|Title||Becoming a Critical Thinker: Chapter One - Critical Thinking|
|Publication Type||Web Article|
|Year of Publication||2004|
|Access Date||Feb 1, 2012|
|Last Update Date||2004|
|Keywords||critical thinking, how to think critically|
3. Attitude of a critical thinker: open-minded, skeptical, and tentative
A critical thinker is neither dogmatic nor gullible. The most distinctive features of the critical thinker’s attitude are open-mindedness and skepticism. These characteristics may seem contradictory rather than complementary. On the one hand, a critical thinker is expected to consider viewpoints different from his or her own. On the other hand, a critical thinker is expected to recognize which claims do not merit investigation. Also, sometimes what looks like open-mindedness is simply gullibility and what looks like skepticism is really closed-mindedness. To you, you are being open-minded when you take at face value the psychic’s tip about a bomb on the plane. To your boss, you are being gullible. On the other hand, if you had dismissed the psychic’s claim out-of-hand and written her off as deluded despite her offering to prove her psychic ability by reading your mind, then you would have crossed over from a healthy skepticism to closed-mindedness.
To be skillful and fair in evaluating beliefs and actions, we need to seek out various views and positions on the issues we intend to judge. Being open-minded means being willing to examine issues from as many sides as possible, looking for the good and bad points of the various sides examined. One’s goal in examining the positions and reasoning of others must be to get at the truth rather than to find fault. To be open-minded doesn’t mean simply listening to or reading viewpoints that differ from one’s own. It means accepting that someone else might have thought of something we’ve overlooked or that we could be in error ourselves. It may be painful, but you must admit that your boss has brought up a good point when she reminded you that there is no evidence for psychics using paranormal powers to discover bombs planes. You must admit that you were wrong in not considering this fact.
Most of us have little difficulty in being open-minded about matters that are unimportant to us. In such cases, the possibility that we may be wrong is not very threatening. If we’re wrong, we can change our minds without feeling embarrassed or humiliated. But if the issue is ingrained in us or is one we feel strongly about, it becomes more difficult to be open-minded. It becomes harder to accept the fact that we might be wrong or that other views might be more reasonable than our own.
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