Standards of Critical Thinking: Thinking Towards Truth
by Michael W. Austin
What is critical thinking? According to my favorite critical thinking text, it is disciplined thinking that is governed by clear intellectual standards. This involves identifying and analyzing arguments and truth claims, discovering and overcoming prejudices and biases, developing your own reasons and arguments in favor of what you believe, considering objections to your beliefs, and making rational choices about what to do based on your beliefs.
Clarity is an important standard of critical thought. Clarity of communication is one aspect of this.We must be clear in how we communicate our thoughts, beliefs, and reasons for those beliefs. Careful attention to language is essential here. For example, when we talk about morality, one person may have in mind the conventional morality of a particular community, while another may be thinking of certain transcultural standards of morality. Defining our terms can greatly aid us in the quest for clarity. Clarity of thought is important as well; this means that we clearly understand what we believe, and why we believe it.
Precision involves working hard at getting the issue under consideration before our minds in a particular way. One way to do this is to ask the following questions: What is the problem at issue? What are the possible answers? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each answer?
Accuracy is unquestionably essential to critical thinking. In order to get at or closer to the truth, critical thinkers seek accurate and adequate information. They want the facts, because they need the right information before they can move forward and analyze it…
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