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Critical Thinking: What Is It and How It Applies

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J. Scott P. Simpson

Bill Vasquez, Instructor

MGT 350

Oct 31, 2002

Critical Thinking, what it is and how it appliesÐ'...

"No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will beÐ'... (Isaac Asimov)"

"Creative thinking should be viewed as an essential supplement to, though not a replacement for, critical thinking. (Lloyd P. Provost & R. M. Sprout, Quality Progress)"

Introduction

I will in the following paragraphs take a brief glimpse at two essential aspects making up what is often considered a person's judgmental skills. The two concepts that I will be covering are traditionally labeled as "Critical Thinking" and "Decision Making". After examining some standard definitions of these two concepts and how they relate to one another, I will then use my experiences to illustrate how knowledge and adoption of strong critical thinking and decision-making skills is needed in my own life.

Defining Critical Thinking

There are numerous definitions of critical thinking all hitting around a common theme, the scrutinizing and analyzing of an argument to discover flaws in the reasoning. When examining an argument, a critical thinker goes through steps to see if the reasoning is well-grounded and supported toward the achieving of the conclusion or if it is simply a persuasive argument built from a series of ambiguities and assumptions perhaps further strengthened by power-charged words. I am using the general term, "argument", to indicate not only two opposing viewpoints, but also as "the reason put forward (Microsoft Encarta Dictionary)" that calls upon a decision. This "reason put forward" might be as simple (or complex) as the decision on what manufacture of a new big screen TV to purchase.

Browne and Keeley's book, "Asking the Right Questions, A Guide to Critical Thinking" centers on giving the reader skills to break down an argument and clearly examine the reasoning to determine if the logic is sound. The book presents these "tools" in the form of "questions" that the readers first ask themselves while analyzing an argument. In the book, critical thinking is defined as being made up of these three aspects:

Ð'* Awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions.

Ð'* Ask/Answer critical questions at appropriate times.

Ð'* Desire to actively use critical questions.

Though the authors have clearly given an excellent tool for the readers to use in achieving the goal of becoming critical thinkers, I do not necessarily agree with that "tool" being the core of the definition. Critical thinkers use internal and external questions as perhaps their primary route in analyzing an argument, but the authors uses the means to the result as the definition in itself. My definition of critical thinking is more closely represented by the quote, "Critical thinking is the making of judgments and drawing conclusions based on objective evidence. (Pearson Custom Publishing)".

Defining Decision-Making

"Decision making is the process of weighing options and choosing from among them (Pearson Custom Publishing)." How effective an individual is at making decisions can be determined by how well they identify a set of alternatives, separate out the "poor" options, and then narrow down the remainder until one choice is left that meets both the initial needs requiring

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