Essay on Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking Essay

Almost everything around us has some decision-making mechanisms. Mammals use their brains collect information, save it in their memory and use it to choose a way of action.

Human beings are unique in this matter. Like many other animals, we also can collect, store and use information for our needs. However, one of the main things that make us exceptional is the ability to evaluate data, to define it clearly and rationally and to combine it with other information to create a new perception or idea.

Critical thinking is the most important tool we have to think beyond our instincts and feelings, to ask questions, to find reasons for something we see and to develop rational opinions about it, most importantly on the basis of evidences, experience or knowledge from other fields.

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Let us use an example. A human being and an animal see a fire in the forest. They both understand the risk in the flames; it is hot, it smells bad, etc. Their instincts are the same – run away from the danger. However, the person, a critical thinker (if he is), can have some more ideas about the issue: Knowing that water cools him down when it is hot, maybe it will cool also the fire? Why is the fire burning only where there are plants? Can I use it to scare animals or other humans? The result might be to remove the danger, to improve one`s life or even to help saving them in the future.

Almost all scientific processes are based critical thinking. The scientist looks for rational explanations for a problem and tends not to take things for granted. He wants to be convinced, and therefore may see others’ ideas or beliefs as false or weak. This is one of the reasons for the fact that critical thinking is often confused with criticism. Although it is true that scientists often criticise one another in a negative way, the critical thinking processes are usually of positive nature; those who challenge existing ideas and suggest new assumptions are those who promote progress and solve intellectual and technical problems.

The critical thinker will use logic and often constructed methods to find answers to his doubts. This might be a hard and sometimes risky behaviour. Remember Galileo Galilei, whose scientific ideas were based on theory and experiments, and had cost him with the loss of freedom.

2,000 years before Galileo, the Greek philosopher Plato described the difficulties about discovering the truth and telling it to others. In his Allegory of the Cave, Plato discuss a situation where prisoners, chained in a cave and unable to move their bodies or turn their looks. Their only sources of information are reflected figures and sounds from the outside world. For these prisoners, those shadows and echoes are the whole reality, and they make judgments according to them.

When one prisoner manage to get rid of the chains, he tries to climb up and escape, but the task is difficult because his body did not move for years and his eyes are blinded by the sunlight. When he finally sees the light and understands that the images and sounds inside the cave are only a reflection, he finds it hard to return to the darkness of the cave. His fellow prisoners may also not believe him or even murder him for declining the reality as they know it.

Without critical thinking, we could also behave like those prisoners: accepting false reality as the only truth and seeing the opinions or findings of others as strange, crazy or dangerous. We must appreciate the efforts of those among us who have the courage to look beyond and seek for the light.

Fortunately, the modern liberal society perceives critical thinking as an asset. Critical thinkers are a valuable asset in every organization, in particular in the new economy, where ideas from different fields are being evaluated, combined and contribute to innovation, competitiveness and originality.

As mentioned earlier, a good critical thinker always starts by asking questions. Then, he will use those questions to define to problem, or the specific issue he wants to address. Current points of view and evidences should be taken into account during the critical process. These are the simple form of them; we must remember that the speaker (e.g., an expert) or the way a certain idea is presented may sometimes hyde just a bad idea behind them. In addition, we need to remember that other interpretation rather than ours exist, and that being rational also means to understand and expect uncertainties, leaving space for other critical thinkers to investigate.

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