Intellectual Habits of Critical Thinkers

A Bubble Chart - Traits of the Disciplined Mind: Intellectual humility, Intellectual sense of justice, Intellectual perseverance, Intellectual fair-mindedness, Intellectual confidence in reason, Intellectual courage, Intellectual empathy, Intellectual autonomy, Intellectual integrity

 

A. "Intellectual Habits of Critical Thinkers" (post) defines and shows the pedagogical relevance of 7 aspects of "fair-mindedness ... a consciousness of the need to treat all viewpoints alike, without reference to one's own feelings or selfish interests":

  • "Intellectual Humility"
  • "Intellectual Courage"
  • "Intellectual Empathy"
  • "Intellectual Integrity"
  • "Intellectual Perseverance"
  • "Confidence in Reason"
  • "Intellectual Autonomy"

1. A related Quizlet game.

2. See also "Evolving into a Balanced Critical Thinker."

a. This text adds "Intellectual Sense of Justice" and "Intellectual Fair-mindedness" (as a separate category) to "interrelated intellectual habits that lead to disciplined self-command."

  • Note: Sub-titles for each "intellectual habit of critical thinkers" in the list below are from this source.

b. It also list "the opposites of the intellectual virtues" -- the 9 "traits of the undisciplined mind:

  • "Intellectual Hypocrisy"
  • "Intellectual Arrogance"
  • "Intellectual Unfairness"
  • "Intellectual Laziness"
  • "Intellectual Disregard for Justice"
  • "Intellectual Distrust of Reason"
  • "Intellectual Cowardice"
  • "Intellectual Self-Centeredness"
  • "Intellectual Conformity"  

B. Intellectual Habits of Critical Thinkers

1. Intellectual Humility - "Having Knowledge of Ignorance"

a. Characteristics 

  • "Awareness of one's biases, one's prejudices, the limitations of one's viewpoint, and the extent of one's ignorance."

b. Pedagogical Relevance

  • "Many U.S. and other Western students consider their ways of life-competition, individualism, materialism, democratic forms of government, nuclear family arrangements, work ethic-superior to non-Western values and living arrangements."
  • "Their biases have a profound impact on their understanding of important concepts in the social sciences, the arts, and the humanities."

2. Intellectual Courage - "Being Willing to Challenge Beliefs"

a. Characteristics 

  • "Consciousness of the need to face and fairly address ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints toward which one has strong negative emotions and to which one has not given a serious hearing"
  • "[T]he recognition that ideas that society considers dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally justified - in whole or in part."

b. Pedagogical Relevance

  • "Any culture has its set of taboos that also affect scientific discourse. Recent examples include stem cell research, gay marriage, Muslim radicalism or any other radicalism for that matter, global warming, atheism, affirmative action, assisted suicide, and pornography."
  • "It takes courage to openly investigate any potentiality rational roots for any of these controversial behaviors and beliefs."

3. Intellectual Empathy - "Entertaining Opposing Views"

a. Characteristics 

  • "Awareness of the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others so as to genuinely understand them"

b. Pedagogical Relevance

  • "To thoroughly understand others' behaviors and intentions, young scholars need to acquire the ability to take their research subjects' perspective, requiring a degree of personal identification previously denounced as a contamination of the research process."
  • "Similar abilities have always been considered a precondition for producing and appreciating good literature and other types of art."

4. Intellectual Integrity - "Holding Ourselves to the Same Standards to Which We Hold Others"

a. Characteristics 

  • "Recognition of the need to be true to one's own thinking and to hold oneself to the same standards one expects others to meet"
  • "[H]onestly admit[ting] discrepancies and inconsistencies in one's own thought and action" 

b. Pedagogical Relevance

  • "Cutting corners, plagiarizing and cheating have become pervasive not only in college, but also in graduate school and beyond."
  • "Society's expectations for accelerated output in every realm of life, including academia, can put tremendous pressure on students to impress with productivity at the expense of academic rigor and relevance."
  • "Admitting shortcomings in one's thinking requires just as much courage as fairly addressing viewpoints with which one vehemently disagrees; see point 2."

5. Intellectual Perseverance - "Working Through Complexity and Frustration"

a. Characteristics 

  • "The disposition to work one's way through intellectual complexities despite the frustration inherent in the task"

b. Pedagogical Relevance

  • "Many students ... learn to avoid those things that seem too difficult ... [or that require] [d]elaying gratification for the fruit of one's labor." 
  • "This applies also to the daily struggle with intellectual tasks."
  • "Many students ask for simple answers and are suspicious when their discipline has not yet produced answers to difficult issues, or when those answers remain ambiguous."

6. Confidence in Reason - "Recognizing that Good Reasoning Has Proven Its Worth"

a. Characteristics 

  • "The belief that one's own higher interests and those of humankind at large will be best served by giving the freest play to reason, by encouraging people to come to their own conclusions by developing their own rational faculties"
  • "[F]aith that, with proper encouragement and cultivation, people can learn to think for themselves" 

b. Pedagogical Relevance

  • "Confidence in reason is also confidence in others ... Students should not be persuaded to adopt their teachers' viewpoints or drilled to approach tasks in one particular way only."
  • "Complex understanding needs to be nurtured, not forced."
  • "Experiencing the freedom and encouragement to solve problems in one's own way helps create intellectual maturity."
  • "This includes the freedom to make one's own mistakes and learn from them."

7. Intellectual Autonomy - "Being an Independent Thinker"

a. Characteristics 

  • "An internal motivation based on the ideal of thinking for oneself"
  • "[H]aving rational self-authorship of one's beliefs, values, and way of thinking"
  • "[N]ot being dependent on others for the direction and control of one's thinking"

b. Pedagogical Relevance

  • "[T]elling students what to learn through lecture and textbooks turn[s] students into passive recipients of knowledge ... No thinking for oneself [is] required."
  • "[D]eep understanding is linked with learner autonomy."
  • "The more confident students become in finding their own direction, the more likely they are to develop an integrated understanding of the subjects of their study."
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