Critical Thinking And the Educated Person What is Critical Thinking? Problem solving Analyzing information Interpreting information Recognizing bias Understanding diverse points of view Applying information Learning! Becoming a Fair-Minded Critical Thinker Our ability to be fair-minded is the result of cognitive and socio-emotional development. We must all recognize that to be fair-minded we must develop traits such as intellectual humility, intellectual integrity, intellectual courage, intellectual autonomy, intellectual empathy, intellectual perseverance, and confidence in reason. Weak vs. Strong Critical Thinking A weak-sense thinker is a Sophist. The sophist is one who seeks to win an argument regardless of whether there are problems in the thinking being used, regardless of whether relevant viewpoints are being ignored. The objective is to win. Strong-sense critical thinkers are not easily tricked by slick argumentation, by sophistry, and intellectual trickery, they use thinking in an ethical, reasonable manner. As strong-sense thinkers, we question our own purposes, evidence, conclusions, implications, and point of view with the same vigor that we question those of others. Fair-Mindedness Requires: Intellectual humility: to develop knowledge of the extent of one’s ignorance, being aware of one’s biases and prejudices as well as the limitations of one’s viewpoint, and it recognizes that one should not claim more than one actually knows. What do you do when you are challenged on something you think you know? Can you name some of your false beliefs, illusions, prejudices, myths and misconceptions? Fair-Mindedness Requires: Intellectual Courage: facing and fairly addressing ideas, beliefs or viewpoints even when this is painful, recognizing that ideas that society considers dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally justified or simply a matter of subjective taste. To determine what makes sense to believe, one must not passively and uncritically accept what one has learned. Have you ever questioned your beliefs and then questioned your identity? Have you ever held to certain beliefs because of the fear of rejection? Fair-Mindedness Requires: Intellectual empathy: to put oneself imaginatively in the place of others on a routine basis, so as to genuinely understand them. It requires one to reconstruct the viewpoints and reasoning of others accurately and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than one’s own. What’s it like to have a disability? What’s it like to be male/female/gay/lawyer/priest….? Fair-Mindedness Requires: Intellectual integrity: to be true to one’s own disciplined thinking and holding oneself to the same standards that one expects others to meet. It means practicing daily what one advocates for others (walking the walk). Have you ever experienced cognitive dissonance? This is believing one thing and doing another. Fair-Mindedness Requires: Intellectual perseverance: the disposition to work one’s way through intellectual complexities despite frustrations inherent in the task. Some problems are complicated and cannot be solved easily (tolerate uncertainty). Have you ever tried to understand something or someone and given up, or been invited to give up? Fair-Mindedness Requires: Confidence in reason: based on the belief that one’s own higher interests and those of humankind at large are best served by giving the freest play to reason, by encouraging people to come to their own conclusions through the use of their own rational faculties. People can learn to think for themselves, form insightful viewpoints, draw reasonable conclusions, think clearly, accurately, relevantly and logically and persuade each other by appeal to good reason and sound evidence. Have you ever said “oh, you just don’t understand and never will…”? Intellectual Distrust of Reason Faith in charismatic national leaders Faith in charismatic cult leaders Faith in the father as the traditional head of the household Faith in institutional authorities Faith in spiritual powers Faith in some social group Faith in some political ideology Faith in intuition Faith in one’s unanalyzed emotions Faith in one’s gut impulses Faith in fate Faith in social or legal institutions Faith in folkways or mores Faith in one’s own unanalyzed experiences Faith in people who have social status Fair-Mindedness Requires: Intellectual autonomy: thinking for oneself while adhering to standards of rationality, thinking through issues using one’s own thinking rather than uncritically accepting the viewpoints of others. Independent thinkers are not willful, stubborn, or unresponsive to the reasonable suggestions of others. Have you ever conformed to a belief that you later came to reject? Have you ever been rejected by your independent beliefs? The First Four Stages of Development Stage One: The Unreflective thinker We don’t notice we are continually making assumptions, forming concepts and opinions, drawing inferences, and thinking within points of view. Our egocentric tendencies at this stage play a dominant role in our thinking. We lack the skills and motivation to notice how self-centered and prejudiced we are. The First Four Stages of Development Stage Two: The Challenged Thinker We begin to notice that we • Make questionable assumptions • Use false, incomplete, or misleading information • Make inferences that do not follow from the evidence we have • Fail to recognize important implications in our thought • Fail to recognize problems we have • Form faulty concepts • Reason with prejudiced points of view • Think