A Personal Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking as a Holistic Practice

For almost three weeks now, my new classmates and I have been immersed in a rigorous introduction to the art of Critical Thinking (CT). I must admit that when I first began to read the Wikipedia entry for CT, I worried that this topic would turn out to be rather dry and boring. Fortunately, as I started to delve deeper, I discovered an unexpected intrigue and respect for this method of processing information.

CT began to really pique my interest as I realized that it involves something much more holistic and ubiquitous than simply analyzing a particular argument or paper. I think my fellow classmate, Larry Drake, described it best when he said that CT is more of a change in “lifestyle” than a temporary “diet”. It is a philosophy that challenges each of us to view everything and everyone around us through a different lens. More importantly, it teaches us to view ourselves differently.

The Rules of Engagement

CT requires a number of stringent standards. First and foremost, arguments and claims must be clear, precise, and logically validated by supporting evidence. However, that is just one part of the equation. CT is even more challenging because it demands a fair and open mind but also skepticism at the same time. Critical thinkers must not take others’ beliefs, or even their own, at face value, yet they also must not automatically dismiss another’s opposing argument without fair consideration. This is where empathy and humility come into play. CT asks us to put ourselves in one another’s shoes while also becoming strongly aware of our own limitations in knowledge, experience, and perception. Finally CT requires courage and creativity. We must think outside the box and novelly approach problems while still maintaining an overarching sense of rationality.

Emotionally Disturbed

My biggest issue with this week’s readings has to do with the role that emotion and intuition play in critical thinking.

  • Schafersman defines emotional thinking as involving a “pervasive distrust of reason.”
  • Professor Dowden champions an attitude that “rejects ‘intuiting’ the truth in favor of demanding reasons”.
 

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I can’t help but see these as overly simplistic views of the relationship between emotion and reason. While blind emotion could indeed be reckless and distort CT, emotion or intuition followed by rational reflection may be very valuable for initially guiding us in the right direction when critically analyzing a situation or issue. To simply suppress these feelings may be a great mistake as it would throw away an opportunity to more deeply explore and understand ourselves in a manner that can ultimately make us better critical thinkers.

Critical Thinking and American News Media

This week, as I read about CT and began to learn what it truly means, I kept thinking about the state of television news media here in America. The bottom line is that our news media does not encourage or foster critical thinking. Rather, the pundits on television often advocate reactionary thinking that is both polarizing and absolutist. Is there a way to reform journalistic media so that it can inspire critical thinking amongst its viewers and readers? That is a question I hope to answer as a media psychologist.

current-state-of-cable-news

The State of Mainstream Television News Media:
Critical Thinking or Critical Condition?!
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