Notes On Critical Thinking

Notes On Critical Thinking-35
As citizens, too often we vote impulsively and uncritically, without taking the time to familiarize ourselves with the relevant issues and positions, without thinking about the long-run implications of what is being proposed, without paying attention to how politicians manipulate us by flattery or vague and empty promises.As friends, too often we become the victims of our own infantile needs, "getting involved" with people who bring out the worst in us or who stimulate us to act in ways that we have been trying to change.Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it.

As citizens, too often we vote impulsively and uncritically, without taking the time to familiarize ourselves with the relevant issues and positions, without thinking about the long-run implications of what is being proposed, without paying attention to how politicians manipulate us by flattery or vague and empty promises.As friends, too often we become the victims of our own infantile needs, "getting involved" with people who bring out the worst in us or who stimulate us to act in ways that we have been trying to change.

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Yet, the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought.

But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced.

Of course, this requires that we learn self-discipline and the art of self-examination.

This involves becoming interested in how our minds work, how we can monitor, fine tune, and modify their operations for the better.

On this view, as you can see, critical thinking is an eminently practical goal and value.

It is focused on an ancient Greek ideal of "living an examined life".

Etymologically, then, the word implies the development of "discerning judgment based on standards." In Webster’s New World Dictionary, the relevant entry reads "characterized by careful analysis and judgment" and is followed by the gloss, "critical — in its strictest sense — implies an attempt at objective judgment so as to determine both merits and faults." Applied to thinking, then, we might provisionally define critical thinking as thinking that explicitly aims at well-founded judgment and hence utilizes appropriate evaluative standards in the attempt to determine the true worth, merit, or value of something.

The tradition of research into critical thinking reflects the common perception that human thinking left to itself often gravitates toward prejudice, over-generalization, common fallacies, self-deception, rigidity, and narrowness.

It is based on the skills, the insights, and the values essential to that end.

It is a way of going about living and learning that empowers us and our students in quite practical ways.

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