Online, you often find yourself surrounded by extracts, maxims, carefully manufactured word combinations. Or if we can place them inside a single category: quotes. Quotes that make you feel hopeful about the future and comfortable with your past. And while reading those your mind gets pumped. When you close the browser. Open the door to life. You start making the same mistakes you ordinarily do.
The fad of sharing quotes never gets old.
I don’t know which one is more popular.
Sharing quotes of famous people like Albert Einstein or sharing cat memes. Probably something in between – an Einstein quote made like a cat meme.
What makes quotes a preferred online asset – for both consumption and creation – can be portrayed in two points:
- Quotes provide packed wisdom and a delusional state of awe.
- The person sharing quotes believes that he’s getting closer to smartness by the mare recitation of wisdom words.
Both of these, are heavily over-represented.
When you read a quote. While it might feel like you are collecting coins that pump your IQ. It’s just a temporary feeling of satisfaction.
You feel motivated – or smarter, or better, or all included. But this mixture of sensations completely vanishes when your finger scrolls down the page.
All of this, might make you wonder…
Why then create a whole post that talks about quotes – critical thinking quotes, as the title suggests?
Why Spend Time Pondering Critical Thinking Quotes?
The main value of words on a page is misunderstood.
We think that the actual words are the main nugget. That’s not the case.
Real gold is always under a layer of thick wrapping.
As we have to remove the packaging to get and use an item we’ve purchased. In a similar fashion, we need to unpack great quotes.
What I mean by unpacking is not just reading a strangely good word combination and then moving along. Rather, stopping to think about what the person said, why he said it, and what we can derive from these words that can make our lives less miserable.
That’s the essence of critical thinking.
You don’t just glance at something and think you understand it. No. You gently grab it. Hold it. And examine it from all sides. Look at it from the microscope of your consciousness to comprehend it. To find the real value hidden inside.
Quotes. Well-crafted words can acquire your attention.
But to leave a lasting impact on your mind. They need to be deconstructed.
That’s what we are going to do below.
I’m taking the best quotes from some of the great thinkers on critical thinking and inspecting them.
While I’m positive that you’ll be familiar with some of the citations below. I’m also sure that we’ll uncover more insights than you’ll ordinarily get when consuming words on a page.
Here we go…
7 Powerful Critical Thinking Quotes:
1. “The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” Albert Einstein
What’s considered important in school is unusable in real life. You are trained and optimized around remembering facts about the past that make little positive difference about your future. We are rarely taught how to think properly. How to think better.
Surely having a broad understanding of our history is beneficial. Sadly, teachers embed a belief that we should know dates of past events with surgical precious.
And not only in schools. Modern media is also trying to convince us that we should master isolated facts. That richness is in knowing random inputs about all sorts of things.
That’s a phenomenon observed in the book Amusing Ourselves To Death. Ever since the telegraph was invented, we believe that we should learn about things that have a little positive impact on our lives.
For instance, solving a crossword puzzle might seem like a worthy exercise. But how answering 50+ completely random questions will help you in life?
The value in learning. Reading books. Watching videos even online. It’s not so much about remembering the facts. But about tailoring, adjusting how you think.
When you think better. You’ll perform better.
Thinking is the particle that pushes you in the right direction. Not holding all sorts of random facts.
2. “When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons.” Anaïs Nin
From an early age, we are steered towards certain beliefs and value systems. Some good. Some bad. Some awfully wicked.
Some of these are intentionally promoted by our teachers and parents – i.e., religion, good manners, etc. Some simply occur by the act of living and by our biological needs – desire for money, power, appreciation.
There is no harm in automatically adopting a behavior such as helping an old lady cross the street. But for most of the other things we hold in our heads, we should know why we have them.
For instance, these days it seems natural to be online. To have a social media profile and to participate in the never-ending race of awesomeness. Who got a new car? Who got a new job? Who went on vacation?
Involvement in the social media race seems so unquestionable.
But have you recently asked yourself, “Why are you really using social media?” Is it because you want to connect with others? Because it makes you feel motivated and inspired? Or because you feel the need to be inside because others are there, too? Because you want to showcase how much cooler you are than the rest of the walking undead?
I bet is the last part.
Too often, we watch and get things because others watch them and own them. But as Anaïs Nin above said. This blind obeying makes us mere automatons. We don’t hold the steering wheel of our lives. We are simply responding to the reaction of others. Which means that we are passengers on a bus that is headed towards somewhere. Somewhere we don’t know.
3. “If chess has any relationship to film-making. It would be in the way it helps you develop patience and discipline in choosing between alternatives at a time when an impulsive decision seems very attractive.” Stanley Kubrick
The only way an impulsive decision can be the best decision is when you’ve mastered a field. When you’re well-versed in a topic and extremely confident in your skills. In these situations, your intuition and tacit knowledge provide involuntarily a good answer. Plainly, you think fast.
This type of response – quick and precise – however. It’s usually only available to you in areas where you have extensive experience.
For the rest of the cases, the quote above stands.
