John Stenzel
Advanced Composition

Critical Thinking

At the beginning of this class I established one of my core beliefs, that high-quality writing is both a result of and a means to high-quality critical thinking. Now consider these insights from a prominent workgroup on the subject of critical thinking itself:
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information generated by observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication. As a guide to belief and action, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

It entails the examination of those elements of thought that are implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions underlying the problem or concept; evidence or empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; frame of reference. Critical thinking can be seen as having two components: first, a set of information-processing and belief-generating skills; and second, the intellectually committed habit of using those skills to guide behavior. It is thus to be contrasted with the mere acquisition and retention of information alone, because it involves a particular way in which information is sought and treated; nor is it the mere possession of a set of skills, because it involves the continual use and honest application of them.

In using their intellectual tools critical thinkers strive to diminish the role of their egocentric tendencies, and work diligently to develop the virtues of intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual civility, intellectual empathy, and intellectual sense of justice. They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities, and that they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest. They strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can, and contribute to a more rational, civilized society. At the same time, they recognize the complexities often inherent in doing so, and avoid thinking simplistically about complicated issues. -- adapted from
If I've done what I believe is part of my job, I will have forced you to think critically in ways you might not have done earlier at UCD. I will be asking you to consider your experiences in light of the discussion of "critical thinking" given above, and I am also asking you to keep these principles in mind as you continue your intellectual development in the years to come.