Last Updated 05 Aug 2020

Critical thinking essay example

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Critical thinking is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement. "professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking among their students". It is the process of carrying out an in-depth analysis and evaluation of an idea to come up with judgement. It provides an assessment which leads to generating of a judgement about an idea. According to Edward M. Glaser, 1941, he defines critical thinking as: ‘the ability to think critically, and it involves three things:

  • An attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one's experiences,
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  • Knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and;
  • Some skill in applying those methods.’

Critical thinking requires one to be determined to examine an understanding or the purported form of knowledge in light of the evidence that supports it. This leads to determination of a logical conclusion. Linda Elder et al, 2007 suggests that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. This is because the scholar realize that many unexamined ideas result in an uncritical, unjust and a dangerous world to live in. This means that failure to undertake critical thinking can lead to picking of bad ideas. As an example, there is a global outcry and debate on climate change. This has resulted into mixed reactions regarding the importance of fossil fuels in the global energy mix as a result of the impact on the Environment.

At the Conference of the Parties (COP) 21 in Paris/France, held on 12 December 2015, Parties reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and to intensify actions leading to a low carbon future. This means that countries whose economies depend on fossil fuels need to critically think and examine the resulting impacts on their future in the next thirty or fifty years.

Whether oil and gas prices will fall below breakeven prices and economic limits, or the impacts will not be detrimental. The landmark agreement by COP 21 is an example of a case which needs critical thinking by countries, international oil and gas companies and share holders who depend on fossil fuels.

Critical thinking involves the process of inner thinking and analyzing options by asking questions on;

  • Reliability of evidence,
  • Objectivity of the evidence, and;
  • Relevance of the evidence.

Critical thinking enables understanding the links between ideas. This allows one to evaluate the number of ideas being considered for a choice. Sometimes, the ideas may be related. Probably, some of the ideas cut across. Critical thinking can help in examining the relationship between the ideas. There may be errors and inconsistencies in reasoning which can be identified and rectified.

Critical thinking helps in determining the relevance of ideas and their associated arguments. It ensures that an in-depth consideration is achieved regarding the application, importance and weight of an argument or idea. This ensures that a proper decision is made.
Additionally, the other importance of critical thinking is to help in recognition, building and appraising of arguments. For instance, the process may need weighing of competing evidences.

There may be need to look at the advantages and disadvantages for each. Then, critical thinking will allow consideration of long-term impacts if one of the idea is taken instead of the others. Critical thinking is very helpful in supporting the reflection on the justification of the assumptions, beliefs and values of each evidence.

The other importance of critical thinking is that it supports the creation of a habit to approach problems in a consistent and systematic way. Institutions which solve problems by undertaking detailed analysis through critical thinking are likely to achieve in the long term.


Socrates 2,500 years ago discovered by a method of probing questioning that people could not rationally justify their confident claims to knowledge. Socrates established the fact that one cannot depend upon those in "authority" to have sound knowledge and insight. He established the importance of asking deep questions that probe profoundly into thinking before we accept ideas as worthy of belief.
He established the importance of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications not only of what is said but of what is done as well. His method of questioning is now known as "Socratic Questioning" and is the best-known critical thinking teaching strategy. In his mode of questioning, Socrates highlighted the need to think for clarity and logical consistency.

The strength of Socrates definition and criteria for critical thinking is in one’s ability to: seek or collect evidence, questioning, examining reasoning, analysing of assumptions, basic concepts, consideration and tracing of implication as well as determining their possible mitigations if they happen. It seeks for clarity and logical consistency.

On the other hand, John Dewey (about 100 years ago) considers critical thinking to be "reflective thinking", involving active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or purported form of knowledge in light of the grounds that support it, and the conclusions arising from it (Dewey 1910).

Garrison and Archer, 2000 take Dewey’s critical thinking to be simply a practical inquiry with a pragmatic focus. In order to examine critical thinking as defined by Socrates and John Dewey, I will use the same example of climate change and the resultant impact on the importance of fossil fuel in contributing to the future energy mix and its impact on the global economy.

If one has to determine whether fossil fuels have an impact on climate change, there is need to gather evidence about use of fossil fuel. The evidence can be on the emissions of Greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and their impacts. Questions are generated on the collected evidence in terms of amounts of Greenhouse gases (like Methane, Carbon-dioxide, Nitrous oxide, Fluorinated Gases) which will be released in the atmosphere. The questions can be; where do the gases come from and how long will the impacts on climate take to manifest.
These questions will lead to the examination and analysis of the answers on the different sources and origin of the greenhouse gases. The analysis of the answers regarding the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as a result of use of fossil fuels and how it impacts climate change can be considered from that point.

Its implication in terms of long-term economic losses can be estimated by considering scenarios of possible damage which can arise in the long term. The impacts can be: high temperatures, magnitude of severe storms, melting of snow in the Arctic zone and severe summers and winters.

Socrates’ definition for critical thinking allows the above logical and clarity conclusions to be determined.
For Dewey, ‘critical thinking’ is about induction and deduction. After this process, then reflect on the impacts. For the climate change debate; it requires one to reflect on the causes of climate change, the impacts, what the world will do to deal with the impacts and the value of the economic loss to nations.

From the discussions and based on this example, the definitions of critical thinking by Socrates and Dewey are very useful. However, there may be weaknesses which may be;  Sometimes we don’t carry out real critical thinking. For example when our self-control is affected by anger, grief, joy or when we are feeling just plain ‘bloody minded’. This can lead to taking bad decisions. If proper time is not granted and long periods are taken, the two approaches may lead to long and unnecessary delays in decision making.


  • Edward M. Glaser. Defining Critical Thinking". The International Center for the Assessment of Higher Order Thinking (ICAT, US)/Critical Thinking Community. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  • Linda Elder and Richard Paul, 2007. The role of Socratic Questioning in Thinking, Teaching, and Learning, A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas; pages 297-301, published 03 Apr 2010.
  • Andrew Pearce (2015-12-06). Jeffrey Sachs: Fund managers have a duty to dump fossil fuels. Financial News. Climate Change Conference Paris 2015
  • The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference and Paris Agreement.
  • David M. Boje, 2017; What would John Dewey say about today’s Critical Thinking, Critical Theory, and Moral Reasoning? Submission to Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Business and Management.
  • J Dewey, John. (1910/1933). How we Think. Boston/NY/Chicago: D. C. Heath & Co., Publishers. 1910 original, 1933 new edition.
  • Garrison, D. R., and W. Archer. (2000). A transactional perspective on teaching and learning: A framework for adult and higher education. Oxford, UK: Pergamon.
  • Paul, R. and Elder, L. (2006). The Art of Socratic Questioning. Dillon Beach, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking.
  • What is Socratic Questioning. Starting Point - Teaching Entry Level Geoscience. Carleton College. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  • Sofos, Manolis. "Critical Thinking: A Historical Overview". Thinking for Career Practical Approach (2): 1–5.

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