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What is critical thinking?

Origins of critical thinking:


Critical thinking is not an urban methodology as most people might think; its a 2,500 years old concept that was pioneered by its god father Socrates. Socrates started his quest for unrevealing the scientific method of argument and justifiable claims by using a method of probing questioning, also known as, skepticism. It was him who presented the first proof that one should not always depend on authority to have absolute knowledge and insight. Also he pointed out the importance of asking inquiring questions before adopting a certain idea as worthy of belief.

Critical thinking as a process:


Critical thinking is a complex process of deliberation which involves a wide range of skills and attitudes, it includes: Identifying other peoples positions, arguments and conclusions Evaluating the evidence for alternative points of view. Weighing up opposing arguments and evidence fairly. Being able to read between the lines. Recognizing techniques used to make certain arguments more appealing than others Reflecting on issues in a more logical and insightful way, Conclude if the argument is justifiable or not Present point of view in a structured manner.

Skepticism and trust: Skepticism in critical thinking means bringing an element of polite doubt, however, this does not mean to live life never believing anything you see or hear. It means holding open the possibility that what you know at a given time may be only part of the picture. Skepticism isn't about not believing; it's about suspending judgment until a claim can be verified with evidence and reason.

Skepticism isn't about not believing; it's about suspending judgment until a claim can be verified with evidence and reason.

To believe something without questioning its validity leaves the mind open to believing all sorts of unsubstantiated claims, from prophecy to forwarded Emails. The problem with this is that a mind guided by false beliefs literally means that the person is being led by misinformation
The Problems of Unjustified Belief

The following fictional scenario, while extreme, will illustrate the problem of unjustified beliefs. A forwarded Email comes in from a friend. It says that the President of the United States is an unpatriotic socialist foreign-born Muslim who wants the terrorists to win; therefore he/she should be impeached. And for the sake of argument, in the reality that this scenario takes place in, the President is not any of those things. In other words, the forwarded Email in the hypothetical scenario is a big lie. In the off chance that someone should take this forwarded Email to heart, this person will begin making political decisions based on this belief. He or she might try to vote the person out of office, campaign for impeachment, or attempt to persuade others to not vote for the President. None of those political activities are wrong, but the reasons behind doing them are. They are not grounded in reality.
Investigating New Claims

When confronted by a new claim, especially an odd one such as the Email described above, the person ought to investigate the claim rather than take it on faith. After all, the source of the information is a forwarded Email, which can be initiated anonymous and by anyone The claims in the Email are that the President is: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Unpatriotic A socialist Not a U.S. citizen A Muslim A terrorist sympathizer

First, are any of these reasons in and of themselves good enough to impeach a president? Being a Muslim or a socialist are not good reasons to impeach any president; the others are debatable. Not being a U.S. citizen and being a terrorist sympathizer are good reasons to impeach someone; being a Muslim or a socialist isn't a good reason. So, it's clear the importance of each claim differs. Never the less, the five subjects listed can be investigated. While researching, the investigator visits various conspiracy theorist websites and reads conspiracy theorist literature that confirm the claims in the Email.

Many readers will find that there is something odd about this investigation. Thats because the investigator checked sources that verified his original belief, without regard to credibility.

Critical thinking and reasoning: Critical thinking is associated with our capacity for rational thought or what we call reasoning which includes: Having reasons for what we believe and do Critically evaluating our own beliefs and actions Being able to present to others the reasons for our beliefs and actions.

Reasoning also helps in the critical analysis of other peoples reasons through: Identifying their reasons and conclusions Analyzing how they select, combine and order reasons to construct a line of reasoning Evaluate whether their reasons support the conclusions they draw Evaluate whether their reasons are well founded and based on good evidence Identifying flaws in their reasoning.

Reasoning is also considered to be the relation of one thought to another. Active reasoning is called inference, indicators of inference include: Since This implies Consequently Because

An explanation: is a set of statements with a claim that the statement being explained (the explanandum) is true because of the rest of the statements (the explanans). An argument: a set of statements along with the claim that one or more of these statements (premises) supports another (conclusion). How does reasoning fit in? Do the premises support the conclusion? How much support is provided? How strong is the argument?

Deductive arguments: are arguments that are very strong, that if the premises are true, the conclusion is therefore guaranteed.

Inductive arguments: If the premises are true then arguments are more probable but not guaranteed.

