Checking the internet for a description of critical thinking, you’ll find something like this: “The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment; disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.”
Some use the term “mindless thinking” (a world-class oxymoron) to describe the opposite of critical thinking. Put another way, uncritical thinking is based almost solely on emotion without gathering empirical facts upon which to make judgments. The Merriam-Webster definition of criticize: to evaluate; to consider the merits and demerits of something and judge accordingly. So, to think CRITICALLY is to examine an issue with intellectual tools that supersede but-we’ve-always-done-it-that-way or assuming that whatever one has been taught is automatically correct. A good example is Sharon Baker’s book, Razing Hell, which is subtitled: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught about God’s Wrath and Judgment. To be sure, much of what anyone might have learned could have been taught by an uncritical thinker.
Emotions are certainly an integral part of life. But to base judgments, decisions, and actions on feelings alone – or mostly so – without thinking critically is folly. Nazi Herman Goering explicated this during the Nuremberg trials: “People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”
Everyone loves to be right . . . to embrace right thinking. But it is significantly more complicated than simply picking some philosophy or ideology out of thin air without examining it first from at least thirty-seven different angles. Past U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said it well: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” Critical thinking gathers verified facts and figures FIRST, and then weighs them on the scales of personal judgment.