Posts Tagged ‘critical thinking’

Here’s a lovely little talk by John Cleese on the subject of creativity.  While watching it I was struck that many of Cleese’s points applied equally well to the sort of problem solving we think of as central to critical thinking. Readers of RAIL may recall earlier discussions of this topic that can be found here and here about the (supposed) distinction between the two. This video extends those discussions nicely.

No matter where one comes down on the question of the relationship between critical and creative thinking, there are some interesting suggestions here. Of particular interest should be his remarks on space, time, quiet, and humor–all of which (though I think the last especially) are in increasingly short supply. Some of the psychology is a little dated (the video was shot in the 1980’s, I think), but the advice is still interesting and worthy of consideration.


The end is worth hanging on for, as it affords a political edge to the talk.

Read Full Post »

“This conference, which will be held at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on June 21-22, 2013, is part of the Intellectual Virtues and Education Project, which is devoted to developing and implementing an approach to education that is aimed at fostering growth in intellectual character virtues like curiosity, open-mindedness, attentiveness, intellectual courage, and intellectual rigor. At the most general level, this is a project in “applied virtue epistemology.”

The conference will bring together top scholars from philosophy, education, and psychology to give papers on the importance of intellectual virtues to educational theory and practice. You can learn more about the conference here.

Keynote speakers are Linda Zagzebski (Oklahoma), Harvey Siegel (Miami), Shari Tishman (Harvard), and Marvin Berkowitz (Missouri, St. Louis).

Deadline for submissions (full papers or longish abstracts) is February 15, 2013. Papers should be submitted to jbaehr@lmu.edu.

If you’re interested in what it might look like to educate for intellectual virtues or in the importance of intellectual virtues to the proper aims of education, I hope you’ll consider submitting a paper or attending. And if you have colleagues in other departments (e.g. education or psychology) who might have an interest in the conference, please spread the word!

The conference, and the broader project of which it is a part, are sponsored by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.”

(originally posted at Certain Doubts)

Read Full Post »

Proposed New Book: Critical Thinking in Higher Education

Contributions are invited for an edited collection of papers for a book on the topic Critical Thinking in Higher Education,to be edited by Emeritus Professor Ronald Barnett (Institute of Education, University of London), Emeritus Professor Robert H. Ennis (University of Illinois), and Associate Professor Martin Davies (University of Melbourne).

Papers should be submitted by December 31st 2012. Please note that abstracts for papers (400 words maximum) should be sent to the editors for consideration first (see Submission Procedure below).

The book will include a number of previously published papers and original, previously un­published papers. Submissions can be comparative reviews, conceptual studies, empirically-based papers, reflective case studies or offer theoretical contributions. The book will combine new papers, commissioned articles, and excerpts from seminal papers in the field.

Contributions for the proposed book can cover, but are not limited to, the following areas: (more…)

Read Full Post »

Dates:  January 8-11, 2013 at Diego Portales University, Santiago, Chile
The Third International Conference of Logic, Argumentation and Critical Thinking is a new academic effort of our Centre to continue what began in January 2008 and continued in October 2010, the first and second Conferences respectively. Just as with the first two Conferences, which brought together researchers from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Spain, The Netherlands, United States, and Uruguay, in this third Conference we are not only trying to deepen and update the production of knowledge in the fields that this conference covers, but we are also trying to contribute to a positive valuation of different proposals that develop critical thinking and promote well-reasoned social debate.This Conference, organized by the Centre for the Study of Argumentation and Reasoning (CEAR) of the Faculty of Psychology at Diego Portales University, aims to generate tools, approaches and solutions to apply in those fields in which the uses of reason is fundamental: communication, law, education, etc. We do not have an official theoretical position, choosing instead to value the diversity of angles and proposals. We invite those in the scientific international community working in the topics of the Conference to participate and share in the body of knowledge, experience and current challenges it represents.

Official languages of the Conference: Spanish and English.


  • To learn about and spread the development and applications of logic, argumentation theory and critical thinking.
  • To share tools and strategies to improve the processes of teaching in the realm of critical thinking.
  • To stimulate academic and institutional exchanges.

Call for papers

The organizing committee invites proposal for papers in logic, informal logic, argumentation theory, rhetoric, critical thinking.