egocentrically and irrationally We begin to become aware that our thinking is shaping our lives. The First Four Stages of Development Stage Three: The Beginning Thinker We are beginning to: • • • • Analyze the logic of situations and problems Express clear and precise questions Check information for accuracy and relevance Distinguish between raw information and someone’s interpretation of it • Recognize assumptions guiding inferences • Identify prejudicial and biased beliefs, unjustifiable conclusions, misused words, and missed implications • Notice when our viewpoint is biased by our selfish interests The purpose of the autobiography (culture, time, place, raised, associations) What are two traps that can derail the beginning thinker? The First Four Stages of Development Stage Four: The Practicing Thinker Using wasted time Handle a problem a day (at least) Internalize intellectual standards (ADEADCAT) Keep an intellectual journal Practice intellectual strategies Reshape your character Deal with your ego Redefine the way you see things Get in touch with your emotions Analyze group influences on your life Self-Understanding Think of the most self-centered person you know. This may be someone who is fundamentally selfish or arrogant. Describe the person’s behavior in detail. Based on the person’s behavior, how would you describe his or her thinking? What are their feelings and motivations? Do they use others to get what they want? Fallacies of Belief It’s true because I believe it. It’s true because we believe it. It’s true because I want to believe it. It’s true because I have always believed it. It’s true because it’s in my selfish interests to believe it. The Mind’s Three Distinctive Functions Thinking: to create meaning Feeling: monitor or evaluate meaning Wanting: allocates energy to action, in keeping with our definition of what is desirable and possible For every positive thought the mind believes, there is a corresponding emotion and value. Ask yourself: what is the thinking that influences me not to want to learn this? What is the value of learning it? The Three Functions of the Mind Thinking: Makes sense of the world Feeling: Tells us how we are doing Wanting: Drives us to act as we do Judging Happy Goals Perceiving Sad Analyzing Clarifying Determining Depressed Desires Anxious Purposes Stressed agendas Calm Comparing Worried synthesizing excited Values motives Learn Both Intellectually and Emotionally In order to learn and remember something, it must be meaningful to our lives and therefore, must have affective connotation and a value attached to it. How does one use motivation to put a different spin on a domain that has previously been assumed unimportant and not valuable? The Parts of Thinking Reasoning: the mental process the mind uses to make sense of whatever we seek to understand. We draw conclusions on the basis of reasons (decisions, interpretations, inferences). Whenever we think, we think for a purpose, within a point of view, based on assumptions, leading to implications and consequences. We use data, facts, and experiences to make inferences and judgments based on concepts and theories to answer a question or solve a problem. Questions Implied by the Universal Structures of Thought What is my fundamental purpose (goals, desires, needs, values)? What is the key question I am trying to answer? What information do I need to answer my question? What is the most basic concept in the question? What assumptions am I using in my reasoning? What is my point of view with respect to the issue? What are my most fundamental inferences or conclusions? What are the implications for my reasoning (if I am correct)? Reasoning Purpose: Humans reason in line with their goals, values, needs and desires Point of view: our thinking has a focus or orientation Concepts: general categories or ideas by which we interpret, classify, or group the info we use in thinking We often face questions we need to answer, problems we need to solve, issues we need to resolve Information in our reasoning: facts, data or experiences to support our conclusions Jack and Jill How the Parts of Thinking Fit Together Our purpose affects the manner in which we ask questions The manner in which we ask questions affects the information we gather The information we gather affects the way we interpret it The way we interpret information affects the way we conceptualize it The way we conceptualize information affects the assumptions we make The assumptions we make affect the implications that follow from our thinking The implications that follow affect the way we see things – our point of view Best Thinkers Think to some purpose Take command of concepts Assess information Inert information: memorized, but we don’t understand Activated ignorance: actively using false information Activated knowledge: actively using true information that leads us to more knowledge Distinguish between information, inferences and assumptions Think through implications Think across points of view Intellectual Standards and the Elements of Reasoning Clarity Accuracy Precision Relevance Depth Breadth Logic Significance Fairness Purpose, goal, end in view Question at issue or problem to be solved Information, data, facts, observations, experiences Implications and consequences Concepts, theories, definitions, axioms, laws, principles, models Points of view, frames of reference, perspective, orientation Ask Questions that Lead to Good Thinking Three kinds of Questions Questions of fact: require evidence and reasoning within a system, a correct answer, lead to