The Practicing Thinker

They not only recognize their own deficiencies but have the skills to address them.

  • They regularly analyze their mental processes.
  • They may still lack a systematic way of gaining insight into their thoughts and can fail to recognize self-deceptive reasoning.

To get to this stage, it is important to gain intellectual perseverance.

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Six levels of critical thinkers

Researchers identified six predictable levels of critical thinkers:

  • The unreflective thinker
  • The challenged thinker
  • The beginner thinker
  • The practicing thinker
  • The advanced thinker
  • The master thinker

Using your mind more effectively is not automatic. Moving up on this pyramid of thinking is dependent on developing your critical thinking skills.

These are people who don't reflect on thinking nor consider the consequences of not thinking. Their prejudices and misconceptions lead them.

They do not consistently apply standards like accuracy, relevance, precision, and logic.

People at this intellectual stage are aware of the importance of thinking and know that the lack of thinking can result in major issues.

  • They acknowledge that their own mental processes might have many flaws but are unable to identify all the weaknesses.
  • They may spot some instances of their own self-deception.
  • They may have a sense that proper thinking involves navigating assumptions, inferences, and points of view, but only on a basic level.

Thinkers at this level can look to take control of their thinking across areas of their lives. They know their thinking can have blind spots, but initially take limited steps to address that.

  • They become self-aware in their thoughts.
  • They start looking at the concepts and biases underlying their ideas and develop higher internal standards of clarity, accuracy, and logic, all the while realizing their ego plays a major role in their decisions.
  • They can take some criticism of their mental approach.

The higher-level thinker has strong habits. They can analyze their thinking with insight. They can spot some of the prejudicial aspects of their thinking and of others. They possess:

  • "intellectual insight" to develop new thought habits
  • "intellectual integrity" to recognize areas of inconsistency and contradiction in their life
  • "intellectual empathy" to put oneself in the place of others in order to really understand them
  • "intellectual courage" to confront ideas and beliefs they don't necessarily believe in and have negative emotions toward

This super-thinker is in control of how they process information and make decisions. They always seek to improve their thinking skills.

  • A master thinker commit to being fair
  • They have gained control over their ego's
  • They display superior practical knowledge and insight.
  • They always re-examine their assumptions for weaknesses, logic, and biases.
  • They don't get upset with being intellectually confronted.

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RELATED IDEAS

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.

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IDEAS

Describing critical thinking

Critical thinking is described as a mode of thinking where the thinker improves the quality of their thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it.

Another definition describes critical thinking as a way to examine assumptions, discern hidden values, evaluate evidence, and judge conclusions.

Debating problems

Many well-known problems of human reasoning disappear once you get a group of people together and let them talk about it.

It's a good way to see your ideas refuted or let stronger ideas win the day. Although there’s a risk of group think and conformity pressures, if you take a large and diverse enough group, you’re more likely to be exposed to the best reasoning, which will tend to win out over the majority opinion.

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