Underestimating the value of critical thinking is dangerous. Spare yourself the grief that comes from taking things that people say to you at face value. The best way to discover truth is to think for yourself by getting adept at discerning falsehoods. Even those cleverly disguised half-truths disguised as alternative perspectives. Critical thinking is not just something intellectuals do, but it is as essential a skill as literacy. It’s indispensable for anyone in the modern world who has to make an important decision about anything.
With these caveats out of the way, let’s take a deeper look at the value of critical thinking and consider some ways to sharpen critical thinking.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that an inability to think critically is a dangerous thing. It’s not only dangerous to you as an individual, but it's also dangerous to the people you influence.
When extended to a larger population, say millions of people in a democratic country, it can be a threat to democracy itself. Mike McCue, the CEO of Flipboard, a blend between a social app, a magazine, and a news app, a unique app underwritten by The Chernin Group (TCG), once quipped in a Vox news interview that “getting all your news from Facebook is like eating only potato chips.”
Although it sounded like a flippant comment, it spoke volumes about how undiscriminating many modern readers have become. Often confusing fact with fiction, factual news with fake news.
Critical thinking is a learned skill. It is just as valuable as learning how to read, write or calculate. If you're a business leader, it's as indispensable a skill as learning how to duck when you’re in a boxing ring. Yet, despite its obvious benefits, few people take the time to reflect on their own values, belief systems, and assumptions. Let alone question opinions thrust on them by other people.
Critical thinking is the antidote to naivete. It is the armor you wear when surrounded by charlatans of every possible stripe. That is to say, critical thinking helps reduce your chances of deception, of getting hoodwinked by sophistry.
Learning how to think clearly is learning how to think critically. Additionally, learning how to discern one proposition from another will improve your knack for decision-making.
Learning how to differentiate the difference between what is true and false, useful and useless, helpful and harmful will take you far in life. More so now in the electronic age when information can propagate so quickly.
It’s difficult to improve the quality of your life if you cannot make intelligent choices about important things.
Critical thinking is a learnable skill, rather like reading and writing. Just as no one is born with the ability to read or write, no one is born with an innate talent for thinking.
If you were a musketeer and critical thinking were a rapier, here are five simple rules on how you should fence when provoked to defend yourself against ideas designed to hijack your mind:
In summation, if you can’t think critically, you’re setting yourself up for trouble. You're buying into sensational stories that tickle your imagination rather than deepening your understanding of the world around you. Learn to discern the difference between information, misinformation, and disinformation.