What Is Critical Thinking?  

wistfuljester 64M
1259 posts
6/22/2006 11:18 pm

Last Read:
6/24/2006 3:36 pm

What Is Critical Thinking?


[Critical thinking is]..."the examination and test of propositions of any kind which are offered for acceptance, in order to find out whether they correspond to reality or not. The critical faculty is a product of education and training. It is a mental habit and power. It is a prime condition of human welfare that men and women should be trained in it. It is our only guarantee against delusion, deception, superstition, and misapprehension of ourselves and our earthly circumstances.

Education is good just so far as it produces well-developed critical faculty....A teacher of any subject who insists on accuracy and a rational control of all processes and methods, and who holds everything open to unlimited verification and revision is cultivating that method as a habit in the pupils. Men educated in it cannot be stampeded...They are slow to believe. They can hold things as possible or probable in all degrees, without certainty and without pain. They can wait for evidence and weigh evidence...They can resist appeals to their dearest prejudices. Education in the critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens."


--William Graham Sumner (1940). "Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals"

I would submit that it is impossible to be adept at critical thinking unless one has subjected himself to unbiased scrutiny.

Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living" Plato, Dialogues, Apology 38a

At his trial in 399BC by the citizens of Athens, Socrates declared that from his incessant questioning, he had found that his contemporaries spent their lives pursuing various goals --money, ambition, pleasure, physical security -- without asking themselves if these were important. Unless they raised such a question and seriously sought the answer -- through careful reflection, alert observation and critical arguments -- they would not know if they were doing the right thing.

They might be wasting their energy, time and money in useless or even dangerous pursuits.

How do we believe what we believe? How do we arrive at our underlying set of beliefs (which includes assumptions, prejudices and convictions)? More importantly, have we even bothered to figure out what we believe?

Many people today are so adrift in a sea of political correctness and vague maunderings that they are very hard-pressed to unequivocally state what their values are. Why? Because they've never asked themselves!

Consider this: if you believe in nothing, you run the risk of believing in everything.

Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

The Buddha said, "All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts from a pure thought, joy follows him as his own shadow that never leaves him." Dhammapada 2

"It is important that we examine the process to determine if we have acquired the correct set of beliefs because they influence our thinking and motivate our action. So, instead of merely possessing an unorganised mass (and mess) of opinions and assumptions, we take time out to scrutinise, re-formulate and organise them into a coherent, meaningful and practical system of right views. In the process, we discard those that are patently false, immoral and dangerous. From such a deliberate process we frame our world view, set our goals, and conduct our lives."--Francis Chin

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