they are and not who we think they are.” -María José [30:54]

“As a rather emotional human, critical thinking has aided me in being able to actually more clearly and more deeply experience these emotions, whether they make sense or not.” -Creek [31:17]


[00:01] Intro

[02:17] Examples of using critical thinking

[04:41] What is Neoplatonic essentialism

[10:29] Religion and the Enneagram

[17:54] Critical thinking does not goes against spirituality or religion

[21:10] Five obstacles to critical thinking and five solutions to them

[25:37] High degree of confidence and intellectual character

[31:08] What’s happening is not always the whole situation 

[32:17] Fundamental attribution error

[34:34] Outro

Connect with us:

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Mario Sikora: 

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Web: mariosikora.com

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Maria Jose Munita: 

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Web: mjmunita.com

Seth "Creek" Creekmore: 

IG: @creekmoremusic

Pod: Fathoms | An Enneagram Podcast

Pod: Delusional Optimism


[00:00:15] Mario: Just glorious stuff all around.


[00:00:25] Maria Jose: So next time we meet in person, we know who's not cooking.


Creek: But we're going to have to try to make a beef and turnip soup tasty. There you go. So that's great. So we're following up our last episode with a deeper dive into critical thinking. Just as an introduction to this concept before we jump into types and strategies, just because it's such a foundational thing that we all believe it's just good info for humans in general, but especially for the enneagram community who we're dealing [00:01:00] with some complex things, the psyche of human nature, and we really need to know how to handle that well and responsibly. Today we're going to be jumping into a few of the ideas of how to think critically and why it is important.


What we usually do in our trainings and the things that we think are important and in fact I did write a little book on this [00:01:30] “How to Think Well and Why” available at bookstores near you. And actually it's not, but you can get it on Amazon.


[00:01:39] Mario: There you go.


[00:02:10] Creek: First question, as you directed at Mario, but I think Maria Jose, I think you probably have some things to add to this, but as you all have worked together and just developed the Awareness to Action approach, what are some examples?

ine the concepts or language [:

[00:02:35] Mario: So there's quite a few ideas there and we'll get into 'em, but I do want to make a point first, and hopefully this won't take us into a 20 minute digression…

Creek: yes…

w”, is a Nobel laureate in [:

A lot of the things for example, my review of Sandra Maitri's book, “The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram” is still on her website from when the book came out. I [00:04:00] wrote a review of it in “Enneagram Monthly”, it was. And I still think it's a great book, but I very much disagree with the neo-Platonic metaphysics at the root of the book, and a lot of the teachings about the enneagram.

So that's an example of something I embraced before, but have come to see differently because of taking a different critical thinking stance.


Mario: Sure…

Creek: Of the nature of self.


Creek: Please. I was thinking really 30 seconds, but yeah, there you go.

he cave amongst other things.[:

And he says, and this was his belief at the time, that our realm of existence is just a reflection of other realms of existence and out there somewhere in other realms of existence where forms or ideals, these perfect things, a perfect triangle, a perfect circle, perfect beauty, perfect justice. And this world is a reflection of those things, right?

adows cast upon a cave wall. [:

Creek: It's non-falsifiable.

ly because the assumption is [:

Okay. And there's a great essay by John Dewey called the, I think it's the “Impact of Darwinism on Philosophy”, [00:06:30] where he points out like many have that human nature has evolved and our ancestors had different natures than we do. So for anything about our nature to be eternal doesn't really make sense because our great, great great great to the tenth grandparents we're very different than we are. So how could their nature, how could human nature be eternal? Plato didn't know about evolution, right? It just [00:07:00] was not a concept he had. I like to say that today Plato would not be a Platonist in this regard. So Neoplatonic essentialism is his belief that there are aspects of us that are non-changing over time.


Or are we just wanting to believe this? And that's a process that we have. That's, we have the habit of checking if we're fooling ourselves or if there's an idea of somebody else that [00:08:00] we don't think it's true or that works again, aren't we just resisting it because it's not ours. Is there any truth in what other people are saying?

umptions, of questioning our [:

[00:08:31] Mario: I teach courses, and MJ does too, on critical thinking skills for leaders, and the first skill I teach them is to ask the question, how do I know this to be true and what's the evidence against it?

e true? And we falsify it in [:

[00:08:59] Maria Jose: And if we see something that doesn't make sense, but we have been teaching it for a while, there is cognitive dissonance.

There's this friction because we have been teaching it and we are somehow attached to it or might be. And we need to think critically and say, okay we don't believe this to be true anymore and we'll change our slides, the content that we teach and everything. And that requires critical thinking.


And here's why. It's tempting to want to protect the image of the all-knowing expert and not change views or [00:10:00] rationalize or something, but hey I learned something. And I changed my mind. I'm hoping everybody would do that.


