It was Francis Bacon who said “knowledge is power” and indeed it is. We all want to know, to gain knowledge. That’s why we go to school for a large portion of our lives, why we read, watch and listen to all we can when we are awake and sometimes even when we are asleep. But what exactly is knowledge? While there isn’t a single standard definition, the oldest accepted definition was given by famous philosopher Plato; “Justified true belief. ” The pursuit of knowledge I define as research. So how does one reach the goal of attaining this justified true belief?
I suggest the use of critical thinking skills as a means to that end. Linda Elder defines critical thinking as follows; “Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. ” That is, a method of thinking developed by a person that would allow this person to reason at the apex of his/her intelligence, objectively. Critical thinking is an important apparatus in seeking knowledge as it addresses issues like uniformity, bias and partiality.
As human beings we are naturally selfish. The phrase “looking out for number one” comes to mind. The point is that we want for ourselves. Similarly in seeking knowledge on a particular subject matter, we tend to take into consideration only the evidence that suits our opinion, which supports our stance on the issue. Critical thinking requires that we move past our biases and examine every bit of evidence with sound logic, in order to after an objective analysis, arrive at a fair conclusion. Also, when we do research, our findings are often partial or incomplete.
With the application of critical thinking skills we would overcome that obstacle as thinking critically requires us to bring together and evaluate all the necessary information. So we would not only assess the pros as it relates to something, but also the cons. Nor would we analyze one party’s view and ignore the opposition. Everything relevant would be appraised, making our pursuit complete. Lastly, the idea of uniformity. Format and order are very important in conducting research. We must be able to see a continuum or sequence in our methodology.
Critical thinking is a process, therefore there are stages involved such as evaluation and inference. Our thoughts would not be jumbled nor would our ideas seem scattered and random as might be the case when we don’t dig deeper beneath the surface of a concept and reason on a higher plain. The application of critical thinking skills would undoubtedly result in coherence. To conclude, the importance of critical thinking as a tool in the pursuit of knowledge cannot be denied as our usual mode of reasoning is damaged and it is just the tool for the fix. “Those who know how to think need no teachers. ”- Mahatma Gandhi.