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Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important #5823
09/23/10 03:16 PM
09/23/10 03:16 PM
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AntigoneRisen Offline OP
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Critical thinking is the systematic evaluation or formulation of beliefs or statements by rational standards.

You came into this world without opinions, judgments, values, or viewpoints - and now your head is brimming with them. If you tried to write them all down, you would be busy for the rest of your life (and would probably win an award for being the world's biggest bore). They help you make your way through the world. They guide you to both failure and success, ignorance and understanding, good and bad, paralysis and empowerment. Some of your beliefs truly inform you, and some blind you. Some are true; some are not. The question is, which ones are which? This kind of question - a question about the quality of your beliefs - is the fundamental concern of critical thinking.

Critical thinking is not about what you think, but how you think. The question about the quality of beliefs is not about what factors caused you to have the beliefs that you do. A sociologist might tell you how society has influenced some of your moral choices. A psychologist might describe how your emotions cause you to cling to certain opinions. Your best friend might allege that you have unconsciously absorbed most of your beliefs directly from your parents. But none of these speculations have much to do with the central task of critical thinking.

Critical thinking focuses not on what causes a belief, but on whether or not it is worth believing. A belief is worth believing, or accepting, if we have good reasons to accept it. The better the reasons for acceptance, the more likely the belief is to be true. Critical thinking offers us a set of standards embodied in techniques, attitudes, and principles that we can use to assess beliefs and determine if they are supported by good reasons. After all, we want our beliefs to be true, to be good guides for dealing with the world - and critical thinking is the best tool we have for achieving this goal.

Critical thinking is systematic because it involves distinct procedures and methods. It entails evaluation and formulation because it is used to both assess existing beliefs (yours or someone else's) and devise new ones. It operates according to rational standards in that beliefs are judged by how well they are supported by reasons.

Critical thinking, of course, involves logic. Logic is the study of good reasoning, or inference, and the rules that govern it. Critical thinking is broader than logic because it involves not only logic but also the truth or falsity of statements, the evaluation of arguments and evidence, the use of analysis and investigation, and the application of many other skills that help us decide what to believe or do.

Ultimately, what critical thinking leads you to is knowledge, understanding, and - if you put this to work - empowerment.

Why does it matter? Our lives are defined in large measure by our actions and choices - which in turn are guided by our thinking, so our thinking had better be good. Almost every day we are hit by a blizzard of assertions, opinions, arguments, and pronouncements from all directions. They all implore us to believe, to agree, to accept, to follow, to submit. If we care whether our choices are right and our beliefs are true, if we want to rise above blind acceptance and arbitrary choices, we must use the tools provided by critical thinking. Of course, we always have the option of taking the easy way out. We can simply grab onto whatever beliefs or statements come blowing by in the wind, adopting viewpoints because they are favored by others or because they make us feel good. But then we forfeit control over our lives and let wind take us wherever it will, as if we had no more say in the outcome than a leaf in a storm.

A consequence then of going with the wind is a loss of personal freedom. If you passively accept beliefs that have been handed to you by your parents, your culture, or your teachers, then those beliefs are not really yours. You just happened to be in a certain place and time when they were handed out. If they are not really yours and you let them guide your choices and actions, then they - not you - are in charge of your life. Your beliefs are yours only if you critically examine them for yourself to see if they are supported by good reasons and evidence.

Why am I posting this? Well, for one, the human race, in general, does far too little critical thinking for my tastes. For another, many people post assertions, declarations, advice, "truths", etc. (Including some sort of utter absurdities about entire genders and manipulation.) Anyone and everyone who wants to post out here can, that doesn't make the advice worth taking or even worth reading.

How should you evaluate it? Well, first find the conclusion - what is it that the person wants you to believe or do? The rest of it will either be irrelevant or premises. Those that are premises are statements (or rhetorical questions) that are claimed to support the conclusion.

The first thing that should be evaluated is whether or not the premises actually DO support the conclusion. It should not be as follows:

My cat's breath smells like tuna. My car is blue. Therefore, all peanut-butter sandwiches are made of apples.

