'A White Dog is Black': The Case for Heterodoxy in the Pedagogy of Critical Thinking in Globalized Higher Education'

Michael SEATS
Curtin University, Australia
michael.seats@curtin.edu.au

Abstract

Ancient Chinese sophists often usurped conceptual orthodoxy by making blatantly contradictory statements such as 'a white dog is black', 'fire is not hot'. In a contemporary setting, such utterances challenge orthodox thinking about the nature of language and representation, and undermine the epistemological legitimacy of aspects of 'critical thinking' in the Western tradition.

The ability to think critically is almost universally listed as a graduate attribute, yet research in Anglophone countries shows that many graduates are deficient in this regard. If the pedagogy of critical thinking in higher education is still a highly contested area of research, it is just as true that a discussion about what kinds of thinking should be taught remains largely undeveloped. Furthermore, the existence of competing views about how to define critical thinking, obscures the need for an equally important discussion about the extent to which effective critical thinking 'skills' in a globalized world can be said to have 'universal' applicability or mere 'circumstantial' validity.

Responding to such a need, this study proposes incorporating conceptual, methodological and cultural 'heterodoxy' in mainstream critical thinking pedagogy. Instances of ostensibly 'heterodox' and thought-provoking ways of thinking in the writings of Kant, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Peirce and Toulmin (as well as examples from selected non-Western traditions) are drawn upon. Moving beyond 'cultural relativism' and a crude 'geography of thought' approach, it is concluded that the development of a more syncretic model of critical thinking will enable the construction of knowledge(s) based on a heightened awareness of the importance of heterodoxy for critical and creative thinking in a highly globalized world.

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