What resources do you recommend for developing critical thinking?

I took the VIA Survey of Character Strengths and Judgement, critical thinking, and open mindedness came as my top strength. This is what they say about it:

Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You don't jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.

I am looking for resources that help me with the process of critical thinking. Open mindedness is a state and so is judgement but critical thinking (although I do it naturally) is a skill that can be developed and something I have never studied. I'm aware that although I think things through carefully and logically this has never been through a particular framework and I certainly couldn't engage fully in a skillful debate with someone who has a good understanding of critical thinking. I also don't understand exactly how I am breaking something down when I'm being critical and without an understanding of the processes I am probably a bit inconsistent. As such:

  • What areas of critical thinking would you recommend for a beginner?
  • What resources correlate well to those recommendations?
  • Do you have any other general advice for a critical thinker?

Thanks in advanced everyone. I know there are a lot of critical thinkers here on AoM.

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Aimed at educators, but interesting. 


Thanks, I'm an English teacher so the focus isn't entirely irrelevant. 

So long as you think in terms like critical thinking, it seems likely you're flattering yourself. The fact that other people are flattering you is going to make things worse.

Really, thinking is about figuring out what is important, what makes it important, & what you need to do about what is important. As a matter of fact, people disagree about these things & it seems that they cannot all be right. Figuring out which opinion is correct then is the immediate form of thinking.

Talk of critical thinking on the other hand is silly: It assumes there is a standpoint beyond all opinions with a view to which they can be judged--how can that seriously be assumed? Isn't it something that requires a proof first? Isn't it pathetic that anybody who thinks himself clever now has this implicit claim that he has gone beyond opinion, surpassing mere mortal men? Doesn't that at the same time blind all these critical thinkers to the origin of opinions? This sort of abstract testing that tells you, you've got the process down to a science!, doesn't that imply that the test already knows the fundamental truths about reasoning? How else can they measure people? You agree with that sort of thinking? For example, are you at all capable to use that critical thinking of yours against your assumptions about critical thinking or the assumptions of those surveys? It's very easy to be a skeptic when you are radically dogmatic--all you do is never examine your assumptions...

Obviously nothing is more than an opinion. Critical thinking is simply a repeatable, structured process that leads to more consistent results than simply pondering however you deem fit at the time. All of your arguments could be made about pretty much anything and I get the impression you enjoy playing Devil's Advocate and punching holes in whatever you can for the mere fun of it.

Critical thinking is undoubtedly useful for a lot of people. I never suggested it is some God like science which enables you to see the truth in anything. You read between the lines a bit too much there. Most of your questions are actually irrelevant based on my thoughts and opinions on the topic and you aren't actually responding to what I asked, just trying to demean me and the others here with little understanding of my views on the world. 

Would you tell an architect he just likes 'punching holes' into your plans if he points out there will be a collapse?

There is a glaring contradiction between the claims of critical thinking & the claim that everything is mere opinion. That admittedly is funny to me. But the fun has to do with the fact that it is a glaring contradiction. Isn't scientific knowledge knowledge, however? Is that mere opinion also? Is it impossible to come up with a rational inquiry into human & political things? If mere opinion is all there is, then how can any system or process or method be created which reliably works? Isn't there an implication behind any reliable process--isn't there something there that points to something not as fickle as opinion, but something possibly universally true?

There are two claims to critical thinking, depending on what you mean by critique. If it is a matter of judgment, it's a matter of practical thinking, which is what I suggested above, because I thought this is what you have in mind: Getting things done, practical reason, ultimately, politics. If it is a matter of philosophy, then it is theoretical; (hence my suggestion that criticism ought rather to take a skeptical look at the claims of knowledge or science or critical thinking if it really is what it claims to be.) But that does not seem to interest you at the moment.

I did not try to demean anyone. It is dishonest to suggest that--unless you have a point to make by way of proof, in which case, please do... The implications behind standardized testing really are that human beings are knowable in the way scientists find nature knowable--scientifically. Otherwise, they could not be so abstract as to apply to whoever... If you do not see that, maybe the problem is not with me or my argument.--What is the status of critical thinking in the way it emerges in that kind of 'survey?' It is not practical! It neither predicts nor causes what it's supposed to be testing or measuring. Maybe it comes down to organized self-flattery.

