Friday, February 26, 2010

Culture of Discussion: Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking

Lobes of the Brain
Creativity and Critical Thinking?
Somewhere in There . . .
(Image from Wikipedia)

Again, I'm turning to Peter Facione's article, "Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts" (2010), for more on critical thinking.

Yesterday, we saw that critical thinking can be narrowly conceived as a kind of instrumental reasoning that merely tries to adapt efficient, effective means toward ends that might or might not be ethical. Most of the experts upon whom Facione relied argued that critical thinking is a tool that can be used for good or ill. I suggested that their view might derive from an overly narrow view of critical thinking as oriented toward solving problems, whereas I considered it to include reflection upon values. I didn't resolve the tension, of course, but simply indicated a direction to consider.

The possible limit noted today is that of the 'border' between critical thinking and creative thinking:
We have said so many good things about critical thinking that you might have the impression that "critical thinking" and "good thinking" mean the same thing. But that is not what the experts said. They see critical thinking as making up part of what we mean by good thinking, but not as being the only kind of good thinking. For example, they would have included creative thinking as part of good thinking. Creative or innovative thinking is the kind of thinking that leads to new insights, novel approaches, fresh perspectives, whole new ways of understanding and conceiving of things. The products of creative thought include some obvious things like music, poetry, dance, dramatic literature, inventions, and technical innovations. But there are some not so obvious examples as well, such as ways of putting a question that expand the horizons of possible solutions, or ways of conceiving of relationships which challenge presuppositions and lead one to see the world in imaginative and different ways. (Page 12)
Again, while I can see the point of clarifying these two aspects of thinking, I wonder if these two are so distinctly separate. Critical thinkers are not simply 'criticizing' -- as has often been pointed out. Even if we hold to a narrow definition of critical thinking as instrumental reason, those individuals whom we consider critical thinkers must seek new solutions to old problems, or new ways of conceiving old problems, or the like. Surely, this sort of innovation entails creative thinking, which implies that one cannot be a critical thinker without also being a creative thinker.

I therefore do not believe that I was so far wrong in speaking of the two aspects of thinking in the same breath, but I acknowledge that even though the two sorts of thinking work together, teaching someone to ask the questions necessary to critical reasoning is likely to be easier than teaching that same person how to think creatively. How do we teach a person to dream up what hasn't yet been dreamt?

I'm not yet prepared to analyze that, but I do suspect that asking enough questions might lead one to see things in a new way.

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At 1:45 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

I would say that it has the same relationship between math and music. The same regions of the brain are utilized. When you get those neurons firing a spark of inspiration is bound to happen.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've noticed the connection that you mention. In fact, my high school math teacher was also gifted in music, and even art (e.g., drawing, painting . . .).

Jeffery Hodges

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