ABSTRACTS prepared for blind refereeing must be submitted electronically no later than September 30, 2012, to Cristián Santibáñez: cristian.santibanez@udp.cl

Abstracts should be between 200 and 250 words long, in APA format.
Keynote Speakers

Johan van Bentham
University of Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Elvira Narvaja de Arnaux
University of Buenos Aires

Christopher Tindale
University of Windsor

Conference Website: http://www.cear.udp.cl/conferencia/2012/index_en.html

Read Full Post »

The Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking invites submissions the 2012 AILACT Essay Prize.  Value: $300 U.S. The prize-winning paper will be published in Informal Logic, contingent upon meeting the conditions specified in the prize’s notice, available at http://ailact.mcmaster.ca/. Papers related to the teaching or theory of informal logic or critical thinking, and papers on argumentation theory, will be considered for the prize. Authors need not be members of AILACT. Previously unpublished papers, and papers published or accepted for publication between January 1, 2009 and October 31, 2012, are eligible.  Maximum length: 6,000 words. Please send the paper ready for blind-reviewing. The deadline for receipt of submissions now is October 31, 2011.  For further questions, contact Susana Nuccetelli at sinuccetelli@stcloudstate.edu.

Read Full Post »

Dear colleagues,
You are cordially invited to submit proposals for the ESTIDIA workshop entitled ‘Critical dialogue revisited: Challenges and opportunitieshttp://www.afahc.ro/Simpozion/info.html to be held within the framework of the international conference ‘Redefining community in intercultural context’ (RCIC’12) organised by the Air Force Academy in Brasov, Romania, on 14-16 June 2012
A primary goal of this workshop is to reflect on the state-of-the-art regarding European and International expertise on dialogue as an art, an interaction technique, a scientific method of enquiry and a problem-solving tool. It is an invitation to explore and discuss the nature, scope and role of language and communicative mechanisms in reflecting and shaping ideas, cultural identities and cross-cultural relationships through dialogue.

The workshop is intended as a multicultural and interdisciplinary gathering of researchers, practitioners and students. The following are just some of the topics we propose to explore: (more…)

Read Full Post »

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest article by longtime critical thinking advocate and researcher Donald Lazere.  Prof. Lazere is Professor Emeritus of English at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.


Donald Lazere, Professor Emeritus of English, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Two of National Association of Scholars president Peter Wood’s recent “Innovations” blogs in the online Chronicle of Higher Education renewed NAS’s long-running attack on the theory and teaching of critical thinking, about which he and I had an e-mail go-round a few years ago. I think there have been several semantic misunderstandings here that have needlessly exacerbated the dispute, and I will try, once again, to overcome these here.

In “The Curriculum of Forgetting“ (Nov. 21), Wood wrote “What we need is a reversal of cultural tides, a restoration of the basic principle that the university is responsible for keeping the past imaginatively alive and available for the present.  The stance of generalized antagonism to the whole of Western civilization and the elevation of “critical thinking” in the sense of facile reductionism (everything at bottom is about race-gender-class hierarchy) makes the university function more and more as our society’s chief source of anti-intellectualism.”

In “Leaf Taking” (Dec. 4), he added, “We have elevated ‘critical thinking’ as the chief and worthiest end of a liberal education.  Perhaps it is time for a reassessment.   The critical thinker who is deaf to culture’s deeper appeals is impoverished in some profound ways.  He is equipped to take everything apart but not to put anything together.  We need more minds capable of moving at ease and grasping the whole.”

I posted the following comment in response to the Dec. 4 piece, but as I should have made clearer, it was directed more to the previous one: (more…)

Read Full Post »

In a recent post on the Chronicle of Higher Education website, frequent contributor and NAS president Peter Wood laments:

“We have elevated “critical thinking” as the chief and worthiest end of a liberal education.  Perhaps it is time for a reassessment.   The critical thinker who is deaf to culture’s deeper appeals is impoverished in some profound ways.  He is equipped to take everything apart but not to put anything together.  We need more minds capable of moving at ease and grasping the whole.”

Wood’s complaint about critical thinking is the punchline to a piece that is largely about how much of intellectual worth is lost when scholars and societies view culture (any culture) through a myopic, modern lens.  To assess this complaint fairly one has to have an idea as to what Wood means by the much vexed term “critical thinking”. Thankfully, he tells us what he means in another posting on the Chronicle website:

“The stance of generalized antagonism to the whole of Western civilization and the elevation of “critical thinking” in the sense of facile reductionism (everything at bottom is about race-gender-class hierarchy) makes the university function more and more as our society’ chief source of anti-intellectualism.”

