Postgraduate School of Thinking, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

At the most fundamental level many of the problems we face are the unfortunate outcome of the malpractice of thinking. Whichever complex problem one may consider –be it ecological, societal, political, economic, organisational etc.– one will likely find that it is caused by the clashing of incompatible or inadequate manners of thinking. Even when these are genuinely well intended and strongly self-justified, they often inadvertently contribute to composite problematics.
The inadequacies of our thinking are deeply entrenched in the way that we humans, perceive the world, ourselves in the world, and how we interact with it. Our professional, educational, cultural and metaphysical systems strongly dispose us towards outlining sharp boundaries, separating objects from backgrounds, ’us’ from ‘them’, defining identities and curving out what is to be of significance from what can be dismissed, disposed of, or exploited. Such dispositions result in oversimplifications which are often apparent to us in the thinking of others, but much less in our own thinking. Yet, they are omnipresent and almost impossible to avoid. Once cohered by logical reasoning, anchored in captivating symbolism and encoded in algorithms, such simplifications turn into cages: mental, emotional, operational… Moving beyond them becomes literally unthinkable. We may repeat the mantra of ‘thinking outside the box’, we may praise critical, independent, creative and disruptive thinking, but these get deployed only in as far as they prove usable for the affirmation of our respective, deeply rooted worldviews.