Critical thinking is the thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or what to do. Deciding what to believe is a matter of deciding what the facts are, figuring out what the world is like, or at least what some little corner of it is like. We make these kinds of decisions when we decide whether it is raining out or sunny, whether the Blue Jays stand a chance this year, or whether we should trust what our teachers tell us. In deciding what to believe on some matter we take a stand on it.
Critical thinking is also aimed at decisions about what to do. First, one has to decide what to value or to strive for. Then, one has to decide how best to achieve that end. Should I spend my savings on a new car or continue using my beat up one? Should the city spend its limited resources on building a new bridge? Should the country move toward a universal health care plan? Usually we decide what to do on the basis of what we already value or on what we already think makes for a good life. But sometimes, deciding what to strive for or what goals to pursue requires first deciding what one will value, what kind of person one wants to be, and what kind of life one wants to lead. Decisions about what to value are among the most difficult and profound decisions we can make. Critical thinking can help us to make these kinds of decisions.
But why is it important? Why does it matter whether or not we think critically when we decide what to believe or what to do? First, thinking critically increases our chances of gaining knowledge, and knowledge is valuable. Second, thinking critically is essential to making up one’s own mind about what to believe or what to do, which is essential to being autonomous, and being autonomous is valuable.
Source: Hunter, D. A.. (2014). A practical guide to critical thinking: deciding what to do and believe, second edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
Writing a critical literary analysis involves applying critical thinking skills to the reading of a literary work. As you work your way through your selected reading, you will make decisions regarding what you believe about the work, and what you will do with that claim.