Miscellany: “critical thinking”

The example you used makes me wonder about whether it may be useful to distinguish critical thinking from thinking critically. What I mean is that there is one kind of thinking that reflects upon itself and thereby occupies itself with itself as its own object, and another which thinks about ulterior objects which are deemed to be of critical importance.


If I have understood you correctly, what calls for, or invokes new thought is when, in our ordinary “auto-pilot” function, we “stumble” over something. Put another way, we encounter a question for which we have no pat answer. The question becomes a scandal—a “stumbling block”—for us and we feel the need to reconcile it with our understanding.


You expressed your hope that you have answered my question. Instead I think you have augmented it because I now find myself wondering how we are able to say, in advance of having understood something, that we in fact do not understand it. It would seem we need a standard of true understanding against which to compare our present and allegedly deficient understanding with. Otherwise how would we tell the difference?


I was left to wonder about the relation between being “critical” and being “skeptical” in the context of thinking. I don’t think they are the same thing, and yet it escapes me how exactly they are related. My concern is that it is just as much a mistake to be skeptical of something that is true as it is to be convicted of something that is false. Being critical of something that is true does not seem to fall into this pernicious binary but I wonder if you have further thoughts on this question that you would be obliged to offer.


I agree with you that “critical thinking is going deeper.” But it leaves me to wonder: what does “deeper” mean in this context. If we were talking about scuba diving, for instance, or digging ditches, it would be obvious what “deeper” meant. But what does “deeper” mean in respect to thinking?

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