It is difficult to think rationally without incorporating some collection of facts, data, or experiences as a fundamental component of one’s thinking. In order to think critically, one must look for reliable sources of information as well as critically evaluate one’s own experiences. We need to be cautious about the information sources we utilize in general. The way we utilize our own experiences must be critically and analytically analyzed. The best teacher may be experience, yet biased experience reinforces prejudice, falsified experience reinforces falsified facts, and self-deluded experience reinforces self-delusion. We must not consider our experience to be hallowed in any manner, but rather to be a significant thinking dimension that, like all others, has to be evaluated and critically scrutinized.
Rene Descartes, a philosopher, came to firmly think that animals lack real emotion and are only robotic machines. This was a blatant example of activated ignorance, which is when we actively consider and act upon incorrect information even when we wrongly believe it to be real (Elder and Paul, 2012). Rene used animals in unpleasant experimentation and dismissed their agonizing screams as noises because of his activated ignorance. Similar to Rene, some individuals mistakenly think they comprehend events, people, and circumstances when in reality they do not. They act on their incorrect beliefs, delusions, and misunderstandings, which frequently results in unnecessary waste, misery, and agony. Another example of activated ignorance is the Nazi belief that Germans were the superior race and Jews were the lesser race. As a result, the Jews endured a great deal of agony and suffering. Activated ignorance may take many different forms, such as drivers thinking they can operate a vehicle safely while drunk or smokers thinking that smoking does not significantly harm their health. Activated ignorance is harmful because it is based on a false perception of reality wherever it exists.
Knowledge breeds knowledge, hence the most crucial factor affecting a person’s capacity to learn is their preceding realm of expertise. In activated knowledge, one takes steps to actively verify and understand the information learned and actively using it in their life, which leads to more and better knowledge (Elder and Paul, 2012). Activated knowledge can be applied to several facets of life; for example, between sports. An example is when I, a former basketball player, was transitioning to soccer. I was already aware that basketball players have offensive and defensive responsibilities. The idea of offensive and defense differs slightly in soccer since each side has players who specialize in either offense or defense. Nevertheless, my mind was able to connect the new concept in soccer to the old concept in basketball since I had some prior experience with it in basketball. I already knew basketball, which made learning and comprehending soccer much simpler, and I quickly got used to playing soccer.
Centrality of Critical Reasoning Theories
Today, information is presented to people in a variety of ways, making it challenging to distinguish between what is genuine and what is false. A synthesis and assessment are also parts of critical thinking, in addition to the examination of an event. One must pose questions in order to accomplish information synthesis or assessment. As a result, questions play a key role in the concept of critical thinking. When used correctly, questions may demonstrate how judgments are often made with due consideration and are based on specific premises, ideas, and conclusions that have been the topic of persuasive argumentation. One may learn to structure their thoughts and build an awareness of clarity, precision, and relevance by asking questions. Additionally, it will help individuals make decisions based on their own logic and take notice of assertions, supporting evidence, conclusions, interpretations, concepts, and points of view that are seen to be crucial components of critical thinking.
Thinking is sparked by questions in critical reasoning rather than by answers. Socratic inquiry and its connection to critical thinking are discussed by Paul and Elder (2008); they explain in their journal article how having a knowledge of the critical thinking ideas automatically leads to inquiries. Theories and concepts related to critical thinking frequently focus on questions. For instance, a thinker who is aware of the components of thought poses inquiries that delve into those components. A thinker who is aware of the importance of intellectual norms in disciplined reasoning formulates inquiries that delve deep into their own thinking. A discipline, such as physics or biology, would not have been established in the first place if those who lay the groundwork for it had not posed any questions. One must pose thought-provoking questions in order to reflect on or reconsider something.
Answers frequently provide a conclusion to an idea whereas questions typically describe objectives, explain concerns, and delineate challenges. Thought only continues to exist as such when a response prompts a further query. It is therefore accurate to say that only those who have inquiries are actually thinking and learning. Additionally, how well they think is determined by the quality of the questions they pose. Deep questioning force us to go beyond the surface of things and force us to cope with complexity, which is at the heart of critical thinking theories. When faced with information-related questions, we are compelled to consider both the reliability and the sources of our knowledge. Similar to questions of point of view, questions of assumption encourage us to explore what we are assuming, whereas questions of point of view force us to consider our point of view as well as other pertinent viewpoints. Deep inquiry is a learning-centered method that pushes a person to improve their critical thinking abilities and participate in analytical debate, which promotes autonomous learning and thought. We may investigate concepts, examine the root causes of issues, expose presumptions, and understand difficult concepts by asking questions.
When exercising critical thinking, critical thinkers put their initial assumptions to the test, distinguish between options carefully, and draw conclusions based on facts rather than emotions. Sensitive to their own limits and tendencies, they revise their ideas by pointing out flaws and difficulties, assuming the worst, and overall improving the logic of their reasoning and the viability of their solutions. The distinction between activated ignorance and activated knowledge is the validity of the information. Questioning is the key component of critical thinking, and it ties to the ideas of activated ignorance and activated knowledge. One can delve thoroughly into a claim’s meaning, explanation, or logical viability by asking questions about it. Through critical thinking, asking questions enables one to look at assumptions, opinions, consequences, and provide proof. The majority of critical thinking theories and concepts are built around questions.
Elder, L., & Paul, R.W. (2012). Critical thinking: Competency standards essential to the cultivation of intellectual skills, Part 4. Journal of Developmental Education, 36, 30-31.
Paul, R.W., & Elder, L. (2007). Critical thinking: The art of Socratic questioning, Part III. Journal of Developmental Education, 31, 34-35.