The definition of critical thought parallels that of what is normally defined as its opposite: "stupidity". The controversial phrase "common sense" usually implies some balance or compromise between critical and stupid ideas - with as little critical thought and as much stupidity as is possible to survive. Which may not be much.

relation to philosophy

The word philosophy describes a particular application of critical thought to a particular range of problems. It is by no means inclusive of all forms of critical thought: theology, sociology, psychology,anthropology, economics, all other social sciences, and also ecology and biology and medicine have their own methods of critical thinking. The word "philosophy" only describes a very abstract view:

The application of critical thought to ethical decisions is called ethics or moral philosophy or political science or sociology or economics depending on context. The application of critical thought to knowledge itself is called epistemology and is a branch of philosophy. The application of critical thought to cosmology and ontology is usually called metaphysics though this term has come into disrepute in many circles, e.g. those studying postmodern politics.

early history

The teaching of critical thought in Western society is thought to have originated with the classical era Greeks - notably Socrates as interpreted by Plato, and with Aristotle. While Augustine and Aquinas did a great deal to fuse these traditions inexorably with some Christian dogmas of their period, the work of Francis Bacon, Erasmus and Martin Luther awoke them again in the Christian world. Meanwhile critical thought had been a living tradition in the Muslim world, with the systems of kalam, isnad, ijtihad and a form of consensus democracy developing in very many countries.

Similarly, as documented by Amartya Sen in particular, the ethical traditions of Indian thought and Chinese thought and Buddhist thought had developed at approximately the same time with more of an emphasis on deference and less on inference relationships.

It is simply not true that critical thought was a product of Christian or Western culture. However, approximately 500 years ago, the Muslim, Indian, Buddhist and Chinese societies turned inwards and consolidated their gains and stabilized, while the Western Europeans turned westwards to conquer North America and South America. There was an influx of new resources, e.g. gold, silver, cocoa, lumber, and slaves, especially in the South. For the North, slaves were imported from Africa.

There was also contact with the Maya), ((Aztec, Inca, Cree, Inuit, Miqmaq,Mohican, Delaware and Haudenosaunee ( Mohawk, Iroquois ) civilizations, most of which were in decline due to the influx of terrible new diseases from Europeans - a process which began long before direct contact with most of these peoples. This helped convince the Europeans that their civilization was inherently superior. The additional resources gained form conquest also helped convince the Europeans that they were superior to Muslims, Indians and Chinese. Adam Smith was typical of the educated classes of his time in elevating the potential of learning from contact with new societies, but then being appalled at the actual results.


Any description of the foundations of critical thought is going to be controversial - philosophers can find ways to argue with anything. This is generally discouraged at Living Platform itself, as are people claiming to be "systems thinkers", "conciousness researchers", and so on. What Living Platform is not is a debating society for abstract points that do not affect current political decisions, methods, or organizations in the immediate term.

That said, there is a list of process terms and more importantly a list of all human command verbs that must be assembled in order to describe what is going on "here" (though the use of this spatial metaphor is itself a potential problem).

learn critical thought

While a general course in learning critical thought is beyond the scope of Living Platform itself you may learn critical thought to some degree by studying a list of specific methods that are outlined on that page:

read it again

Now that we have said this several times, it should not be necessary to say it again: