- A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death. [Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (Nation Books, 2009), p. 103).
- We have bought hook, line and sinker into the idea that education is about training and “success,” defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. [Chris Hebdon, quoted in Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (Nation Books, 2009), p. 95.]
Critical thinking is the method and practice of subjecting propositions to reason and evidence. It demands the discipline of objectivity, the art of open-mindedness, and the curiosity and drive to discover the truth.
Critical thinkers make their greatest contributions in opposition to widespread pressure to believe unfounded propositions. The critical thinker often will be accused of contrariness merely because he declines to accept a proposition that others wish to believe. Like nature, sound thinking does not care what we wish, so the critical thinker must be prepared to withstand social pressure and simultaneously must guard against his own biases, including any personal inclination toward contrariness. This does not require a Spock-like blindness to the emotional side of life but it does require an awareness of the gap between emotion and reality and a determination to find the path that best leads to truth.
Technical and Analytical Readings
Video on critical thinking
- Jonathan Lavery, William Hughes and Katheryn Doran, Critical Thinking: An Introduction to the Basic Skills (Broadview Press, 6th Edition, 2009).
- Brooks Noel Moore and Richard Parker, Critical Thinking (McGraw-Hill Humanities, 9th Edition, , 2008).
- Tracy Bowell and Gary Kemp, Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide (Routledge, 3rd Edition, 2009).
- M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley, Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking (Prentice Hall, 9th Edition, 2009).
- Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn, How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age (McGraw-Hill Humanities, 9th Edition, 2010).
- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle In the Dark (Ballantine Books, 1997).
- Peter A Facione, "Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Education Assessment and Instruction. Research Findings and Recommendations," Education Resources Information Center, 1990.
- Alec Fisher, Critical Thinking: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, 2011).
- John Butterworth and Geoff Thwaites, Thinking Skills: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving (Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, 2013).
- Robert Sternberg, Henry L. Roediger III and Diane F. Halpern, Critical Thinking in Psychology (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
- Robert Cogan, Critical Thinking Step By Step (University Press of America, 1998).
- Stephen H. Jenkins, Tools for Critical Thinking in Biology (Oxford University Press, 2015).
- Tim John Moore, Critical Thinking and Language: The Challenge of Generic Skills and Disciplinary Discourse (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011).
- Brooke Noel Moore and Richard Parker, Critical Thinking (HSSL, 11th edition, 2014).
- Hugh Mercer Curtler, Ethical Argument: Critical Thinking in Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2004).
- A.O. Scott, Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth (Penguin Press, 2016): “ . . . criticism, rather than being a lesser sibling of Art, is its equal — codependent and symbiotically related to the creative arts, each unthinkable without the other.”
- Duncan J. Watts, Everything Is Obvious, Once You Know the Answer (Crown Business, 2011): “We rely on common sense to understand the world, but in fact it is an endless source of just-so stories that can be tailored to any purpose. ‘We can skip from day to day and observation to observation, perpetually replacing the chaos of reality with the soothing fiction of our explanations,’ Watts writes.”
- Thomas E. Ricks, Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom (Penguin Press, 2017). “ . . . what comes across strongly in this highly enjoyable book is the fierce commitment of both Orwell and Churchill to critical thought. Neither followed the crowd. Each treated popularity and rejection with equal skepticism.”
- Pekka Hamalainen, Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power (Yale University Press, 2019): “Pekka Hamalainen’s impressive history is also a quarrel with the field, with how history — especially the history of indigenous Americans — has been told and sold.”
"Why," said he, "a magician could call up a lot of genies, and they would hash you up like nothing before you could say Jack Robinson. They are as tall as a tree and as big around as a church."
"Well," I says, "s'pose we got some genies to help _us_can't we lick the other crowd then?"
"How you going to get them?"
"I don't know. How do _they_ get them?"
"Why, they rub an old tin lamp or an iron ring, and then the genies come tearing in, with the thunder and lightning a-ripping around and the smoke a-rolling, and everything they're told to do they up and do it. They don't think nothing of pulling a shot-tower up by the roots, and belting a Sunday-school superintendent over the head with itor any other man."
"Who makes them tear around so?"
"Why, whoever rubs the lamp or the ring. They belong to whoever rubs the lamp or the ring, and they've got to do whatever he says. If he tells them to build a palace forty miles long out of di'monds, and fill it full of chewing-gum, or whatever you want, and fetch an emperor's daughter from China for you to marry, they've got to do itand they've got to do it before sun-up next morning, too. And more: they've got to waltz that palace around over the country wherever you want it, you understand."
"Well," says I, "I think they are a pack of flat-heads for not keeping the palace themselves 'stead of fooling them away like that. And what's moreif I was one of them I would see a man in Jericho before I would drop my business and come to him for the rubbing of an old tin lamp."
“How you talk, Huck Finn. Why, you’d have to come when he rubbed it, whether you wanted to or not.
"What! and I as high as a tree and as big as a church? All right, then; I _would_ come; but I lay I'd make that man climb the highest tree there was in the country."
"Shucks, it ain't no use to talk to you, Huck Finn. You don't seem to know anything, somehowperfect saphead."
I thought all this over for two or three days, and then I reckoned I would see if there was anything in it. I got an old tin lamp and an iron ring, and went out in the woods and rubbed and rubbed till I sweat like an Injun, calculating to build a palace and sell it; but it warn't no use, none of the genies come. So then I judged that all that stuff was only just one of Tom Sawyer's lies. I reckoned he believed in the A-rabs and the elephants, but as for me I think different. It had all the marks of a Sunday-school. [Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1906), Chapter III, “We Ambuscade the A-rabs”.]
Film and Stage
- F for Fake: the brilliant Orson Welles explores through semi-documentary the art of trickery in film, both fictional and supposedly real
- Ace in the Hole: a satire on the public’s desire for tawdry “news”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Darius Milhaud’s eighteen string quartets tackle twentieth-century challenges, in strictly musical terms, with consummate intelligence. They suggest the risks of living in intriguing but perilous times, and an increasingly complex world.
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 1, Op. 5
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 2, Op. 12
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 3, Op. 32
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 4, Op. 46
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 5, Op. 64
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 6, Op. 77
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 7, Op. 87
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 8, Op. 121
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 9, Op. 140
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 10, Op. 218
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 11, Op. 232
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 12, Op. 252
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 13, Op. 268
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 14, Op. 291, #1
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 15, Op. 291, #2: I. Animé; II. Modéré.
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 16, Op. 303
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 17, Op. 307
- Milhaud, String Quartet No. 18, Op. 308