knowledge Questions of preference: call for stating a subjective preference, a subjective opinion, cannot be assessed Questions of judgment: require evidence and reasoning within multiple systems, better and worse answers, require reasoned judgment Questioning Your Questions Questions of purpose force us to define our task Questions of information force us to look at our sources of information as well as the quality of our information Questions of interpretation force us to examine how we are organizing or giving meaning to information and to consider alternative ways of giving meaning Questioning Your Questions Questions of assumption forces us to examine what we are taking for granted Questions of implication force us to follow where our thinking is leading us Questions of point of view force us to examine our point of view and to consider other relevant points of view Questions of relevance force us to differentiate what does and what does not bear on a question Questioning Your Questions Questions of accuracy force us to evaluate and test for truth and correctness Questions of precision force us to give details and be specific Questions of consistency force us to examine our thinking for contradictions Questions of logic force us to consider how we are putting the whole of our thought together, to make sure that it all adds up and makes sense within a reasonable system of some kind Socratic Thinking Probing, analytic, synthetic, creative, connection-forming thought construction of a logical system of understandings leading to insight a natural way to develop and test our understanding of content a natural way to give life to content Redefine Grades as Levels of Thinking and Learning Best Learners: Continually assess their learning against standards of excellence Are not dependent on instructors to tell them how well they are doing Tie each step of their learning process to a self-reflective step of self-assessment Seek to enter the foundations of any subject and use that foundation to understand everything else within the subject Seek to identify the most basic kinds of information used by professionals within the field Do not memorize random bits of information, their learning is problem or question based They state a problem, assess for clarity, gather information, check it for relevance, form an interpretation and check the interpretation to see what it’s based on and whether it is adequate Developing Strategies for SelfAssessment Using profiles to assess your performance Exemplary students High-performing students Mixed-quality students Low-performing students Incompetent students Exemplary Students (Grade of A) The exemplary student has internalized the basic intellectual standards appropriate to the assessment of his or her own work in a subject and is highly skilled at self-evaluation. They regularly: Raise important questions and issues Analyze key questions and problems Recognize questionable assumptions Clarify key concepts effectively Use language in keeping with educated usage Identify relevant competing points of view Display sensitivity to important implications and consequences Demonstrate a commitment to reasoning carefully from clearly stated premises in a subject High-Performing Students (Grade of B) HP in thinking through a subject implies sound thinking within the domain of a subject along with the development of a range of knowledge acquired through the exercise of thinking skills and abilities. HP students on the whole are clear, precise, and wellreasoned, but sometimes lack depth of insight (especially opposing points of view). Basic terms and distinctions are learned at a level that implies comprehension of basic concepts and principles. HP students internalize the basic intellectual standards appropriate to the assessment of their thinking in a subject and demonstrate competence in self-evaluation. They: Often raise questions and issues, commonly analyze questions and problems clearly and precisely, recognize most questionable assumptions, clarify key concepts well, typically use language in keeping with educated usage, commonly identify relevant competing points of view, display sensitivity to many important implications and consequences, and frequently demonstrate the beginnings of a commitment to reasoning carefully Mixed-Ability Students (Grade C) Thinking of mixed-ability students implies inconsistent/incomplete performance within the domain of a subject along with limited development of knowledge acquired through the exercise of thinking skills and abilities. The MQ student often tries to use memorization as a substitute for understanding. The MQ student: Sometimes raises questions and issues, sometimes analyzes questions and problems clearly and precisely, recognizes some questionable assumptions, clarifies some concepts competently, sometimes uses language in keeping with educated usage, sometimes identifies relevant competing points of view, sometimes demonstrates a clear commitment to reasoning carefully from clearly stated premises in a subject, are inconsistently sensitive to important implications and consequences Low-Performing Students (Grade D/F) Low-performing students reason poorly within the domain of a subject. They try to get through courses by means of rote recall, attempting regularly to acquire knowledge by memorization rather than through critical thinking skills or insights requisite to understanding course content. LP students: Rarely raise questions and issues, superficially analyze questions and problems, do not recognize their assumptions, clarify