Some education never gets beyond the first or second levels here: mastery of information and the apologetic defense and critical rebuttal. But critical thinking goes deeper, as this helpful introductory chart illustrates:
Aren’t we supposed to do this in reverse order?
One thing I think is interesting is that while many people stop at steps 1 and 2, some actually skip those steps and try to get straight to the later ones. Especially in my grad program, people are sometimes expected to perform analysis on things they don’t comprehend, or in some cases don’t even know about. Also I’ve observed people try to pass off knowing a thing’s applications for comprehending what that thing is.
Think about it:
Is your acceptance or rejection of a particular proposition primarily a matter of:
* Logic? * Empirical evidence? * Indoctrination or conditioning? * Ideological and/or practical commitments? * Fearful or wishful thinking?
To what extent do your commitments (or does your conditioning; or do your hopes and fears) influence your consideration of the evidence?
Insofar as you offer empirical evidence in favor of your position(s), is there any imaginable evidence that would change your mind?
If you continuously subject your reasoning processes to this filter, you will be thinking critically.
This is good in a very limited way, but it misses out on the iterative nature of critical thinking. A linear view of this is a recipe for disaster because thoughts that come out at the later stages often force one to go back to the earlier stages and do it again. The other element that I would have in there is Test. At each stage we must ask “is this reasonable” and “does this seem true”. A way to do that is through testing the limits. If x is true then taken to the extreme it implies y, can that be true?