The ability to question observations, interpretations thereof, ideas, or even yourself. From a sceptical and empathic basic perception searching – and once and a while finding. That is what I understand under critical thinking.
Critical thinking is rarely innate. Rather it is a mindset, or an attitude, that can be internalised. Quite a few people are “critical” by nature. However this does not mean they think critically.
Critical thinking often assumes a level of education, it is taught. Through introspection, self-study of classic education. This way critical thinking can evolve into a method, be it scientific by contemporary standards or rather only containing more raw forms of analysis or synthesis that allow for additional insights. And equally important: those insights elicit action.
For those who dare think, in a critical way, have no option not to act. Theory needs to pass the test of practice. Critical thinking and critical acting, and right back again: Whether in policy or in science, rarely has the dial been significantly turned by thinking inside a vacuum. If you ask me, critical thinking rhymes with courage. Critical thinking ought to be a reflex that can overrule certain physical basic instincts as well as psychological pitfalls.
After all, too often we let ourselves be guided by emotions, distortions, prejudices but also by tidbits that confirm what we already know. So yes, there is still a long way to go, but once we remove ourselves from critical thinking, we will be right back at square one.