Thursday, July 30, 2009

Critical Thinking, n.

In 1988, the American Philosophical Society produced a paper titled "Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction." From these imperious and slightly Orwellian beginnings emerged a nice summary of the anti-totalitarian, duly skeptical, reality-grounded, reason-responsive approach to thinking:

The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit.
I like adding a little smart-ass for spice, but tastes vary. I say that statement is a worthy standard for all.

(via Ionian Enchantment)

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

A group of philosophers agrees on something. Neat!

Anonymous said...

"Trustful of reason" is one of the tenets. Can existentialists be critical thinkers?

Dale said...

Anon, sure. I see no reason why existentialists cannot be critical thinkers. You see it differently?

I read the "trustful of reason" plank charitably -- as qualified by everything else around it. Trust is a matter of degree, right? Blind trust would be taking things far too far. Warranted trust has its place.

As I read it, the trust asked for refers to the experience-backed working assumption that reason can get us somewhere if we apply it rigorously, diligently, carefully, thoughtfully, etc. I think reason has a good -- surely not perfect, but good -- track record on which to call for the justification of such trust.

If by that phrase it means "assume that reason is destined to solve every problem" then I reject it. That asks for too much trust. And again, I see this extreme reading as discordant with the rest of the statement.