Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts




In this document, I argue that the institutional definition of critical thinking (IDCT)-the skills of summarizing, analyzing claims and their support, and making informed arguments-neglects a key skill: imagining the emotional consequences of ideas and ensuing actions on the lives of people affected by those ideas and actions. Failing to take account of such emotional consequences leads thinkers using IDCT to reject, without examination, the weight of counter-arguments of certain groups of people. Thinkers who already value each other can use IDCT effectively to achieve pre-established goals. In other words, IDCT works well from within institutions whose values are taken for granted. But it is ill-equipped to evaluate these values themselves. Yet such evaluation is indispensable for critical thinking because current social structures are marked by various types of oppression (sexism, racism, nationalism, etc.). And this oppression indicates the uncritical and systematic dismissal of some people's views. I argue further that IDCT is based on Aristotelian epistemology, which marginalizes (a) the communicative and critical activities of the community of inquirers, (b) the values and emotional commitments of inquirers and of the people affected by inquiry, and (c) the audience as contributors of invaluable perspectives to activities involved in inquiry.;The tradition of Aristotelian epistemology was designed to justify the organization of stable societies based on the "naturalness" of the dominance of certain segments of nature and society over other segments. To justify this hierarchical model of nature and society, a metaphysical source of value in the universe was postulated to which human values were to be subordinated. Because such metaphysical justifications are thoroughly discredited, however, IDCT cannot but be reformulated. I support my arguments by first analyzing two documents, which are exemplary products of IDCT and which deal with the American-organized coup d'etat of 1953 that destroyed Iran's nascent democracy. I then explain my own epistemological views, which are grounded in the writings of Sandra Harding and others, offer a critical summary of the philosophy of Aristotle, and analyze some of the consequences of rejecting his philosophy for reformulating critical thinking.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Iraj Omidvar



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186 pages