Using the categories “True”, “Good” and “Beautiful” in Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is our way to analyze information, ideas and opinions in a rational way, defining them clearly and making conclusions. The result can be a new understanding of an issue and may lead to creative ideas or to asking further questions about something we see or hear.
This process of evaluation should be based on structured methods. Those methods, whether scientific or not, are heavily based on putting the existing information in its right context. Not every new piece of information demands a new review and analysis. Thinking independently and critically means, in fact, to continue the work and thinking of others.
We do it by making judgements in a way of categorization, meaning organizing the information we get into groups and evaluating it according to the group and the relations with other groups. For example, two well-proved evidences from two separate sciences can be combined together to help us observe one’s assumption or judgment.
These groups can be divided to objective and subjective categories. As we discuss below, objective categories are fact-based and are the building blocks for healthy scientific thinking, while subjective categories are more open to personal tastes, preferences and believes, which are legitimate even if they cannot be immediately proved. They can never be ignored or disrespected because logical thinking must also take speculations into account, although attention must be put to understand such viewpoints as non-factual.
The ability to distinguish between subjective and objective information is not an easy task, as some writers use manipulative language to present their subjective opinions as facts. As always in critical thinking, learning how to ask the right questions is the key to make rational judgments.
Objective categories: the “True” and the “False”
Objective judgement is based on evaluating a statement of opinion according to its factual basis. The essential measurement here is the speaker’s ability to prove his claim beyond reasonable doubt by providing sound evidences.
Our task as thinkers is to examine the proofs and to conclude whether the claim is true or false; if there are evidences that contradict the statement, it might be that the claim is simply false according to our judgement or prior knowledge.
Hence, the key issue here is to look beyond the simple statement and look closely at the nature and reliability of the proofs that support it. Evidences that can be generally regarded as good proof are based on some degree of methodology. These are, for example, experiments, statistical data, analogies and proven examples that the issue exists in reality. Experts’ opinions may also serve as proofs, although the obvious question here is what makes someone an expert and what we should do when two experts disagree with each other. In such cases when an opinion is open to debate, we better not see the opinion as fact or as a clear support to a fact.
However, a good critical thinker must always remember that even well-proven empirical data might be proved in the future as false or some other findings may show the complete opposite.
Subjective categories: the “Good”, the “Bad”, the “Beautiful” and the “Ugly”
As critical thinkers, we are also allowed to accept and express opinions which are not proved, therefore are neither true nor false. Remember that every experiment is based on assumptions; someone would say: “I think that X is true, and therefore I am going to test it now”.
Subjective categories try to label ideas in other ways than “true” or “false”. They are characterized by adjectives of tastes and beliefs, such as “good”, “beautiful”, “dangerous”, “best” and so on. When we see such adjectives, the statement should be regarded as subjective, especially when accompanied by phrases like “I believe that...”, “I see X as...” etc.
As mentioned before, many writers and speakers tend to present their opinions are facts in order to convince others. One must remember that subjective opinions often remain so even when the speaker uses some logical arguments or information that appears to be factual base. This is happening because the interpretation he or she has given to the facts; obviously, someone else may draw other conclusions from the same facts.
Distinguishing objective and subjective categories
In order to know the difference between the two categories, one must ask several critical questions, such as:
- Who is the writer?
- How does the writer justify his views?
- Why he wrote the argument? What is the writer trying to achieve?
- What sources writer has used to prove his point?
In conclusion, a major step in critical thinking is evaluating others’ opinions and judgements. Since these opinions are an essential basis for the thinker, they should not be ignored but be brought to a rational and careful examination and then they can be used for developing our own ideas.
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