I have seen a few this ridiculous, but usually the irrelevance of the statement is concealed. This is rarely done out of a desire to manipulate, but rather out of a true belief of the author that the evidence is supportive of the conclusion.

If the evidence does not support the conclusion, the entire argument can be thrown out. It is NOT a valid, supported argument; rather, it is someone's subjective, personal opinion. If the evidence actually supports the conclusion, then, we can move on.

If the conclusion is stated to be proved by the evidence, any untrue evidence casts doubt onto the credibility and actuality of the conclusion. For instance:

All SUVs are blue.
My vehicle is an SUV.
Therefore, my vehicle is blue.

Now, assuming all the premises are true, they DO support the conclusion. It is a valid argument; however, the first premise, "All SUVs are blue," can be proven untrue, and the conclusion, therefore, should not be trusted.

This post contains information and paraphrased excerpts from "Logic" 11th edition by Carl Chen and Irving M Copi published by Prentice Hall, 2002, and course notes I took on lectures.

Have fun, and don't take to heart any arguments that are the logical equivalent of "my cat's breath smells like tuna"...because the logic behind the argument ALSO smells.


Critical Thinking: The Other National Deficit

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens
Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: AntigoneRisen] #5830
09/23/10 03:38 PM
09/23/10 03:38 PM
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ForeverHers Offline
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Originally Posted by AntigoneRisen
Have fun, and don't take to heart any arguments that are the logical equivalent of "my cat's breath smells like tuna"...because the logic behind the argument ALSO smells.


Yep, and farts don't stink, therefore all belches are smelly.


In Christ-like love at all times.

So that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2Cor 1:4b)

Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: ForeverHers] #5833
09/23/10 03:50 PM
09/23/10 03:50 PM
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smile Farts probably don't stink to other farts. grin grin


Critical Thinking: The Other National Deficit

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens
Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: AntigoneRisen] #5868
09/23/10 05:16 PM
09/23/10 05:16 PM
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The Castle Aaaggghh...
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As a teacher, this topic fascinates me because THIS is missing from our educational system. "Self-esteem," "everybody wins," high-stakes testing, dumbing-down, etc. have made much of our education devoid of any higher order thinking skills. DH and I were talking about this today. His Community College students did very poorly on their first music appreciation test. He held their hands through every lesson. He gave them a study guide. He listened WITH them to the examples and discussed what to listen for. They walked through everything together. now, the part of the test where one regurgitates facts wasn't too bad. However, when they had to deduce or think or figure out.....most of them could not do it. They have been taught how to fill in bubbles.....but they have not been taught how to think independently, solve problems.....because that is messy and hard to "assess" and doesn't impress legislators who are mostly bank VP's or marketing majors who have no clue how education works.

Sometimes Johnny can't read because he had a crappy teacher. Sometimes Johnny can't read because Johnny has a disability that cannot be "worksheeted" away until he meets NCLB standards. Sometimes Johnny can't read because Johnny parents don't want to be bothered. And sometimes Johnny could care less whether he reads or not.

I have mentioned this book before. Honestly, if I had the money, I would send one to every politician and every education nay-sayer in the country - it's a Dr. Seuss book called Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. it's about a school wher imagination and authentic learning abound.....then they find out that their school has to take a test, and if they do not do well, they will have to go to school in Flobbertown, where everyone does everything the same. Sound familiar? One of the teachers speaks up to reassure the kids, and she states:

"We've taught you that the world is round
And red and white make pink,
And something else that matters more -
We've taught you how to think!"

As we become more and more test focused and money focused and NCLB focused....all we are really doing is becoming more and more like Flobbertown. And our children can't think. And it makes me sad......which is why I closed my door and taught like a rebel every day smile

Last edited by heremainsfaithful; 09/23/10 05:17 PM.
Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: herfuturesbright] #5935
09/23/10 06:42 PM
09/23/10 06:42 PM
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Quote
As a teacher, this topic fascinates me because THIS is missing from our educational system.


I agree. We used to have rote memorization, but that's not there anymore, either. How to go about evaluating claims and information - what to do with the 'facts' presented to us, is very important.

