Effective Critical Thinking

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There are probably as many definitions of critical thinking as there are critical thinkers. One of the requirements for effective critical thinking is the ability to develop useful and practical definitions of key concepts, in light of the perspectives of others and one’s own intellectual experiences. For our purposes here, let’s consider critical thinking to be the intellectual process of defining clear and manageable problems; acquiring unbiased, reliable, and valid information bearing on the problems; manipulating that information in creative and appropriate ways in order to develop new and different perspectives on the situation; and developing reasonable and practical action plans based on these analyses. Underlying all these activities…show more content…
As we noted at several points, there are certain inherent tensions involved in trying to put these values into practice; each of them carried to an extreme often contradicts others. A key element to successful critical thinking is understanding the balance between these different criteria and the need for occasionally trading off one against another. As we suggested earlier, belief in reason and the rules for civilized dialogue are probably the essential starting points for any exercise in critical thinking. If we can’t agree on the basic rules for engagement with others - rules that honor the traditions of dialogue and that are commonly accepted by thinkers everywhere - then the prospect for effective engagement and truly critical common thinking is vastly reduced. We have to agree on the rules of logic and the nature of dialogue and the role of evidence, as well as criteria for evaluating the quality of evidence. It is perfectly possible to encounter and resolve minor differences, but the same basic framework has to be accepted by all participants, and be describable and recognizable to those outside the…show more content…
While they are essential underpinnings to effective critical thinking, they are also easy to push too far without necessarily being aware of the chilling impact one might be having on dialogue. Understanding when one needs to back off and perhaps compromise some aspects of a situation in the interests of developing consensus is as important as knowing where to draw a line in the sand, asserting that certain principles or perspectives cannot be appropriately compromised. As we suggested earlier, any virtue carried to an extreme turns into a vice. Knowing how to give-and-take while maintaining the essence of one’s own values
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