The argumentative theory of reason, which I covered in depth here, suggests that the seeming failure of many types of human reason are misinterpreted because they don’t recognize reason’s true function.
Instead of a general-purpose way of making better decisions, reason is a faculty for generating explanations and evaluating those of others.
So if the classic view of critical thinking is wrong, what’s the right way of doing it?
I think there’s two broad approaches that will work to make better decisions: This first strategy is to recognize what you’re actually doing when you’re reasoning about things and uses this knowledge to try to avoid making common mistakes.
Critical thinking isn’t just for detecting fake news, however. This approach starts by teaching you some basic rules of logical deduction, modus ponens, some examples of fallacies and a whole bunch of Latin terminology that philosophers use.
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Each of these decisions is difficult and important, so being able to think critically about them can make a huge difference in your life.
Similarly, critical thinking isn’t just a single monolithic ability that reduces to abstract logical forms.
Instead it’s numerous facts, inferences, heuristics and context-specific abilities that must be built up through voluminous exposure to real situations.
You work through a few problem sets and, , I don’t think these methods deliver on their intended promise.
In particular, there’s a few facts about how our brain actually reasons that make this route to improved rationality a dubious one.