Date of Award

Spring 1996

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Barbara Houston


In this dissertation I contend that there is a strong connection between critical thinking and the imagination, a connection which increases the dynamism and vitality of critical thinking. By acknowledging a role for the imagination, we are able to form a more coherent and complete critical thinking conception, which leads to the positing of a new theory of critical thinking. This new conception has pedagogical implications demanding that we alter or augment current approaches to critical thinking instruction.

Employing a conceptual analysis, I first focus on critical thinking conceptions found on a continuum from traditional conceptions, which focus on logic and argument analysis, to expanded conceptions, which are more eclectic and admit a role for the affective as well as the cognitive. In order to focus on the nature of the imagination, which I argue plays an important role especially in expanded conceptions of critical thinking, I examine first the philosophical and then the literary conceptions of the imagination, specifically considering the arguments by the philosophers Edward Casey and Mary Warnock and the writers William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Wallace Stevens. These philosophers and writers reveal an imagination characterized by a connection to creativity, the capacity to construct meaning, the generation of potentially unending possibilities, the capacity to enable the emotions to emerge and coexist with rationality. Other writers and literary theorists like Samuel Johnson, Toni Morrison, and Deanne Bogdan alert us to the epistemological and moral dangers of the imagination, dangers which need to be acknowledged and addressed in order to allow for the imagination to fully enrich and enhance critical thinking.

The new conception of critical thinking, which I call integrative critical thinking, fully employs the imagination to generate a variety of possible avenues for our thinking and our conclusions, evokes emotions held in creative tension with reason, envisages a conclusion (or conclusions) to one's thought process and the means to reach those conclusions, and allows for creativity during the critical thinking process. Integrative critical thinking incorporates criticism and judgment, but also recognizes that critical thinking occurs in and is affected by a social context. This conception integrates the three enduring approaches (knowledge, skills, and dispositions) to critical thinking and opens up the critical thinker not only to envision a liberated state of mind and being but also to act on that vision.