The history of critical thinking documents the development of this insight in a variety of subject matter domains and in a variety of social situations.
Each major dimension of critical thinking has been carved out in intellectual debate and dispute through 2400 years of intellectual history.
As teachers, too often we allow ourselves to uncritically teach as we have been taught, giving assignments that students can mindlessly do, inadvertently discouraging their initiative and independence, missing opportunities to cultivate their self-discipline and thoughtfulness.
It is quite possible and, unfortunately, quite "natural" to live an unexamined life; to live in a more or less automated, uncritical way.
Of course, this requires that we learn self-discipline and the art of self-examination.
This involves becoming interested in how our minds work, how we can monitor, fine tune, and modify their operations for the better.
That history allows us to distinguish two contradictory intellectual tendencies: a tendency on the part of the large majority to uncritically accept whatever was presently believed as more or less eternal truth and a conflicting tendency on the part of a small minority — those who thought critically — to systematically question what was commonly accepted and seek, as a result, to establish sounder, more reflective criteria and standards for judging what it does and does not make sense to accept as true.
Our basic concept of critical thinking is, at root, simple.
As husbands or wives, too often we think only of our own desires and points of view, uncritically ignoring the needs and perspectives of our mates, assuming that what we want and what we think is clearly justified and true, and that when they disagree with us they are being unreasonable and unfair.
As patients, too often we allow ourselves to become passive and uncritical in our health care, not establishing good habits of eating and exercise, not questioning what our doctor says, not designing or following good plans for our own wellness.