Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Delores B. Gallo

Second Advisor

Arthur Millman


This project is a critical examination of Richard Paul's theoretical conceptualization of critical thinking. In his relentless criticism of the didactic approach characterizing current academic instruction, Paul develops a model of critical thinking that he refers to as critical thinking in the strong sense. The model posits dialogue as the methodological strategy that helps overcome egocentric and socio-centric thinking and thereby facilitates the achievement of ethically rational development. By egocentric and socio-centric thinking, Paul means the thinking that is bound, respectively by one point of view and social context. The model in question is intended not only to displace didactic instruction but also to transcend the overemphasis on logic that characterizes current critical thinking theorizing. While Paul's work points to a promising theoretical horizon, it betrays the very educational ideal that it sets out to pursue. Not only is it the exemplification of the didactic approach that it is intended to displace, but it is also carried out in a conceptual framework that reinforces the modernist view of effective thinking as the rigorous application of rational standards in the determination of the truthfulness of issues. By giving preeminence to logic and rational standards in the thinking process, Paul's view legitimizes a style of inquiry that is conducive to definitive closure. It is fundamentally reductionist: it tends to privilege exclusion over integration, object over relationship. This paper presents an alternative view of critical thinking the theoretical underpinning of which includes a conception of knowledge as immanent. Its primary concern is the achievement of understanding or the production of meaning through persistent explorations of relational structures as opposed to discrete objects. It therefore dismisses any quest for a secure foundation of knowing as illusory. This work is presenting as its starting point the conventional model of educational practice. It provides a brief description of the didactic approach against which Paul levels his criticism. Then, it moves to offer Paul's actual criticism, his view of critical thinking and a critique of his model. Finally, the paper presents a reconfiguration of the theoretical landscape of critical thinking. It formulates and justifies a non-objectivist conception of critical thinking.