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oficinas de filosofia e de criatividade, para crianças, jovens e adultos / formação para professores e educadores (CCPFC) / mediação da leitura e do diálogo / cafés filosóficos / #filocri

07 de Novembro, 2022

what is critical thinking and why does it matter?

joana rita sousa

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what is critical thinking? 

when you search for "critical thinking" you will find different perspectives about the topic. not all of the quotes or texts you find are related to philosophy, some focus on education, others on maths, just to give you two examples.

 

bell hooks: “Critical thinking requires us to use our imagination, seeing things from perspectives other than our own and envisioning the likely consequences of our position.”

John Dewey: “Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheep-like passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving…conflict is a sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity.”

 

hooks and Dewey are two major references for people that study critical thinking in a philosophy for / with children context, just like me. these quotes highlight different things about critical thinking that are relevant when you want to create a safe place for people to engage in a dialogue. 

 

what is dialogue? 

I will invite you to take a look at a book called On Dialogue, written by Bohm:

In a dialogue, however, nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins if anybody wins. There is a different sort of spirit to it. In a dialogue, there is no attempt to gain points, or to make your particular view prevail. Rather, whenever any mistake is discovered on the part of anybody, everybody gains. It's a situation called win-win (...) a dialogue is something more of a common participation, in which we are not playing a game against each other, but with each other. In a dialogue, everybody wins. [p. 7]

Bohm wants to draw a distinction between a discussion, where we can point out the winner and the loser, and a dialogue, where everybody wins. in a dialogue opinions are considered assumptions, things that we stand for and don't bother to question or challenge. "People can't resist defending them, and they tend to defend them with an emotional charge", says Bohm on p. 8. 

a dialogue has to push us to challenge our assumptions, to go behind the assumptions and those opinions that we take for granted. 

Opinions thus tend to be experienced as "truths", even though they may only be your own assumptions and your own background. You got them from your teacher, your family, or by reading, or in yet some other way. Then for onte reason or another you are identified with them, and you defend them. (p. 10)

when you gather a group in order to engage in dialogue it's natural that those people will bring their own interests and assumptions. it would help if an experienced facilitator could help people to suspend their own judgement and to look at other points of views, to listen to each participant, to avoid taking part and to contemplate the views and see what it means. 

 

why does critical thinking matter? 

critical thinking matters because it's a tool (or a set of tools) that can help us to understand the world around us. quoting Tom Chatfield, I consider that critical thinking matters because it "means actively setting out to understand what is really going on, by carefully evaluating information, ideas and arguments - and thinking carefully about the process of thinking itself." (p. 26, Critical Thinking). 

 

are there any connections between critical and creative thinking?

yes, creative thinking gives us tools to help us to find alternatives, to explore possibilities, to work on building hypotheses that had not yet been considered. critical thinking and creative thinking mutually enrich each other in the dialogue process.

 

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can critical thinking make a difference when we try to engage people in thinking about climate change? 

it depends on our aims.  do we want to promote awareness about the topic? do we want to convince people to act?

last year I facilitated a workshop with young people (7 /12 years old) and one question came up: if the planet earth's survival is at stake, should we force people to think in a specific way? 

I'm still thinking about the question and while I think about it I try to create a space and time for people to engage in dialogue about climate change. 

critical thinking is an essential tool because it can help us to get in touch with facts and to discard fake news and misinformation. 

in my point of view, people need to understand what is really going on about climate change and to carefully evalutate information, ideas and arguments about the topic. 

climate change has been treated condescendingly by relevant people with a voice in society. there is a lot of misinformation circulating on the topic.

for me and for you it may be an obvious matter, but we can't assume that it is so. we have to open space for dialogue, share facts and reliable sources on the subject and give people the critical and creative thinking tools so they can think for themselves about the problem - and the possible solutions.

 

sources: 40 of the best crititical thinking quotes

[this article was written to support a critical thinking workshop about climate change]