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Are You Intellectually Careful? 10 Tough Questions

As Phil Dow points out in his recent article "Be Very Careful," a mark of good Christian character is to be patient and diligent, always avoiding hasty and precipitous decisions or actions. "Aristotle wisely noted," Dow says, "the intellectually careful person looks 'for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits.'[1]

Just try loving your neighbor while being intellectually hasty. "It can't be done," Dow says.

We asked Dow to pull together 10 tough questions to help us all gauge just how intellectual careful (or hasty) we really are.

So, we put it to you: Are you an intellectually careful person? Reflect on these questions, and see what jumps out at you. #10 is the kicker. But promise you won't be hasty, and consider 1-9 first! Share with your friends!




Are you intellectually careful? 10 tough questions

  1. When you hear casual office gossip, how likely are you to believe it without verifying it with other supporting evidence?

  2. Do you accept claims by politicians or pundits you generally agree with at face value or do you consistently seek verification?

  3. Do you reject claims by politicians or pundits you generally disagree with or do you assess their claims fairly (and carefully)?

  4. Do you balance your checkbook or verify your accounts regularly?

  5. How do you get your news? Is it by skimming the headlines on Yahoo, scrolling through your Facebook/Twitter feeds, reading a commercial paper (e.g., USA Today), or reading a specialized journal on the topic (e.g., Foreign Affairs)?

  6. What percentage of your opinions have a strong factual or logical basis?  Have you already answered this question prior to considering the evidence for the conclusion to which you arrived?

  7. In the Ferguson case, how quickly did you make up your mind on the guilt or innocence of Officer Darren Wilson? 

  8. When making a major purchase, do you read reviews of competing products from respected sources prior to deciding what to buy?

  9. When you are writing a relatively important email or letter, do you proof-read it before sending it? How many times?

  10. What mattered more to you: Answering the questions above quickly? Or answering them well?



If you are still tempted to think that intellectual character has little to do with practical Christian living, try loving your neighbor as yourself while practicing intellectual hastiness. It can’t be done.



Phil Dow is the superintendent of Rosslyn Academy and the author of Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development for Students, Educators, and Parents (IVP Academic, 2013).

[1] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. W.D. Ross, rev. J.O. Urmson and J.L. Ackrill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 3.