Should we stop teaching critical thinking? Meant as a prompt to further discussion, Critical Condition questions the assumption that every student should be turned into a “critical thinker.”
The book starts with the pre-Socratics and the impact that Socrates’ death had on his student Plato and traces the increasingly violent use of critical “attack” on a perceived opponent. From the Roman militarization of debate to the medieval Church’s use of defence as a means of forcing confession and submission, the early phases of critical thinking were bound up in a type of attack that Finn suggests does not best serve intellectual inquiry. Recent developments have seen critical thinking become an ideology rather than a critical practice, with levels of debate devolving to the point where most debate becomes ad hominem. Far from arguing that we abandon critical inquiry, the author suggests that we emphasize a more open, loving system of engagement that is not only less inherently violent but also more robust when dealing with vastly more complex networks of information.
This book challenges long-held beliefs about the benefits of critical thinking, which is shown to be far too linear to deal with the twenty-first century world. Critical Condition is a call to action unlike any other.
``Patrick Finn has written a book for the academy, but its implications are much wider. The critical thinking that drove the academics who wanted to ‘teach him a lesson’ by beating him in debate is well represented outside the Ivory Tower as well (think Question Period). But there is a growing awareness—and this book is part of it—that progress, collaboration, and creativity move hand in hand; that the emphasis belongs on ‘and,’ not ‘but.’ Finn is careful to differentiate critical thinking of the constructive kind from the rest; it is puzzling why it gets academics in such a huff. But surely that is a reason for reading it!''- Jay Ingram, science writer and broadcaster, author of The End of Memory: ANatural History of Aging and Alzheimer's (2015)
``In this engaging and important book, Patrick Finn attacks traditional critical thinking for promoting hurt, anger, suspicion, and violence. He argues persuasively that critical thinking encourages the use of speech as a tool for dominance, control, and repression. He makes an eloquent and revolutionary plea for replacing critical thinking with ‘creative, loving, open-source thought.’ Critical Condition should be read by everyone who cares about the harmonious advance of the human project, particularly in the universities, but also in the world beyond.''- Philip Slayton, president, PEN Canada, author of Mayors Gone Bad (2015)