Critical Thinking Definitions

As a follow-up to my post titled “The Problem(s) with Linear Thinking“, I had the intention of writing a post to share some thoughts on Critical & Creative Thinking….but I got hung up on some of the wordy and academic definitions that exist for Critical Thinking.

The most famous (or infamous?) is the definition from Dr. Peter Facione’s “The Delphi Report” (Feel free to skip this entire definitionyou won’t miss anything):

We understand critical thinking (CT) to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based. CT is essential as a tool of inquiry. As such, CT is a liberating force in education and a powerful resource in one’s personal and civic life. While not synonymous with good thinking, CT is a pervasive and self-rectifying human phenomenon. The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters,diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria,focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit. Thus, educating good critical thinkers means working toward this ideal. It combines developing CT skills with nurturing those dispositions which consistently yield useful insights and which are the basis of a rational and democratic society.

Wow…178 words to define Critical Thinking. Am I the only person in the world who finds that to be a long and academic definition?

Another definition, provided by The Critical Thinking Community, is a little longer but provides an even better definition:

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking-about any subject, content,or problem-in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.

The above definition is 38 words and communications the ideas behind Critical Thinking in a concise manner.

An even shorter definition is provided by Steven D. Schafersman, who writes that:

Critical thinking is the ability to think for one’s self and reliably and responsibly make those decisions that affect one’s life.

I am a big fan of being succinct, and I think Steven has captured the defintion of CT in a perfectly succinct manner using 21 words.

Does the 178 word definition from Dr. Facione really say anything more than this 21 word definition? The definition by Dr. Facione is probably considered by many academics to be the ‘perfect’ definition of CT, but I think most non-academics wouldn’t read past the first sentence.

The inability (or unwillingness) of people to communicate in a succinct manner always amazes me.

[tags] Critical Thinking, Succinct Communication [/tags]

About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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[…] though I’ve blogged about the subject in the past (see The Problem(s) with Linear Thinking, Critical Thinking Definitions, and my review of Jack’s […]