Critical Thinking: The pursuit of keeping one’s rational faculties untainted by non-rational factors.
Totally separating one’s reason from one’s emotions completely is impossible (and undesirable). They are sharing the same brain, after all. Instead, the goal of the critical thinker is to prevent those emotions from clouding the usage and exercise of one’s reason. As imperfect human beings, it isn’t something anyone can perfectly achieve. Even so, for us to grow closer to the truth, we ought to make as good an effort as we can muster.
Below are a series of questions. They are designed to judge and appraise how much of a critical thinker you are. These questions don’t totally exhaust every aspect of critical thinking, but should give a strong indication of your own critical habits.
1. Do you regularly listen to people that are on a different side of the political spectrum?
2. Can you name someone who you listen to or read that you disagree with on some things or disagree with on others?
3. Think of a current events issue in recent memory and your opinion on it. How did you come to that viewpoint and do you think you could have done a better job?
4. Can you think of one time over the last several years where you have changed your mind on an important or moderately important topic?
5. Have you ever changed your mind on a central aspect of your worldview?
6. When was the last time someone convinced you to change your mind on the basis of the argument and evidence that they presented to you?
7. Any there any sources of information that you read uncritically or believe what they say without thinking?
8. Think of your primary sources of information. When was the last time that you disagreed with their take or perspective on an issue?
9. Think of a topic of issue that is important to you. Do you think that you could describe the position of someone with your opposite beliefs to the point that they wouldn’t know your own position on the issue?
10. Have you ever changed your own mind on an issue purely out of your own contemplation and internal debate?
11. Think of a position that you hold dearly. Can you think of any arguments against that position that you believe to be good arguments, even though they are wrong?
12. When you debate other people, do the debates usually end amicably or with you and your opponent angry with each other?
13. Think of any issue that you hold a strong opinion on. Rate your confidence that you are correct on that issue from 1–10, with 1 being totally uncertain and 10 being totally certain. Do you have the evidence or argument to support that level of belief?
14. Do find any perspectives that you disagree with valuable, even though you don’t think they are correct?
15. Do you appreciate hearing someone else’s point of view, or are you eager insulate yourself from any dissenting opinions?
16. Can you think of someone who you disagree with on numerous issues that you still recognize to be very intelligent?
17. Can you detect any bias in the sources of information that you consume?
18. Think of a position that you strongly hold. Can you imagine an argument that would be able to convince you that your position was wrong? What does that argument look like, and are your expectations for that argument realistic?
There isn’t any score or any quantitative result at the end of these questions. No passing/failing grades or anything of that sort. If you feel comfortable with the answers you gave (assuming you answered honestly, of course; the easiest person to lie to is yourself), then well done and carry on.
However, if you are not comfortable with your results, what should you do? Seeing as how there are no “priests-of-reason” to confess to, some self-help may be in order. I have two humble recommendations. First, genuinely focus on pursuing the truth. Secondly, don’t let your emotions speak for you. Much easier said than done, but if it was easy, everybody would already do it.
Critical thinking is critical to think about. Give it some thought