Importance of critical thinking: It improves attention and observation Improved ability to response and to identify flaws in any argument. How to get your point of view across easily Skills of analysis that you choose to apply in a variety of situations. Increases attention to detail and accuracy Identify trends and patterns Avoid repetition and identify when it is being used. Taking different perspectives and using objectivity. Considering implications and distant consequences. Deal with ambiguity and doubt. Achieve emotional self mangment. Realize ones own goods and flaws and be able to cope with them.

Barriers to critical thinking: Misunderstanding of what is meant by criticism. Over estimating our own reasoning abilities Lack of methods, strategies and practices. Reluctance to critique experts Affective reasons. Mistaking information for understanding Insufficient focus and attention to detail.

There are also some mistakes people usually make that act as a great barrier to critical thinking: Egocentric thinking: Viewing everything in relation to oneself without considering the other aspects and points of view. Social Conditioning: thinking of deciding based on a bias towards or against a certain social condition. It could be ethnicity, race etc. Biased experiences: Experience usually teaches us, but it can hinder critical thinking depending on how we remember this experience. Arrogance and intolerance: when someone is arrogant, their minds are closed and they refuse to think of what others say or claim and this will lead to incorrect reasoning. Schedule pressures: Pressure may lead to mistakes in reasoning and poor decision making.

Group think: this exists in our daily lives, through TV and radio etc. If we are all thinking alike, then we are not actually thinking much. The drone mentality: A pattern of not paying attention to what is happing around us.

6 effective questions that enlighten the path of critical thinkers:


Following behind the footsteps that were made by Socrates, the methodology and concepts of critical thinking kept evolving and proving effectiveness throughout the ages. Being a critical thinker does not necessarily mean being over analytic and also being skeptic does not have to mean being rude. To effectively adopt the tactics of critical thinking one must be able act in a scientific based manner without shooting any insults to the claimer or causing discomforts to the surrounding people. There are six questions that should be considered by the mind of the critical thinker in order to successfully assess the situation and be able to respond in an intellectual and effective way, these questions are:

1. What is the point of the discussion?


Every argument should include: A position or point of view An attempt to persuade others with this point of view Reasons given to support this point of view.

Persuasive arguments use clear and convincing reasons to support the point of view. However, this is not the case for ambiguous arguments. Nevertheless , the both have 2 key terms which are : Propositions: Statements believed to be true and presented as arguments or reasons for consideration by the audience. A proposition may turn out to be true or false. Each proposition also includes: # Premises: Proposition is believed to be true and used as the bases for the argument. # False premise: A proposition that later turns out to be true or correct. # Predicate: the foundation of the argument. Conclusion: reasoning should lead towards an end point, which is the conclusion. The conclusion should normally relate closely to the authors main position.

The word argument is used in 2 ways in critical thinking which are: Contributing argument: at which individual reasons are referred to as arguments or contributing arguments.

The overall argument: This is composed of contributing arguments or reasons. The overall argument presents the authors position. The term line of reasoning is used to refer to a set of reasons or contributing arguments structured to support the overall argument.

2. Is there an argument or not?


Having an argument with someone does not necessarily mean disagreement; because when you disagree with someone you dont have to elaborate your position or try to convince him/her with your point of view, unlike the case for an argument. Difference between argument, positions, agreement and disagreement: Position: A point of view Agreement: To agree or concur with someone elses point of view. Disagreement: To hold a different point of view from someone else. Argument: trying to support your own point of view in order to persuade the audience. It simply means disagreeing with someones position and giving reasons to that disagreement.

Examples: Position: Genetic engineering really worries me, it shouldnt be allowed. ( no reasons given, therefore its not an argument) Agreement: I dont know much about genetic engineering but I agree with you. Disagreement: Im not convinced; I think it should be banned. ( no reasons given, therefore its not an argument ) Argument: Genetic engineering should be curtailed because there hasnt been sufficient research into what happens when new varieties created without natural predators to hold them in check.

Descriptions: Descriptions are different from arguments as they give an account of how something is done or what something looks like. There are no reasons for how or why something occurred nor do they evaluate outcomes.

Example: the solution was placed in a test tube and heated to 35 centigrade. Small amounts of yellow vapor were emitted and it was odorless.

Explanations: They appear to have a structure of an argument as they may include statements and reasons, leading to final conclusion, and be introduced by signal words similar to those used for arguments. However, they dont attempt to persuade the audience with a certain point of view as they only explain why or how something occurred and also draw out the meaning of a theory, an argument or a message. Example: It was found that many drivers become drowsy when travelling and that long hours at the wheel were a major cause of accidents. As a result, more stopping places set up along motorways to enable drivers to take a break. Summaries: Summaries are the reduced versions of longer messages or texts. It repeats the key points as a reminder of what has been said already in order to draw attention to the most important aspects.