Quote
They have been taught how to fill in bubbles.....but they have not been taught how to think independently, solve problems.....because that is messy and hard to "assess" and doesn't impress legislators who are mostly bank VP's or marketing majors who have no clue how education works.


Most bachelor's graduates I know have never seen a Venn Diagram. When a Venn Diagram is Master's level work... Grade school students could easily do this, if properly instructed.

Quote
However, when they had to deduce or think or figure out.....most of them could not do it.


I once did a career day at a local middle school. As I talked to the classes, I told them about my job, and - yes - it paid well, etc. They were very interested! I asked if they liked Math. Errr...no. I asked if they liked word problems...HATED it! Then I told them what my job really was every day - setting up very complex word problems (business problem), laying out a systematic algorithm (logic) for it using variables (like Algebra), and typing it into the computer to run.

They were back to wanting to be firemen and policemen in no time. frown As a society, our math skills are abysmal. I have no idea how we will compete in the global economy in the future.

It wasn't interesting. The approach to teaching math is boring.

If I had my way, logic as a discipline would start in kindergarden. We hand all the kids an object and have them deduce on paper the purpose of the object.


Critical Thinking: The Other National Deficit

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens
Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: AntigoneRisen] #5984
09/23/10 09:30 PM
09/23/10 09:30 PM
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The Castle Aaaggghh...
herfuturesbright Offline
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I went to a very individualized, Piagetian, Constructivist type elementary school. There were down sides - like the lack of structure at times. But we were encouraged to use our imaginations, come up with our own ways of solving problems, etc. I thought the IQ tests and things they gave us were just games. But it was a great learning environment.

Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: herfuturesbright] #5988
09/23/10 09:39 PM
09/23/10 09:39 PM
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AR, here's a great website of engaging activities for career day. Many times kids will say "math is hard," but when you give them solvable problems, where it's okay to get it wrong, because no one's going to collect it, they do better than they'd think. And the groups that don't solve the problem can root for the classmates who did in the end. I wonder if it's as simple as fear of failure?

http://www.eweek.org/Home.aspx


"I have everything I need." and "I am exactly where I am supposed to be." ~Louise Hays
Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: NewEveryDay] #5993
09/23/10 09:54 PM
09/23/10 09:54 PM
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AR, Thanks for this thread!


Chrysalis
Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: NewEveryDay] #6845
09/27/10 06:58 PM
09/27/10 06:58 PM
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I think a lot of it is fear of failure, and a lot of that fear is the number of people who run around in our society swearing math is so difficult and making it seem threatening and insurmountable.



Critical Thinking: The Other National Deficit

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens
Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: AntigoneRisen] #8311
10/05/10 12:52 PM
10/05/10 12:52 PM
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Somehow I missed this thread before now. Thank you AR for starting it.

There is a guy in Dallas, who has his own radio program on Saturday morning. He has rejected syndication of the program, but it can be heard on www.insideautomotive.com by clicking a link during broadcast time.

He specializes in critical thinking.

He thinks on the subject of the automotive industry, critical to our economy and life style, energy, critical to our life style and economy and other issues. He is one of the best at understanding energy, including the oil business.

He writes for the Ft. Worth Star Telegram and for Business Week.

His name is Ed Wallace and his web site is becoming a popular place to find interesting articles that tell us what we need to know about what is going on in the world.

His mantra IS Critical Thinking. I remember when he was on daily during and after 9/11. He really laid it out where I could understand what was going on, what went on and what was likely to happen in a much more understandable way than anyone else I listened to on 9/11 and days afterward.

I was working long hours and didn't have the time to do it for myself, so I depended on Ed Wallace to keep me informed. And I wanted to know. Who wouldn't after 9/11? I trusted his ability to think critically.

Larry


It's often the truth we hide from ourselves that causes the most damage in life.

My old email address no longer works.
Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: Larry] #8775
10/07/10 03:39 AM
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I have actually heard of Ed Wallace, although right now I cannot recall where. I'll check that out. smile


Critical Thinking: The Other National Deficit

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens
Re: Critical Thinking Part I - Way Too Little of Something Vitally Important [Re: AntigoneRisen] #209560
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bump


Critical Thinking: The Other National Deficit

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." - Christopher Hitchens

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