Sunday, June 22, 2008

What does "critical thinking" mean?

Over at Jack Bog's blog, Bill McDonald and I got into a very interesting discussion about what is the difference between "critical thinking" and "logical thinking,"

I invited Bill to carry the discussion forward here, since it really isn't fair to Jack to hijack his blog. Click here for back ground on the precise nature of the question, then please chime in.

This is an interesting question and I really am interested in hearing what people think.


Anonymous said...

Critical thinking and logical thinking are not the dominion of either conservatives or liberals. Both sides have representatives that do and don’t. I would suggest however that arguing one side is more enlightened than the other is not in it self very logical.

There are a host of reasons for the high price of oil, but the leading factors are supply and demand coupled with the weak dollar. The oil producers want their barrel of oil to retain the same buying power it has historically gained. Whose fault is the higher demand for oil caused from the growing economies of China and India? Whose fault is the falling dollar caused by an unsustainable trade imbalance with those same countries? Do we blame conservatives or liberals? The real answer is we have to blame ourselves. As long as we consume more that we produce, penalize production and reward consumption the status quo will remain.

Rob Kremer said...

OK, but please, can you define what
"critical thinking" actually means? And how, if at all, it differs from logical thinking?

Anonymous said...

Well, I went over and read your and bill mcdonald's comments on Jack's blog. I can see why bill no longer wants to "mix it up" on conservative blogs and why it makes him mad. I'd make him this deal - if he will "take responsibility" for the murder of 20 million babies through abortion since 1973 - admit they were murdered and denounce it, I'm willing to accept responsibility for Iraq.

Worse, bill clearly hasn't applied any thinking at all - much less the critical or logical kind - the oil situation. The tax on a gallon of gasoline is fixed and is much higher than the average profit of an oil company on the same gallon. This kind of data is easy to find on something called the "internet."

The problem with thinking that liberals have is that they - like Oregonian reporters - start with the conclusion they want to be true. Bill's comments are clearly colored by his political views - they aren't based on any rigorous review of his assumptions and facts. He hates Bush and "conservatives" so the fact that gasoline prices went up has to be their fault. Never mind that the last big oil shock happened under a liberal President and a Democrat-controlled Congress.

It's just sad. So much anger and self-loathing.

Anonymous said...


Critical thinking is when one is presented information and you need to determine the validity of that information. For instance, the intelligent design folks argue that life is far too complex to have been created by mere chance. Evolutionists argue that life started from a primordial soup and evolved to what is today. A critical thinker would ask what evidence is there to support your argument. The creationalist uses circular logic to say that the complexities of life are such as to only support a grand design. The evolutionist shows physical evidence from fossils, archeology and carbon dating to DNA research to support his argument.

The logical thinker uses the evidence based facts to derive a conclusion or predict a future event. The issue is that without critical thinking, the ability to sort facts from myth the logical thinking process will always be flawed.

Rob Kremer said...

Well at least that is a working attempt to define the terms - thanks.

But I disagree that a logical thought process is one that doesn't scrutinize validity of infomation.

John P said...

I think that critical thinking boils down to asking questions, and not just taking things others say as truth. If I hear a statement, and take it as truth without follow-up investigation, I am not critically thinking. On the other hand, if I take a topic, and ask questions about it, and use the answers I get to form my opinion (and further lines of questioning), I would be critically thinking.

Logical thinking would be using facts to construct statements, but does not necessitate asking questions to get the facts.

The two are similar, and used together, but I think the key difference is the questioning aspect of critical thinking.

Anonymous said...

I agree that if you are thinking critically you are using logic, and many other sources and problem solving tactics, at lease, that's what it should be. What I'm frustrated by is how many people use 'critical thinking' as a blanket statement. Often times they use the term in self defense when really, if they want to say; "we used critical thinking" or "we used logic" to arrive at the determination that dinosaurs and Neanderthals lived X thousand/million years ago based carbon dating. And we say "then it must be fact!" there is still no assurance in the form of reasoning they used, there are still questions. A critical thinker would ask "What is carbon dating?" "is it reliable?" "what are we measuring against?" and logical thinking would find the answers. Both are necessary for optimum performance.

Rick La Greide said...

Critical thinking is the inquisitive, critical, and practical use of laws of logic. The laws of logic the invariable patterns of "Right Thinking" described best by Aristotle in his square of opposition which explains what contradictions, contraries etc. are.
Our problem today is that we are asking students to think critically when they have never been taught to think logically. This is obviously not very good pedagogy. Logic is not to be found in our state standards. This is really beside the point to most educators that I meet because all too often arguments are not meant to be logical, but emotional. If we really want critical thinkers we need to have “Logic Standards,” but if we did that students might question what their teachers say and we cannot have that.

Anonymous said...

Rick is right. The news media, educators and other big social influences want us to make emotional decisions. If we revert back to logic and eliminate bad emotional choices we'll be much better off in educating kids. School counselors are going out of their way to make kids second guess themselves. I have a friend who's parents are the worst kind of scum, morally and criminally. The friend moved in with relatives and now the school counselors won't leave him alone about "making things right with his parents." That sort of pot-stirring in public institutions is why we need to get back to simple logic, reading, writing and arithmatic.

Anonymous said...

Critical thinking: The highest level of inquiry and thought that leads one to research, evaluate conclude and communicate an accurate portrayal of the state of affairs.


* Asks pertinent questions.

* Asesses statements and arguments.

* Is able to admit a lack of understanding or information.

* Has a sense of curiosity.

* Is interested in finding new solutions.

* Is able to clearly define a set of criteria for analyzing ideas.

* Is willing to examine beliefs, assumptions, and opinions and weigh them against facts.

* Listens carefully to others and is able to give feedback.

* Sees that critical thinking is a lifelong process of self-assessment.

* Suspends judgment until all facts have been gathered and considered.

* Looks for evidence to support assumption and beliefs.

* Is able to adjust opinions when new facts are found.

* Looks for proof.

* Examines problems closely.

* Is able to reject information that is incorrect or irrelevant."

Ferrett, S. Peak Performance (1997).

Gus Miller

Rick La Greide said...

The above list is missing a very important bullet. A critical thinker must have adequate background knowledge in order to accomplish the rest of what is on the list. As a professional educator I fear that many of our institutions degraded knowledge in the name of process. Yes, it is true that there is so much to know and that know one can ever have comprehensive knowledge but there are still bodies of knowledge that that are valuable and important no matter how things change.
Even the now defamed "Multiple choice" test has it's place. There are bodies of knowledge in History, Civics, Economics, Science, Math, and even Language Arts that, as a society, we can, and should, designate as essential learning for citizens of the United States.

Rob Kremer said...

rick la griede:
That is a GREAT point, and one that is all too often missed when our educators yammer on about critical thinking.

Domain specific knowledge is absolutely crucial in order to have anything to think critically (or logically0 about.

Educators today tend to degrade knowledge itself and pretend that problem solving and thinking are independent of expertise in the area one wants to solve problems in or think about.

Thanks for making that point.

Rick La Greide said...

I may be making a big leap here but it seems to me that this belies a deep philosophical division. The more of an epistemological relativist one is the less important knowledge is. Our society is obviously becoming more morally relativistic and I think a underlying and logical consequent of this is epistemological relativism. "We can't know anything for sure."
When this type of change occurs and is embraced by a society like it was in NAZI Germany or Soviet Russia ALL BETS ARE OFF.

Anonymous said...

Excellent points rick. Politics and journalism today are also rife with polemicists abandoning critical thought in favor of ideology.

Gus Miller

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Anonymous said...

how exactly critical and logical thinking can be differentiated??

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