Critical Thinking – Use The Thinking Process To Your Advantage

Critical thinking is not something we consider too much, do we? We think but do we think critically? Or is our thinking critical in our lives? And what role has this to play, the ability to thinking critically or being thoughtful? Are they the same thing?




If you consult online 'Wikipedia' (a great source of information I must say) this says that 'Critical thinking consists of mental processes of discernment, analysis and evaluation.'

What I am trying to look at here . . .Here, on this page, I would like to take a much more simple view of thinking and its critical nature (or not) in our lives. I am not a philosopher, as you probably realize by now, but I do find these subjects fascinating. My hope on this page is to represent a down to earth view of thinking and the thought process.

To me thinking and thought are enormously important in our lives. But like a lot of other things we can so easily take them for granted. The use of our brain and mind, not something I wish to get into on this page, is to mix metaphors, close to my heart. Critical thinking - thinking critically, is that not important?

We all think on a day to day basis and very needy it is too. But, what of the processes of thinking and thought? Can we not learn more about their place in our lives and thereby understand more how we can take advantage of their 'special gifts or properties'.

Our lives - is there a place for critical thinking?

If we are to live a good and productive life then we need to think about the things we do. We need to assess their impact both on our lives and the world around us, but also how they might impact on our own resources. On us. Our energies. Our ability to be productive. Our ability to contribute. Our abilities. In other words, will we be able to achieve those things we set out to achieve?

Is there a critical thinking definition?

What is it to think? We take thinking for granted, don't we? It happens. We use it. But its use is not something we pay much attention too, do we? Is there a definition of critical thinking? The following gives an idea of what it is to think:

  • to ruminate
  • to speculate
  • to study
  • to suppose
  • to surmise
  • to suspect
  • to understand
  • to visualize
  • to weigh

I much confess, not a list I would immediately come across, or words I might naturally use. Well, having said that, some of them come to mind - speculate, surmise, suspect, understand and visualize, I might have 'thought' of them. So, with critical thinking - are we making any progress?

But the gist of this list tells me that thinking (to think) is something of substance. If to think is to study or to weigh, then the product of thinking (thought?) is something that we should take notice of. Something that can change, but can change us also.

And this is what thinking means to us, is it not?




So we think to . . .?

  • We think to proceed. To find what to proceed with
  • We think to analyze and then take that forward into action or further thought
  • We can think to speculate, when the outcome may be in doubt or there may be alternatives
  • We can think to surmise or suspect, when we think we know the answer and give it some substance, that may or may not be near the mark
  • we can think by visualizing, so rather than thought we conjure up a picture of our subject or our attention, and this can help clarify things for us
  • we can think to understand, which implies analysis, implies assessment, but combined with evaluation - otherwise where would the understanding appear from

Some examples might clarify things

Looking at some expressions may help our understanding of our thinking process (es)

( - but do they help clarify what we could mean by critical thinking?)

  • to think about at length - is to mull over, to muse over, to ruminate (as above)
  • to think by reasoning - is to use deduction to come to an answer
  • to think up - is to formulate something, to create something, to concoct or fabricate something
  • to think and calculate - is to theorize or to estimate, but equally could be to speculate or to use conjecture
  • to think carefully about - is to contemplate or think deeply, to deliberate which implies churning over the 'facts' before coming to a decision, or to ponder or meditate on something

And what about 'those who think'

And we all do to an extent, and some do it for a living

The thinker is

  • seen as the intellectual
  • or seen as the philosopher
  • or the sage or scholar
  • but could be a student
  • as well as a theorist
  • and use the mind
  • but could be a mastermind

To use thinking is to exhibit some of the following

  • to be bright
  • to be reasonable
  • to be deliberate, and perhaps to the extent of getting engrossed in their subject
  • maybe to be introspective and/or reflective in their thought
  • to be understanding is an interesting connotation
  • to be meditative might imply introspection, but could take 'thinking' to a higher level

To do the thinkable

  • is to be comprehensible
  • is to be feasible and conceivable
  • is to be reasonable and believable

(but what of the unthinkable?)

So, what about every day thought?

Taking in the above we can see that there is much more to thinking and thought than at first meets the eye. The above is a simple critique of thinking, but whether it makes thinking critical (as in critical thinking) I do not know.

Perhaps a little look at thought will help?

What is thought?

Thought is many things:

  • anxiety or consideration
  • concentration or imagination
  • deduction or deliberation
  • expectation
  • intention or opinion
  • judging
  • meditation
  • mind

to name a few (and the words are put to together for no particular reason). But two other 'thought' words give a better picture of thoughts use for us

To be thoughtful

What is it to be thoughtful?

  • to be discerning
  • to be careful
  • to be caring
  • to be considerate or courteous
  • to be gracious or kind
  • to be logical or meditative
  • to be polite
  • to be prudent
  • to be reflective
  • to be sensible
  • to be sensitive
  • to be serious

(And the words are put to together for no particular reason)

Or, to be thoughtless

What is it to be thoughtless?

  • to be brash or careless
  • to be dull or foolish
  • to be hasty
  • to be impolite
  • to be inattentive
  • to be inconsiderate
  • to be neglectful
  • to be rash
  • to be remiss or rude
  • to be selfish or uncaring
  • to be silly or stupid
  • to be or do the unthinkable

(And the words are put to together for no particular reason)

And would you rather be seen as thoughtful or thoughtless? No conquest really, is it?

And how important, how critical is this thinking?

How much of thinking is done subconsciously? (Does this go beyond critical thinking?) As in opening a door to get to the other side - the thought process is at the least done so quickly that we don't notice, or is it we just do it.

What of making decisions and the like? Is this where we get practice in analyzing, in assessment, in evaluation of our thoughts? Or is it more that we are reflecting on the subject or the focus of our attention and seeing the options, than in the thinking itself. We think about, not think about thinking.

I don't know. (If you know the answer please let me know.)




Are there answers?

I started this page in the hope of giving an answer to the questions I hoped to propose. An answer to the meaning of critical thinking. But nearing its conclusion I wonder what I may have achieved. I have laid out thinking and the thought process for us all to ponder upon - to literally 'think about'. Has it got to the crux - do we understand critical thinking, or the critical nature or thinking, a little more? Perhaps. Then my task has not been in vain.

Suffice to say that for me to think interminably would be a living hell.

To utilize our thought processes but also to integrate them into our life, with our feelings (as in the expression 'thoughts and feelings'), then we (or is it I) will get more out of this task that I have set myself.

I know that we are not the sum of our thoughts. . .

Though what we think about and how much does indicate something about us, if only the amount of time lost in idle thoughts or daydreams. No, we are much more than the sum of our thoughts, and more than our thoughts and feelings, too.

We are precious, special beings, each and every one of us. We all have a part to play in this life; we all have a contribution to make. We have been given our thoughts, our thinking process, and to think critically about our life and our contribution is within our capabilities and, therefore, we should give it the time of day. We should think about our lot in life, yes.

But to feel and to be one with our life and draw strength from that, and contribute to the best of our abilities - that will, in my opinion, far outweigh any amount of thinking about things that any of us can do.

Critical thinking quotes