Critical thinking

Critical thinking in the West can be traced back back to the Socratic-Platonic tradition, with Plato formalising the Socratic critique of received opinions into a distinction between knowledge, in the form of episteme, and doxa, in the form of belief. This serves as the basis for distinguishing the elevated position of the philosopher, as having epistemic knowledge, from the common man, who has only doxic belief (Biesta and Stams, 2001).

However, Biesta and Stams insist, it is Kant’s three Critiques which remain, for the contemporary 21st century reader, a major attempt to articulate what it could mean for a philosophy to be critical. Kant also provided an explicit argument for linking critique and education. Judith Butler (2009: 775) contends that Kant extended the scope of critique yet further, arguing that while  critique arrives at its modern formulation within philosophy, it also makes claims that exceed the particular disciplinary domain of the philosophical. In Kant, Butler states, critique operates not only outside of philosophy and in the university more generally but is also a way of calling into question the legitimating grounds of various public and governmental agencies.

The term ‘critical theory‘, which develops within the same conceptual frame, has a narrower scope, however, referring to the thought of several generations of scholars within the Frankfurt School.

What is particular interest in the context of narrative environment design is the relationship between critical thinking and creative thinking.


Biesta, G. and Stams, G.J.J.M. (2001). Critical thinking and the question of critique: some lessons from deconstruction. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 20 (1), 57–74.

Butler, J. (2009). Critique, dissent, disciplinarity. Critical Inquiry, 35, 773–795.

edited 29 March, 2016 by Allan Parsons