Why should you care about critical thinking? What can it offer you? Suppose you must make an important decision—about your future career, the person with whom you might want to spend the rest of your life, your financial investments, or some other critical matter. What considerations might come to mind? Perhaps you would wonder whether you need to think about it at all or whether you should just, as the old saying goes, “follow your heart.” In doing so, you are already clarifying the nature of your decision: purely rational, purely emotional, or a combination of both.
In following this process you are already starting to think critically. First you started by asking questions. Once you examine the answers, you would then assess whether this information is sufficient, and perhaps proceed to research further information from reliable sources. Note that in all of these steps, you are making distinctions: You would distinguish between relevant and irrelevant questions, and from the relevant questions, you would distinguish the clear and precise ones from the others. You also would distinguish the answers that are helpful from those that are not. And finally, you would separate out the good sources for your research, leaving aside the weak and biased ones.
Making distinctions also determines the path that your examination will follow, and herein lies the connection between critical thinking and logic. If you decide you should examine the best reasons that support each of the possible options available, then this choice takes you in the direction of logic. One part of logical reasoning is the weighing of evidence. When making an important decision, you will need to identify which factors you consider favorable and which you consider unfavorable. You can then see which option has the strongest evidence in its favor (see Everyday Logic: Evidence, Beliefs, and Good Thinking for a discussion of the importance of evidence).
Consider the following scenario. You are 1 year away from graduating with a degree in business. However, you have a nagging feeling that you are not cut out for business. Based on your research, a business major is practical and can lead to many possibilities for well‐paid employment. But you have discovered that you do not enjoy the application or the analysis of quantitative methods—something that seems to be central to most jobs in business. What should you do?
Many would seek advice from trusted people in their lives—people who know them well and thus theoretically might suggest the best option for them. But even those closest to us can offer conflicting advice. A practical parent may point out that it would be wasteful and possibly risky to switch to another major with only 1 more year to go. A reflective friend may point out that the years spent studying business could be considered simply part of a journey of self‐discovery, an investment of time that warded off years of unhappiness after graduation. In these types of situations, critical thinking and logical reasoning can help you sort out competing considerations and avoid making a haphazard decision.