Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education and Human Services


Educational Foundations

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Mark Weinstein

Committee Member

Michele Knobel

Committee Member

Pablo Tinio

Committee Member

Tyson Lewis


The development of critical disposition, and particularly the disposition to question assertions, has long been viewed as an essential goal of education. Its importance is expressed not only in numerous normative educational visions, but by contemporary policy documents, studies of teacher attitudes, and even popular educational literature. Indeed, the movement to educate for higher-order, critical thinking that has developed over the past four decades views questioning as perhaps the central activity of skilled cognition. As such, the disposition to question assertions – or what I have come to call “criticality” - transcends both the classroom and any specific academic or vocational discipline. It is essential to all good thinking, whether such thinking concerns scientific research, workplace decision making, or the navigation of everyday life.

While there has been little conceptual analysis of criticality per se, there exists a substantial and relevant literature concerning the nature of critical disposition. In this dissertation, I analyze the two dominant conceptions in the literature as they relate to criticality, evaluating them with regard to both our held critical ideal of appropriate questioning, as well as a paradox that arises from the nature of the critical act itself – what I call the paradox of criticality. I argue that both conceptions fail to justify our critical ideal and offer little insight into how we can end the iterative questioning of critical behavior without paradoxically engaging in an “acritical” act. I propose that any understanding of criticality capable of supporting a commitment to appropriate questioning must view critical behavior as a form of judgment.

With this in mind, I incorporate Hubert Dreyfus’ theory of expertise into a phenomenological analysis of critical recognition to develop a conception of criticality that views such recognition as an act of judgment that itself relies on the embodiment of previous judgment. I then turn to the literature on neurocognition and consciousness for empirical backing of this conception, arguing that both dual cognition and global workspace theory provide substantial justification for a commitment to it. I conclude with a discussion of the educational ramifications of the expertise conception and the role that didactic philosophy might play in an education for criticality.

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