Cogito, ergo sum is a Latin philosophical proposition by René Descartes usually translated into English as "I think, therefore I am".
More than any other trait, it’s the way we think and understand the world around and within us that separates us not only from other species but also distinguishes us from each other. Understanding is a psychological process related to an abstract or physical object, such as a person, situation, or a non-physical concept whereby one can think about it and use logic to deal adequately with that object. Understanding is a relation between the knower and the object of understanding.
So, how should we gain understanding? Critical thinking is the only way, I believe. Earliest documentation of critical thinking are the teachings of Socrates recorded by Plato. Socrates established the fact that one cannot depend upon those in "authority" to have sound knowledge and insight. He demonstrated that persons may have power and high position and yet be deeply confused and irrational. He established the importance of asking deep questions that probe profoundly into thinking before we accept ideas as worthy of belief.
He established the importance of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications not only of what is said but of what is done as well. In his mode of questioning, Socrates highlighted the need for thinking for clarity and logical consistency. He asked people questions to reveal their irrational thinking or lack of reliable knowledge. He demonstrated that having authority does not ensure accurate knowledge. He established the method of questioning beliefs, closely inspecting assumptions and relying on evidence and sound rationale.
Socrates set the agenda for the tradition of critical thinking, namely, to reflectively question common beliefs and explanations, carefully distinguishing beliefs that are reasonable and logical and supported by evidence from those that—however appealing to our native egocentrism, however much they serve our vested interests, however comfortable or comforting they may be—lack adequate evidence or rational foundation to warrant acceptance.
Once this rigorous critical thinking approach is applied to gain better understanding, bounce it off people who disagree with you. Seek out the most thoughtful persons, who disagree with your hypothesis and conclusions. Thoughtful here means persons who too have applied a critical thinking approach as opposed to an “belief” or “faith” approach. Share the approaches adopted, the rigorous scrutiny applied, reasons why alternative options were discarded and compelling reasons behind reaching a conclusion. More important than what conclusions they have reached, it’s important to see if they too have followed a rigorous discipline in thinking through. In the process, the fallacy of logic in either yours or their thinking will get exposed.
The approach here should be of one willing to give up the joy of being proven right with the joy of learning what is true. Don’t be afraid of abandoning your hypothesis and conclusions, if found wrong. Passionately defend it, if right. Lord Maynard Keynes is purported to have said:” When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
In the process, the winner will always be the Truth. And a better understanding of the world around us.