What is “critical thinking” and is it important?
The scripture above links the “thoughtless”, those people who show a lack of thinking ability, with those who inherit or practice “folly”, or stupidity. On the flip side, those who are cautious are crowned with knowledge. But, why does being cautious have anything to do with the difference between being defined as knowledgeable or stupid? I want to suggest that caution is relevant because we have to carefully evaluate the information available to us to discern good from bad, right from wrong, and truth from lies.
With all the fake news and false opinion that flies around today, and not only today, it becomes even more important to be cautious about accepting statements as facts. This doesn’t mean we have to be cynical, or start believing that the world is flat and not a globe. However, if it is important to you to make the right decision about something, then be prepared to research it, and also not to be afraid to let any existing beliefs you have be challenged. Having your beliefs challenged can mean you realise even more why you have them, and they can become stronger as well as potentially realising your beliefs may incomplete or wrong.
The basis of critical thinking is knowledge. Critical doesn’t mean to pull something down, it means to objectively evaluate it. Surely if knowledge were an easy thing everyone would be wise, but that isn’t the case. The truth is, you have to search for knowledge, value it, feed on it and make it grow.
Critical thinking then, at its basic level, is about objective analysis of the facts in order to help you arrive at a sensible, reliable opinion. This is done in a structured way, thinking about concepts such as, impartiality or fairness, reliability of information, empiricism, considering implications and consequences, considering alternative views and contextualising them, and last bat not least intellectual integrity. So when thinking about all of those aspects you probably won’t arrive at your opinion quickly. Often, analysing information takes time, and it is better to take your time to arrive at a sound conclusion, than rush and “inherit folly”, or make the wrong conclusion.
You don’t have to go to extreme lengths with this, but it is a discipline worth knowing about that can give sound reasoning behind your beliefs and opinions. That makes for good conversation! After all, who can have an interesting conversation with someone who does not know why they believe what they believe? More on Critical Thinking can be found here.
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