Critical Thinking

Okay, we're not talking about finding fault, or about something being crucial.  No, were simply talking about a way of thinking that is least likely to include biases and, or logical fallacies.

There are those who don't want us to use critical thinking.  That's why we bring up this topic.  Because we think that people don't know what critical thinking is and even if they do, there are those who try to prevent them from using it.  As humorist and social critic George Carlin (1937 - 2008) famously said:

"They [the owners of this country...real owners now, the BIG owners! The Wealthy… the REAL owners! The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions] don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That's against their interests."

To see a video of George doing his routine and read a transcript of what he said.

 

We think George just might be correct about this, and we'd rather make the error of thinking he correct when he isn't (a false positive) than think he's wrong when he isn't (a false negative). 

 

To read more about these two types of error.

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Definition: disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.  It does not involve persuasion, but may result in thinking that is persuasive in the end. 

 

Characteristics of the Critical Thinker

Critical thinkers all share they following characteristics.

1.  Curiosity: the wish to know, to seek answers to questions and problems

2.  Skepticism: not accepting without understanding based on evidence that is:

a. empirical (in other words, observable), and

b. rational (in other words, not influenced by biases or logical fallacies).

 

NOTE: Skepticism is NOT doubt, or cynicism.  It is NOT a matter of mistrust, or disbelief.  It IS simply a matter of questioning, looking beyond and beneath the surface.

 

3.  Objectivity: recognizing and filtering out the subjective biases and emotional elements.

 

4.  Open-mindedness: receptive to new information, willing to consider competing viewpoints and to think inside and outside the box (use both convergent and divergent thinking), and able to apply both deductive and inductive reasoning.

 

5.  Flexibility: willingness to be uncertain and then to change, to think new and different thoughts, or adopt new methods of inquiry based on new and different evidence and
information.

 

6.  Honesty: able to accept potential validity of competing statements, especially those that compete with personally held beliefs.

 

7.  Systematic: employing thorough and consistent processes of reasoning to conclusions.


Critical Thinking Questions

Critical thinkers are both curious and questioning. They want to know, and they want to see beneath the surface. Consequently, critical thinkers ask questions in an effort to find new information and knowledge. Every time a critical thinker encounters new information or knowledge, she or he will do more than simply absorb it, like a sponge; instead, the critical thinker will question that information and shape it, like a sculptor.

While many of the questions a critical thinker poses when encountering something new will be specific to the particular information or knowledge, there are some general types of questions that apply, such as the following:


1. What is the structure of the reasoning?

a. What are the issues and the conclusions?
b. Why do the issues and conclusions matter?
c. What are the reasons?
d. What terms or phrases are ambiguous?
e. What perspectives underlie the reasoning?

2. How good is the evidence?

a. Is there actually any factual evidence?
b. If the evidence arises from research, or actual observation and data collection:

How generalizable are the samples of observation?

How valid are the measures and/or the experimental manipulations?

Is the data analysis deceptive?


c. Are there rival causes?
d. What significant information is omitted?
e. What conclusions are justified by the evidence?

f.  If information is provided are any sources cited that can be checked and verified

 

 To see an example of critical thinking

 To read about convergent and divergent thinking

 To read about Reasoning

 

 To go to the brief introduction to thinking and feeling

 To go to the Articles Page

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