Critical thinking often involves the creation of alternative plans, solutions, approaches, etc. , then comparing original with the alternatives. Creative thinking requires some critical evaluation during and after the creative phase. Critical thinking depends upon that little known and seldom discussed characteristic of the human nervous system—self-reflexiveness. Usually it also depends upon that remarkable human creation and tool—self reflexive language. Humans not only know about their environment, they know that they know; they can think about how they think, evaluate their evaluations.
Languages, too, have this self-reflexive characteristic. They enable us to talk about talk, to make statements about statements, to write books about writing books. The self-reflexiveness of language and the human nervous system provide us with an open minded system: we can make statements about statements, indefinitely; we can react to our reactions to our reactions indefinitely. At no point can we say, “That’s the last word on the subject” or, “No further reaction is possible” (since, in doing so, we have said more, reacted further).
However, believing that we have said the last word may cut of the self-reflexive process. This open ended, self reflexive system makes it possible for us to conduct scientific research, write poetry, plan enterprises, spin out complex tales of fiction—or spread rumours, spin webs of delusion and talk ourselves into insanity or war. Which we will do depends in part upon our motivation, but also upon our understanding of the thinking process and some aspects of the working of the nervous system. General semantics provides a meta-linguistic or ‘second order’ approach to critical thinking.
It enables us to use self-reflexiveness systematically to monitor on-going evaluations. The principles and devices it provides call attention to either-or and ‘allness’ statements, to inferences treated as facts, to overgeneralizations, to statements unrestricted in time, to overly-simple statements of causality, etc. The tools work, whatever the order of abstraction, whatever the source of the statement (Johnson, 1991).
How language empowers or limits the expression of our thoughts. Along with most of his contemporaries, Blair defines language in terms of a relationship between signs and thoughts: “Language … signifies the expression of our ideas by certain articulate sounds, which are used as the signs of those ideas” (cited 1:98). Elaborating on this interdependence, he asserts that “when we are employed… in the study of composition, we are cultivating reason itself. True rhetoric and sound logic are very nearly allied. The study of arranging and expressing our thoughts with propriety, teaches to think, as well as to speak, accurately… so close is the connection between thought and the words in which they are clothed” (Ulman, 1994). Language can empowers and limit the expression of our thoughts.
Talking about something that reinforces it, therefore say what you want to be true. Language has power, and by knowing this, you can select words that allow others to hear and understand you. Certain words provide a way of maintaining the focus of what you want. They can assist you to be in the state of mind that you desire. Looking for positive language patterns, gives your brain the opportunity to find alternative ways expressing your experiences to yourself and others. These tools get you off automatic pilot and in control. Having choice means you can regulate how an experience will affect you.
You can choose to use your old patterns of expression which produces certain results, or use empowering language to give you different results. Now it can be you who decides. Labels limit is another concept that we’re dealing with here. When we label something or someone, we put a meaning on it that can limit our awareness, experience, and understanding. Labels are a form of beliefs, and like all beliefs, they filter our perceptions. Our beliefs only allow us to be conscious of things that are in agreement with them, and we unconsciously filter everything else.
It can be tremendous evidence of the opposite to penetrate the belief filters. But with negative labels, the effects can be very destructive (Kaufman, 1998). The role of critical thinking in persuasion. What is the value of critical thinking? When someone else writes or speaks a peace of reasoning, they are trying to persuade us of something. Persuasion is an attempt to get us to believe something. People want us to believe things so that we will act in certain ways. Action requires some effort. There are choices involved. We could be doing something else.
Because of this, it is very useful to be able to evaluate reasoning, for some pieces of reasoning should be accepted while others should not be accepted. If persuasion occurs in advertising, we could be doing many other things with our money. Take buying a car, for example. A lot of money can be involved, so what kind of car to buy can be a pretty big decision. Whether to marry a certain person or which of a couple of job offers to take are still bigger decisions. Almost every reader will eventually get some serious illness. There may be several different treatments available.
One’s comfort, health, even ones life may depend on the decision as to which treatment to undertake. To make these decisions well, we will need to gather our own reasons to support various alternative conclusions. At that time, we could make an irrational decision, or a sheep like decision to follow some other person’s advice.
The values of critical thinking, specifically how to recognize and evaluate reasoning, are the following: • It help us arrive at true conclusions and therefore • it increases our knowledge. • It should help us make better decisions. • It should help us persuade others and • explain truth to them. • Contribute to a happier life (Cogan, 1998). References Johnson, K. G. (1991). Thinking creatically: a systematic, interdisciplinary approach to creative-critical thinking. Englewood: Institute of General Semantics. Kaufman, R. A. (1998). Anatomy of Success. New York: Ronald A Kaufman. Robert Cogan. (1998). Critical thinking: step by step. Boston: University Press of America. Ulman, H. L. (1994). Things, thoughts, words, and actions: the problem of language in late eighteenth-century British rhetorical theory. New York: SIU Press.
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