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Daniel Dennett's Most Useful Critical Thinking Tools

Occam’s Broom

It describes the process in which inconvenient facts are whisked under the rug by intellectually dishonest champions of one theory or another.

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Critical thinkers need the knowledge first

Employers need critical thinkers, but they cannot find them.

Focussing on knowledge only in college does not seem to help. Neither does it help to only focus on intellectual and cognitive sk...

The focus of skills over knowledge

Considering the K-12 system, we see that the emphasis on skills over content has changed the curriculum. Students increasingly focus on learning skills, but they may not learn too much history or science.

Critical thinking is not enough on its own. It needs to be used to gain insight from studying meaningful subject matter, like history or economics or physics or chemistry.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a disciplined activity. It is not something we can acquire without intensive study and practice, nor can we isolate it from knowledge. Knowledge is foundational to provide the structure to do deep thinking.

Only with some background knowledge, can we apply the skills of critical thinking to problems and texts, understand the strengths and weaknesses of arguments, and offer creative solutions.

Bloom’s taxonomy of learning

It is a set of three lists used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. They concentrate specifically on learning objectives in

Bloom’s taxonomy: learning objectives
  • Knowledge-based objectives. Instead of just memorizing facts, the goal of this area is to be capable to remember, understand, apply, analyze, create, and evaluate our knowledge.
  • Emotion-based objectives. This domain measures how much you care about what you are studying: passive attention (the lowest level), active participation, valuation, organization, and characterization (the highest level, where you care enough to generate your own take on the knowledge).
  • Action-based objectives. This domain measures your ability to actually manipulate relevant tools.
The DOVE & ROPE rules of brainstorming

DOVE stands for: Deferral of judgment; Off-beat ideas; Vast quantities of ideas; Elaboration/expansion of ideas.

The ROPE method of brainstorming stands for:

  • Record all ideas
  • Original ideas are encouraged (no stupid ideas)
  • Put off evaluation (judgment can be done later)
  • Expand on other’s ideas.
Community Is Vital

Loneliness is not a problem in traditional societies. For 99% of human existence, we lived in small tribes. We were constantly surrounded by family and friends. 

Research links loneli...

"Mens sana in corpore sano"

Having a healthy body is essential to having a sound mind. Exercising is a habit that’s been shown to lead people to create other, often unrelated, good habits. Exercising is also a proven way to improve the rate of learning.

"Know Thyself"

Knowing yourself allows you to seize opportunities and make better decisions as well as know what you and others should expect from you and how to counteract your personal flaws.