What is the purpose of critical thinking?

The purpose of critical thinking is nothing less than to ensure that you are yourself. Critical thinking is necessary to determine your values and criteria for judgment, and it's also necessary to subject the major decisions in your life to careful scrutiny, ensuring that you do all you can to arrive at the best possible decision.

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The purpose of critical thinking is to ensure that people are able to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. This is very important in any walk of life but especially in the realm of formal education, where it's vital to be able to construct rational arguments in support of one's ideas.

In writing an essay, for example, one is required to put forward a clear argument that shows evidence of reasoning. It's not enough to write down a series of assertions or blind prejudices; one must always be able to back up one's arguments with appropriate evidence.

Critical thinking is essential in this regard, as it allows one to understand the logical connection between ideas. It is only by doing so that one is in a position to present a coherent argument, an essential element in any piece of academic work, whether it's a high school essay or a PhD thesis.

Outside the groves of academe, critical thinking enables us to spot bad arguments, of which there is always an abundant supply, especially on the internet. A cursory glance at the comments section of a news website provides ample evidence of the inability of so many people to construct even vaguely coherent arguments. Critical thinking allows us to cut through such ignorance, prejudice, and bile and gain a better, more nuanced understanding of the relevant issues.

In an era of "fake news" and ever more deranged conspiracy theories, the benefits of critical thinking have never been more obvious.

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Oscar Wilde said that most people are other people. “Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” The purpose of critical thinking is to ensure that you are yourself, not merely an echo of someone else. If you never think critically, the alternative is to accept one point of view or another, without reflecting on who you are and what values and ideals you espouse.

Critical thinking is comparatively rare and difficult, because these fundamental values are in the background most of the time. You can conduct most of your day-to-day life without any kind of critical examination, and it would even be a handicap regularly to overthink trivial decisions. Every so often, however, you have to make major choices in which you must work out exactly what your values and priorities are. Although these situations do not often arise, they are the most consequential moments in life and have an enormous effect on the rest of your existence. What your career will be, what you will study and at which institution, whether and whom you will marry, whether you will stand up for a principle or follow the line of least resistance—all these matters require critical thinking, and the results of this thinking determine the person you are, the life you lead, and the effect you have in the world.

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Critical thinking is about making the best possible decision by:

  • Considering all sides to a topic or issue, weighing the pros and cons
  • Making sure your own conclusions are not biased
  • Making sure your judgment is not being affected by faulty reasoning or inaccurate information

Basically, the purpose of critical thinking is to make sure your judgment is clear and objective when considering something. It can be hard to think critically when one has high emotional investment in the topic or issue at hand.

For example, someone's opinion on the morality of contentious topics (like abortion or capital punishment) is often highly charged with the way the topic makes them feel to such a degree that they might not want to consider the points the opposing side has to make.

Ultimately, critical thinking makes one's judgments more well-rounded and reasoned.

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Critical thinking is a way of thinking about how you think.  It is a way of improving how you think and, thereby, improving the results of your thinking.  The main purpose of critical thinking is to make better decisions and to get the positive results that come from better decisions.

Critical thinking involves understanding how you think.  It involves making sure that you are considering all alternatives and are making a rational choice between those alternatives.  When you think critically, you avoid having a closed mind.  Instead, you think about all the possible choices.  You think about what the pros and cons of each choice are.  When you have people trying to persuade you that one or the other choice is better, you consider how much you should trust each source.  Finally, you make decisions based on a thought process and not a “gut reaction.”

The main purpose of critical thinking is to make better decisions.  If, for example, you are running a business and your business is having trouble, you need to think critically about what the problem is.  If you do not think critically, you will make a gut decision about how to fix your business and you may end up making it worse.  By thinking critically, you improve your chances of making the right decision.

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