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What is Critical Thinking

 

The Definition and Purpose of Critical Thinking What comes to mind when someone says you need to use “critical thinking”?

What is Critical Thinking

What is Critical Thinking

Do you focus on the word “critical”?

Do you assume that thinking critically must be negative requiring you to criticize or be critical if something you've read, heard, or watched?

This article will help you understand what critical thinking is and how you can do it. As we go through this article, you will learn that thinking critically should not be assumed to be synonymous with CRITICIZING once you learn to think critically, you MIGHT criticize an argument or claim, but your thinking will be thoughtfully reasoned consideration NOT reflexive, quick, and unthinking judgment.

In the concept of critical thinking, the term “critical” refers to a way of thinking, and analytical stance you take with regards to assessing claims that you have read, heard, or saw.

In this article, we will explain the concept and activity of critical thinking

 1) we will construct a useful, everyday definition of critical thinking and identify what critical thinking is NOT; and

2) show you the PURPOSE and VALUE of critical thinking. According to one definition, critical thinking is “the careful application of reason in the determination of whether a claim is true.”

Another definition holds that critical thinking is “judicious reasoning about what to believe and, therefore, what to do.” Let’s note the important pieces of these definitions; critical thinking requires:

1) careful, intentional thinking is also known as judiciousness;

2) the use of reason or logic;

 3) judgment about beliefs; and finally

4) application to real-world problems and issues.

 Let's walk through these ones by one. Careful and Intentional First, consider the ideas are being “careful” and “judicious.” Critical thinking is not a fast or easy process even if you know how to do it. To do it properly requires you to take your time. Being careful and judicious requires you to be purposeful and deliberate in your evaluation. It also requires you to be thorough. To think critically you have to focus on the issue at hand, taking in all its complexity, breadth, and depth. Critical thinking is NOT PASSIVE.

The goal of critical thinking is not simply to decide whether to accept or reject an argument to register or “yea” or “nay” vote. In critical thinking, the goal is to fully evaluate all parts that have a claim that someone has made to assess each of its parts as well as the whole. Certainly, there are relatively easy black-and-white cases. For example, consider the claim that was made in the day of Columbus, when people said, “Ships sailing east from Europe will eventually fall into space because the earth is flat.” You don't need to be an expert in critical thinking to see this as an example of an argument that's pretty easy to reject in total (assuming you know the earth is not flat). However, much more often we are asked to think critically about more complex, challenging claims or arguments that contain much greyer than they do black or white.

So, in such cases it's much harder to say “I agree” or “I disagree.” Critical thinking is the logical process that you go through to determine whether you agree or not. Critical thinking allows you to explain WHY you disagree, what parts as the claim argument you find wrong or troubling, and even what argument you might make in its place.

As we proceed in learning about critical thinking, you'll find that by offering alternatives to the argument, you and others involved strengthen and clarify views and positions. Thus, critical thinking can be seen as an exercise in collective problem-solving.

Throughout these critical thinking article, you will be asked to take what you learn and apply it in class. That means, thinking critically about what you're reading, as well as claims made by your professor and classmates. Sometimes you will have to critically evaluate claims made by others. Other times you'll be asked actively defend your own claims, which will require you to think critically about your own perspectives and positions.

Critical thinking is not a process that most people do in their daily activities. But it's important to both your understanding of what other people say and what you think and say to others. At times you may struggle to use the critical thinking process and that's okay.

 Number two: Reason or Logic So, critical thinking is an active process meant to move us – whether it's a class or another community that you belong to – towards greater understanding of difficult economic, social, ethical, and legal problems. In order to do this effectively, critical thinking requires applying REASON.

we will examine more deeply “reason”: we will develop yardsticks for assessing whether an argument is a product of good, thoughtful reasoning. We will compare reason with other ways of judging or reacting to claims. For example, people often make decisions based on pure emotion intuition, faith, or common sense. Utilizing reason does not necessarily mean throwing these sensibilities – emotion, intuition, etcetera – out the window. It's not cold, hard, or unfeeling.

But critical thinking requires putting these other ways of thinking and reacting under the microscope of reason. For example, many people decide not to try certain activities because, they say, “I’m too scared I can't go running tonight.” “I don't have anyone else to run with and I'm afraid of running by myself at night.” Fear, like all emotions, can either be justified or unfounded when we expose this emotional response to reason, we can determine whether it's justified or not.

