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There are many approaches to critical thinking. One of the best ways to critically think about something is by comparing and contrasting two things, whatever they may be. In order to compare and contrast, a person needs to know each item of comparison well and then be able to see them next to each other and see differences. This enables critical thinking to take place.
Another approach that is helpful is the contruction of an argumentative essay. If a person gets into a habit of writing argumentative essays, they will become much clearer and critical thinkers. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to develop critical thinking.
I agree that there are many different approaches to critical thinking. One that has always worked for me is elimination. When posed with something that I do not know much about, I look at what the "thing" isn't. By constructing a definition based upon what something isn't, one can eliminate ideas about it.
For me, critical thinking is a deep understanding of what something is. Sometimes, it is simply easier to define an idea, a text, or an object by the things which differentiates it from other ideas, texts, or objects.
Critical thinking is also about looking at the world around you in a critical way. To examine something critically means to not simply assume what a politician says is true, for example. Does he or she have support for the statement? Is the evidence credible? What are some other points of view? What might be the motive for a statement or a position? Critical thinking is not just a skill that you need for school; it is a skill you need for life.
Another type of critical thinking skill is classification. If you have a wide assortment of information to organize in some manner, it helps to create groups of related facts and find the associations within each set of statements. By identifying the relationships, you can gain insight into the connections between different aspects of your topic.
Obviously, different types of critical thinking are most appropriate in different types of situations. You need to be able to assess the problem you are attempting to solve and determine what type of thinking process will be best suited to your need at that time.
Critical thinking is innate in Skepticism, which is a growing movement online and in schools. We must be Skeptical of anything said from a position of power, and we should treat any fantastical claims with Skepticism. To think critically, we look at a claim and examine it from all points of view. We consider that it might be real, unreal, or misunderstood. We apply our own knowledge and research other opinions to develop our final thoughts.
To be truly critical requires an objectivity that is difficult, if not impossible, in daily life. We all have opinions that color our views; the trick is to see past personal bias and give each claim the same fairness of consideration.
Here are three approaches to critical thinking:
1. Skepticism: Don't accept dogma. Question the validity of data and the motives of the source. Seek independent confirmation of the idea.
2. Subjectivity: Avoid being swayed by the emotions of an idea or concept. l Detach yourself from the subject or source, and evaluate the information without prejudice. Be open minded.
3. Curiosity: Question the basis for the idea. How did the person come up with the concept? Ask yourself about the source. What is her goal, her bias? Is there a reasonable alternate conclusion or opinion that the source could arrive at, given the same information?
One method of critical thinking, especially when examining a widely accepted idea, is simply to ask whether the idea is in any way self-contradictory. For example, the approach to literary theory known as deconstrtuction suggests that language can never communicate clearly or unambiguously, but this has not stopped deconstructors from trying to explain the "real" or "true" meaning of deconstruction. There's a great book by Reed Way Dasenbrock titled Truth and Consequences that shows, again and again, how recent approaches to literary theory are involved in significant self-contradictions. Dasenbrock shows that recent theories seem far less impressive if we examine some of those theories by employing the theories' own methods.
I think one critical thinking strategy that has been helpful for me is to always imagine that I believe exactly the opposite of the view that I am researching or studying. What therefore are the limitations of this view? How can I support my opposition to it? Adopting such a skeptical approach is greatly useful in terms of highlighting the weakness of views and philosophies.
The best approach to thinking critically about an issue or topic is to try and write about it. Write about the issue or topic from at least two points of view. Since one cannot write much about something they do not understand, sitting down and writing about an issue or topic forces one to explain ideas clearly. In doing this, a critical thinker will see questions that need to be answered and also see the strengths and weaknesses of various viewpoints. Once this is done, the writer will begin to be able to respond to viewpoints he/she may not agree with. Responding to or criticising an argument forces one to see both sides and to think critically in order to write a reasonable rebuttal.
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