The Semantics of Critical Thinking « Semiotica

The Semantics of Critical Thinking « Semiotica.

In an earlier post, I tried to answer the question: Why we  need semantics and why it is so important for computers.  I think that I touched on the problem of critical thinking and how hard it is for people to do.  That is a part of the semantics of critical thinking but it is not the whole story.

Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking –mainly examining your questions, assumptions, knowledge and beliefs before deciding an issue or a question. Many teachers or educators who teach critical thinking would emphasize the reflective and introspective activities and notions for which one should account in the process of critical thinking.  One might call such things the “elements” of critical thinking as in this wonderful model of critical thinking published by the Foundation for Critical Thinking:

A Model for Critical Thinking

For example,  if you are a thinking human being, then you will experience the need or desire to really think hard.  When you think about something very important to you, then you should try to use critical thinking to figure out your best options.  The model above tries to explain that “much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. If we want to think well, we must understand at least the rudiments of thought, the most basic structures out of which all thinking is made. We must learn how to take thinking apart.”

I do not agree that these are “the most basic structures out of which thinking is made”, though as the “elements” of this model of critical thinking, they address the several aspects of critical thinking, such as: getting information, evaluating assumptions and inferences, using a theory or concepts, and; standards for critical  thinking, such as: clarity, precision and relevance, for example. If you click on the image above, it will take you to the interactive model where you can get more information on how to apply critical thinking.

While you look over the model what you will come to realize, if you did not already, is that critical thinking is hard to do.  There is a lot of reflection and introspection, and there is some reasoning as well.  This explains why we need semantics for computers.  Semantics or semiotics is the foundation of critical thinking.  The concepts, theories, principles and axioms called for in the model above are necessary.  How many people have all the concepts, principles and theories?  How many who say they do can actually justify them and qualify them from their own assumptions or beliefs?  Such questions cannot be answered.  If seems quite enough to say: not many.

That is why we need a semantic theory for computers.  The concepts, theories, principles and axioms of critical thinking are semiotic concepts, theories, principles and axioms –without them we have little solid ground for processing symbolic thought.  That is what makes Adi’s semantic theory such an important breakthrough for the computer industry and for everyday people.

For this first time in history, we have a sound theory that provides the concepts and theory sufficient to dealing with four of the eight elements of critical thinking (of this model), that is:  processing the implications and consequences, the assumptions, interpretations and the inferences relevant to any of the other four elements: information, point of view, purpose and questioning a specific issue.

Further application of Adi’s semantic theory will lead to Computer-Assisted Critical Thinking (C-ACT) where we can rely on all the great functions of computers to apply acceptable standards to well-grounded critical thinking, namely: clarity, precision, accuracy, logic. completeness, validity and relevance, etc.  We all need to do some critical thinking. With a little luck, a few resources and some support, we will soon be able to have our computers help us do critical thinking about the questions we have, and the issues we want to resolve.