Recently Rudy Giuliani made the statement “truth isn’t truth” in an interview on Meet the Press. So how do we know what is true? Learning how to think critically can help you get closer to the truth. Exploring how you think and developing the skill of thinking critically can help cut through the hype of advertisers and politicians.
Critical thinking is disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence. It is a skill that can be learned and needs to be studied and practiced to improve our thinking.
Socrates lived in approximately 470 – 399 BC in Athens. He is regarded as the father of critical thinking for his development of the Socratic Method, a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions.
Rene Descartes lived (1596 – 1650) in France and the Dutch Republic. He was one of the notable intellectuals of the Dutch Golden Age. Descartes began a treatise about 1628, entitled Rules for the Direction of the Mind that was unpublished at the time of his death. A Dutch translation appeared in 1684. The first 12 rules deal with his proposed scientific methodology in general. Analysts consider them to be early versions of principles that he expanded upon in his later writings. His best known philosophical statement is “I think, therefore I am” (French: Je pense, donc je suis; Latin: Ego cogito, ergo sum), found in Discourse on the Method (1637) is a fundamental element of Western Philosophy. Descartes created the foundation for 17th Century rationalism. “Rationalism, in Western philosophy, the view that regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge.”
John Dewey (1859 – 1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer who recognized that a curriculum aimed at building thinking skills would benefit the individual learner, the community, and the entire democracy. Dewey’s ideas on education were to prepare students as “reflective, autonomous and ethical beings capable of arriving at social truths through critical and intersubjective discourse” opposed to “docile compliance with authoritarian work and political structures, discourage the pursuit of individual and communal inquiry, and perceive higher learning as a monopoly of the institution of education.” As an atheist and a secular humanist in his later life, Dewey was one of the original 34 signatories of the first Humanist Manifesto (1933).
There are about 175 cognitive biases are identified in the preceding graphic created from Wikipedia’s List of cognitive biases article. Buster Benson divided the Wikipedia list into four main issues:
1. Too Much Information
2. Not Enough Meaning
3. Need To Act Fast
4. What Should We Remember?
We need to mitigate cognitive biases to try to reduce their negative effects on our thinking. In addition, the basic steps of critical thinking are:
1. Organize information
2. Structure reasoning
3. Consider evidence
4. Identify assumptions
5. Evaluate arguments
6. Communicate conclusion
In addition to the links above, the following resources are just suggestions (not endorsements) of where to get more information about and of critical thinking. If you find any other resources, use our contact page to send me a link.
- Rules for the Direction of the Mind
- Khan Academy: Critical Thinking
- Foundation for Critical Thinking
- Center for Inquiry (CFI)
- The Skeptic’s Dictionary
- The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe
- Skeptics with a K (SwaK) is the official podcast of the Merseyside Skeptics Society
- The Skeptics Society
- The Skeptical Studies Curriculum Resource Center – Skepticism 101
- Video: Dr Edward de Bono at Creative Innovation 2010 – “Re-thinking the future”
- Teaching Critical Thinking – Full Video
- ProCon.org – Pros and Cons of Controversial Issues
Books that I have found about critical thinking. I have not read all of them cover to cover, but used all of them in my research. I also provide links to search the WorldCat to find the books at your local library and Amazon.com to purchase the book. The Amazon.com link is associated with the Secular Hub and if you purchase using that link, the Secular Hub will receive 4.5% of the selling price from Amazon.
- Critical Thinking Skills For Dummies by Martin Cohen WorldCat Amazon
- A Field Guide To Lies by Daniel J. Levitin WorldCat Amazon
- Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono WorldCat Amazon
- Thinking, Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman WorldCat Amazon
- How To Solve It by G. Polya WorldCat Amazon
- Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein WorldCat Amazon
- Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye by Michael Shermer WorldCat Amazon