Critical thinking is the art of thinking about thinking in such a way as to:
1. identify its strengths and weaknesses, and recast it in improved form (where necessary). The first characteristic requires the thinker to be skilled in analytic and evaluative thinking. The second requires the thinker to be skilled in creative thinking.
Thus, critical thinking has three dimensions: the analytic, the evaluative, and the creative.
Here are each of the creative acts implicit in analytic thought.
1. Purpose, goal, or end in view: Whenever we reason, we reason to some end, to achieve some purpose, to satisfy some desire or fulfill some need. If we create goals that are unrealistic or contradictory to other goals we have, the reasoning we use to achieve our goals is problematic.
2. Question at issue (or problem to be solved): Whenever we attempt to reason, there is at least one question at issue, at least one problem to be solved. If we are not clear about the question we are asking, or how the question relates to our basic purpose or goal, we will not be able to find a reasonable answer to it, or an answer that will serve our purpose.
3. Point of view or frame of reference: Whenever we reason, we must reason within some point of view or frame of reference. This point of view or frame of reference is created by the mind. Any defect in our point of view or frame of reference is a possible source of problems in our reasoning. Our point of view may be too narrow minded, may be based on false or misleading analogies or metaphors, may not be precise enough, may contain contradictions, and so forth.
. 4. The information we use in reasoning: Whenever we reason, we are reasoning about some stuff, some phenomena. Any defect in the experiences, data, evidence, or raw material upon which our reasoning is based is a possible source of problems. Information is not given by nature, it is constructed by human minds.
5. The conceptual dimension of our reasoning: All reasoning uses some ideas or concepts and not others — ideas or concepts created by the mind. Any defect in the concepts or ideas (including the theories, principles, axioms, or rules) with which we reason is a possible source of problems. Concepts and ideas are not given to us by nature. They are constructs (i.e. creations) of human minds.
6. Assumptions — the starting points of reasoning: All reasoning must begin somewhere, and must take some things for granted. Any defect in the starting points of our reasoning, any problem in what we are taking for granted, is a possible source of problems.
7. Our inferences, interpretations and conclusions: Reasoning proceeds by steps called inferences. Any defect in the inferences we make while we reason presents a possible problem in our reasoning. Information, data, and situations do not determine what we shall deduce from them.
8. Implications and consequence Thus, our reasoning has implications, ideas that follow from our reasoning, things that might happen if we reason in this or that way, if we make this or that decision. The implications of our reasoning are an implicit creation of our reasoning.
Three conditions contribute to a high level of creative thought:
1. A minimal level of innate intellectual capacity (though it need not be extraordinary).
2. An environment that stimulates the development of that capacity.
3. A positive response and inner motivation on the part of the person thus born and situated.
The role that intellectual discipline, external support, and internal commitment typically play in the development of great thinkers, artists, dancers, and composers. In each case, notice how much attention, tutoring, dedication, and special training each of these thinkers had.
Leonardo Da Vinci
According to Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia (1986), Da Vinci was “the son of a wealthy Florentine notary and a peasant woman. In the mid 1460s the family settled in Florence, where Leonardo was given the best education that Florence, the intellectual and artistic center of Italy, could offer.” At the age of 16, Leonardo “was apprenticed as a studio boy of the leading Florentine painter and sculptor of his day.” As a scientist, Leonardo “understood better than anyone of his century or the next, the importance of precise scientific observation… In anatomy he studied the circulation of the blood and action of the eye. He made discoveries in meteorology and geology, learned the effect of the moon on the tides, foreshadowed modern conceptions of continent formations, and surmised the nature of fossil fuel. These abilities were clearly developed through systematic and disciplined study
Darwin had a careful mind rather than a quick one: “I have as much difficulty as ever in expressing myself clearly and concisely; and this difficulty has caused me a very great loss of time, but it has had the compensating advantage of forcing me to think long and intently about every sentence, and thus I have been led to see errors in reasoning and in my own observations or those of other.” In pursuing intellectual questions, Darwin relied upon perseverance and continual reflection, rather than memory and quick reflexes. “I have never been able to remember for more than a few days a single date or line of poetry.” Instead, he had “the patience to reflect or ponder for any number of years over any unexplained problem…At no time am I a quick thinker or writer: whatever I have done in science has solely been by long pondering, patience, and industry”.
Einstein, did so poorly in school that when his father asked his son’s headmaster what profession his son should adopt, the answer was simply, “It doesn’t matter; he’ll never make a success of anything.” In high school, the regimentation “created in him a deep suspicion of authority. This feeling lasted all his life, without qualification.” Einstein showed no signs of being a genius, and as an adult denied that his mind was extraordinary: “I have no particular talent. I am merely extremely inquisitive.” He failed his entrance examination to the Zurich Polytechnic. When he finally passed, the examinations so constrained his mind that, when he had graduated, he did not want to think about scientific problems for a year. His final exam was so nondistinguished that afterward he was refused a post as an assistant (the lowest grade of postgraduate job). Exam-taking, then, was not his forte. Thinking critically and creatively were. Einstein had the basic critical thinking ability to cut