The intellectual roots of critical thinking date back to the Greek philosophers.
Socrates discovered, by means of probing questions, that in the exchange of competing ideas, people sometimes make confident claims based on unreliable assumptions or failed logic.
Such arguments, he discovered, were either erroneous in fact, absent sufficient foundation, or failing in logic. Instead, most arguments were based on confused meanings, inadequate evidence, or contradictory beliefs.
Socrates' contributions to critical thinking were many -- for he established new ways to think about contentious issues in terms of the quality of assumptions, facts and logic.
Thus Socrates demonstrated that persons may have passion, or power or high position but yet be deeply confused and irrational.
Good journalism, like compelling debate, is based on a clear understanding of facts and the logical construction of one's argument. And that is what the Socratic Method and The Sophist Tradition is all about.
The Socratic Method is the preferred way to examine issues.
In the Socratic mode of questioning, postulations, ideas or arguments are examined for their clarity and logical consistency by systematic analysis of facts, assumptions and logical methodology to support a conclusion.
Socratic analysis is accomplished by means of a series of probing questions that systematically examine the quality of an argument or conclusion.
Understanding the quality of information, argument or one's conclusions, is fundamental to critical thinking -- and the goal of critical editing.
Socrates’ practice was followed by the critical thinking of Plato (who recorded Socrates’ thought), Aristotle, and the Greek skeptics, all of whom emphasized that things are often very different from what they appear to be.
Only the trained mind is prepared to see through the way things look to us on the surface (delusive appearances) to the way they really are beneath the surface (the deeper realities of life.)
From this ancient Greek tradition emerged the need, for anyone who aspired to understand the deeper realities, to think systematically, to trace implications broadly and deeply; for only thinking that is comprehensive, well-reasoned, and responsive to objections can take us beyond the surface.
Means Of Analysis
The common denominators of Critical Thinking requires, for example, the systematic monitoring of thought; that thinking, to be critical, must not be accepted at face value, but must be analyzed and assessed for its clarity, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, and logical validity. All reasoning occurs within points of view and frames of reference.
All reasoning proceeds from some goals, objectives, and has an informational base. All data, when used in reasoning, must be interpreted. That interpretation involves concepts, that concepts entail assumptions, and that all basic inferences in thought have implications, and each of these dimensions of thinking need to be monitored where problems of thinking can occur.
The result of the collective contribution of the history of critical thought is that the basic questions of Socrates can now be much more powerfully and focally framed.
In every domain of human thought, and within every use of reasoning within any domain, it is now possible to question:
• ends and objectives
• the status and wording of questions
• the sources of information and fact
• the method and quality of information collection
• the mode of judgment and reasoning used
• the concepts that make that reasoning possible
• the assumptions that underlie concepts in use
• the implications that follow from their use
• the point of view or frame of reference within which reasoning takes place
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Published: Tuesday April 26, 2011 7:00 am EDT
Article Length: 712 Words
Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Young Americans Facing Unwanted Realities
As a nation we stopped asking the difficult questions, demanding rational explanations, questioning those in office and speaking truth to power. All the better for the rich and powerful to tilt the playing field to disadvantage the hard-working citizen, the responsible adults, and the underclass.
It’s been nearly two years since this editorial first appeared in Newsroom Magazine. If it was appropriate then, as it surely was, it’s even more so today. For even as Congress takes a vacation after doing nothing for so long, those who put them in office appear to be hopping mad. Which makes one wonder if Main Street America has figured out who failed us? Was it really Congress? Maybe not.
The Enemy In The Mirror
The unfolding American calamity was many years in the making. There is no single event, or person, or politician responsible for where we are, what happened to our economy, sense of community, self-respect, or damage to our culture. No one media failed us. No single newspaper sold us down the river. Neither of our highly polarized, single-issue driven political parties were the cause.
We were. You. Me. All of us. All of them.
Listen To This Editorial
Spoken By Robert Butche
We citizens failed to be vigilant. We turned lazy. We sought wealth for ourselves on the assumption that someone else would do the heavy lifting, fight the wars, make the right decisions, keep us free. Our lives were to be free rides on the efforts of others, not lives of sacrifice, toil, sharing, or responsibility.
Political Class Empowerment
Our political establishment took advantage of our laxity by moving away from traditional values and centrist governance toward polarized extremists at permanent war with one another. Their irrational and unrelenting advocacy came at immense cost to the things most Americans believe to be their heritage. The Political Class, both parties, all branches — changed the rules to favor their power, not ours. They were not alone.
The wealthy and powerful sought to transfer ever more wealth from the middle and lower classes unto themselves. We helped, you and I, by electing whichever iconoclastic politician who stirred our passions, or kindled our fear, or promised us the easier ride in life.
Disengagement From What Mattered Most
As a nation we stopped asking the difficult questions, demanding rational explanations, questioning those in office, or speaking truth to power. All the better for the rich and powerful to tilt the playing field to disadvantage the hard-working citizen, the responsible adults, the underclass.
And what about us? Didn’t we try our best?
We lavished material things on our children and grandchildren, excused their shortcomings, inculcated them in destructive values, ignored their subornation by ignorance, and seduction by money-driven hedonism. We did not sufficiently pass on traditional American values, vigilance, responsibility, frugality, honesty, integrity, obligation to one another and to nation.
And now the god-damned cows have come home. And we wonder why.
Why didn’t someone ask the hard questions? Why weren’t we told there was an emerging political class inexplicably disconnected from Main Street and the everyday lives of ordinary, hard-working, honest and earnest Americans? You know them all. They’re the men and women who fight for our country, pay their taxes, abide by the laws that protect us, and do the work that produces our immense wealth.
Why didn’t someone fix the problem for all of us? Isn’t that why we elected them, paid them, honored them, trusted them?
Calling Out The Culprit
We now know who failed. Who sought special privilege. Who didn’t keep informed. Who voted for the wrong candidates. Wanna know who?
Look in the mirror.