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Talking about THINKING

What are the 4 Principles of Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking and Philosophy

In November 2018 I had the pleasure of chatting with Michael Frank about the ‘ingredients of the critical thinker’. (I’m not saying I have them all, mind!) Here's a bit of what we said:

Michael: If you were to build the perfect critical thinker in a lab, what habits or what qualities would they have?

Martin: Well, I recommend four principles. The first one is surely the most important!
  • Critical Thinkers are people who are tolerant and open-minded to new ideas. There are many people who describe themselves as critical thinkers who dogmatic and intolerant and quick to jump on anyone for the slightest fallacy. But that to me is not a true critical thinker. A critical thinker wants to give people the space and freedom to let them develop their ideas, and to allow them to express more information which can then be evaluated
  • They don’t waste time trying to win arguments. They don’t want to win the argument. They want the truth. And they’re two different things
  • Rationality. They avoid emotional arguments, personal attacks, and stick to the facts
  • Take your ego out of it. Often when we’re talking to someone about an issue, we end up becoming more interested in being right, than we are in getting to the actual truth of the matter. However we should try to identify and acknowledge the good parts of our opponents argument, and then work together to build an even superior position to either argument that you started with. That’s a cooperative, collective, team approach, which is unfortunately not seen much in academia where everyone is always competing


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