University of Oulu

Pettersson, H. (2020). De-idealising the educational ideal of critical thinking. Theory and Research in Education, 18(3), 322–338.

De-idealising the educational ideal of critical thinking

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Author: Pettersson, Henri1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: SAGE Publications, 2020
Publish Date: 2021-03-19


It is widely recognised among educational theorists, educators and policy makers alike, that critical thinking should claim a superordinate place in our system of educational objectives. In the philosophical literature on this topic, critical thinking is often conceptualised as the educational cognate of rationality, which in turn is analysed as being comprised of the relevant skills and abilities to assess reasons and evidence, together with the intellectual dispositions to actively use these proficiencies in practice. The resulting picture is in many respects normative and idealised, following the style of philosophical theorising commonplace in the tradition of analytic philosophy of education. In contrast, certain recent empirical findings related to the rational performance of actual human beings seem to cast doubts on the extent to which we can expect people to fulfil these idealised normative standards of rationality. After introducing the relevant philosophical theories and psychological results, I ruminate on the implications these ideas have on our pedagogical views pertaining to critical thinking education.

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Series: Theory and research in education
ISSN: 1477-8785
ISSN-E: 1741-3192
ISSN-L: 1477-8785
Volume: 18
Issue: 3
DOI: 10.1177/1477878520981303
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: The author is grateful to the Eudaimonia Institute at the University of Oulu for their funding of the research in our research project Citizenship in Change: Constructing a Novel Theoretic Framework for Education.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2020.