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A Glossary of Critical Thinking Terms and Concepts, 2nd edition

Author: Linda Elder and Richard Paul
Publisher: Foundation for Critical Thinking
Copyright: 2013
Pages: 80
Dimensions: 51/4" x 8"
ISBN (13Digit): 978-0-944583-40-1


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This compendium of terms is a testament to the fact that critical thinking entails a body of concepts and principles which, when internalized and practiced, enable people to raise their thinking to a higher level. It entails the primary terms in critical thinking as well as many secondary terms and illuminates these terms as a network of interrelated meanings. The authors have also included a significant number of terms that illuminate the barriers to the development of critical thought — for example, those terms which center around the problems of sociocentric and egocentric thought. For most entries, the authors provide a brief definition followed by elaboration and exemplification of the concept. In a number of cases, the authors link the terms to instruction, for the benefit of readers who are educators or students.

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A Glossary of Critical Thinking Terms and Concepts, 2nd edition

Critical thinking concepts encompass a large network of interrelated ideas. To understand one such idea often entails understanding other ideas. As such, critical thinking concepts are best understood in relationship to each other and in contrast to their opposites. We have focused on concepts which are non-technical (and are thus available in any well-researched dictionary of the English language). Furthermore, we have focused on concepts of use to those interested in an explicit, multi-dimensional, Socratic, and systematic approach to critical thinking, rather than on approaches that are implicit, sophistic, one-dimensional, or episodic. By the way, each of these terms (descriptive of approaches to critical thinking) are included in this glossary, so if you are puzzled by any of them you can put this glossary immediately to use by looking them up. 

The concept of critical thinking, comprehensively viewed, is a rich, variegated, and, to some extent, open-ended concept. There is no way to encompass it “completely” and inexhaustibly. There is no way to encompass it in a one-sentence “definition.” Nevertheless, at its base is a foundational set of meanings presupposed in all of its varied uses. Its multiplicity is given by the fact that one can pursue the improvement of thinking by somewhat different studies with somewhat different scope and trained on different foci.

The network of critical thinking terms in this glossary is in no way exhaustive. Many more terms might be added to it. For example, one important concept in critical thinking is captured in the term ‘intellectual standards,’ which is defined as ‘criteria used to evaluate or judge the quality of reasoning.’ There is an array of such standards extant in all modern natural languages, including clarity, accuracy, precision, depth, breadth and fairness. These and a number of other intellectual standard terms are included in this glossary. However, due to space limitations, a great many other intellectual standard words have been excluded.

For most entries we provide a brief definition followed by elaboration and exemplification of the concept. In a number of cases we link the terms to instruction, for the benefit of our readers who are educators or students.