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03/18/2014

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A Mini Guide to Critical Thinking
Joe Lau
Department of Philosophy
The University of Hong Kong
August 2003
Table of contents

1. Introduction..........................................................1 2. Meaning...............................................................1 3. Definitions............................................................3 4. Necessary and sufficient conditions...................... 5 5. Linguistic pitfalls...................................................7 6. Basic logical concepts........................................ 12 7. Arguments..........................................................13 8. Validity and soundness....................................... 14 9. Patterns of valid arguments................................ 16 10. Causation...........................................................20 11. Morality..............................................................21 12. Fallacies.............................................................22 13. Going forward.....................................................23

- 1-
1. Introduction
Critical thinking is the ability to engage in reflective and independent
thinking, and being able to think clearly and rationally.

Critical thinking does not mean being argumentative or being critical of others. Although critical thinking skills can be used in exposing fallacies and bad reasoning, they can also be used to support other viewpoints, and to cooperate with others in solving problems and acquiring knowledge.

Critical thinking is a general thinking skill that is useful for all sorts of careers and professions. Clear and systematic thinking can improve the comprehension and expression of ideas , so good critical thinking can also enhance language and presentation skills.

It is sometimes suggested that critical thinking is incompatible with creativity. This is a misconception, as creativity is not just a matter of coming up with new ideas. A creative person is someone who can generate new ideas that are useful and relevant to the task at hand. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in evaluating the usefulness of new ideas, selecting the best ones and modifying them if necessary.

Critical thinking is also necessary for self-reflection. In order to live a meaningful life and to structure our lives accordingly, we need to justify and reflect on our values and decisions. Critical thinking provides the tools for this process of self-evaluation.

This mini guide contains a brief discussion of the basics of critical thinking. It is neither a comprehensive survey nor a self-contained textbook. The aim is to highlight some of the more important concepts and principles of critical thinking to give a general impression of the field. For further study, readers can look up the books and online resources listed at the end.

2. Meaning
LITERAL MEANING is a property of linguistic expressions. The literal meaning

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