3. If there is an argument; is it well structured, clear and consistent?


Building a strong argument requires a clear statement or at least a clear direction of the argument clarifying the author's real point of view. Even though some might see that considering the reasons provided the author's position should be pretty clear, some examples in the chapter show that this might not always be the case and that has the pitfall of leaving it up to the reader's comprehension of the reasoning to understand whether the author supports or opposes whatever he's presenting the argument about. This section stresses on the importance of having key points such as a clear conclusion , an overall summary of the argument & careful selection of facts so the argument isn't lost. Internal consistency: An important aspect of maintaining a clear position is by maintaining a consistent argument, meaning that it should have a proper structure since inconsistencies lead to an argument that's hard to follow and leads to a confused audience that's uncertain about what the author wants to persuade them to believe. Guidelines to maintaining internal consistency mentions are including opposing arguments & paying attention to the precision of yours. Including counter arguments doesn't only help show the author's position on the topic, it also makes it clear why other points of view are less convincing, resolving apparent contradictions and inner thoughts the audience

might have when they reflect on the argument whether later or at the moment. Paying attention to precision specifically in the wording of the argument keeps the audience from getting lost and preserves the argument from possible invalid counter arguments that may seem valid due to bad wording .

Logical consistency : As mentioned above, maintaining the consistency of an argument is a major aspect of maintaining a clear position necessary for an effective argument. That doesn't only mean the argument has to be internally solid, it also has to be logically well structured and built; consistent. Maintaining that calls for the argument to follow a specific paradigm manifested in having the reasons support the conclusions the author draws. To evaluate such argument you need follow the reasons and check whether these reasons actually support the conclusion drawn. We must always be careful, whether when evaluating an argument or drawing one ourselves, that the argument's author sometimes loses track of their logical reason and draws conclusions that are influenced by factors other than logic.

Independent & Joint Reasons: At this point we understand fully that conclusions drawn from arguments need to have reasons, such reasons may be divided into two main categories; joint or independent reasons. Joint reasons are ones that typically reinforce each other by the nature of their logic while independent reasons are ones that even though don't directly support each other, they support the eventual desired conclusion.

Intermediate Conclusions: It's likely that at this point, it's believed that conclusions are the desired result of an argument, and that remains true however conclusions are not necessarily the end of an argument. An author may choose to reach conclusions, and use these conclusions to draw an even deeper conclusion. Such type of conclusions can be used by the author for one of two reasons; either summative or to serve as a reason. Summative means that the author sums up the argument at a certain point in order to clarify the argument, since having an argument that's too long may confuse the audience and might make them lose track of the core of the argument itself. Summative & Logical Conclusion: Having discusses the reasons as to why authors draw intermediate conclusions, or why draw a conclusion at all (the point of an argument), the types of conclusions remain to be defined, they're generally divided into two types; summative conclusion & logical conclusion. A summative conclusion is one that simply draws all previous discussed information and reasons into a form of summary. These generally bring an argument to a close without making judgments. Logical conclusions however are deductions based on the logical reasons, it's a jest of available evidence that supports the author's point, and usually include one or more judgments based on reasons given.

4. Is there an underlying assumption or implication to that argument?


Assumptions: To begin discussing implicit assumptions we must start by defining what is an assumption and its role in an argument. Assumptions generally are what's taken for granted as facts in an argument that are not necessarily stated explicitly but underlie the argument to point towards a conclusion that is else without them wouldn't have been exactly correct. Assumptions are usually used to save time and to simplify the argument since generally in an argument not everything needs to be proven. A proper assumption is one that's logically consistent, reasonable and one that the audience understands its meaning and agrees to it.

Identifying Hidden Assumptions: An audience needs to identify assumptions so that they can understand the argument deeper and spot if the argument's author is trying to patch conclusion to inconsistent reasons. It's important however to take note that the usage of implicit assumptions in an argument not only subjects it to weaknesses, but may lead to the usage of assumptions that don't generally support the desired conclusion. An argument that generally doesn't follow on, as in the conclusion seems to pop out rather than following as the result of many assumptions, is one that's likely to have hidden assumptions.

Premises & False Premises: Premises are defined as beliefs, theories and assumptions. Even though an argument would be expected to be based on reasons, it's also based or predicated on its premises. False premises however remain a possibility, and when basing an argument on false premises, the argument typically collapses and we say it's predicated on false premises. Knowledge of context is usually needed to identify false premises.