And could both of you just speak to that as to, in order to use the [00:10:30] Enneagram, no one has to agree one way or the other of they don't have to agree with you in that in order for your model to work.


The thing is that we don't, adhere to the idea, the concept that [00:11:30] those things are fully developed. They're out there, they don't change over time, we say, There are these deep core qualities and we need to nurture them. We need to grow them. And that's a lifetime work because some people say think that because we don't teach that, we don't agree with that.

It's not spiritual. I just profoundly disagree.


One is the metaphysical, the other is the physical. Okay. So the metaphysical is anything that's beyond the physical, but also when we start getting into issues of faith. And her view was, I'm not making any judgments on what people believe [00:12:30] based on faith, right? I'm not making judgments on whether there's a God or not.

If so, what that God looks like, what that God requires from us, etcetera. Okay? I'm not making judgments on metaphysics, It's just not part of my practice because of certain reasons. Okay? And we take the same view. We like to think of our approach to the Enneagram as non-metaphysical, and there's a metaphysical approach to the enneagram, which is great.

e's needs? Then super. Okay. [:

[00:13:15] Maria Jose: (signs) So unfortunate for you to get an opportunity to talk about that.


And he wrote this very complex and robust argument. Which has a lot of flaws in it. And Occam, a fellow believer, a fellow Christian at the time of the period said, Here's the problem, right? There are logical flaws in your argument, and here's what they are. But that doesn't mean that God [00:14:00] doesn't exist.

Faith is a gift. Faith is something we have or we don't have, and we should not try to justify faith through logic, reason, and science. Okay. I choose to believe it or I don't. Okay. So I'm somebody wants to embrace some sort of faith-based statement. That's great. Okay. I have no issues with it.

so I don't expect anybody to [:

Okay. There are some things that are subjective and that's fine. Other things that are objective and the wise person tries to draw distinction between the two and use the right tools for analysis.


So some people say, Okay, I, there's this leadership model. How does Enneagram work with that? It worked great because there's some distinctions, some tools here that are independent from the enneagram and the enneagram can help in the development of those skills. By understanding personality and all of [00:15:30] that. Same thing happens with so many models that are out there that are independent of the Enneagram.

And the Enneagram is another layer that can help with the growth together with these different models or different sets of skills to be developed. So it's not just religion. It is independent of lots of things. If you start combining them, it gets messy and less practical, less useful.


From this idea of the platonic essentialism to the idea of a. A soul that exists outside the physical body and so forth. Pope John Paul II wrote an interesting encyclical some years ago that was called “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth”. And what he was doing was establishing that Darwin's theory of evolution was [00:16:30] official teaching of the church.

s Adam's mom and dad did not [:

Okay. Which I always thought was a real rough break. You miss it by that close. It's this idea that it's a faith-based statement and Okay. That's great. It could be true. I I have no way of. And, but I have no way of proving it and I have no way of disproving it. So I either say, Okay, yes, I accept it, or no I don't. And that's all there is to it.


[00:18:36] Mario: Yeah. Every religious tradition has a group that are the thinkers, right? It's the Jesuits in the Catholic tradition, right? In yoga there's I think it's Jñāna yoga, which is all about thinking and the mind and figuring things out, and the, that's part of it, right? That's what any [00:19:00] robust faith-based tradition will teach people to do is to think critically and think logically. Unfortunately, it's difficult, right?

We are not wired to be skillful thinkers. We are wired to believe what is convenient to believe, which is a nice transition and think into some of the other things we want to talk about the enneagram and critical thinking.


[00:19:33] Mario: Yeah, and I want to be clear here that what we're talking about today just touches on things because we have a lot of this stuff. It's in the what used to be the third module of our certification program, and we devote number of sessions to it.

ut in. Particularly in their [:

Because if you are not practicing intellectual rigor, you shouldn't be taking money from people or even putting yourself in a position to be [00:20:30] offering input to people. Doesn't mean you're always going to be right, but you should be making the effort. It's unethical, not too.


[00:20:41] Mario: So we can break the things down into I actually came up with this model of five obstacles to clear thinking and five solutions for them. Okay. And so you think of a set of concentric circles, and the first circle is the built in biases of the brain. So [00:21:00] understanding the built-in mechanisms of the brain that keep us from thinking clearly is step number one.

d correcting misinformation. [:

When it comes to the built-in mechanisms, it's recognizing cognitive biases. Okay. It's recognizing, for example, that humans are victims of motivated reasoning. Meaning we have a tendency to believe, [00:22:00] to reason our way to what we want to believe. A lot of reasons for this. Okay. A lot of the great philosophers said, we don't, we're not really rational creatures.

mentation skills even though [:

Motivated reasoning is something that happens in us because we're tribal creatures. We want to believe the same things those people in our tribe do. This is why politics is tribal, okay? Because that's my crew. And if I don't believe something that they believe, I tend to be rejected. And that's a bad thing for somebody who's in a social species.

on that I have a tendency to [:

It's heuristic based. It's making use of shortcuts, whereas system two is critical thinking.

