Theory of Knowledge
3 May 2012
TOK Essay Response: Critical and Creative Thinking
Since the dawn of humanity, man has sought to gain further insight on life through attaining knowledge. Knowledge can be defined as any information gained through personal experience. The means of obtaining knowledge include four main branches: reason, perception, language, and emotion. Despite the means, all knowledge is formulated through the process of thinking. Thinking refers to the use of the mind to gain understanding of the world. In the modern educational system, students are trained to think critically and apply gathered information to generate knowledge. However, schools also stress the idea of being original, using one’s own creative mind to form new ideas. In the areas of natural sciences and mathematics, critical thinking is primarily conceived as the most valued way of thought. On the contrary, creative thought is more highly coveted in areas of art and literature. In the pursuit of finding new information, which form of thinking is more highly appreciated? Or are both equally important? Can critical thinking be applied to literature and art? Can creative thinking manifest in science and math? Although the degree to which both forms of thinking will vary in each area of knowledge (AOK), all knowledge is acquired through an amalgamation of thought from both the left and right side of the human brain. Within this essay, the two areas of knowledge, natural sciences and arts, will be considered in evaluating the interaction of critical and creative thinking as a methods of generating knowledge.
Before full understanding of the prompt can be achieved, addressing the ambiguities in the definitions of several key terms will be necessary. Critical thinking is a process of thinking that uses reason and logic to evaluate the validity of assumptions. According to Edward Glaser, teacher at the Colombia University, critical thinking is (1) an attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one's experiences, (2) knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and (3) some skill in applying those methods. Critical thinking evaluates new ideas and justifies their validity through assessment, synthesis, analysis, and evaluation. Critical thinking focuses on finding a single answer from discerning right from wrong. For example in mathematics, theorems and rules are applied to a problem in order to achieve a single correct answer. Creative thinking is a way of thought focusing on the use of imagination to create new original ideas. Creativity allows for a personal interpretation of the world, free of regulation and restriction. In other words, creative thinking allows one to “think outside the box”. A distinct difference between critical and creative thinking lies in the method of generating knowledge. Critical thinking processes prior knowledge and information to come to an understanding, whereas creative thinking attempts to generate completely original concepts. It may seem that critical and creative thinking are completely separate entities, but in reality, these two separate realms of thought collaborate to generate knowledge.
Think of the thinking process as a kayak with two paddles. One paddle represents creative thinking while the other represents critical thinking. If you were to only use one paddle (i.e., creative thinking), you’d end up going in circles. To make the kayak move forward, you’ve got to alternate between paddles (Hurson 1). This analogy perfectly illustrates my view on the interaction between critical and creative thinking. In all areas of knowing, both critical and creative thinking are necessary. One without the other would lead to a repetitive cycle, going backwards to the beginning rather than forward to achieve new knowledge. Although both ways are needed, critical and creative thinking are not of equal importance in...