Explicit & Implicit Arguments: Explicit arguments are ones that appear and easily identifiable as an argument while implicit

ones are arguments that don't follow a familiar structure of an argument, that in a way the author is not explicitly persuading the audience in a certain direction. Implicit arguments have many application, particularly in situations where the author wants the audience to not analyze the argument thoroughly or in a purely logical way to satisfy his own purposes. Such applications include advertising, suggesting consequences or persuading someone to do something they wouldn't willingly do on their own. Denoted & Connoted Meanings: Denoted means literal or explicit while connoted means that the following message carried further non-explicitly stated information or meanings. Connoted meanings can be obvious they don't necessarily need to be hidden or would take the average audience extra analysis of an argument to figure out. As to the creation of such connoted arguments, an easy way to do so is by associating the discussion's item with another, more expressive item, that way the author doesn't need to explicitly say all the features of such an item, but the audience will infer them from the other item. Connoted meanings are met in our daily life in the form of latent messages, whenever someone is trying to persuade an audience into believing something such as in advertising or in elections, latent messages are used to plant such thoughts into the minds of the audience.

5. Are there any flaws within this argument? And if there are what are these flaws?
Common types of flaws: 1. Confusing cause and effect. 2. Failing to meet necessary conditions. 3. Attacking the character of a person rather than evaluating their reasoning and using emotive language. 4. Misrepresentation.

1. Cause and effect "assuming a cause link" Assumptions are made upon certain links that identifies the cause and effect. It is divided into 4 types of assuming a link: one thing must be the cause of another, correlation, correlations with third causes, and false correlations. First type One thing must be the cause of another:

Sometimes, people just judge the whole sentence upon things that occurred at the same time, or even found together. People assume that there must be a relation between these things as a cause and effect. Assumptions are concluded on the sentence in order to conclude to a specific point of view. In order to evaluate correctly and efficiently, there should be other considerations to prove that this thing is the cause of that effect. By considering other expectations, there will be evidence upon the cause and effect.

Example: the entire family was ill last night. They all ate fish at the restaurant yesterday. Therefore, the fish must have been contaminated. This sentence can be evaluated as the fish was the cause of the illness. So, in order to evaluate more effectively, there are other things to be considered. Other evidence to prove that the fish was the only cause of the illness like whether anybody else who ate fish from the same batch became ill, what the nature of the illness is, what else might have caused the illness, and an examination of the fish remains.

Second type Correlation: If it is a relation between two things for the same purpose or same direction; it is called "correlation". When the relation to each other is opposite, it is called "inverse correlation". Example: Correlation: as the temperature rises, people drink more water. Inverse correlation: as the temperature fell, people were more likely to use the indoor swimming pool.

Third type Correlations with third causes: There can be two things that are caused for the same reason. Two things have the same relation which is called correlation but at the same time they do not have the effect on each other. The effect on both things is caused by third cause.

Example: sales of ice cream may rise between May and August each year and so may sales in sandals. Ice cream and sandals are correlated but sales of ice cream have no effect on sales of sandals. The third cause is the weather. Weather is the effect on both sales.

Fourth type False correlations : Sometimes, there are two things have shared link but it is not considered as a correlation. Not every trend that have the same direction with the other means there is a correlation. It is more often called coincidence than correlation. Example: the number of car crimes has increased. There used to be only a few colours of car from which purchasers could choose. Now there is much more variety. The wider the choice of car colours, the higher the rate of car crime. It is more coincidental than a correlated.

2. Failing to meet necessary conditions: In order to prove that the argument is well evidenced or right, there should be essential requirements to be met. If there is lack of evidence, then the argument has not been proven. There should be evidence in order to consider the argument as true. Rephrase each argument with " without this, then not that..." in order to check if there are necessary requirements or not.

3. Emotive language and attacking a person: Emotive language: When emotional words are used, the reader is less likely to evaluate the argument. Emotive language leads the reader to feel the words without analysing what is beyond the argument. Attacking the person: The reader can attack the person itself by a counter argument but it will undermine the credibility of the argument. Sometimes, the writer's history overtakes the words or written sentences as he or she was dishonest about certain point of view. The reader should analyse wisely the argument itself by not attacking the person who wrote it.

