Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines

Volume 31, Issue 1, Spring 2016

Linda Elder
Pages 8-33

Richard Paul’s Contributions to the Field of Critical Thinking and to the Establishment of First Principles of in Critical thinking

Beginning in his PhD program, and over a period of years in the 1960s, Richard Paul thoughtfully examined and deliberately critiqued existing theories of logic and reasoning. He took what was a very narrow conception of reasoning and broadened it to more accurately represent human thinking when people reason. He captured the idea of universal intellectual standards by exploring standards typically used by skilled reasoners, and assembled these standards into a constellation of ideas that is easily understandable. Following the tradition of Socrates, Paul continually emphasized the importance of developing conceptual understandings based in foundational ideas and principles of analysis, and tested through life experience. His work laid the groundwork for what may be termed first principles in critical thinking and for a legitimate field of critical thinking studies.