It seems to us that the meaning of critical thought is usually understood differently from what it represents for specialists. This could be explained by the fact that the critical term can be understood in two ways: the first would be in the sense of denigration and the second would be in that of an autonomous evaluation. Thus, critical thinking is often considered as the privilege of a person who has developed a critical spirit, understood as a clever mind to point out the inadequacies of a thing, a person, mainly in a devaluative aim, and this not necessarily based on valid reasons or valid arguments. These reasons can be emotions, humoristic traits or subjective preferences, prejudices and they are the ones who then base the judgment of the thinker. For example, someone who would present his judgment on taking Cheap Assignments from an Assignment Writer by saying that one should not go for it as it does not make sense… could pass into public opinion for a person with a critical mind, because it may seem clever to go for elements conducive to a judgment even if the reasons given are not “good reasons”. From this we retain two aspects: an intellectual dimension and the expression of a raw subjectivity, not adequately motivated.
We find echo of this commonly shared conception in an interview given by R. Paul. He recounts that during an official evaluation in California, among the students, the members of the jury judged, as an “exceptional achievement”, the test of a student which contained no reasoning, which was nothing more than successive subjective reactions. To the question: this may be an exception, it is not so because the teachers themselves do not have a clear idea of what critical thinking is and are very far from the time when his teaching with the pupils will be well dispensed.
Thus, due to this example given by one of the specialists of the critical thought, we can already see, on the other hand, what is not a critical thought: the expression of an emotional exchange, an affirmation without the support of certain evidence, the expression of subjective preferences. The uncritical thinker will be for him “confused, imprecise, vague, illogical, incoherent, unreflective, superficial, inconsistent, insignificant”. Having seen what critical thinking would not be, it is time for us to move on now to the positive side of this definition and to clarify what it would be.
Critical thinking as thought
Critical thinking is first and foremost a thought. But what is a thought? It as an opinion, a representation, an idea or a statement. It is therefore a human characteristic that concerns the totality of what we live. It brings together, one could then consider it as the set of processes by which the human being in contact with material and social reality elaborates concepts, links them together and acquires new knowledge. We could then, from these definitions, think of thought as a great set of mental states and intellectual processes whose purpose is the understanding of reality, the acquisition of knowledge or beliefs and in which different categories of thought would be held.
Thinking, in some contexts, may be synonymous with believing, from which it follows, that thought is not necessarily an act of assent to a mental content (…) although it can be principle. In our great whole that is the thought, one could thus distinguish a non-rational thought which would be a “propositional attitude”, that is to say which would not be thought out, would not call into question, would not question itself. We could also distinguish thinking.
A thought of a certain degree
But in this set that we call thought, there would exist different degrees, which could be placed on an axis, which would go from involuntary thought, sometimes called first-rate, to the thought of excellence, also named second order. In the first order are the involuntary, unconscious thought, present in dreams, reveries, which does not allow the affirmation of the thinking being, but also the unreasoned thought, based on emotions and intuitions, which allows the affirmation of the self, but at an unthinking stage.
The thought of excellence is, contrary to that of the previous order, the ultimate degree of thought and voluntary thought. It is the third level of thought, the highest level of thought, explicitly reflected which characterizes a complex, non-mechanical thought, proposing multiple solutions, presenting nuanced interpretations and judgments, based on criteria ordering an apparent disorder and requiring an intensive mental effort. It is the one that uses the most appropriate thought tools to allow the best judgment.
In this classification of the two orders of thought, critical thought would be placed in the second, as thoughtful and voluntary thought. It would tend towards the thought of excellence, but for Ennis it is not the highest order of thought and it would not be confused with the thought of excellence because it is one of the interacting components with creative thinking.