4. Misrepresentation and trivialization: The way of distorting the argument is by opposing argument with an unfair way. There are 3 types of misrepresentation which are ignoring the main opposing reasons, presenting restricted options, and misrepresenting a person. - Ignoring the main opposing reasons: The way of making an argument is less valid by pointing only on the minor points of the argument. Minor points of the argument do not supporting the argument itself and not presenting evidence. - Presenting restricted options: Misrepresentation can take a form of saying an opposing argument with limited options. If the argument contains two evidences which one has weak evidence and the other has a strong one. It will lead to misrepresentation as it will conclude only one opposing point of view. - Misrepresenting a person: Another form of misrepresentation is focusing on certain characteristics of the person that are irrelevant from the main ones. *Tautology: Tautology means using the same meaning by rephrasing the sentence. The argument contains the same meaning but with different words. *Two wrongs don't make a right When there is a situation that tells one person acts in a certain manner that does not mean that this manner can be done by others. The way of accepting the imitation of acts upon the others means that this is a flawed argument.

6. Are the sources and evidence of this argument valid or vague? ( MOST IMPORTANT)

In order to evaluate any argument, there should be credible sources to be analyzed from. There are two types of sources; primary and secondary. Sometimes, there are crossing between two categories. Primary source materials: Primary source materials are tools that originate from time and place of the event being investigated. Primary sources can include: - Contemporary letters, documents, prints, painting, and photographs; - Newspapers, books and materials published at that time; - TV, film and video footage from the time; - Recordings of radio broadcasts; - Remaining body parts, sources of DNA, finger prints and footprints; - Artefacts such as tools, pottery, furniture; - Testimonies of witnesses; - The raw data from experiments; - Autobiographies - Material on the internet if the internet or materials on it are the focus of the study; - Individual responses to surveys and questionnaires. Secondary sources: Secondary source materials are any type of materials written or produced about the event. Sometimes, these materials are published late. Secondary sources can include: - Books, articles, web pages, documentaries about an event, person or item; - Interviews with people reporting what they heard from witnesses; - Biographies; - Articles in magazines; - Papers and reports using the results of surveys, questionnaires and experiments.

- Crossing between categories There are some materials that can be categorized on both types. Some materials can be identified as secondary source in one circumstance and primary source in another. Example: the biography of a prime minister is a secondary source of information about the political leader but could be a primary source about the life of the author. -Searching for evidence "references" For everyday purposes: In order to check what type of argument is it, there should be an evidence considered to know whether it is a valid argument or not. It is important to check the evidence behind the argument if any argument you heard or read has a valid reason. References are the key of knowing the credible source of information. In books and articles, there is a reference source like (Gilligan, 1997) which makes it easier for people to grab more information on the subject. Also, people can investigate whether the writer presents the exact point as the reference or not. There are many tools to know information about the subject. These tools can be: search engine (Google), browse on introductory chapter of a book, read papers or articles from a recent newspaper or internet (guardian. Unlimited), ask an expert in the area concerning the subject, and visit websites related to the subject. For academic and professional purposes: Literature searches are mainly for any professional or academic purpose as it is more credible with information proved already from many sources. For any big subject, there will be wide variety of research; otherwise, there will be limited search for small projects. Also, online literature search is beneficial when a person know credible source. Journal is a credible source as it needs to be reviewed from peers many times.

Evidence evaluation points: *Authentic: means of undisputed origin which is proved as what it is as it is claimed for, or written or produced by persons claimed. * Validity: means it meets the exact requirements needed. So, evidence cannot be valid if it is not authentic.

*Currency: means it is still in present whether published recently, updated recently, produced in new edition, or unchangeable information. *Seminal work: means are almost original or have influence on certain subject for a long time. * Reliability: means the evidence or source is trustworthy. * Replication: Means that there were re-tests or double research on the topic/issue. Double research with the same result means it is more reliable.

Which sources should you refer to? - Selecting your evidence1- Be selective: in searching for evidence, sources should be reliable and valid to support the argument. 2- Passing references: references support the argument from a valid point. It supports whether it is a theoretically evidence proved or not. 3- Point out whether the evidence is relevant or irrelevant to the subject, reasons, and conclusion. 4- Try to reduce uncertainty as arguments cannot be hundred percent proved. There are 4 ways to reduce uncertainty which are selecting reputable sources, critically analyzing the evidence, calculating the level of probability, and increasing the level of probability.

Summary:
In order to be considered a critical thinker there should be several aspects considered before making ones decision whether one is convinced or not, against the argument or supporting it and most importantly to be able to engage in a debate or a discussion while adopting an intellectual and scientific manner of dialogue. The key questions that form the backbone of critical thinking are: 1. What is the point of the discussion? 2. If there is an argument or not. 3. If there is an argument; is it well structured, clear and consistent? 4. Is there an underlying assumption or implication to that argument? 5. Are there any flaws within this argument? And if there are what are these flaws? 6. Are the sources and evidence of this argument valid or vague? ( MOST IMPORTANT)