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Critical thinking

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Introduction[edit]

When people talk about self-sufficiency or self-reliance, generally what people talk about is physical skills such as farming skills, and gardening skills and sewing, and knitting, and leather-working. What is displayed here is mental frame, an assumption about where to look for sustainability skills and what these skills look like.

A Missing Element

Critical thinking is the core of a self-reliant adult human being. Critical Thinking is the ability that helps us learn sustainable agriculture, and make appropriate Technology, and to store our learning in culture and writing. The ability to think is the ability to grow beyond the limitations of form. And the ability to think critically is the ability to think for ones self. Without the ability to think critically we must learn on faith. We must trust that what is taught to us is accurate. We must trust that the people teaching us have our best interests at heart and know what they are doing. We must trust that what we are taught- even if accurate in itself- is based on accurate information and thus can be used to further extrapolate. Without the ability to think critically, learning becomes an act of trust. Learning is a process of analysis and discovery, it is the very opposite of trust. It is experimentation, and testing, and challenging of hypotheses, and debate, and discussion and practice.

Critical thinking is the ultimate toolbox with which to handle the world. And here's the best part. If you don't believe me, study critical thinking and decide for yourself!

Benefits of Critical Thinking[edit]

There are a number of benefits of being able to think critically. By being able to think critically, a person is able to self teach. By being able to think critically, a person may defend themselves from intentional deception and from faulty logic. Critical thinking allows an individual to begin to address their own failing and protect their thinking from those people who do not think as carefully. Critical thinking aids in problem solving and investigation. Critical thinking helps to spot assumptions and other errors in perspective that may be limiting work on a project. To able to think critically in a conscious manner is to give that person control of their own brain.

Self Teaching

Through the use of critical thinking techniques such as The Three Questions, or Six Thinking Hats- a person may examine what they know and spot where they can improve their knowledge, deepen their understanding, correct errors, fill missing pieces and so on. The ability to examine one's own actions critically is essential for people who lack easy access to teachers, who would ordinarily do this for the learner.

Mental Defense

The world is filled with people peddling half-truths, inaccuracies, outright lies, and accidental lies. Through the use of techniques such as The Three Questions, the Scientific Method of experimentation, or Aristotle's syllogy- a person may examine the information being offered and judge its validity, its accuracy and its use to the listener. Without a basis to critically examine information provided, a person would be prey to every sort of crazy theory or snake oil salesman.

Problem Solving

Critical thinking was tailor made for problem solving, and virtually everything that makes critical thinking useful as a self-teaching tool and a mental defense mechanism also makes critical thinking useful here. In addition to the techniques listed previously, techniques such as lateral thinking or the concept of Po (as proposed by Edward de Bono) can enable a person to transcend a mental roadblock and devise a solution to the previously intractable.

Critical Thinking Techniques[edit]

The Three Questions

Named by British Columbia Educator Keith Chambers, the three questions[1] a powerful heuristic analysis method. The three questions themselves are: What do you mean?, How do you know?, and So What?

The first question is call for clarification. This question is designed to prevent the sender from intentional vagueness or deceptive use of inference. The second question is a call to support the idea presented. An idea presented with support is simply an assertion and should carry very little weight. The second question demands that the sender present their sources. The third question is a demand for value (sometimes phrased more literally as Where is the value?). A person may clearly state and provide support for something entirely useless or irrelevant to the immediate topic. The third question is a call for relevance.

Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats[2] is a thinking tool that provides a means for groups to think together more effectively through the use of mental models defined by metaphorical colored hats. The method is attributed to Dr. Edward de Bono and is the subject of his book, Six Thinking Hats.

Six distinct states are identified and assigned a color:

   * Information: (White) -Information only, what are the facts?
   * Emotions (Red) - Immediate gut instinct reaction without deeper analysis
   * Bad points judgment (Black) - Judgment, what are the problems and will this work?
   * Good points judgment (Yellow) - what are the strengths of this idea, what are the benefits?
   * Creativity (Green) - Trying to provoke new ideas or go in new directions.
   * Thinking (Blue) - Why are we thinking about it this way, what are we assuming?

Colored hats are used as metaphors and putting on a hat is meant to indicate taking up that role. All of these thinking hats help for thinking more deeply. The six thinking hats indicate problems and solutions about an idea or a product.

Scientific Method

In the scientific method[3] a hypothesis is suggested to explain something. Better hypotheses tend to be simpler and more in accordance with known facts. A hypothesis should enable the person to make predictions that are testable. If test results contradict predictions, then the hypothesis is re-examined, as is the method of testing. If the results confirm the predictions, then the hypotheses gains weight, but can and probably should be tested further to strengthen its support.

Syllogism

A syllogism[4] or logical appeal is a kind of logical argument in which one proposition is inferred from two others. This is most easily expressed by example

  • All Zombies like to eat brains
  • Bill is a zombie
  • Bill likes to eat brains

syllogism is itself subject to a number of possible errors in thinking, but it remains a useful tool.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking[5] is describned by Dr. Edward de Bono as solving problems through an indirect and creative approach. This is more of a tool box than a single technique, but includes such ideas as attempting to use randomly generated ideas to solve a problem, asking the question why as a searching tool, and attempting to disprove self-evident or apparently obvious facts to generate ideas or spot assumptions. Lateral thinking is most useful when thinking has become habitual or discussions have become dead locked.

Po (Non Malicious Provocation)

The idea of Po[6], as suggested by Edward de Bono is to use Po as a code word to suggest or propose something that is deliberately silly or outrageous or strange, not for the purposes of actually suggesting the idea, but so that other people can use the Po idea as a jumping off point to inspire their own ideas. Po is most useful in creative problem solving.