What can it do? It does many things but first among them is it separates opinion from truth. Critical Thinking can help you to sort and understand opinion from fact, and opinion from a person or group's real agenda. Separating opinion from truth can be very hard as one person’s truth is another's lie. CT allows you to discover your truths and informs your opinion of others. Let us for argument’s sake say there are a standard set of things we weigh when making any decision: morals, ethics, beliefs and values.
What is it? It's a way of thinking that gives you a way to make intelligent balanced decisions based on the above values. Think of it as a pro and con system for each of the values you chose in your decision. A perfect example of the use of CT would be deciding which college offer to accept, should you be so lucky as to have multiple offers. In this case we will add economics to the decision process. As you weigh your decision, perhaps staying near the family and getting a scholarship are the most important things, so values and economics are most important to you. CT allows a clear vision of priorities in their proper order.
Let's say a politician tells you something in an ad or on TV. Do you believe them? In this case, your values due to political affiliations, agendas and past history of performance would be your primary considerations. History? You ask. Ah, we know, but part of CT is doing your homework, or you can't sort the wheat from the chaff. Being smart isn't about your IQ, it's about how well you make decisions, some small, some major. Sorry, but your homework is still required!
CT allows you to see agendas. You and everyone around you has a set of agendas: fall in love, stay in love, survive, live well, family, peace, health, war, power, wealth. How do you tell what a person’s or group’s agendas are? Let us for experience sake start with the old adage, “if it's too good to be true, it probably is.” You might have heard of this as the sniff test. That might be the first of many questions you would ask: where is the money for this promotion coming from; who paid for it? Who has the most to gain and who has the most to lose? How do my values, morals and ethics compare to this so-called idea, service or product. For instance, I love the feel and weather qualities of Micro Fleece clothing and it is also very affordable, but it's one of the largest contributors to plastic pollution in the world. What is more important, your values and ethics toward the environment or the fact you can get a stylish new weather-proof jacket for $15-20? Depending on your economic situation that may be a tough call.
As the above examples show, sometimes the questions you should ask about the decision you are making are not obvious. Sometimes you find out after the fact that there were other things you should have taken into consideration. Don’t beat yourself up, because you just learned something. And remember that there are many resources for you to go to in your decision-making process, especially other people. As with most other skills, it gets easier with practice!
What CT tells you about yourself. In order to use this tool successfully you must have a relatively open mind. If you don’t like the answers to the questions you are asking, then you may not be very open minded. It can sometimes be difficult to allow new information to change your preconceived ideas and beliefs. But remember, knowledge is power, and considering other possibilities may be necessary for you to get the most out of the decisions you make. You might consider this as a great opportunity to broaden yourself through a different lens.