Last updated on: 8/9/2013 | Author:

Quotes about Critical Thinking (text only)

Read insights on critical thinking from famous thinkers such as Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., and Plato. Click here for a graphics-only list of these quotes.

1. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

– Aristotle, Greek philosopher
(384-322 BCE)

2. “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”

Francis Bacon, English essayist
“Of Studies,” 1625

3. “You want to prepare your child to think as he gets older. You want him to be critical in his judgments. Teaching a child, by your example, that there’s never any room for negotiating or making choices in life may suggest that you expect blind obedience-but it won’t help him in the long run to be discriminating in choices and thinking.”

– Lawrence Balter, Psychologist
Dr. Balter’s Child Sense, 1985

4. “Believe what you like, but don’t believe everything you read without questioning it.”

– Pauline Baynes, original illustrator of The Lord of the Rings and
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1922-2008)

5. “The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.”

– Sir William Bragg, Winner of 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics

6. “I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions… Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself.”

– Noam Chomsky, MIT professor, author, and activist
2010 interview with Chris Hedges

7. “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”

– Confucius, Chinese philosopher
(551-479 BCE)

8. “The critical spirit never knows when to stop meddling.”

– Mason Cooley, US aphorist
City Aphorisms, Second Selection, 1985

9. “Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheep-like passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving…conflict is a sine qua non of [essential to] reflection and ingenuity.”

– John Dewey, Psychologist
Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology, 1930

10. “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

– Albert Einstein, German-born US physicist and winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics

11. “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

– Albert Einstein, German-born US physicist and winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics

12. “An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.”

– Anatole France, Novelist and Noble Prize winner (1844-1924)

13. “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

– Benjamin Franklin, American author, scientist, and statesman

14. “We must dare to think about ‘unthinkable things’ because when things become ‘unthinkable’ thinking stops and action becomes mindless.”

– J. William Fulbright, US Senator (D-AR)

15. “The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.”

– John Kenneth Galbraith, Canadian-American economist

16. ” Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.”

– Mohandas Gandhi, Leader of the Indian nationalist movement against British rule

17. “We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and ‘success,’ defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.”

– Chris Hedges, American journalist
Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, 2009

18. “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

-Thomas Jefferson, Third US President,
Letter to William Hamilton, April 22, 1800

19. “Information is the currency of democracy.”

-Thomas Jefferson, Third US President

20. “There is no harm in being sometimes wrong – especially if one is promptly found out.”

– John Maynard Keynes, British economist

21. “The biggest problem is not to let people accept new ideas, but to let them forget the old ones.”

– John Maynard Keynes, British economist

22. “To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr., American civil rights leader
“The Purpose of Education,” The Maroon Tiger, Jan./Feb. 1947

23. “Thinking is skilled work. It is not true that we are naturally endowed with the ability to think clearly and logically – without learning how, or without practicing.”

Alfred Mander, Author
Logic for the Millions, 1947

24. “It is critical vision alone which can mitigate the unimpeded operation of the automatic.”

– Marshall McLuhan, Canadian Professor of English Literature
The Mechanical Bride, 1951

25. “The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind.”

– John Stuart Mill, British philosopher
On Liberty, 1859

26. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.”

– Daniel Patrick Moynihan, American sociologist and US Senator (D-NY)

27. “When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.”

– Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947 (1901-1977)

28. “The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.”

– Jean Piaget, Swiss philosopher and scientist
“Education for Democracy,” Education for Democracy: Proceedings from the
Cambridge School Conference on Progressive Education
, 1988

29. “After much effort, as names, definitions, sights, and other data of sense, are brought into contact and friction one with another, in the course of scrutiny and kindly testing by men who proceed by question and answer without ill will, with a sudden flash there shines forth understanding about every problem, and an intelligence whose efforts reach the furthest limits of human powers.”

– Plato, Greek philosopher
(429-347 BCE)

30. “To repeat what others have said requires education, to challenge it requires brains.”

– Mary Pettibone Poole, author of A Glass Eye at a Keyhole, 1938

31. “Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.”

– Adrienne Rich, “Claiming an Education” speech delivered at the convocation of Douglass College, 1977

32. “He who decides a case without hearing the other side, though he decide justly, cannot be considered just.”

– Seneca, Roman philosopher
(4BC-AD 65)

33. “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”

– Socrates, Greek philosopher
(469-399 BCE)

34. “Even in high school, a rule that permits only one point of view to be expressed is less likely to produce correct answers than the open discussion of countervailing views.”

– John Paul Stevens, Senior Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court
Morse v. Frederick (2007)

35. “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”

– Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Winner of 1937 Nobel Prize in Psychology or Medicine
The Scientist Speculates: An Anthology of Partly-baked Ideas, 1965

36. “Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking…”

– Leo Tolstoy, Russian author,
On Life and Essays on Religion, 1887 (1828-1910)

37. “Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of crackpot than the stigma of conformity.”

-Thomas J. Watson, Sr., Founder of International Business Machines (IBM)

38. “It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold.”

– Boris Yeltsin, Former President of Russia
Against the Grain, 1990

39. “We all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.”

– Howard Zinn, American historian, author, and activist
“Changing Minds, One at a Time,” Mar. 2005 (1922-2010)