Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes

Critical Thinking

see also dialectic

thanks to

"Critical thinking" and "critical thinking skills" are popular defenses for what students learn in advanced high school courses and college, especially in Humanities (incl. Literature) and Sciences.

Critical thinking involves many overlapping, reinforcing or limiting aptitudes or processes. Most people regard such abilities as mystical gifts that one either has or doesn't.

One unifying approach is that critical thinking is awareness or self-consciousness of thought processes, the ability to regard a particular thinking skill as a tool or instrument with particular applications and limits.

As with any tool, knowing how critical thinking works can help us use it better.


so far, no single activity develops intellect like print-literacy

intelligence thinks  in language > symbols, categories / classification, and narratives (logic)

most people can speak well enough, but literary studies get beyond instinct and reflex to learn, criticize, explore, enhance


catch: no moment where you get to stop, where you get the answers and get to rest


What a symbol like "blood" finally means is not as important as how it means

not to learn answers but questions and how to ask them and refine them and keep learning


Types of critical thinking

classification or taxonomy

definition and example

cause and effect

dialectic / dialogue ("yes, but"): exchange of ideas sharpens thinking, identifies blind spots, resolves contradictions.