Disclaimer: the contents here in no way constitute or form a specific or general method of performing critical thinking. The subject of critical thinking and its related disciplines are extensive in scope and complex in its entirety. This document only attempts to restate and simplify a few key critical thinking concepts, skills and methods for practical business strategic analysis.
Benefits of critical thinking skills: Having the ability to –
1. Think independently, clearly and competently
2. Differentiate good from bad ideas [whichever way you define good/bad], advice, judgments and decisions
3. Decide whether it is legitimate to agree or disagree with a certain opinion, believe or reject a certain argument
4. Make optimal decisions
Defining One’s Own Thoughts
There are three categories of thoughts:
3. Opinions, views, beliefs.
Some issues we think about are easy to define and verify. Some are challenging to verify and obscure. Before one can critically evaluate or analyze ideas, issues or thoughts, one needs to understand their nature in the following ways:
2. 3 types of claims: Factual versus value judgment versus preferences.
3. Argument versus explanation versus persuasion.
1. Claim: a statement which is either true or false. At the most general level, the claim should be reasonable and supported or closely linked with sufficient appropriate evidences, grounds and merits. The general types of claim are: a) substantiation, b) evaluation, c) recommendation, must contain the appropriate kinds of support.
2. An argument (or presenting an argument): provides reasons to believe or not believe that a claim is true. More on arguments later. For now, an argument has 2 parts:
a. Premise(s): are facts, evidences or reasons.
b. Conclusion: statements supported by facts/evidences/reasons, i.e., premises
3. Types of issues: Subjective versus Objective
a. Subjective: if one thinks it’s true, then it’s true for that person. E.g. “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”. There are controversial claims versus one that is easily verifiable.
b. Objective: something true or false that is provable or verifiable to be true or false.
4. Value judgment: is asserting a certain action or decision as good or bad. E.g. Moral issues
5. Preferences: Likes and dislikes similar to beliefs which are almost always subjective in nature. Similar to opinions, views and beliefs. E.g. “I think it might rain this afternoon, looking at the sky.”
6. Evaluation: measurement of extent or magnitude using properly defined definitions, variables and criterions with interval scales.
7. Explanation: specifies what leads to something, the effects or what something is made of.
8. Excuses: simply justifying the cause or justifying the effect with a certain cause.
9. Persuasion: has the objective of getting people to support or agree with your view.
Unless otherwise stated “logic” and “reasoning” and “thinking” all mean more or less the same thing.
Now we go on the main body.
What is critical thinking?
It is clear and effective thinking and knowing how to evaluate an issue /problem /performance /situation. Simply, it’s understanding what a certain issue is all about. Everyone can do this!
To think critically about something = critically evaluating and weigh both arguments for and against something. How can one do this?
One needs to: 1) Identify what the claim is, 2) employ a suitable argument method or what evidences to look out for in order to 3) verify the claim. These are the main components of