Critical thinking as essential to civilisation

In an article in ‘Standpoint’ of June 2020 (‘The mark of an educated mind’), Andrew Doyle provides a strong defence of the need for critical thinking both in education and in public life.

As he says, ‘The discipline of critical thinking invites us to consider the origins of our knowledge and conviction’. He illustrates this point in various ways, including an example in which people start with a claimed position and then work backwards thereby ‘mistaking their own arguments for proof’. He urges the use of the Socratic approach to disputation as being ‘essentially cooperative’, an approach which ‘should be embedded into our national curricula’.
This approach, of course, very much takes us to the powerful importance of critical thinking. As part of its significance, Doyle stresses that ‘Critical thinking requires humility’ and that ‘this involves not just the ability to admit that one might be wrong, but also to recognise that an uninformed opinion is worthless, however stridently expressed.’

He concludes, without exaggeration, that ‘An education underpinned by critical thinking is the very bedrock of civilisation, the means by which chaos is tamed into order.’
This strong position is explained further:

‘Tribalism, mudslinging, the inability to critique one’s own position: these are the tell-tale markers of the uncivilised and the hidebound. A society is ill served by a generation of adults who have not been educated beyond the egotistical impulses of childhood. At a time when so many are lamenting the degradation of public discourse, a conversation about how best to incorporate critical thinking into our schools is long overdue. Our civilisation might just depend on it.’

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