University of Oulu

Henri Pettersson, From critical thinking to criticality and back again, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Volume 57, Issue 2, April 2023, Pages 478–494,

From critical thinking to criticality and back again

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Author: Pettersson, Henri1
Organizations: 1Faculty of Education and Psychology, University of Oulu, Pentti Kaiteran katu 1, P.O. BOX 8000 FI-90014 University of Oulu Finland, 90570 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-10-18


This paper assesses the prospects of combining the distinctive strengths of the two major educational research programs of critical thinking and critical pedagogy—or, described more accurately, overcoming their shared limitations—in a new and superior educational objective called criticality. Several recent proposals explore the possibilities of engaging in bridge-building between these camps. The plan is that the distinctive strengths of these paradigms—the logical and epistemological precision of critical thinking together with the socio-political consciousness of critical pedagogy—could complement each other, while the associated adjustments to the overall picture could also help us to address their shared shortcomings. This gives us a new and more grounded educational goal of criticality, as suggested and developed independently by a growing number of thinkers. This article joins the ongoing conversation but provides a more counterreactionary tone by striving to vindicate the traditional mainstream conception of critical thinking. I maintain that despite their admirable ambitions, the various expressions of criticality do not succeed in combining the best parts of critical thinking and critical pedagogy, since on a deep metatheoretical level these two paradigms have irreconcilable core principles. First, I argue that the depiction of the failures of critical thinking used to motivate criticality is to a large degree a straw man: in actuality, the existing conceptualization of critical thinking can already do the desired extra socio-political educational work, so there really is no pressing need for the suggested augmentations. Second, the traditional worries of indoctrination, which have followed critical pedagogy since the inception of this educational movement, still remain unresolved within criticality. The only way to address this concern successfully is to lean on critical thinking as the core of our educational theory, bringing us right back to where we started.

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Series: Journal of philosophy of education. The journal of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain
ISSN: 0309-8249
ISSN-E: 1467-9752
ISSN-L: 0309-8249
Volume: 57
Issue: 2
Pages: 478 - 494
DOI: 10.1093/jopedu/qhad021
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: I thank the Eudaimonia Institute at the University of Oulu for funding.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs licence (, which permits non-commercial reproduction and distribution of the work, in any medium, provided the original work is not altered or transformed in any way, and that the work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact