Critical Thinking Made Easy
Assessing Your Personal Thinking Style
How Do You Think?
What? You don't understand the question?
- Join the club. Most folks don't have a clue when asked that question because they've never really taken much time to observe their own thinking patterns. When we are randomly asked what it is we are "thinking about" at a given moment, most of us answer "Nothing" or "Oh, I was just daydreaming." Truth is, we weren't thinking at all. Thinking requires a focused mind, whereas daydreaming or watching one's "stream of consciousness" go idly by requires no effort and certainly little in the way of focused attention span. Thinking is, first and foremost, "purposeful". To really think is to think about some particular issue.
This section is designed to aid you in assessing your personal thinking style.
Commonly Used Terms In Critical Thinking:
- thinking - is always a purposeful mental activity; not simply daydreaming or stream-of-conciousness kinds of activity.
- reason - that which one offers in support of a position or view, or the very act of reasoning which presupposes one is formenting a set of propositions to make regarding a particular issue or problem..
- rational - means one possesses the ability to exercise one's rational faculties, i.e., one has the ability to reason about means, ends and speculative topics like religion and the meaning of existence.
- irrational - a claim without evidential grounds, or a claim counter to solid fact and experience is considered irrational. What actually constitutes an irrational claim in these times is a hotly contested topic amongst theorists. More on that later.
- appeal - every statement or claim in an argument makes an appeal to some kind of evidence. If I say that using illegal drugs is wrong, I could be appealing to conventional belief e.g., every citizen in this country thinks drugs are bad, therefore, drugs ARE bad, or I could be appealing to a principle that says, "Prevent harm and suffering whenever possible." So, since drugs cause immense harm, they are, ipso facto, wrong. We have to look at the grounds being appealed to each time we decide to evaluate the strength of any argument.
- emotive claims - claims based solely on preference and belief without the necessary appeals to established moral principles, facts or scientific evidence. Not strictly irrational, but more a case of lacking substantiation or of parading as though well-accepted and inarguable.
- claims - An assertion of one's belief or opinion about an issue with the general assumption that what is being claimed is true.
- substantiated claim - A statement which has had some sort of evidence offered in its support. A substantiated claim is not necessarily a true claim.
- opinion - An expression of belief that may or may not be true. Some opinions really are better than others. In other words, it simply is NOT the case that all opinions are equal. If my opinion is better substantiated than yours, then my opinion wins.
- position - Where you stand in the argument triad: pro, con, or fence-sitter.
- argument - Not a scream-fest; an argument in critical thinking means that one has put forth a set of claims in reasoned support of one's position.
- grounds - the facts , argument and statistics that act as justification for a claim.
- evidence - may consist of a variety of sorts and can be strong or weak, but the best evidence not only provides a factual account, but also a normative ethical account as well.
- evaluation - the act of analysing the choices, consequences, pros, cons, claims and evidence that constitute an argument or a position on some issue.
- normative - generally refers to ethical/moral arguments that appeal to well-established ethical principles such as "Treat others as ends in themselves, never as means."