Creek: Heuristic?

finition now. Heuristic is a [:

Okay? We make a, it's a shortcut that we develop in our brain, and there are lots of cognitive biases that serve as these sort of mental models. And one of the ones we see in the Enneagram world all the time is confirmation bias. Okay. I get an idea about fours, for example, right? Fours always wear baseball caps.

Okay. Look, [:

Okay. Because his wife was an eight and she didn't like to read and he knew other eights who didn't like to read, so he just saw eights who didn't like to read, and instead of eights who did. So [00:24:30] falling into confirmation bias is really easy. We can start to say, Oh, well all fives do this, or all fours do that, and cetera, because we confirm what we want to see.

Instead of saying, Hey, I wonder if there are any eights out there who like to read. Let me do some research and let me find. Whether eights read or not, or whether it's something that doesn't have to do with type. Okay. So recognizing these biases equips us to start to overcome them.


[00:25:18] Maria Jose: I think that you need to, as I said before, talent, your ideas and when you've tried hard enough to see what [00:25:30] evidence there is against it. When you've talked it through with people who are really willing to challenge your ideas, and when you see that over time it holds up, I think that it might be good enough. And I think it depends on the realm that you're talking about, because there's certain things, if we're talking about the enneagram, That would probably be enough.

there. But in the enneagram [:

[00:26:19] Mario: Yeah I think a lot of this stuff is as attitudinal as anything else, right? Meaning it's about embracing particular attitudes. [00:26:30] that increase the probability of us thinking skillfully. Okay? So it's developing what some people would call intellectual character, right? And what that means basically is that I have habituated certain behaviors that increase the likelihood of me assessing things more accurately than I would otherwise. So if I habitually ask myself am I fooling myself? Whenever I come up with a new idea, that's one good thing. If I get into the [00:27:00] habit of celebrating when I realize I was wrong about something rather than feeling shame, it increases that probability that I'll correct myself. Creating an environment where we welcome people to challenge our views and we don't attack the person for doing so. All of these things are really hard to do because it's not our nature. So we need to develop those attitudes and those skills. Now, there are certain skills and so[00:27:30] I'll for example being the kind of parent I am I'll give my son's examples of logical fallacies that I see and I'll say, Okay, which logical fallacy is this, right? And I'll berate them for not getting it and humiliate them in front of their friends and so forth. Can you believe this kid doesn't even recognize an “ad hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy. You know that sort of thing. But it's, it's working with these things and learning them and [00:28:00] applying them and teaching them and quizzing ourselves that just like anything else, we get better at them.

that based on my experience. [:

Okay. I'm saying, yeah, I'm kinda ertain who knows? It's it's [00:29:00] degrees of confidence rather than knowing that we know something.


So when you are with somebody else in front of you, you will be a lot better at seeing the real human being who is in front of you. [00:29:30] if you think critically, if you don't assume that person is a four and only see them through that lens, for example, and they might not be a four or they might not be the four that's on your mind, so you will be able to communicate with other people better.

think more critically. So it [:

Creek: Ah, I think that's great. That's a great place to end. I think it when it comes to, Yeah, we think critical thinking is just about the concepts and ideas, but you're very right. Like, as a rather emotional human. [00:30:30] I, critical thinking has aided me in being able, actually more clearly and more deeply experience these emotions, whether they make sense or not, whether they are logical.

an that who I am is sadness. [:

And so it, it just gives just a couple clicks of objectivity to realize that what's happening is not always the whole of the situation. And what I perceive is happening is not the whole of the situation ever.


Okay? Now that's a technical term, and you might say why do I need to know that? Why can't I just say, Oh, people are, you know what they are? When we understand, the tools and techniques, we become more skillful at the action itself. And you as a musician Creek understand this, that yeah a good musician just plays. A great musician just plays and doesn't think, [00:32:30] but you don't become a great musician without practicing the scales and understanding something about music theory and getting the techniques, right? So if you want to be good at this stuff, even if this stuff is just understanding and helping other people, you’ve got to play the scales.


[00:32:59] Mario: I'd be happy [00:33:00] to go through the neoplatonic essentialism thing one more time, just to make…


[00:33:30] Mario: That's great faith in the product. So for anybody who made it this far.

Maria Jose: Yeah.

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About the Podcast

The Awareness to Action Enneagram Podcast
Mario Sikora, Maria Jose Munita and Seth Creekmore exploring the Enneagram through the Awareness to Action model. Giving you simple, precise and effective tools to use in your own becoming

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Mario Sikora

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Seth Creekmore

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