Critical thinking can be defined by the following five principles:
1/ Critical thinking is independent thinking. Each person should be able to think freely and to create his own opinions and attitudes.
2/ Acquisition of information is the starting point, not the aim of critical thinking. We need sufficient facts, ideas and hypotheses in order to form complex thoughts and opinions.
3/ Critical thinking starts with questions. Curiosity is the basic characteristic of life.
4/ Critical thinking craves logic. Critically thinking people come up with their own solutions, backed by reasonable and convincing reasons. They know there is more than one solution and this is precisely why they try to demonstrate the logic and practicality of their solution.
5/ Critical thinking involves other people. Our thoughts are examined and scrutinized by sharing them with others. When we engage in a discussion or read, we share and receive ideas. We take part in a process that deepens and transforms our own attitudes and views.
The origins of critical thinking date back to ancient Greece, to the age of Sokrates. We could say we act upon the old wise saying „trust is good, control is better“ when thinking critically. At the same time we do not consider critical thinking to be a sign of distrust towards an opinion or attitude. Our goal is to understand the bigger picture in more detail, to develop new theories and gather new information that would otherwise stay hidden.
Sokrates suggested that truth is best unveiled by a dialogue or a debate. This Sokratic questioning or so-called Socratic dialogue focuses on asking questions with the aim to analyse contradictory statements in someone’s proposition which brings us closer to truth. With the help of proper questions we are able to detect and realize our shortcomings and find the right answers. Socrates came to the conclusion that truth has to be perpetually sought after, discovered and perfected.
Critical thinking in the 21st century becomes one of the most important human competencies. It is ever more crucial in our times of a constant overflow of media, marketing, advertisement and online information. The state of an enormous informational overload in all areas, also called an informational explosion, is reflected both on a global as well as on individual level.
A critically thinking person is open to new views and information and is not adamant in his opinion. He considers new facts as an option to grow intelectually and evolve. He has the capacity to reflect upon himself and proceeds cautiously.
Critical thinking is a tool that protects you from untrustworthy information and manipulation. For modern people the risk of manipulation lies primarily in advertising, religion, culture and politics. There have never been better times to manipulate masses than now; just think of the internet.
As Einstein once said, „the important thing is not to stop questioning.“ He refers to the inner dialogue where we question the validity of true or false, good or bad, right and wrong and the resulting consequences.