A real sign of intellectual maturity is understanding that knowledge is often deceptive and that often times in comes in a diluted form. The ability to ignore the poor parts of an argument and extract the good is what logic and reasoning teaches – it teaches one to think constructively for themself. Essentially, it is about critically assessing, re-assessing and revising and using feedback loops to think constructively.
However, one has to be careful not to discounting the entirety of whatever someone expressesis akin to throwing an entire fruit away when there is a single, small blemish.
Just because one apple on the branch is bad, it doesn’t mean the entire branch is bad. Whether it be a style of writing or speaking that you personally dislike, or perhaps the individual may well be plain wrong in making certain assertions – there is often still something valuable to taken from the rest of what is being said.
For example, perhaps you think religion is nonsense. If we assume this to be true, does that mean that all the holy books have no wisdom contained inside them? Does that mean that a religious person has no knowledge to offer? Of course not. Wisdom is found is many places – by being to superficial and quick to judge, one can miss out on a lot.
To continue the fruit-themed analogies, sometimes it may well be one bad apple in an entire box of bad apples. If the first few you sample are all bad, then for time’s sake, it is reasonable to discard the whole box. But, if the first few sampled are a mix, give the box a chance as you may find something extra special part way down. Quickly scan through the rest of an article or video to make sure you aren’t missing out anything useful.
Let us consider for a moment, Ayn Rand. Most people will either feel very positive about her philosophical writings, or incredibly negatively. She is neither one – she is not the right-wing god she is made out to be – she is a great thinker, but like every great thinker, their ideas can be misinterpreted since they are complex and the author, no matter how brilliant their thinking is, be it Einstein, not everything they ever conclude is true – no one can claim that they re literary always right, or even close.
Any complicated concept potentially has many levels of understanding and inter-playing components and through which to view the universe and its goings on according to our own personal, conscious sensory experience. She is an excellent example, one of many, of a great thinker who has a majority of arguments and spectacular conclusion, but is not great 100% of the time. Not every argument will be solid. One faulty foundation and there will be a poor conclusion. We must separate the good arguments from the poor and take the former to heart. Let it be noted that as far as I can see, she is a brilliant thinker, with some amazingly intracicices of logic, really strong thinking.
The key issue is how the individual interprets the idea and the conclusion they stretch it to fit – this is the fundamental error. How far the concept is stretched can be great or small, leading to a minor error, or a colossal one. These are the pillars of understanding.
Especially when discussing science or philosophy, there is a tendency for certain branches to be fashionable or unfashionable. But to write off entire theories, even if they are incorrect overall, would mean missing out of important components, that are either good individually, or still bad, yet they spur you to think of something better – in this sense, the vast majority of knowledge is useful in that it helps better and refine the body of knowledge as a whole.
It is simple arrogance, ego-protection and intellectual laziness that seeks to write an argument off entirely, just due to one single flaw. If you do this, you will miss out on huge amounts of knowledge and will not absorb all knowledge that is offered to you. In fact, thinking through why an argument is bad is very beneficial, as it helps train one’s ability to think and reason. Pass up diluted wisdom at your own detriment.