AltanaESP Glossary

Purpose, structure and Usage of the A-Z Glossary

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. ~ Yiddish Proverb ~

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Approved 18 September, 2021 @ 2:58pm by Jan Viljoen (version: 10)

Critical Questioning & Thinking

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world.
~ Buddha ~

It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question. ~ Eugene Lonesco.

Critical questioning - and subsequently critical thinking - is the capability, ability and competency to…

  1. question, become aware of, digesting data/information and
  2. think critically about a certain topic, issue, idea, point of view, set of circumstances, situation and/or event.

Which boils down to a few uncompromising standings

  • Challenge and question everything, because reality isn't always what it seems.
  • Trust your gut instinct and don't ever doubt your dreams.
  • Pursue creativity in everything that you think and do.
  • Look for what's not there and seek out hidden agendas.
  • Condemn mediocrity and strive for perfection.
  • Focus on what's important in context.
  • Keep on trying till you are successful.
  • Fight through the the uncertainty and confusion.
  • Being unsuccessful isn't a failure, it merely indicates that there is still a lesson to be learned.
  • Resit collective and peer pressures, remain loyal to your vision.

Critical Questioning & Thinking are based on an all-inclusive idea and awareness that the “whole is much greater than the sum of its different parts”. A way to ensure - as best as is humanly possible - that all aspects of an issue are considered and all perspectives are taken into account. Everything, from the small, minute, individual and pedantic details to the bigger picture. Also, it is not merely addressing these different perspectives separately, but being able to integrate and relate them to each other in various ways to determine a realistic context.

Critical Questioning & Thinking in this particular context is only a “tool” or method and habit of thinking to critically examine (i.e. question) different issues within a particular contextual area (frequently, referred to as using ones common sense). Addressing - not only individual relationships between humans and their environment - but also communities, families, societies, as well as nations and the world as a whole. Critical questioning and thinking also examine and explore the differences and similarities that exist between relationships and/or interactions between the way individuals relate to their environment in comparison to how societies or other groups do it collectively.

In essence - critical questioning and thinking - isn't following any one specific point of view, idea or argument unconditionally (i.e. a dogma), but it is more about examining, exploring and delve into different ideas, points of view and ideas related to a particular topic, issue, idea, problem, set of circumstances and/or events, best illustrated and explained in the following video.

A couple of “spot-on” Critical Questioning & Thinking affirmations to take note of…

  • Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.~ Albert Einstein.
  • If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.~ Albert Einstein.
  • He who knows all the answers has not yet been asked all the questions.~ Author unknown.
  • In questions of progress and science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” ~ Galileo Galilei.
  • The most important question to ask in life is not 'What am I getting?' The most important question to ask is 'What am I becoming?'”. ~ Jim Rohn.
  • If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer.~ Edward Hodnett.
  • I found I wasn’t asking good enough questions because I assumed I knew something.~ Alan Alda.
  • The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.~ Anthony Jay.

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. BUT, you can only tell whether a man is wise by the questions he asks. ~ Naguib Mahfouz.

Critical questioning & thinking tips…

  • Develop a strong sense of the self. Know who you are, what you want and what is best for you. Do not let others - especially marketing companies, the media and politicians - tell you how you should look, feel and act. Do what is best for you. Cultivate your own tastes and enjoy your preferences.
  • Be well-informed. Gather as much information about a subject or topic relevant to your life as possible, before forming an opinion. Build your mental resources by reading, observing and listening for yourself. Then take the time to digest, reflect, evaluate and assimilate.
  • Be flexible. Look for solutions and outcomes to a situation from as many perspectives as you possibly can. Determine the pros and cons. Are there other possibilities/alternatives? Whom might it harm/benefit? What are the potential consequences?
  • Identify possible personal biases. Are you being unduly influenced by your culture, upbringing or other people's opinions? Are you being fair and open-minded? Many times we make poor decisions because we begin with the wrong premise. If we take time to evaluate and judge based upon what we observe first hand - rather than what we've been lead to believe - we can arrive at a more appropriate and practical conclusion.
  • Do not buckle under pressure, fear or guilt. Have the courage to stand up for what you really believe and have deduced yourself. If you go along with the crowd for the sake of keeping the peace, avoiding confrontation or fear of failure, you do everyone a disservice, especially yourself. You may have a brilliant idea, or maybe it happens to be the right thing to do. If no one hears about it, a healthy discussion cannot take place and all possibilities will not be considered. A good idea has the potential to evolve into a better one with input from a variety of sources.

Benefits of critical questioning and thinking….


  • …develop self-confidence and trust in your abilities.
  • …attain a greater sense of accomplishment.
  • …expand your mind and boost your mental powers.
  • …gain respect from others by standing up for what you believe in and by being original.
  • …are more aware of and alert to the illusions the media and marketers are trying to sell you.
  • …are more open to self-improvement, development, growth and alternative viewpoints.
  • …are more interesting to others by expanding their thinking and options.

You are NOT practising critical questioning and thinking…

When you…

  • …let others, the media or convention sway you from doing what's right for you.
  • …buy into the negative, one-dimensional stereotyping based on - for example - sex, race or culture.
  • …do something because it always has been done that way, even if it no longer works or available facts to the contrary.
  • …follow old wife’s tales, superstitions, fallacies or dogmas that defy common sense.
  • …don't take time to think things through carefully and fully, and merely base your personal opinions and views on the loudest noise makers.

Given the above, there is another critical challenge that plenty of people should overcome as well… it's not that they can't read, it's not that they can't think, it's not that they can't understand …they don't actually realize what the art of thinking is really about… they tend to emphasize their emotions and feelings, which are then confused with a healthy and balanced thinking process.

Illustrations of 'critical questioning and thinking' in action…