Critical Thinking Defined
Humans are capable of making decisions and reaching conclusions based on the validity of a claim. That act of using your reason to judge if something is true and how one should act under different circumstances is part of critical thinking. At the same time, how you find your actions and decisions reasonable is also part of it.
Critical thinking, in this sense, is essentially “thinking about thinking.” It is the careful examination of one’s thoughts with the aim of determining that they really make sense. Since all actions actually rise from one’s thoughts, being a critical thinker allows you to make intelligent actions when you consider doing what you think is justifiable.
Why Do You Need to Study It?
You may be confident that you would not be doing anything so remotely intelligent in this lifetime, but you have to admit that there are times that you make errors of judgment due to your emotions or some unfounded beliefs. That would make you human, but a wise human would want to make as few errors of judgment as possible in order to live his life to the fullest.
Studying critical thinking makes you a lot smarter, and that is a fact. You would not be smarter in a subject in school, but it makes you smarter in general. For starters, it allows you to make more efficient decisions, such as choosing the right product when you are shopping, to more important global decisions such as knowing whether you should be thinking about human rights or not.
First, You Need To Know the Basics
There are three words that you need to be familiar with, because you would encounter them as you read on. These are claim, issue, and argument.
What is a Claim?
A claim, or a statement, is something that can be true or false. Now, it is the task of every critical thinker to examine the validity of that claim. If you know Fluffy, and then he is a dog, then you know that this is a false statement.
Claims should be investigated because it leads to unraveling the truth about the world that you belong to. It is important for you to know if the software that you bought last week would be truly compatible with your computer, just like the salesman said. At the same time, it is also very important to know if lawmakers are stealing your taxes or not. By investigating the claims that you see around you, you make the best decisions according to your situations.
However, take note that not all claims are worth investigating, since they are obviously right or wrong. But there are a lot of claims that you need to take a closer look at, because they would lead you to make very important life decisions. Because of that, you need to be aware of which claims would warrant a higher level of scrutiny.
What is an Issue?
When you question the validity of a claim, you raise an issue. That means that this term is actually a question in itself. That means that when you want to be critical about something that you have read or heard, you raise a question and that makes it an issue.
It sounds simple, but there are certain situations wherein that is not the case. The reason is that it is highly probable that you may not be making the right issue. There may even be cases that you are not aware whether you want to make an issue out of a claim or not because you do not even know what the claim is pointing at.
So here is something else that you need to be critical about: there are certain sentences or words that exist out there that are not claims, but they are there to make sure that you, as the audience, become confused, or simply unchallengeable. It is either they do not make sense at all, or they cannot be scrutinized because there are no means of proving that they are true or false. Now the question is this: should you pay attention to those things or not?
It would depend on your values, belief systems, and prior experiences to know what you should make an issue out of. For example, if you hear the claim “God is dead,” you technically have no scientific or physical evidence to prove it otherwise. But if your religion that you value tells you otherwise, then you have all the reason to aim to disprove that.
What is an Argument?
Arguments are the most important part of critical thinking, because this is the point wherein you would weigh reasons why you believe or not believe a claim, and why you should make an issue out of it. When you think about it, you have been arguing the moment you decided to pay attention to the claim and when you upheld or questioned it.
Critical thinkers know that arguments are created in such a way for people to have ways of determining the validity of everything that happens in the world. In most situations, you may not even know whether you were able to make the perfect argument in proving that a claim is valid or not. However, the way you argue would be the one that would count. Now, you have the basic idea of how critical thinking works.