Understanding What Critical Thinking Isn’t

The preceding sections discuss what Critical Thinking is, but I now detail what it isn’t. Critical Thinking isn’t about putting arguments and debates into formal language or symbols and then spotting logical fallacies in them (despite what many books say). It is about how to look at issues and problems in the real world, with all their fuzziness and contradictions, and offer relevant, practical and sharp insights into them. It’s a skill that lets you, for example, distinguish right from wrong, choose the best business policy and construct a compelling case for action. Also, Critical Thinking is far deeper than study skills, those set ways of doing things that lecturers often teach students. Instead, it’s about what to do when no obvious answers or set methods are available. Look at it this way: a study skill makes sure that you have pen and paper during lectures; Critical Thinking is about what to jot down. Quantum physicist Richard Feynman said that science is grounded in the conviction that its own experts are often ignorant of what they profess to be experts about. That statement applies, with knobs on, to Critical Thinking too! People who claim to be experts in Critical Thinking don’t automatically know everything about the vast range of skills and material the subject covers or draws upon. Nonetheless, Critical Thinking is a skill, and so whether you’re pretty hot on it or not, you can definitely improve through practice. Critical Thinking isn’t about learning an endless series of ‘facts’. Instead, it encourages people to develop their in-built thinking skills by making them active. That’s why this book features lots of tricky puzzles (see Chapter 5 for more on puzzles and analogies) rather than platitudes. I want you to start thinking critically and actively from page one. Or from the start of Chapter 2 anyway!

Cohen, Martin. Critical Thinking Skills For Dummies (p. 20). Wiley. Kindle Edition.