READ: Elements of Argumentative Speaking

4 The Value of Critical Thinking

The Value of Critical Thinking

You have to be a good critical thinker before you can have a good argument.

In education and in the work force, more and more emphasis is being placed on developing critical thinking skills. In her article, "Teaching Skills or Teaching Thinking,” Patricia R. Palmerton states, “The national call is for students to improve their critical thinking.” If you know how to think, judge, and reason clearly and critically, you will be a better student, worker, and problem solver.

We need to encourage each other to stop being negative and hostile and to get into the mode of being intelligent and objective. Critical thinking is being judgmental, but it involves forming and defending judgment. It is so important that we are well-informed and that we state how we received our information. I think we have all heard the statement, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’m perfectly content with the way I think.” Bertrand Russell said, “Most people would rather die than think; indeed, most of them do.” It is our responsibility as human beings to evaluate the facts fairly, weigh the information fairly, and then take the initiative to perform a logical analysis.

Think about the following list of characteristics of critical thinkers from V. R. Ruggiero’s Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking.

How many of these qualities do you already possess? How can you develop these traits more fully?

Characteristics of Critical Thinkers

  • Critical thinkers regard problems and controversial issues as exciting challenges.
  • Critical thinkers strive for understanding, remain patient with complexity, and are ready to invest time to overcome confusion.
  • Critical thinkers base their judgments on evidence rather than personal preferences. They defer judgment when evidence is insufficient and revise judgments when new evidence reveals error.
  • Critical thinkers are interested in other people’s ideas and are willing to read and listen attentively, even when they tend to disagree with the position or person.
  • Critical thinkers recognize that extreme views, whether conservative or liberal, are seldom correct. They practice fair-mindedness and seek a balanced view.
  • Critical thinkers are honest with themselves and acknowledge what they know and don’t know. They recognize their limitations and are watchful of their own errors.
  1. Patricia R. Palmerton, “Teaching Skills or Teaching Thinking,” Journal of Applied Communication 20 (August 1992), 335–41.
  2. Adapted from V. R. Ruggiero, Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking, 4th ed. (Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1995)