Key Terms• Conformism – One’s tendency to follow an authority or group standard of conduct and belief• Clarity - The expression of ideas in as simple and direct a manner as possible, without unnecessary or difficult words, convoluted phrasing or obscurity of intent• Precision - The practice of rigorous exactitude with respect to what problem is being considered, what the potential solutions are, and the relative merits of each possible solution• Completeness - Considering every relevant matter into thoughtful consideration• Relevance – A relationship between two statements where one statement either supports or discounts the other• Subjectivism - The belief that all opinions have equal value• Fairness - Unbiased judgment that considers all relevant viewpoints without prejudice• Egocentric – A person who thinks he is the center of everything• Accuracy – Free from Error• Consistency – Making claims that do not contradict each other• Egocentrism – The tendency to see reality as centered on one’s self• Relativism – The belief that truth is a matter of opinion• Wishful Thinking - Believing something simply because you had wished it were true• Group Bias - A form of sociocentrism, when an individual believes a group he is part of is superior• Stereotyping - The categorizing of an individual or group based on a trait or traits with little or no basis for the placement of the same
Lesson 1 Overview• We are called upon to think critically every day in small ways. For example, the paper you need to write or the presentation you need to prepare for will require you to use critical-thinking skills. Although these assignments are important to your intellectual development, they will not change the outcome of your life. What about when voting? Can you carefully analyze the candidate’s choices and make the best choice for your city, state, or country? What about when you are faced with a difficult life decision? For example, what would you do if your best friend really needed money and he asked you to help him sell some drugs to make the money? Would you be able to think critically?• Critical thinking has not only become the mainstream of educational learning, but has poured into our work lives as well as personal lives. When properly exercised, it can help us take a well-rounded approach toward assessing situations as a whole.• If we can set aside our own personal biases, our desire to be part of highly desirable groups, the tendency to stereotype, and our own personal and cultural moral beliefs, then we can truly critically assess situations that are placed before us.
What is Critical Thinking?Students should understand what critical thinking is. Morespecifically, students should . . .– understand the distinction between the sense of the word, critical, as it is used in critical thinking from its common sense. • The common sense characterizes critical thought as "negative or fault- finding." • The sense of critical as it is used in critical thinking means "involving or exercising skilled judgment or observation."– understand that critical thinking is a general term given to a wide range of cognitive skills and intellectual dispositions.– understand that critical thinking requires that thinking be disciplined according to clear intellectual standards.
Critical Thinking Standards• Students should become familiar with the basic intellectual standards discussed in the text and understand their relevance to critical thinking. – Students should be able to identify and explain some of the most central intellectual standards of Critical Thinking including, but not necessarily limited to the following: • Critical thinkers strive for clarity in both language and thought. To this end, students should . . . – understand the importance of clarity in avoiding miscommunication. – understand the importance of clarity in defining our goals and priorities. – understand the importance of clarity in assessing our talents and abilities. • Critical thinkers strive toward precision in the evaluation of issues. To this end, students should . . . – habitually demand precise answers to precise questions. • Critical thinking demands that one pursue accurate information pertinent to issues. To this end, students should . . . – recognize the importance of accurate and timely information to making good decisions. • Critical thinkers demand that evidence be relevant to any conclusions drawn from it. • Critical thinkers strive for consistency. To this end, students should . . . – be able to recognize when beliefs or claims are logically inconsistent. – be able to recognize instances of practical inconsistency and distinguish these from instances of logical inconsistency. • Critical thinkers strive to be logically correct. To this end, students should . . . – understand the importance of reasoning from your beliefs to conclusions that logically follow from them. • Critical thinkers strive for completeness in understanding an issue. • Critical thinkers strive toward fairness. To this end, students should . . . – understand the importance of being open-minded to the views that may contrast with your own. – understand the importance of impartiality and avoiding distorting biases and other preconceptions.
The Benefits of Critical Thinking• Students should be aware of the benefits of critical thinking for the both thinker and society. To this end, students should . . . – understand how critical thinking can improve your academic performance by developing the following skills: • understanding the arguments and beliefs of others • critically evaluating those arguments and beliefs • developing and defending ones own well-supported arguments and beliefs – understand how critical thinking skills can improve your performance in the workplace – grasp the value of critical thinking in daily life. • Critical thinking helps us to avoid making foolish personal decisions. • Critical thinking promotes an informed and concerned citizenry capable of making good decisions on important social, political and economic issues. • Critical thinking aids in the development of autonomous thinkers capable of examining their assumptions, dogmas, and prejudices.
Barriers to Critical Thinking• You should understand the complex reasons why uncritical reasoning is so common. – You should be aware of the risks to fair-minded thinking posed by egocentrism as well as . . • recognize the impact of self-interested thinking on our thinking. • understand the peril of self-serving bias. – Students should recognize the hazards of sociocentrism as well as . . . • grasp the danger posed by group bias. • understand the risks associated with the herd instinct and conformism. – You should understand the role which assumptions play in our thinking as well as. . . • distinguish between assumptions that are warranted, i.e. ones we have good reasons to believe, and assumptions that are unwarranted, i.e. ones we take for granted without good reason. To this end, we should be especially careful to . . . – recognize our tendency to stereotype; • understand the importance of becoming conscious of those assumptions we rely upon in forming our more important attitudes, conclusions, actions and decisions. – You should recognize the difficulties posed by relativism in our thinking while . . . • distinguishing between subjectivism, or the view that truth is a matter of individual opinion, and cultural relativism, or the view that what is true for a person depends on what their society believes to be true. To this end, students should be familiar with, and recognize the major pitfalls of, the most common forms of relativism, including . . . – moral subjectivism and cultural moral relativism. – Successful students will understand the risks posed by wishful thinking, or believing something solely on the grounds that one wishes it were true.
Characteristics of a Critical Thinker Students should be familiar with the fundamental character traits of critical thinkers and how they contrast with those of uncritical thinkers.