History of Critical Thinking
Throughout the previous centuries, man has continually pondered the existence of man — his behavior, his beliefs, his hopes and dreams, his analytical processes, his political theories, his ways of processing stimuli, his educational methods, his use of language, and his ability to assess and solve problems.
The road toward progress in critical thinking is lined with some of the most brilliant minds that ever existed. In most if not all cases, their work impacts how we think, how we act, and what we do today. They comprise the pantheon of advanced intellectual explorers.
Here is a timeline containing some of the most important and influential critical thinkers throughout history:
SOCRATES 469-399 BC
One of the founders of Western philosophy. Established method of drawing truth from the minds of others through strong and precise questioning.
PLATO 424-348 BC
Disciple of Socrates. Believed that the human mind could and should be trained to sift out distortions and discover truth.
ARISTOTLE 384-322 BC
Studied under Plato. One of the most influential scientists in history. Believed in empiricism, that all knowledge comes from experience and evidence, and that perceptions are critical in the shaping of thought processes.
THOMAS AQUINAS 1225-1274
Believed in the process of self-criticism, and the anticipation of the reaction to his ideas beforehand, in order to gain knowledge and achieve understanding.
FRANCIS BACON 1561-1626
Proponent of empiricism. Believed in the need for evidence, and that observations based on experience represented the foundation of all reasoning.
RENE DESCARTES 1596-1650
French philosopher and mathematician known as “The Great Doubter” because he questioned the findings of his predecessors. Believed in rationalism, that reason is the basis of knowledge.
SIR THOMAS MORE 1478-1535
Renaissance philosopher who wrote “Utopia,” about an ideal political system based on reason. Another doubter who believed intense questioning of established beliefs led to change.
Renaissance-era thinker whose book “The Prince” illustrated the often unscrupulous behavior of politicians. Pioneer in political science and political ethics.
ROBERT BOYLE 1627-1691
Philosopher and scientist, he challenged accepted practices in chemistry and physics and experimented with scientific methodology.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON 1643-1727
Questioned scientific conclusions that came before him and believed in evidence and sound reasoning. Established laws of motion and universal gravitation.
Key figure in the French Enlightenment who believed man gains knowledge and understanding through self-reflection, and advocated the separation of faith and reason.
French political philosopher during the Age of Enlightenment who established the concept of “separation of powers.”
French Enlightenment philosopher and social critic who believed in freedom of religion and freedom of expression in order to achieve a better understanding of the social and political world.
French philosopher and writer during the Enlightenment whose massive project “Encyclopedie” was partly his effort to strike at forces of church and state through the power of knowledge.
KARL MARX 1818-1883
German philosopher, socialist and economist who believed capitalism would be doomed by class warfare and would be replaced by socialism. Wrote