My notes on the opening a discussion on critical thinking. Chris Nordin asked me to present this topic to the Open Minds group: "Are there areas of experience, such as a spiritual quest, which are not subject to critical thinking or which are beyond logic?"

Critical Thinking Definitions

Critical thinking is the objective analysis of facts to form a judgment, thinking about one's thinking in a manner designed to organize and clarify, raise the efficiency of, and recognize errors and biases in one's own thinking.

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully

  • conceptualizing,
  • evaluating,
  • analyzing,
  • synthesizing,
  • applying

information gathered from, or generated by,

  • observation,
  • experience,
  • reflection,
  • reasoning,
  • or communication,

as a guide to belief and action.

 Critical thinking can be seen as having two components:

  1. information and belief generating and processing skills, and
  2. the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior.

 Critical thinking should be contrasted with:

  • the mere acquisition and retention of information alone;
  • the mere possession of a set of skills;
  • the mere use of those skills without acceptance of their results.

Much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed.

Critical thinking is:

  1. self-directed,
  2. self-disciplined,
  3. self-monitored,
  4. self-corrective.

 The ability to think critically involves:

  1. knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry,
  2. some skill in applying those methods.

 Critical thinking calls for a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence.

In particular, it requires abilities:

  1. to raise vital questions, formulating them precisely;
  2. to find workable means to resolve them,
  3. to gather information, interpret data, and appraise evidence;
  4. to recognize unstated assumptions and values,
  5. to comprehend and use language with accuracy and discrimination,
  6. to evaluate arguments,
  7. to recognize the existence or absence of logical relationships between propositions,
  8. to draw warranted conclusions and generalizations,
  9. to test them against relevant criteria and standards;
  10. to communicate effectively with others.

Logic Definitions

Logic is a systematic study of the form of valid inference. Logic is concerned with the most general laws of truth.

The subject matter of logic traditionally included

  1. the classification of arguments,
  2. the systematic exposition of the 'logical form' common to all valid arguments,
  3. the study of inference, including fallacies,
  4. the study of semantics, including paradoxes.

Aristotelian logic is called syllogism. A syllogism is the study of how to arrive at a conclusion from two or more assumptions.

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