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Stander discusses Russell's claim that schooling all too often encourages the herd mentality, with its fanaticism and bigotry, failing to develop what Russell calls a "critical habit of mind".The threat of indoctrination, the importance of individual judgment, and the prevalence of fanatical opinions all point up the need for what nowadays is called critical thinking; and Russell's work is valuable to anyone who wants to understand what this kind of thinking entails and why it matters in education.Chomsky, for example, reminds us of Russell's humanistic conception of education, which views the student as an independent person whose development is threatened by indoctrination.
For Russell, critical thinking must include critical reflection on what passes for critical thinking.
Third, critical thinking is not essentially a negative enterprise, witness Russell's emphasis on constructive doubt, and his warning against practices which lead to children becoming destructively critical.
Such critical skills, grounded in knowledge, include: (i) the ability to form an opinion for oneself, which involves, for example, being able to recognize what is intended to mislead, being capable of listening to eloquence without being carried away, and becoming adept at asking and determining if there is any reason to think that our beliefs are true; (ii) the ability to find an impartial solution, which involves learning to recognize and control our own biases, coming to view our own beliefs with the same detachment with which we view the beliefs of others, judging issues on their merits, trying to ascertain the relevant facts, and the power of weighing arguments; (iii) the ability to identify and question assumptions, which involves learning not to be credulous, applying what Russell calls constructive doubt in order to test unexamined beliefs, and resisting the notion that some authority, a great philosopher perhaps, has captured the whole truth.
Russell reminds us that "our most unquestioned convictions may be as mistaken as those of Galileo's opponents." There are numerous insights in Russell's account which should have a familiar ring to those acquainted with the recent critical thinking literature.
Russell maintains that the kind of criticism aimed at is not that which seeks to reject, but that which considers apparent knowledge on its merits, retaining whatever survives critical scrutiny.
There is a pervasive emphasis in Russell's writings, as in much recent commentary, on the reasons and evidence which support, or undermine, a particular belief.
A classic collection of Bertrand Russell’s more controversial works, reaffirming his staunch liberal values, _Unpopular Essays_ is one of Russell’s most characteristic and self-revealing books.
Years ago I read an essay by Bertrand Russell which included an imaginary conversation between a cat and a dog. A few days ago I stumbled upon his works again but was unable to find it anywhere.
First, Russell's language, especially his emphasis on judgment, suggests the point that critical skills cannot be reduced to a mere formula to be routinely applied.
Critical judgment means that one has to weigh evidence and arguments, approximate truth must be estimated, with the result that skill demands wisdom.