Here is a story.
A group of people are eating bullshit around the table, everyone taking pleasure from it, at least as it appears. People are talking and chatting about the most delicious dish they have ever tasted.
Suddenly, there is a person in the crowd speaks up: “Hey, guys, it seems that we are eating bullshit.” A short time of silence follows. Everyone looks at each other, and someone shrugs its shoulders and says, “It is only your perspective, it is not bullshit at all, it is horseshit.”, “Indeed, horseshit is much better than bullshit”, “You should be kicked out of the table because you ruin our pleasure of eating it, whatever it is.”
This scenario may have happened many times in real-life situations. In academia, this scenario is never missing. Maybe the one who recognized bullshit should leave because he/she affected the game of eating shit; perhaps he/she is right …
This is a scene where being critical and being judgmental mingle. At first glance, the borderline between being critical and being judgmental is very vague, due to the limitation of the language and the ignorance of the mind. Most people fail to understand what is being critical and end up being judgmental, no matter how they claim to be critical.
There is a world of difference between being critical and being judgmental. Although they are similar mental actions, the foundations they are based on are dramatically different. Being critical means, one evaluates things based on some fact, the truth of the mind, the nature of the mind. Being judgmental is easy because one does not have to base oneself on anything, or something unexamined and made up from nowhere, which is, unfortunately, most people’s strong mental habits.
Being critical means one could discern the true and false without giving judgments, which means one has to develop non-reaction to the word “bullshit”. Give you a minute to think about the reaction to such a word, because of the language habit. Here we use “bullshit” to represent something false. We have bullshit on all levels of thinking, recognizing it indicates that we are becoming critical. To recognize bullshit, one has to understand the nature of mind, the truth of the mind; one has to observe one’s mind in solitude, without being distorted by thought, authority, influences and time, be able to see the mind non-judgmentally at this moment. This requires one to put tremendous attention on the inner world.
In contrast, being judgmental comes easily to everyone, sometimes one needs to be cunning to play the game of words under cover of “doing philosophy”: it is not bullshit, but horseshit, horseshit is different from bullshit; we could make millions of excuses to cover this up not to ruin the pleasure of eating it, that’s most people’s logic, and unfortunately, this runs deeply in academia. What a sight!
What does bullshit mean in academia? Bullshit is the consequence of random thinking, speculation and thoughts; against nature, the nature of mind and humanity; bullshit appears when there is an ego, striving for something, wanting for something – fame, status, wealth, you name it.
To be critical, one has to have a deep understanding of mind and the courage to recognize sometimes what one has done in the past as bullshit, or else, one would fall into the conflicts arising from one’s ego and desire, when justifying the bullshit to one’s advantage.
To be critical, one has to take actions, withstand the reactions one receives from the people conditioned on the bullshit; one has to be tolerant, compassionate and patient, because most people could not think critically but judgmentally, and get trapped in reactions.