Any activity that allows you to slow down and think before you act. That gives you room to consider the alternatives. Is an activity worth holding.
As you can’t win a chess game if you don’t pause and consider the contra moves of your opponent. You can’t win in life if you don’t pause and consider how what you do today can turn around and slap you back in the future.
4. “You do not win by struggling to the top of a caste system. You win by refusing to be trapped within one at all.” Naomi Wolf
As the authors of the book The Social Animal explain, we are social animals.
Our foundational particles push us towards relationships. We feel better when we are around other people.
But this comes with certain costs. When people are around other people. A natural hierarchy is formed. There is an alpha male/woman and people who want to take his/her place.
And even if you do reach the top position in your social circle. Which is also the case for any other tall structure formed by men – e.g., the corporate ladder. The battle is never over. You now have to defend your place.
A solution few are willing to accept is gently removing yourself from the modern rat race.
Take social media for example.
If you use it. You use it for validation. Every time you throw something in the endless abyss of filtered pictures, you are doing it to tell others that you are progressing in some way. But others are not sitting idle. They are, too, advancing. So the only way you can keep your position is to keep throwing status updates about how you are improving – even if you are not really improving.
This creates quite a stressful daily life. You no longer just live. Life becomes a sophisticated arena. There are no fist fights, however. The battle is for prestige – who is richer, better, smarter. Therefore, your day-to-day life becomes trying to figure out how to show to others that your life is good – even when life is bad.
The only way you can win this game is if you totally remove yourself from the equation.
You no longer share how life is treating you. Nor remain interested in how others apparently become richer and prettier. You just focus on the act of living.
5. “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” Søren Kierkegaard
Our desire to self-express is motivated by our need to feel valued. What we say is optimized not based on thinking. But optimized towards receiving – these days – likes and comments.
All of this means that we say a lot of things, but we don’t say anything important.
We just dump out more noise in the already noisy world. Hoping, praying, that others will notice us.
For the critical thinker, silence is more than the absence of noise. It’s opening the window and taking a breath of fresh air. A refreshing change from the polluted atmosphere.
Speaking because you can doesn’t mean that you necessarily should. Thinking, however, shouldn’t follow this logic. You should always think. Which will oftentimes lead to not speaking.
6. “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” Marie Curie
We fear the unknown for a simple reason. The brain is constantly trying to predict what will happen next. What the other person will do, so we can prepare the body and the mind for our reaction.
When we face an unfamiliar situation. The brain simply freezes. It doesn’t know what to do. That’s why we tend to avoid things we don’t quite understand.
Paradoxically, the only way we can advance. The only way we can get outside our comfort zone is to put ourselves in positions we are not fully prepared for – e.g., a new job, facing a new challenge, a new field altogether.
So, when you find yourself struggling to find a good solution to a problem. Or you a presented with a hard-to-digest concept. This is a sign. It means that you don’t yet know the full story. You don’t completely understand the situation. What you need to do is to go and find it.
When you understand the problem. Learn more about difficult concepts. You will clear away the fog. You will be prepared. You’ll have the courage to move forward.
7. “I don’t care that they stole my idea. I care that they don’t have any of their own.” Nikola Tesla
Lack of critical thinking will lead to either stealing ideas or trying to discourage others to pursue their ideas.
Ideas. Fresh perspectives that suggest a certain course of action. These are needed for better decision-making and moving further ahead.
But how to have them?
Here’s where one more quote by Nikola Tesla enters on how to produce good ideas:
“Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.” Nikola Tesla
Some of the ideas that will emerge in your brain will be useless. That’s for sure. But that’s part of the process of generating great ideas and great thinking.
Each of us has an idea-generation style. A way to find solutions to problems. Some instantaneously generate reasonable ideas regardless of the location. Others are capable of doing this exercise only when alone.
Make things easier for yourself by figuring out how you think best. Do you have to be alone? Surrounded by others? Or a combination of both – a time around others and then taking some time away to process the information.
Some Closing Thoughts
Quotes shared online seem like a desperate attempt to capture the attention of other people.
Simply because you can quote someone doesn’t mean anything particular.
You found useful words said by someone else. Good. Now what?
To be sufficiently skillful at this critical thinking judo requires questioning and observation.
This also applies when we examine the words of great people. The people who said the things above.
One smart person saying something is as useful as finding a wrench on the street. If you don’t know how to use it. It will be of no use to you.
I hope that you found handy the deconstruction of some of the best quotes on critical thinking. But what I also hope is that the whole post provided you with a new way to approach words on a page.
Not just agreeing with what was said – regardless of who said it. But to try something new. Something different.
Take an idea. Hold it in your hand and look at it from all sides.
Then, after examining it. Ask yourself: “What’s true about this and what is not?”
Add to your critical thinking knowledge by reading the following:
- 9 Provoking Critical Thinking Questions to Ignite Deep Reflective Discourse
- 5 Critical Thinking Strategies To Sharpen Your Thinking
- Critical Thinking Process (Or Acting Wisely Even If You’re Not Very Bright)
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