Given the current social and political environment (at least in the United States), it seems like many of us would benefit from understanding how to improve critical thinking, enabling us to better wrestle with the range of complex issues that are part of modern life.
And for the average lifelong learner, of course, good critical thinking skills are essential for cutting through the noise created by the Web and social media to get to resources that are actually trustworthy and accurate.
So here are various resources (ordered uncritically) I found valuable as I have searched for tools to help with sharpening my critical thinking skills. I hope you find them useful, too – and please comment with any others you think are valuable.
Critical Thinking Web
OpenCourseWare on critical thinking, logic, and creativity. “This educational web site provides over 100 free online tutorials on critical thinking, logic, scientific reasoning, creativity, and other aspects of thinking skills.” A nice collection of resources from Hong Kong University. You might want to give the world’s most difficult logic puzzle a try! This one is also available in traditional and simplified Chinese.
The Critical Thinking Skills Cheat Sheet
A key reason to embrace critical thinking is that it helps you to be a better citizen – of your community, of your country, and of the world. This is a helpful infographic from the Global Digital Citizen Foundation (also included below) nicely sums up some of the most important skills. I also recommend downloading their Critical Thinking Workbook.
Zeno’s Coffee House
As the site explains, “Zeno of Elea, a pre-Socratic philosopher, was born about 490 B.C. His style of argument was to assume, provisionally, the position of the opponent, and then to derive impossible conclusions from it, thus establishing the absurdity of the assumption. In the spirit of this Reductio Ad Absurdum dialectical approach to critical thinking, our Coffeehouse activities will tackle from time to time so-called ‘common sense views,’ analyzed critically. The mental gymnastics will be good exercise!” The site won’t win any visual design awards, but it is a fascinating place to visit and engage.
The Fallacy Files
Blends a ”collection of named fallacies—such as “ad hominem“—that is, types of bad reasoning which someone has thought distinctive and interesting enough to name and describe” and a “collection of fallacious, or otherwise bad, arguments…” This is a very good site for developing an understanding of “logical fallacies” – i.e., errors in reasoning. I particularly like the Fallacy Watch section.
Argumentation and Critical Thinking Tutorial
This tutorial from Humboldt State University provides a brief review of major critical thinking concepts and then a set of quizzes to test your understanding. Warning: Turn down your volume if you are using this in a public place. Answers are punctuated with Simpson- like sounds (which personally I find a bit annoying).
The Idea Emporium
The home page of the Idea Emporium proclaims that bad thinking is “worse than bad manners, even worse than bad breath.” That give you an idea of the tone of the site, but the only way to appreciate this eclectic collection of ideas and insights is to visit.
The Skeptics Dictionary
Believe me, you can’t go wrong with these sites. (And if you are willing to believe me that easily, I’ve also got some great land in Florida I’d be willing to let you have for cheap…)
P.S. – Want to really dive in to improving your critical thinking skills? I recommend Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills.
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