Critical Thinking in Scholarship: : Meanings, Conditions and Development

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to explore the phenomenon of critical thinking in scholarship as regards its meanings, conditions, and development using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach. This exploration takes its departure in ancient Greece, following a historical movement of the phenomenon up to present day perspectives on critical thinking, revealing a range of different meanings and conditions. Thus, the reader is invited to follow my synthetic meaning constitution of the phenomenon of critical thinking as it appears in different philosophical and educational texts. Through this gradual process of meaning constitution it is shown that the scholarly critical thinker is in one way or another concerned with abstract relationships, in order to either master, understand, or change the world. These underlying interests may, in turn, be derived from the critical thinker’s sense of responsibility towards God, nature, society, and humanity as a whole. It also appears that even though critical thinking in scholarship is traditionally framed within rational and principle based thinking, the development of the meaning of critical thinking is on its way to new dimensions. Besides rationality, other qualities of critical thinking are highlighted, such as reflective thinking, emotions, creativity, imagination, and intuition. Despite the fact that research on critical thinking has started to move in new directions, educational policy documents implicitly conceptualize critical thinking in traditional terms. This means that the phenomenon is captured within its own instrumentality, with no further concern for its possible ends. The same circumstance can be noted in relation to contemporary perspectives on critical thinking, which tend to focus on the process of critical thinking, since critical thinking is implicitly understood as an assurance of attaining normatively good ends. However, critical thinking is a phenomenon that is future oriented, involving its intention and possible ends. Against this background, it is therefore argued that critical thinking receives its most critical feature when intention, process and end constitute a constructive interrelated whole.