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What Is Critical Thinking?

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Critical thinking is the ability to dissect, analyze, and fully understand one's own thinking and the thinking of others. This is a process that allows a "critical thinker" to look past personal biases, assumptions, wishful thinking, and problematic thinking. As the old saying goes, Life is full of tough choices. It is the product of these choices that determines where one will go in life. Therefore, it is important to have mastered the art of critical thinking to become the best kind of thinker. Critical thinking is the best tool available for problem solving, decision making and even everyday thinking.

The concept of critical thinking originated with Socrates. Socrates was a Greek philosopher from around 2,500 years ago. It was Socrates that "established the importance of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications not only of what is said but of what is done as well"--also known as "Socratic Questioning" (Paul). The concepts of analyzing and closely examining thinking that Socrates established were passed down through the writings of Plato, Thomas Aquinas, Hobbes and Locke, and so forth. The ideas of these philosophers and thinkers throughout history inspired today's model of what it means to think critically.

The art of thinking critically can be an advantageous asset in many situations. Take, for example, choosing which candidate to vote for in an election. This is a very important decision because the person who wins the election will have the authority to make decisions that affect everyone. In this situation, the intellectual characteristic of intellectual autonomy can allow a voter to make an informed decision. Intellectual autonomy would allow the voter to think through the issues that they feel are important, without being influenced by political propaganda that permeates campaigns. Only the intellectually autonomous can make a decision based on important facts rather than popular opinion.

Another situation that requires critical thinking is obtaining a college degree. People often struggle with working through complicated subjects. They become frustrated and give up. Having intellectual perseverance allows a person to work their way through complex ideas and situations. A highly skilled critical thinker with this ability can overcome the temptation to simply give up when subjects become too difficult. Someone with intellectual perseverance can take other views and ideas into consideration as well as breaking down the complexities of a problem.

Critical thinking can also be advantageous in everyday experiences. For example, when two people--perhaps a married couple or a parent and a child--are in an argument, intellectual empathy can help diffuse the situation. Intellectual empathy is a way of thinking that allows someone to look past their own self-centeredness and see

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