One of the most important sets of skills in thinking develops through one's understanding of the parts of thinking. In other words, we are better able to find problems in our thinking when we are able to take our thinking apart. In this chapter, we focus on these parts. In the next chapter, we focus on intellectual standards, the key to the assessment of thinking.
Thus, as you work through this chapter and the next, you will begin to understand some of the most fundamental concepts critical thinkers use on a daily basis, for it is through the analysis and assessment of thinking that critical thinking occurs. To analyze thinking we must be able to take thinking apart and scrutinize how we are using each part. Once we have done so, we apply the standards for thinking to those parts (standards such as clarity, accuracy, relevance, logicalness, fairness, etc.). Once we have a clear understanding of the parts of thinking (or elements of reasoning) and the intellectual standards, and once we begin to use them in our thinking on a daily basis, we begin to see the quality of our lives significantly improve.
Here we begin with a brief discussion of reasoning, the mental process the mind uses to make sense of whatever we seek to understand.