A3 Book chapter

Philosophical issues in critical thinking




List of Authors: Juho Ritola

Publication year: 2021

Book title *: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education

ISBN: 978-0-19-026409-3

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190264093.013.1480


Abstract

Critical thinking is active, good-quality thinking. This kind of thinking is initiated by an agent’s desire to decide what to believe, it satisfies relevant norms, and the decision on the matter at hand is reached through the use of available reasons under the control of the thinking agent. In the educational context, critical thinking refers to an educational aim that includes certain skills and abilities to think according to relevant standards and corresponding attitudes, habits, and dispositions to apply those skills to problems the agent wants to solve. The basis of this ideal is the conviction that we ought to be rational. This rationality is manifested through the proper use of reasons that a cognizing agent is able to appreciate. From the philosophical perspective, this fascinating ability to appreciate reasons leads into interesting philosophical problems in epistemology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. Critical thinking in itself and the educational ideal are closely connected to the idea that we ought to be rational. But why exactly? This profound question seems to contain the elements needed for its solution. To ask why is to ask either for an explanation or for reasons for accepting a claim. Concentrating on the latter, we notice that such a question presupposes that the acceptability of a claim depends on the quality of the reasons that can be given for it: asking this question grants us the claim that we ought to be rational, that is, to make our beliefs fit what we have reason to believe. In the center of this fit are the concepts of knowledge and justified belief. A critical thinker wants to know and strives to achieve the state of knowledge by mentally examining reasons and the relation those reasons bear to candidate beliefs. Both these aspects include fascinating philosophical problems. How does this mental examination bring about knowledge? What is the relation my belief must have to a putative reason for my belief to qualify as knowledge? The appreciation of reason has been a key theme in the writings of the key figures of philosophy of education, but the ideal of individual justifying reasoning is not the sole value that guides educational theory and practice. It is therefore important to discuss tensions this ideal has with other important concepts and values, such as autonomy, liberty, and political justification. For example, given that we take critical thinking to be essential for the liberty and autonomy of an individual, how far can we try to inculcate a student with this ideal when the student rejects it? These issues underline important practical choices an educator has to make.


Last updated on 2021-02-09 at 14:52