Yes I think so.
There's a nice article here about Bertrand Russell's thoughts on critical thinking:
20th WCP: Bertrand Russell on Critical Thinking
He makes the point that there is more than just possessing critical thinking skills:
The mere possession of critical skills is insufficient to make one a critical thinker. Russell calls attention to various dispositions which mean that the relevant skills are actually exercised. Typically, he uses the notion of habit (sometimes the notion of practice) to suggest the translation of skills into actual behaviour. Russell describes education as the formation, by means of instruction, of certain mental habits [and a certain outlook on life and the world]. (15) He mentions, in particular: (i) the habit of impartial inquiry, (16) which is necessary if one-sided opinions are not to be taken at face value, and if people are to arrive at conclusions which do not depend solely on the time and place of their education; (ii) the habit of weighing evidence, (17) coupled with the practice of not giving full assent to propositions which there is no reason to believe true; (iii) the habit of attempting to see things truly, (18) which contrasts with the practice of merely collecting whatever reinforces existing prejudice; and (iv) the habit of living from one's own centre, (19) which Russell describes as a kind of self-direction, a certain independence in the will. Such habits, of course, have to be exercised intelligently. Russell recognizes clearly, indeed it is a large part of the problem which critical thinking must address, that one becomes a victim of habit if the habitual beliefs of one's own age constitute a prison of prejudice. Hence the need for a critical habit of mind.
Because they are not simply automatic responses in which one has been drilled, such intellectual habits in effect reflect a person's willingness, what Russell typically calls one's readiness, to act and respond in various ways. His examples include: (i) a readiness to admit new evidence against previous beliefs, (20) which involves an open-minded acceptance (avoiding credulity) of whatever a critical examination has revealed; (ii) a readiness to discard hypotheses which have proved inadequate, (21) where the test is whether or not one is prepared in fact to abandon beliefs which once seemed promising; and (iii) a readiness to adapt oneself to the facts of the world, (22) which Russell distinguishes from merely going along with whatever happens to be in the ascendant, which might be evil. To be ready to act, or react, in these ways suggests both an awareness that the habits in question are appropriate and a principled commitment to their exercise. They have in common the virtue Russell called truthfulness, which entails the wish to find out, and trying to be right in matters of belief. (23)
In Russell's conception, beyond the skills and dispositions outlined above, a certain set of attitudes characterizes the outlook of a critical person. By the critical attitude, Russell means a temper of mind central to which is a certain stance with respect to knowledge and opinion which involves: (i) a realization of human fallibility, a sense of the uncertainty of many things commonly regarded as indubitable, bringing with it humility; (24) (ii) an open-minded outlook with respect to our beliefs, an "inward readiness" to give weight to the other side, where every question is regarded as open and where it is recognized that what passes for knowledge is sure to require correction; (25) (iii) a refusal to think that our own desires and wishes provide a key to understanding the world, recognizing that what we should like has no bearing whatever on what is; (26) (iv) being tentative, (27) without falling into a lazy scepticism (or dogmatic doubt), but holding one's beliefs with the degree of conviction warranted by the evidence. Russell defends an outlook midway between complete scepticism and complete dogmatism in which one has a strong desire to know combined with great caution in believing that one knows. Hence his notion of critical undogmatic receptiveness which rejects certainty (the demand for which Russell calls an intellectual vice (28) ) and ensures that open-mindedness does not become mindless.
In addition to possessing the skills, you must habitually put them to use, you must be willing to use them when you might not want to, and you must keep the correct attitude, including a realization of your own fallibility.
I think this is very hard (Russel did too). I recently read part of a talk by Daniel Kahneman:
Edge Master Class 07: A SHORT COURSE IN THINKING ABOUT THINKING—DANIEL KAHNEMAN
Where he tells an anecdote that is a nice example of how hard it can be. He was on a committee that was writing a new book, and they all had an estimate about how long it would take (about 2 years they thought). But then he had a thought, and asked the Dean who was there (and had estimated about 2 years) how long these groups usually take. Turns out 40% of them never finish, and never in less than 7 years.
I'm deeply ashamed of the rest of the story, but there was something really instructive happening here, because there are two ways of looking at a problem; the inside view and the outside view. The inside view is looking at your problem and trying to estimate what will happen in your problem. The outside view involves making that an instance of something else-of a class. When you then look at the statistics of the class, it is a very different way of thinking about problems. And what's interesting is that it is a very unnatural way to think about problems, because you have to forget things that you know-and you know everything about what you're trying to do, your plan and so on-and to look at yourself as a point in the distribution is a very un-natural exercise; people actually hate doing this and resist it.
But what's psychologically interesting about the incident is all of that information was in the head of the Dean of the School of Education, and still he said two years. There was no contact between something he knew and something he said. What psychologically to me was the truly insightful thing, was that he had all the information necessary to conclude that the prediction he was writing down was ridiculous.
Let me just add two elements to the story. One, which I'm really ashamed of, is that obviously we should have quit. None of us was willing to spend seven years writing the bloody book. It was out of the question. We didn't stop and I think that really was the end of rational planning. When I look back on the humor of our writing a book on rationality, and going on after we knew that what we were doing was not worth doing, is not something I'm proud of.
I think that illustrates the difficulties quite nicely. To me it seems that the more ego you bring into it, the worse you will do. When you have a personal stake in being right or in having the answer right now, you will probably overlook something.
One of the things Kahneman brings up later:
There seems to be a very general psychological principle at work here, which is that sometimes when you are asked a question that is difficult, the mind doesn't stay silent if it doesn't have the answer. The mind produces something, and what it produces very characteristically is the answer to an easier but related question. That's one of the heuristics of good problem-solving, but it is a system one operation, which is an operation that takes place by itself.
Is I think something to keep in mind. As an illustration, stop and think of an answer to this question:
How many murders are there in Michigan each year?
Most people say around 100.
Now ask yourself this question:
How many murders are there in Detroit each year?
Most people say around 200 :bigsmile:
Essentially, when trying to think critically were are always struggling against the weaknesses of our own minds. Looking back on my own exploration of philosophical issues, I was basically treading water up until the point where I started to value having my mind changed instead of just trying to argue my point. And I see people that never get there, they read book after book but they filter everything through their preset beliefs which are often contradictory. The more I'm able to let the personal side go and focus on seeking the best answer (which is often an "I can't really say") the more quality answers I've found--often the best are when I've truly believed both sides of the argument for at least some time.
Although just today I said several silly things in a debate on another forum :rolleyes: