OCCUPY YOUR MIND: Critical Thinking and the Liberal Arts
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
– T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Defenders of the liberal arts perennially mention the importance of liberal learning to critical thinking and to citizenship. But there is no work that systematically explores the meaning of those ideas and how the liberal arts, critical thinking, and citizenship interconnect. As Mark Twain purportedly said of the weather: everyone complains about it, but nobody does anything about it.
OCCUPY YOUR MIND: Critical Thinking and the Liberal Arts does something about it.
Examining the meaning of the term “liberal arts” and its roots in Greek and Roman thought, it goes on to explain how critical thinking unifies the modern liberal arts curriculum. As such, it is both an exploration of the nature of liberal learning and, integral to that, an accessible introduction to higher-level critical thinking for students, educators, and general readers.
While OCCUPY YOUR MIND presents multiple themes and concepts, an overarching idea is that citizenship is essentially triangular, embracing civic, economic, and cultural dimensions that interrelate, and that the value of liberal education lies in preparing students for all three forms of citizenship.
OCCUPY YOUR MIND distills four literatures: studies of the liberal arts; general books on thinking for lay readers; works on critical thinking; and philosophy. Its twin purposes are inseparable: to show how liberal learning promotes robust triangular citizenship, and to explain the concepts and ways of thinking that inform it. As a study of the role of thought in higher education, OCCUPY YOUR MIND addresses both general and academic readers in a way that will be both timely and enduring.
AIM OF THE BOOK:
OCCUPY YOUR MIND answers three highly topical and related questions:
- What are the liberal arts?
- What is critical thinking?
- How are they connected?
At a time when liberal education is on the defensive vis à vis the STEM disciplines, and its future is called into question, the terms ‘liberal arts’ and ‘critical thinking’ are often used in tandem but seldom explained. OYM provides an overview of the core ideas that enable students to become higher-level thinkers. Avoiding the excesses of much academic prose (narrowness of focus, turgidity, obscure and unnecessary terminology, the pretention of absolute authority, and over-sourcing), OYM answers the three questions above, for students, educators, and the wider community of aspiring critical thinkers. It is at once a deep exploration of the concept of the liberal arts, and an accessible, thought-provoking guide to critical inquiry for students, prospective students, graduate students, former students, adult learners, parents, and anyone interested in liberal learning.
TABLE OF CONTENTS (PROVISIONAL):
1. THE LIBERAL ARTS AND TRIANGULAR CITIZENSHIP
2. THE LIBERAL ARTS AND CRITICAL INQUIRY
3. LANGUAGE LESSONS
5. DEFINING CRITICAL THINKING: A PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS
6. THE SCOPE OF CRITICAL THINKING
7. ANALYTIC THINKING 101
8. ANALYSIS AND AMBIGUITY
9. TRUTH AND UNCERTAINTY
10. THE RIDDLE OF CAUSALITY
11. THE USES OF COMPLEXITY
12. THE MORAL PRISM AND THE LIBERAL ARTS
13. CRITICAL MORAL THINKING: SOME STARS TO STEER BY
14. THE POLITICAL PRISM
Read an excerpt from Occupy Your Mind: “The Liberal Arts and Triangular Citizenship”
Read Jeffrey’s essay: “Critical Thinking and the Liberal Arts,” first published in Academe in 2015.