concepts only partially, rarely use language keeping with educated usage, rarely identify relevant competing points of view, show no understanding of the importance of a commitment to reasoning carefully from clearly stated premises in a subject and are insensitive to important implications and consequences Skilled Learners To be a skilled learner you have to be a skilled thinker. You must take responsibility for your learning. You plan your learning by becoming clear as to what your goals are, what questions you have, what information you need to acquire, what concepts you need to learn, what you need to focus on, and how you need to understand it. Learn to use information critically and ethically The ideal of knowledge acquisition To the extent we are committed to the development of fair-mindedness, we are committed to knowledge being acquired and used to minimize human suffering, to meet basic human needs, to preserve rather than destroy the environment, to contribute to a more just world, and to serve rational rather than irrational ends. Disciplines seek knowledge not to benefit a select few but rather to distribute benefits in the broadest and most just way. True Loyalty to a Discipline True loyalty to a discipline is born out of recognition of the discipline’s potential power for good in the world. It is not a commitment to practices in the discipline as it stands. It is not given by the intensity with which one defends the discipline. A person committed to the discipline of history recognizes the importance and the power of historical thinking in the world. For example, a history person recognizes that: We are creators of history We are products of history Nonetheless, we are not successfully teaching historical thinking History, as a written and taught, often reflects personal and social prejudices Ask yourself two questions: am I coming to recognize the power of the discipline as a form of thinking? Am I coming to recognize the limitations of the discipline in the light of this present state of development? The Gap Between Fact and Ideal The following two phenomena are the root of much of the misuse of knowledge in the world: Human fallibility: All knowledge is acquired, analyzed, and put to use in the world by individuals who are subject to the pitfalls of human weakness, self-deception, and pathological states of mind (e.g., prejudice, egocentrism, sociocentrisim) Vested interest: Human knowledge exists in a world of power, status, and wealth, all of which significantly influence what information is acquired within any discipline, how it is interpreted, and how it is used. It should follow that we should be skeptical of any description of a human knowledge-constructing enterprise that characterizes itself as an approximation of an ideal. Rather we should approach human disciplines as in some state of contradiction between an announced ideal and actual reality. The Ideal Compared to the Real The first essential step is to recognize the discipline as a powerful mode of thinking and setting forth the ideal of the discipline. To set out the ideal, ask yourself if the discipline were striving to function in an optimal way in an optimal setting: What would the discipline look like? How would it function? How would it be represented? How would it be taught? How would it be applied? Two important insights: All knowledge in use in the world is subject to the pitfalls of human fallibility on the part of the individuals using it. Knowledge exists in a world driven by the pursuit of power, status, and wealth, each of which exacts its toll. Conclusion As critical thinkers, we must be careful not to assume that things are actually the way they are represented to be in human life. To understand a field of knowledge we must understand it realistically. Learn to Use Information Critically and Ethically Men, whose life lies in the cultivation of one science, or the exercise of one method of thought, have no more right…to generalize upon the basis of their own pursuit but beyond its range, than the schoolboy… John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University, 1852 Realistic Understanding In this chapter we will focus our analysis on one domain, that of psychology, and on the allied fields of mental health. We begin with the premise that the art of thinking psychologically is a powerful form of thought, important to human well-being and self-insight. We also begin with the hypothesis that the benefit from this powerful mode of thought is diminished by the manner in which it is sometimes taught and used by psychologists and by those trained by psychologists in the fields of mental health. Realistic Understanding We need to examine all information with full awareness that, though virtually all the information we are presented with is presented to us as true– as something known and not just believed—it may well be false or mere half-truth. Politicians don’t say, “Everything I am about to tell you in this speech is intended to get myself elected to a position of power and influence—not to reveal the full truth about what is really happening. I will therefore hide, to the best of my ability, everything that puts me or my party in a bad light.” Realistic Understanding Our minds do not have a built-in warning system to alert us to what we have already taken in uncritically from our parents, our peers, the media. We reemphasize the theme that we are ethically responsible for the manner in which we take in and use information If we want to understand a field of knowledge, we must understand it