But if it is not organized self-flattery, if, as you say, it is something that works, or gets things done, or is undoubtedly useful--then it implies a theory of the good. Utility is a judgment of means, not ends. Something is useful or not for a purpose. You cannot know whether critical thinking is useful--undoubtedly useful!--without knowing for what it is useful, i.e., making a serious claim about what is good for people. Is it good for you or me, or some--or for all? Is it good for man as man? These, I believe, are the implications of what you are saying. This seems to me to be the sort of thinking that is implied in something like critical thinking, at least if it is serious about understanding what we mean when we talk about our ability to think about the things that concern us. Does this make no sense to you? Does it seem to you arbitrary or useless?

To be honest Titus I don't know what you are really talking about. I don't understand your post. I assume that makes me less intelligent than you but that would only come down to an opinion again I guess.

This is not about who is intelligent. Can we have a contest over the issue? This is about the implications & claims of critical thinking. You seem to argue for them, I certainly am arguing against them.

It seems to me people would agree that science offers knowledge of the things it studies, not mere opinion. But all people have opinions about whatever things concern them. Whether this or that man can move from his opinions, which are fickle, changing, essentially controversial--to knowledge of one thing or another, which is reliable practically & unchanging, is a question.

What makes scientific knowledge plausible as knowledge is that you can teach it to other people & that you can apply it to achieve things. For example, poetry & philosophy & politics can neither be taught nor applied in the way in which mathematics obviously is. So that everyone agrees people who go to math schools will learn math & may teach others afterward, whereas poets & philosophers & politicians are not at all made in schools, nor are they expected to be made there.

Another way of saying the same thing is that science or knowledge is believed to be cumulative--it progresses over time. But not the same is held about these other things.

So the question is, is critical thinking like science, or like non-science? What kind of proof is there that it is useful--& useful for what?

I would suggest that critical thinking (in my VERY limited knowledge, hence the above question) is a non science, it is simply a skill to enable someone to use deductive thinking and questioning more effectively to try and gauge the validity of something or the likelihood of something being correct.

It is a helpful starting point and it won't be 100% useful 100% of the time but I would definitely say it is a good starting point for analyzing a lot of things. But there isn't much point going into this conversation because I am ignorant of the specifics and even the proposed premise of critical thinking. I've come here to find resources not to be questioned on the fundamental basis of whether critical thinking is useful.

Because the fact is, I don't have a clue! I barely know anything about it. We could have this discussion in the future but right now I can't confidently answer the questions. 

It also seems to me that it is not a science. But knowledge is broader than science. I think you can see that the criteria I presented for knowledge of something--that it can be taught & that it can be practiced reliably--are reasonable.

Architects also can both practice their art to make buildings which either stand or collapse, so that you can judge their skill, & teach others how to do it. All practical knowledge seems to be of this kind. Carpenters can do it, so can those who train dogs or herd cattle. You could say they make things predictable by what they do.

Again, poetry, philosophy, politics--they do not seem to be able to achieve that. Maybe they are not knowledge, maybe the problem is something else. At least politics is agreed to be practical rather than theoretical business, so there is that to force us to consider seriously what we expect & what we can achieve when it comes to practical uses of our reasoning.

Perhaps as you come to learn more about critical thinking, you will see whether it offers knowledge or not, or what it takes to be its object, & in what way it undertakes to inquire into it. So maybe these questions are not useless for you.--All knowledge is knowledge of something; all opinion is opinion about something. So far as I understand it, critical thinking is a kind of alternative to inquiry into poetry or philosophy or politics--for these were held to deal with the human things. I do not suppose critical thinking is meant to make you a better carpenter or physicist.

This I can agree with. I don't know how useful critical thinking will be for me but I can't rightly use that to dismiss finding out.

Without any doubt:  Euclid's Geometry.  It's all about proof.  After you understand what proof is, then it's time to understand what proof is in fuzzy or difficult situations.  That is, start with the easy and clear-cut, and go on to the judgment-call area.

If you do a web search on fallacy, that's also an interesting resource.

I look forward to seeing if anybody has a good text on applying logic in difficult situations.  Usually people writing about critical thinking in popular books are trying to convince you of something, that is, to have you think critically (as in, being critical) of opposing views, and be unquestioning toward theirs, alas.

I already like the look of logical fallacies. Maybe the key to applying logic in difficult situations is purely experiential. 


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