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What is Critical Thinking (2)?


Critical thinking can be seen as having two components:

1. a set of skills to process and generate knowledge and beliefs

2. the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior.


It is thus to be contrasted with:

1. the mere acquisition and retention of information alone, (because it involves a particular way in which information is sought and treated)

2. the mere possession of a set of skills, (because it involves the continual use of them)

3. the mere use of those skills ("as an exercise") without acceptance of their results.


Critical thinking varies according to the motivation underlying it.

When grounded in selfish motives, it is often manifested in the skillful manipulation of ideas in service to one's own, or one's groups', vested interest. As such, it is typically intellectually flawed, however pragmatically successful it might be. When grounded in fairmindedness and intellectual integrity, it is typically of a higher order intellectually, though subject to the charge of "idealism" by those habituated to its selfish use.

Critical thinking of any kind is never universal in any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought. Its quality is therefore usually a matter of degree and dependent on, among other things, the quality and depth of experience in a given domain of thinking or with respect to a particular class of questions. No one is a critical thinker through-and-through, but only to such-and-such a degree, with such-and-such insights and blind spots, subject to such-and-such tendencies towards self-delusion. For this reason, the development of critical thinking skills and dispositions is a life-long endeavor.




A Working Definition of critical thinking by Michael Scriven and Richard Paul (URL:



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Critical Thinking definitions by others 2

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