The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines logic as “the science of reasoning, proof, thinking, or influence.” Critical thinking as described by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero, ‘is the process by which we test claims and arguments and determine which have merit and which do not.” (Beyond Feelings, 6) At one level, I think we all know what critical thinking means — it means good thinking as opposed to illogical, irrational thinking. Since critical thinking is not necessarily being “critical” and negative I think it would be appropriate or more accurate to call it evaluative thinking. The results of the evaluation can range from acceptance to rejection, positive, negative, or anything in between. As I understand it the essence of critical thinking is logic and that we use very little explicit logic in ordinary life. I understand that the basic principles of logic use in evaluating arguments are as follows: (1) Premises are either true or false (incorrect or correct); (2) Conclusions are either valid or invalid, (3) Correct premises plus valid reasoning equal a sound argument ,and lastly (3) An incorrect premise or invalid reasoning makes an argument unsound.
I think most of my thinking at the ordinary level is based on perception, language , and information. At the most there is one logic step: If this than that. I think most thinking takes place in the perceptual stage. These are the questions that arise, How much do I take in? and How do I look at things? This perception is based on habits of perceptions and what I hear, what I read and how I express myself. I understand that we do not need to use much explicit logic because we have already built the logic into our language. For example, killing is ‘bad’ unless justified by war or self-dense. I know that with investment decisions I followed what was recommended and what my friends were doing and then rationalized it with the following rationalization: Everyone does this and the stock rises for a while and when the market eventually gets a severe correction I rationalize that as well. This rationalization is based on information — not all-available information but a selection that fits what I was inclined to do anyway.
I think that logic can be used to reinforce perceptions (and prejudices) but logic and argument will not change perceptions. Perception is more than sensing, it is processing, reacting, and interpreting. Faith Bryne describes perception as, “detecting the nature of both outer and inner worlds. In many cases, it also means responding in some way, either consciously or unconsciously.” (Perception, 57) Perception is the way we look at things and I think processing is what we do with that perception. In my view if we take processing for granted then perception becomes even more important, because the way we look at a situation will determine what we can do about it.
The influences (family, teachers, religion, race, environment, and economic level) that have shaped or conditioned my identity by instilling values, beliefs, viewpoints or attitudes that I have accepted without challenge serves as a perceptual block. The situations in which I am less of an individual because of these influences occur when I refuse to understand someone else’s opinion or look for other points of view because of something I have been conditioned to believe is true. I am not very consistent in ensuring that my opinions are informed. Often times I have not taken careful consideration of the evidence and have treated opinions as facts especially if I have expressed it to the point that I have begun to believe it as truth. At times, in what matters most I am inclined to assume too much and take too much for granted. I feel the strongest urge to conform when someone is a positive role model and conforming to this type of behavior I believe adds value. However, a situation in which this conformist tendency has interfered with my judgment is following others because it seemed the lesser of two evils. All to often at the workplace this is how some decisions are made just to close an issue that ultimately will recycle.
I think I seek to confirm my biases rather than control them in seeking evidence that only confirms my bias and not questioning or seeking the opposing point of view. Additionally, I tend to jump or make hasty conclusions more often than I would like. This occurs more so in the area of personal relationships.
I have learned that there are some errors and bad habits that can lead to shallow or uncritical decisions instead of careful judgments. I have gained the most insight from the following errors and bad habits, which are: Ethnocentricity, Resistance to change (habits), Conformity, Face saving (ego), Rationalization, Stereotyping, Faulty common sense, Oversimplification, Hasty conclusions, and Unwarranted assumptions.
I think the real key to each the of errors and habits mentioned above is my being conscious of the tendency to do them and to get into the habit of applying and practicing the different ways or approaches to avoiding the blockers to critical thinking. This will be an ongoing process if I am to be in control of my own beliefs, and to somehow gain an understanding of the truth, then I must know what good reasoning is, and be aware of the ways in which my reasoning (and that of others) can go astray.
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