Critical thinking is the product of two interdependent elements. First is the ability to criticise ideas, opinions, actions, trends, and so on. Underdeveloped critical thinking is simply an inability to discriminate — that is, to recognise differences, subtle or lurid. Some people, owing to their personality (typically disagreeable and intelligent people), think critically with ease. Others have to relearn a trait they almost certainly had in childhood, and lost in adolescence — namely, the knack for asking questions. This is the second element.
Questions are tools; tools that enable us to tame, frame and develop our thoughts. Our brain has a mind of it’s own: most of our thoughts are scattered, misinformed, overpowering, confusing, contradictory, loud, distracting and never ending; rarely if ever are they crisp, coherent, clarifying words of simplistic linguistics.
Tools make creation possible. They allow us to take earth’s raw materials — iron, ore, coal, clay — and build skyscrapers. They were the drivers of the Cognitive, Agricultural, Industrial — and now, Informational — Revolution. Tools are the Yin to the Yang that is everything untouched, the Yang that is the flow in the phrase ‘go with the flow’, that Yang that is Mother Nature left to her ruthless, inexorable, brutal devices. Tools are the order we discover in, and impose upon, chaos.
Our thoughts, left alone, are wild, garbled, fantastical, impractical; in other words, chaos. In this state they are dangerous; but, more crucially, they are useless. Questions help us ground, train, organise and develop our thoughts into a state of practicality.