Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts Essay

The article starts with emphasizing the importance of making good decisions and practicing fair judgments comparing with enduring the consequences of uninformed and bad choices. Next topic is defining “critical thinking”, which is based on rhetorical questions that can help each of us deducing by ourselves what it means and why it is important.

Whenever you are in the position to choose, you have to analyze all the options you have, find logical and rational reasons for one or another alternative. This way of defining a concept by challenging the reader to think and find answers to the questions raised is much more useful than a complex definition written on a page and then memorized. Although memorization has its own valuable uses, it is important to stop from time to time and reflect when learning.

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Considering an international group of experts trying to find the meaning of critical thinking concept and also a team of people trying to solve a problem, it can be stated that critical thinking has a purpose (defining a term or solving an issue) and it is a collaborative effort. It can also raise the problem of borderline cases: not all the people will think the same about certain issue (consider it correct of wrong), this depending on how fair or close-minded a person is.

In critical thinking there are some skills (mental abilities) involved, such as interpretation (understand and express the sense of an event/term/idea/data: interpreting a chart, rephrase someone’s statement with your own words), analysis (identify the relationship among concepts, statements, questions: detecting arguments, examining ideas), evaluation (decide if a representation of someone’s experience, perception, opinion, belief is credible or not, passing the information we have through our evaluative system), inference (identify the premises which leads to a reasonable, fair conclusion, taking into account all the relevant information), explanation (expose the result of one’s reasoning, from both onceptual and contextual perspectives) and self-regulation (can be seen as critical thinking applied to itself).

The next topic in the article is the “Delphi Method”, illustrated with the following example: a group of 46 experts from U. S and Canada, activating in various scholarly disciplines participated in a two-year lasted project. A central investigator organizes the group and gives them a first task/question to answer; after receiving the responses, he/she summarizes them and sends back to the whole group for reactions, without mentioning the respondents’ names. Once the consensus appears to be reached, the central investigator proposes it and asks for feedback. If they do not agree, then each point of disagreement is registered.

Being a critical thinker is something positive, this doesn’t necessary mean that one is hypercritical or negativist, this is the best way to get the truth and it is important to use the skills you have (actually it is a pervasive “law”, you cannot decide not to think). Human beings are more than “thinking machines”, this is why they can have different attitudes towards critical thinking: systematic, analytical, open-minded, confident in reasoning, truth-seeking, judicious or inquisitive. Critical thinking is something native, every one of us uses it without planning to do it, is part of our nature, our structure. Poor critical thinkers may be the ones who doesn’t care about anything, disorganized persons who applies unreasonable criteria and who let their thinking skills alter.

While making the difference between “good” and “bad” critical thinkers, it is important to consider also the moral sense, not only the cognitive process followed, as this can lead to misinterpretations and confusions about a certain issue (this is why critical thinking should have nothing to do with one’s culture, religion, ethical values, political orientation or personal beliefs). Also, a person who is acting doubtful morally cannot be considered as not thinking critically, these concepts being distinct. Critical thinking is part of the so-called “good thinking”, alongside creative thinking. In the context of popular culture, we may differentiate a purposive, kinetic thinking (that instantly coordinates movements), a meditative thinking (profound insights about human existence) and hyper-alert thinking (i. e. : the way soldiers act in a battle).

In science, it is stated that “thinking” is a much more complex process than it is perceived in the popular culture. Beside the instinctive actions we take, there are some cases when we need to check all the solutions we have to a problem by judging all the circumstances, integrating both our systems: intuitive (“System 1” – useful in familiar situations when quick action is needed) and reflective (“System 2” – useful in unfamiliar situations, when time allows judging the options). When uncertainty is high, these two systems are vital decision-making tools, influenced by cognitive heuristics. The most known ones – operating in System 1 – are the below: a) availability –