Blog Post: [Part 3] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person

Richard Paul Archives
Apr 25, 2023 • 43d ago
[Part 3] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person

{"ops":[{"insert":"[Missed Part 2? "},{"attributes":{"bold":true,"color":"blue","link":""},"insert":"Read It Here"},{"insert":"]\n \nStrong sense critical thinkers are not routinely blinded by their own points of view. They know that they "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"have"},{"insert":" a point of view and therefore recognize on what framework of assumptions and ideas their own thinking rests. They realize they must put their own assumptions and ideas to the test of the strongest objections that can be leveled against them. Critical proponents of a socialist economic system, for example, can analyze economic events from the perspective of an insightful proponent of capitalism. Critical proponents of a capitalist economic system can analyze economic events from the perspective of an insightful proponent of socialism. This implies, by the way, that economics should not be taught in a way which presupposes capitalism, socialism, or any other economic system as "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"the"},{"insert":" correct one. In other words, the issue as to what economic system is most justified is a multilogical issue.\n \nSimilarly, the strong sense critical thinker’s thought is disciplined to avoid confusing concepts that belong in different categories. For example, they do not confuse “democracy,” a political concept, with “capitalism,” an economic concept. They realize that any important connection between democracy and capitalism must be argued for, not assumed, that"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" free enterprise"},{"insert":" should not be routinely injected into U.S. social studies texts as a neutral synonym for "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"capitalism"},{"insert":", any more than "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"people’s democracy"},{"insert":" should be routinely injected into Soviet social studies texts as a neutral synonym for "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Soviet communism"},{"insert":". They can recognize when terms are used in this question-begging way. A teacher who values strong sense critical thinking fosters these abilities.\n \nThe importance of strong sense critical thinking has been underscored, each in his own terms, by most leading critical thinking theorists: Robert Ennis, Harvey Siegel, Israel Scheffler, Michael Scriven, Matthew Lipman, R.S. Peters, John Passmore, Edward Glaser, Ralph Johnson, J. Anthony Blair, and others. I exemplify this point briefly with four of them: Ennis, Siegal, Scriven, and Peters.\n \nRobert Ennis defines critical thinking as “reasonable reflective thinking that is concerned with what to do or believe.” He argues that the various component cognitive skills essential to critical thinking cannot lead to genuine “rational reflective thinking” unless used in conjunction with, as the manifestation of, a complex of dispositions. For example, in and of themselves, the component cognitive skills of critical thinking can be used to serve either closedminded or openminded thought. Those with genuine openmindedness, Ennis claims, will "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"a) "},{"insert":"Seriously consider points of view other than their own (“dialogical thinking”); "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"b)"},{"insert":" reason from premises with which they disagree – without letting the disagreement interfere with their reasons (“Suppositional thinking”); "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"c)"},{"insert":" withhold judgment when the evidence and reasons are insufficient.\n \nHarvey Siegel argues that students cannot become genuine critical thinkers unless they develop “the critical spirit”, and that students will not develop the critical spirit unless they are taught in “the critical manner”:\n \nThe critical manner is that manner of teaching that reinforces the critical spirit. A teacher who utilizes the critical manner seeks to encourage in his or her students the skills, habits, and dispositions necessary for the development of the critical spirit. This means, first, that the teacher always recognizes the right of the student to question and demand reasons; and consequently recognizes an obligation to provide reasons whenever demanded. The critical manner thus demands of a teacher a willingness to subject all beliefs and practices to scrutiny, and so to allow students the genuine opportunity to understand the role reasons play in justifying thought and action. The critical manner also demands honesty of a teacher: reasons presented by a teacher must be genuine reasons, and a teacher must honestly appraise the power of those reasons. In addition, the teacher must submit his or her reasons to the independent evaluation of the student. Teaching in the critical manner is thus teaching so as to develop in the students skills and attitudes consonant with critical thinking. It is, as Scheffler puts it, an attempt to initiate students into the rational life, a life in which the critical quest for reasons is a dominant and integrating motive."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nSiegel’s point is that for students to develop the passions of strong sense critical thinkers (the passion for accuracy, clarity, and fairmindedness), teachers must continually model those passions in their manner of teaching. The component micro-skills of critical thinking (the ability to clarify an issue, distinguish evidence from conclusions, recognize assumptions, implications, and contradictions, and so on) do not become the skills of a (strong sense) critical thinker, except insofar as they are integrated into “a life in which the critical quest for reasons is a dominant and integrating motive.”\n"}]}

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