Inadequate definitions of critical thinking

There’s widespread misconceptions and inadequate definitions floating around concerning critical thinking and logic.

There’s widespread misconceptions and inadequate definitions floating around concerning critical thinking and logic.

Some people who believe they can think critically have fallen into the trap of using formal and informal logical fallacies as if they were valid arguments all too easily; in other words, they entirely omit the logic part of critical thinking and logic.

I was once given a rather abbreviated definition of critical thinking and logic: distinguishing fact from opinion, evaluating evidence, considering various points of view, and questioning assumptions. That is not even close to a complete definition, and it completely left out discerning logical fallacies. The simplified definition then becomes a straw man fallacy when used to support an argument.

If that definition is all that people think critical thinking and logic is about, it’s grossly inadequate. It isn’t enough to teach people to question assumptions. It has to be done the right way, such as, whether the assumption is based on how a person feels instead of, and contrary to, cold hard facts; identifying a claim made by people who have no expertise in the topic as a fallacious appeal to authority; or correctly identifying all propaganda, regardless of its place on the political spectrum, and recognizing that it’s basically a fallacious appeal to emotion on a large scale.

Oversimplified definitions of critical thinking must be expanded, and both formal and informal logical fallacies must be included when teaching it.


April J. Gibson


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