Are there good reasons to be fearful of running alone at night?

Is the area known for the crime? Are there wild animals are dogs to worry about?

Is it easy to get lost?

By asking these kinds of questions we can probe to see whether our emotion – fear – is the product of a reasonable assessment of the situation. Judgments and Application.

Finally, let's consider these last two pieces of the definition of critical thinking – determining whether a claim is true and deciding how to act based on that determination. These speak to the PURPOSE of critical thinking. When we engage in critical thinking, our goal is to determine whether the claim before us is true or not, and then to use that assessment to decide what action or actions to take.

Ultimately, when we were asked to think critically, we are being asked to take a position regarding the truth or acceptability of something we've read, heard, or watched. While the exercise of critical thinking is not biased toward one outcome or the other, in the end, we are expected to have a REASONED judgment about whether we disagree or agree with the claim or argument. So why do we need to take a position or pass judgment?

Let's consider the following scenario: one of your classes require students to complete a group project worth fifty percent of the final grade. You are put into a group with four other students. At your first meeting one of your group member says, “Listen, I've done this whole group project thing before and it's a real pain in the butt. Nobody really likes working with other people, and we all just end up fighting anyway. It's too hard to split up the parts of the project – no one's ever happy with their part.

Last time I had to do one of these things we decided that each of us would just do the whole project. Then we shared our reports and voted on the best one. That's the one we turn in the professor We should do the same thing for this class.” Is this a good argument?

Do you agree with all of the claims he made?

 Do those claims necessarily lead to his conclusion about how to handle the project?

 Should you go along with your classmate, or is there a better way to handle the project?

Remember 50 percent of your final grade is at stake here! Your classmates had certain experiences that make you believe that doing group project work separately as individuals is better than dividing up the tasks among the group. If you simply accept his belief without question without thinking about it critically, you may come to share his belief simply as an “inherited opinion.” An inherited opinion means that you believe completing group projects this way is better because someone else told you it was better. Now, many of us hold inherited opinions on a lot of topics. Frequently ore political, moral, and ethical beliefs have been handed down to us by our families our communities. How many of us could actually provide evidence or reasons for those beliefs, if asked to do so? But we are often required to do just that.

We live in a diverse complicated world in which people hold widely different views on many topics. Individuals, communities, businesses, and governments need to decide what to do you on many issues that are the subject a strong disagreement. Critical thinking will help us both offer reasons for our own positions on what action should be taken AND effectively evaluate the reasons offered by others, To see how important critical thinking can consider this scenario: you're working as a marketing assistant for a marketing company. You've been in that position for a few years, and you're looking to catch the attention to your supervisor. You know there's a marketing manager position opening up soon and you've got your eye on it. You want to distinguish yourself. Fortunately, an opportunity presents itself. Your supervisor asked both you and your co-worker (who's also an assistant) what you think the company should focus on for an upcoming ad campaign. Should they invest more resources in traditional marketing avenues – like print and TV ads for example, or in innovative online and social media venues? Wanting to seem like you're on top of things and ready to go, you respond quickly with an email: “Definitely traditional venues. And here's how we should spend the money in those venues.” Your co-worker doesn't respond right away, but the next day offers her assessment: “We should go with online and social media. I’ve attached a detailed report showing recent trends and market research, with data that demonstrates the increased return on investment a social media marketing campaigns compared with traditional venues.” Who do you think will get the attention of the supervisor?

The employee who made an unsupported claim about what to do (you) or the employee who offered evidence in a reason for her position? Taking the time to assess beliefs and opinions – to think critically about them – gives us insight and understanding that we would not have developed without critical thinking. Insight and understanding lead to justification for taking or not taking certain actions, but it also gives us ownership over our beliefs. As we think critically about her own and others' beliefs, we develop the skills that allow us to know why we believe what we believe. We can offer evidence in reason to defend our beliefs and that reason-giving leads us to actions that fit with our beliefs.

 Ultimately, we have true freedom of thought and opinion that comes when we know what we believe and why. This article has provided you with a working definition of critical thinking. You should now be able to explain what critical thinking is and how it's different from other types of thought. You should understand the key features of critical thinking, and to appreciate its purpose and value.

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