realistically, that it is an imperfect construction. If we want to understand our learning of a field of knowledge, we must realistically understand the imperfections of our learning, that even at best we imperfectly learn what we learn We have chosen psychology: because human good and harm seem especially germane to its practice, and because there seems to be an especially large gap between the ideal promised by psychology and the realities of its actual practice. Be a Critic, Not a Cynic A cynic views all knowledge as baseless, such an absolute negation of knowledge cannot be justified for it is, in effect, an arrogant claim to know the status of all knowledge-that there is nothing we can claim to know absolutely. The spirit of critical thinking is intellectual humility. It is based on evidence that each of us must assemble individually, and it requires heightened awareness of how frequently humans make mistakes. We can access that evidence if we overcome our egocentric defensiveness. We must examine each claim to knowledge one by one, evaluating each on its merits. Recognize the Mental Nature of Knowledge Human knowledge exists as knowledge in the human mind, and as an imperfect learner, we are eminently fallible. We must get into the habit of evaluating what we come to think and believe. Further, all minds, without exception are possessed by prejudices, vested interests, fears, insecurities, and social ideology. Paradoxically, whenever knowledge exists, some degree of ignorance also exists in some relationship to it. Develop Awareness of the Harm from Misuse of Information Intelligent people with a lofty sense of their importance, pursuing their vested interests, are more dangerous to the well-being of others than are unintelligent people stumbling along unskilled in the art of deception and manipulation. The use of ethical knowledge begins with a recognition of the limits of one’s knowledge and of the various influences that are likely to undermine the proper use of that knowledge. Strategic Thinking Strategic thinking has two phases: The understanding of an important principle of mental functioning. Using that understanding strategically to produce a mental change in ourselves. Understanding. The human mind has three interrelated functions: thinking, feeling, and desiring or wanting. These functions are interrelated and interdependent. The Strategy. Whenever you find yourself having what may be irrational emotions or desires, figure out the thinking that probably is generating those emotions and desires. Then develop rational thinking with which to replace the irrational thinking you are using in the situation. Explicitly state what the feelings and desires are. Figure out the irrational thinking leading to it. Figure out how to transform the irrational thinking into rational thinking— thing that makes sense in context. Whenever you feel the negative emotion, repeat to yourself the rational thoughts you decided you needed to replace the irrational thoughts, until you feel the rational emotions that accompany reasonable thinking. Components of strategic thinking An identifying component. You must be able to figure out when your thinking is irrational or flawed. An intellectual component. You must actively engage and challenge the acts of your own mind. What is actually going on in the situation as it stands? Your options for action. A justifiable rationale for choosing one of the options. Ways of reasoning with yourself when you are being unreasonable, or ways of reducing the power of your irrational state of mind. Key idea #1 Thoughts, feelings and desires are interdependent. If, for example, I experience a degree of anger that I sense may be unreasonable, I should be able to determine whether the anger is or is not rational. I should be able to evaluate the rationality of my anger by evaluating the thinking that gave rise to it. Has someone truly wronged me, or am I misreading the situation? Was this wrong intentional or unintentional? Are there ways to view the situation other than the way I am viewing it? Am I giving a fair hearing to these other ways? Key idea #2 There is a logic to this, and you can figure it out. (pg. 413). Questioning goals, purposes, and objectives. What is the central purpose of this person? This group? Myself? I realize that problems in thinking are often the result of a mistake at the level of basic purpose. Questioning the way in which questions are framed, problems are posed, issues are expressed. Questioning information and sources of information. Questioning interpretations or conclusions. Questioning the assumptions being made. Questioning the concepts being used. Questioning the points of view being considered. Questioning implications. Key idea #3 For thinking to be of high quality, we must routinely assess it by applying intellectual standards to our thinking. Focusing on clarity in thinking. Can I state it precisely? Focusing on precision in thinking. Am I providing enough details? Focusing on accuracy in thinking. Am I certain that the information I am using is accurate? Focusing on relevance in thinking. How does my point bear on the issue at hand? Focusing on logicalness in thinking. Given the information I have gathered, what is the most logical conclusion? Focusing on breadth in thinking. I wonder whether I need to consider another viewpoint(s)? Focusing on depth in thinking. What complexities are inherent in this issue? Focusing on justification in thinking. Is the purpose justified or is it unfair, self-contradictory, or self-defeating given the facts?