Updated: Jan 13
Critical thinking is a useful skill, yet it is often non-existent in the lives of many. Critical thinking allows us to find the truth, and also investigate different truth claims made by others. If we ever want to explore truth to its fullest, then critical thinking must be implemented or else we are essentially on a rollercoaster without any tracks.
Understanding the “Tracks”
First off, what is truth? Truth is defined as a descriptor of knowledge that reflects reality. Or as Merriam Webster puts it: “the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality.” So, for example, if I say that pigs exist, my statement is true because it reflects reality. However, if I say that flying pigs exist, then my statement is not true (at least it is only possibly true) because it does not reflect known reality.
Building a Rollercoaster with Tracks
How then does a journey of truth-finding start? To illustrate how this would happen, consider the following analogy: A common magic trick involves a magician pulling a rope of tied together handkerchiefs out of his hand. He starts off with a little piece of handkerchief poking out of his hand and, as he pulls on it, the whole thing is unraveled. When seeking the truth, imagine that one has hold of that little piece of handkerchief—a piece of the truth—and that if one continues to pull, the whole truth will start to unravel.
It could be asked, “How is the first piece of truth obtained?” That is a very deceptive question. For the hint that there is truth in everything is itself that little piece of truth. Therefore, we always have the ability to obtain a shred of truth, but it is not until one “pulls” on it that the truth then begins to unravel. For those who would say, “There is no truth in everything or, at least, no way of knowing if there is truth in everything.” how do you know that statement to be true? By saying, “truth is not in everything” you are advocating that some things transcend reality. That is preposterous, how can you know of something that is not in reality? One is essentially saying that there are non-real ______ (cannot be known what they are), that do not have a truth value to it; yet one is assigning a truth value to it by claiming it to be real, thereby contradicting oneself. There is truth in everything.
Getting back on track, critical thinking comes into play when we start to “pull” on that piece of truth. For once we have a direction (piece of the truth) we can then pursue it. Consider the majority of essays on The Muse Network, most started with a shred of truth that was then pursued. The Foundation Series realized the truth that there is a universe and then explored how that universe came to be—thereby unraveling the mystery of the universe. The Nature of Beauty realized that since there is beauty, there must be some type of objective nature to it and so that essay explored the objectivity of beauty. They all started with a piece of truth and then, using reason (critical thinking), unraveled the whole truth or at least a portion of it.
The Origins of Critical Thinking
The Argument for Reason explained how reason is from God. If reason is from God, then He surely would want us to use it. The argument also states one of the purposes of reason: “…reason is a tool in which one can find and understand ‘hidden’ axioms…” While critical thinking can be used in everyday life, it can also be used to understand the inherent truths within reality.
So, it is not enough to sit back and receive supposed truths from others. God gives us reason and therefore we should use it to seek and know the truth. If the only truth we “know” has been from other’s conclusions, then we are most likely defenseless against possible defeaters to those possible truths and are also most likely unknowingly confused about the world.
For example: If you believe that there is no God, yet you believe that the universe came from a star imploding in on itself and then exploding--creating the known universe, then you are in a philosophical mess. To shed some light onto this worldview, look no further than the Kalam Cosmological Argument and the Teleological Argument in which both show the impossibility of the universe coming about by chance. Plus, setting the universe aside, if there is no God, what is the point to life? Why do you have life? How are you conscious of the world around you? What is morality? What is truth? How can you think of these abstract concepts if your knowledge only comes from the physical realm?
Lastly, you do not have to question everything, that would be impractical. However, it is best to at least question the more fundamental ideas of reality. Once you understand the meaning of life, morality, and the significance of the universe, you can then start to question smaller beliefs like your political beliefs, your relational beliefs, or your cultural beliefs. Overall, use your gift of reason to build solid tracks in order to survive the roller coaster of life.
Merriam Webster. "Definition Of Truth," Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed March 28, 2020. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/truth.