It is hard to disagree with the substance of Wood’s assertion here. Though it is important to take account of how gender, race, and class might exert distorting effects on one’s thinking, critical thinking certainly does not reduce to such considerations, simpliciter. But why think that it does in the first place? Wood’s assertions here and elsewhere (for example, here) seem to presuppose that everyone in the academy (at least in the US) thinks of critical thinking in this way.

But they don’t. (more…)

Read Full Post »

A new article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the decline of philosophy in the academy stresses again (see my previous post) the importance of philosophy in providing critical thinking education.  I’m pleased to see the props the author (Lee McIntyre) gives to feminist philosophers for their attention to pressing issues of our time, but I’m not sure his general despair over philosophy is warranted given other reports of the rising popularity of philosophy education.

McIntyre may simply be building a career as an alarmist.  His most recent book “Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior” despairs over losing the emancipatory potential of the social sciences.  (See Berel Dov Lerner’s review here.)  One begins to sense a pattern, and while I haven’t had a chance to investigate “Dark Ages” yet, I’m sceptical that it claims to promote value-free science.

However, his message about the need for a revaluation of the significance of philosophy education, and the central role of critical thinking in that context, may be important.  (He has a book coming out on this too.)  He says “the goal—especially at the undergraduate level—should be to help students recognize that philosophy matters. Not just because it will improve their LSAT scores (which it will), but because philosophy has the potential to change the very fabric of who they are as human beings.”  This requires taking critical thinking to a much higher level than most undergraduate programs will.

McIntyre blames the discipline for hiring sessional instructors, which is absurd since those decisions are made by administrators rather than faculty members.  However, philosophers do tend to view critical thinking, argumentation, and introductory education as less valuable, and so assign it to sessional instructors.  That might be rethought, but only if we begin to have philosophers trained in those methodological issues.

As argumentation theory and informal logic continue to grow (see the introductory editorial in Cogency), giving rise to new journals (such as Cogency) and becoming institutionalized in new research centres and doctoral programs, perhaps we will have the resources for that.   As it stands, critical thinking is much less a part of the philosophy curriculum than one might expect.

Philosophy is not alone in promising (and perhaps failing) to teach “critical thinking,” since that buzzword is so heavily used in education that it is almost meaningless.  Yet philosophers continue to claim a rightful ownership of that terrain.  That claim and the pride that goes with it flies in the face of typical educational and hiring practices that undervalue teaching and research in argumentation and informal logic.

What we need to turn things around may be a radical reconsideration of what is the purpose of a philosophy education.  McIntyre suggests that should be an appreciation of the value of philosophy, and that may require greater focus on the skills of philosophy. That will certainly depend on a broad consciousness-raising among philosophers, not to stem the hiring of sessional instructors but to demand that instructors of courses and authors of textbooks in critical thinking have expertise and training in informal logic.

Read Full Post »

This article from the Denver Post stresses the usefulness of philosophy, including how “emphasis on informal and symbolic logic” helps with computer science.  In accounts of philosophy curricula, unfortunately, reference to informal logic is typically just name-dropping, as the textbook authors are mostly not scholars in the field, and instructors rarely have any relevant training.  That seems to be the case here:  Colorado State has only one logician on faculty, and he specializes in formal logic.

This problem is deeply ironic, for the scholarship being neglected was developed for the very purpose of filling the gap between logical theory and logical practice. Much scholarship in symbolic logic may be irrelevant to undergraduate pedagogy, but informal logic is a movement developed substantially for the purpose of creating an approach to logic that would be more relevant to students.

When philosophers appeal to “informal logic” or philosophers claim ownership over the teaching of “critical thinking,” it verges on fraud.  The baiting with informal logic scholarship devoted to critical thinking and switching it for a loose distillation of the cultural standards in the discipline of philosophy is going to catch up with us eventually.

It’s time for philosophers to wake up and put our money, our faculty positions, our textbook buying power, and our textbook reviews where the scholarship is.  Philosophy can be highly relevant if we hold ourselves to higher scholarly standards.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: