I think therefore I Airman

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- For years, humanity has wrestled with ideas that seem unsolvable: Are there moral absolutes? What is justice? What defines beauty?

Perhaps these questions are unsolvable, but through constant questioning came philosophy— the study of basic questions involving existence, reality and values.

Philosophers throughout history have guided the way modern societies have formed their governments and cultures by developing revolutionary ideas such as the social contract and natural rights.

Today, Airmen are faced with an ever-changing battlefield and a high operations tempo, requiring critical thinking to solve problems and improve processes.

The Shaw Philosophy Society aims to promote critical thinking and inspire new ideas among Team Shaw members by incorporating open discussions, questioning logical fallacies and encouraging diversity in thought.

“We learn in professional military education about transformational leadership,” said Master Sgt. Jason Harlan, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron munitions operations NCO in charge, “which is the highest echelon of leadership that you can have that makes the greatest impact. One of the elements of transformational leadership is called intellectual stimulation.”

Harlan said the Society focuses their efforts on intellectual stimulation by teaching people not what to think, but how to think. The group also teaches people how to think critically about their opinions as well as the opinions of others.

Every second Tuesday of the month, the group meets at the McElveen Learning and Resource Center to discuss topics like ethics and logic. After receiving an introduction to the topic, attendees are given the opportunity to share their ideas.

Although it is not a debate club, questioning ideas is encouraged.

“You want people to challenge you,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Stecker, 20th EMS munitions controller. “If everyone agrees, then I don’t learn anything. When you struggle the most and you lose, that’s when you learn the most.”

Stecker also said being able to emotionally step outside a situation and think about the bigger picture is one of the most crucial parts of critical thinking, a challenge during Society discussions.

Through conversation and learning how to spot logical fallacies, the meetings are opportunities for Team Shaw members to better understand the viewpoints of others in an open and respectful environment.

Individuals can improve their leadership and communication skills through discussions, said Harlan.

Being involved in the Society has enabled him to express himself in a more profound manner and communicate more effectively with his troops, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Dunar, 20th EMS munitions stockpile management supervisor.

The Shaw Philosophy Society is the first group of its kind in the Air Combat Command and the second in the Air Force. In 2013, the first Air Force Philosophy Society began at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.

“When you walk out of these meetings you’re a better person,” said Harlan. “You have been challenged, you’ve been stretched. Even if you’re teaching, people are throwing new ideas at you. When you walk out, you’re on an intellectual high.”

At the end of the session, attendants of all ages whether enlisted or officer, Air Force or Army, civilian or service member, leave the learning center with their minds abuzz over new information. The thought processes and abilities they have gained may enable them in the future to transform the world around them through leadership, critical thinking and communication.