What’s missing in the field of critical thinking?

During my Tuesday class on critical thinking I found myself saying that critical thinking should make a person happy – or happier. In the field of creative thinking we’re not at all surprised when someone who has created a new product – a story, a poem, a painting, a gadget, a company – feels fulfilled. What, then, is the equivalent in the field of critical thinking?

That is hard to define – this is something that is missing. Indeed, the feelings associated with critical thinking are more likely to be those of a deficit – “I’m not smart enough to see what is wrong with this argument.”
What was interesting is how, in a closing go-around on Tuesday, many students picked up on what I’d said. So now I feel obliged to articulate the missing equivalent. My initial thoughts:
1. Imagine the field is reframed as *curiosity*. By being curious we find out new things, we inquire into the worldview of someone with whom we don’t completely agree, we put ideas together that had been in separate silos, and so on. All those things seem positive; we can imagine ourselves being curious with the smiling face or an open, querying face.
2. I notice how I project what pleases me – what I do without much tutoring – into my account of the kind of curiosity/critical thinking in #1. Is it a paradox that I need to be more curious about how other people are not naturally like #1 – indeed, might resist a resent the implication that they should aspire to be?
3. I wonder if one angle into the above is to inquire for myself about states of affairs that I have allowed myself to accept and go along with—that I have not been very curious about.

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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