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DaphneT's avatar

Is thinking a skill?

Asked by DaphneT (5728points) February 24th, 2012

If you had to teach thinking, how would you go about teaching it? Would there be pre-requisites? How would you assess the goal?

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22 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

Thinking just happens.

Critical thinking and thinking “well,” on the other hand, are skills and classes exist to foster them.

CWOTUS's avatar

What the kid said.

You may enjoy looking over this.

cookieman's avatar

What the bastard said. Friend of mine has taught a critical thinking college course for years. It is certainly a skill.

Regular old thinking? Maybe not so much.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Regular thinking? A mere sign of existence…. I think therefore I am!

SavoirFaire's avatar

Yes, thinking is a skill. Like other skills, it can be done well or it can be done poorly. A lot of people just do it in whatever way comes naturally to them, however, and never make an effort to improve. As Descartes once said: “Nothing is more fairly distributed than common sense: no one thinks he needs more of it than he already has.”

As for whether thinking well can be taught, it can be. Indeed, one way of understanding what I do for a living—i.e., teaching philosophy—is to say that I teach people how to think well insofar as reason is the mark of proper thought. After all, it would be foolish of me to think that the majority of my students will keep my analyses of Immanuel Kant and Joseph Butler with them forever. If they retain anything that I teach them, it will (and should) be the analytic skills that underlie everything else we do.

So how do I go about teaching people how to think well? By teaching basic logic and critical reasoning, by analyzing arguments, and by getting my students to engage with and retread the paths of thought that great thinkers once trod. Progress is assessed in terms of the students’ ability to engage in philosophical dialectic—that is, in their ability to understand and engage in the back-and-forth of reasoned argument.

Most start with little ability to see what is and is not relevant, how the logical moves they might make in response to an objection might backfire on them a few steps further on in the argument, or why a reasonable person might disagree with them. As their dialectical skills develop, these problems are diminished. They never go away completely, of course, as no one is a perfect reasoner; but it is certainly possible to observe improvement.

I am not suggesting, by the way, that what I do is the only way to teach someone how to think well.

Pandora's avatar

Hopefully its something that is practiced everyday. But I suppose when you meet someone closed minded that it is easier to imagine that it simply must be a skill that avoids certain people.

Berserker's avatar

It’s a natural thing we got goin down, but for sure it’s made to be sharpened and improved. duuuh me smash things

XOIIO's avatar

God, around my school, definitely.

Keep_on_running's avatar

Yes, and it’s hard and it’s tiring and I want to go to bed now. snore

Berserker's avatar

beds are soft and comfy

Keep_on_running's avatar

mmm…so good.

SABOTEUR's avatar

I’d venture to say thinking demonstrates a certain lack of skill as we mostly do so unconsciously.

So much so, in fact, that we’ve come to believe that “I” and “thought” are identical.

Mastering thought…the conscious acknowledgment and practice of “I” which controls “thought” skill.

Having said that, I wouldn’t teach thinking…I’d teach how not to think, or how to master one’s thoughts.

mattbrowne's avatar

Exploring your unconscious thinking (the vast majority of what’s going on inside our skulls) is a skill.

jenesiaspas's avatar

Uhhh… what??

HungryGuy's avatar

Most definitely. Being able to think critically. Identify fallacies. Communicate clearly. All come under the skill of thinking.

smilingheart1's avatar

The running dialogue or monologue in the mind is auto pilot mode but true thinking asks questions. Value added thinking is all about asking the right questions internally and then going external for more support if need be. Quality thinking, especially on relationship issues assumes nothing, takes nothing for granted.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Keep_on_running – It’s very difficult. We need to analyze the results of unconscious thinking, because they can be observed consciously.

Keep_on_running's avatar

@mattbrowne Makes sense, it would be a worthy skill.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Keep_on_running – A good book is David Eagleman’s “Incognito”.

Keep_on_running's avatar

@mattbrowne Thanks. The mind/brain is endlessly fascinating.

wundayatta's avatar

Of course thinking is a skill. That’s why we spend so much time educating people—so they can get good at it.

People do think naturally, but as with all thing, you can short circuit the learning curve by telling people what we have learned about how to think well over the last tens of thousands of years.

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