Critical Thinking
And the Educated Person
What is Critical Thinking?
 Problem
 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
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
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
• 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
 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
Thinking: to create meaning
Feeling: monitor or evaluate meaning
Wanting: allocates energy to action, in keeping
with our definition of what is desirable and
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
Makes sense
of the world
Feeling: Tells
us how we are
Drives us to
act as we do
Learn Both Intellectually and
 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
Questions Implied by the Universal
Structures of Thought
What is my fundamental purpose (goals, desires, needs,
 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
 What are the implications for my reasoning (if I am
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
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
Activated ignorance: actively using false information
Activated knowledge: actively using true information
 that leads us to more knowledge
Distinguish between information, inferences and
 Think through implications
 Think across points of view
Intellectual Standards and the
Elements of Reasoning
Purpose, goal, end in view
Question at issue or problem
to be solved
Information, data, facts,
observations, experiences
Implications and
Concepts, theories, definitions,
axioms, laws, principles,
Points of view, frames of
reference, perspective,
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
 Tie each step of their learning process to a self-reflective step of
 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
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
 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
Ask yourself two questions:
am I coming to recognize the power of the discipline as a form of
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.
 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
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
 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
 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
 Understanding. The human mind has three interrelated functions: thinking,
feeling, and desiring or wanting. These functions are interrelated and
 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
 An intellectual component. You must actively
engage and challenge the acts of your own
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
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
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?

Critical Thinking Notes