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Understanding The Characteristics Of Critical Thinking

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“The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living”

-an insight into the art of Critical Thinking

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In our day and age, critical thinking is not something we generally practice. Most individuals are satisfied with their humble existence, and do not care to explore the reality of the world we live in. They simply accept things for what they are without evaluating it for themselves, or pondering other viewpoints to get a fuller understanding. In this essay I am going to attempt to evaluate the nature of critical thinking by first breaking it down into its root words and really focusing on their individual meaning. Then, I will tie them both back together and make connections to show the nature of critical thinking.

To begin, we must first understand each part. “Thinking” is something that I would describe as a conscious and subconscious act of exercising the mind to produce ideas. I believe that it is a both conscious and subconscious action. This is because in one situation you could be intently listening to a lecture, actively taking notes or what not, and then in a different situation you could be zoning out or daydreaming about what you are going to do this weekend. In both cases, thinking was involved. The only difference would be, in the first example, thinking was intentional versus the later, which was more unintentional, but nevertheless thinking was present. Another point that may be obvious is that thinking is so very personal. Since you conceptualized it all in your brain, you produce your own ideas, mindsets and philosophies. To recap, as humans, we were given minds that are always thinking, whether intentional or not, it is just an automatic personalized function.

Next we will focus on the second word, “critical.” I would describe being critical as, questioning or critiquing ones ideas in a given situation to rouse and analyze diverse alternatives. In most peoples’ minds however, being critical has a more negative connotation. They equate a critic to a sort of opponent or enemy in the sense. One who evaluates performance and then criticizes and condemns it. I believe it to have a more uplifting and positive connotation. Being critical really parallels the teaching of the great Socrates. Socrates was all about asking questions upon questions, peeling layer upon layer off, in the hopes of finding the underlying truth. Now I don’t want to get into the whole debate of what is or isn’t truth, but being critical really follows this same method. To effectively act critically you must be able to ask the “right questions.” Questions that lead to better alternatives and really broaden ones understanding on a given subject. I was classically educated and my teachers ingrained in us to “increase our copiousness.” This, in essence, is broadening your current understanding, or increasing your knowledge, to better formulate ideas and come to new conclusions. All in all, being critical essentially means arriving at new conclusions by analyzing a situation and refining that situation by asking the “right questions.”

Now that our terms are defined and elaborated on, it’s best we move on to what Critical Thinking actually is. I would describe critical thinking as questioning ones ideas in a given situation to rouse and analyze diverse alternatives and in the end do some reflecting towards oneself and evaluate those alternatives personally. Critical Thinking is quite a journey if you think about it. You must find an issue, assess that issue, ask the “right questions,” examine the alternatives, capture personal insight and in the end formulate your own conclusions. As I mentioned earlier, critical thinking is not something we generally do. It is an art, and takes practice like all the other things in life.

It may be a struggle to begin to think critically at first, but with dedication you will begin to start looking at the world different, possibly yourself different. You will become curious about things you took for granted and inquisitive towards the little things in life that most would just pass on by. With critical thinking, your mind will be open to questions you hadn’t even considered before.

In this final paragraph I would like to reiterate that critical thinking is all about looking at the world with a different perspective. It is about asking questions and being initially skeptical of ideas before instinctively accepting them without the proper examination. Proverbs 14:15 says, “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his step.”

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