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Definition: Critical thinking is the conscious, logical and systematic application of judgment to issues you care about. <end>
We have found when it is done well, it looks like just plain common sense. But, done poorly, it can look like a word game promoting negativity, confusion and indecision.
IS CRITICAL THINKING CREATIVE? [Presuppositional Reasoning].
YES, it can be. For example, one of the key questions we use in evaluating potential causes of problems is “If this were the true cause, would we expect these facts.” Gaps between what we would expect to see and what we actually see spurs our thinking to create better fitting potential causes. This method of adjusting an hypothesis using new ideas in order to better fit the facts is called “presuppositional reasoning”. This has a noble track record in scientific innovation including: Einstein’s theory of relativity from noticing anomalies about electromagnetism and the speed of light; Copernicus’s planets around the sun insight; and most recently the theory of dark matter and dark energy which was an attempt to explain unexpected data about the expansion of the universe and the clustering of galaxies. We teach a version of this method in our Problem Solving process and it has proven to be very powerful.
DOUBT EVERYTHING ALWAYS!
Many people believe critical thinking is just being negative or doubting everything. This is NOT a useful way of approaching it. Judgments need not be negative. They can be positive, too. It also takes judgment to specify what you think is more or less likely to be true, based upon your own analysis and confidence (judgment again) in your data sources.
Another “critical thinking” approach we’ve seen is to amass a huge list of questions. This approach is unwieldy and does not lead directly to the resolution of issues as our approach of organizing a select number of questions within a limited number of purpose-driven tools. The purpose at hand points to the right tool. And the tool contains the necessary questions in the proper sequence to accomplish that purpose. Our critical thinking framework contains four such tools made up of a limited number of questions that work synergistically together.