Michael Daniel Why I Love ARQ Oct 27, 2006 Asking the Right Questions outlines one way to practice

critical thinking. It explains how to identify and evaluate different parts of an argument. The parts of an argument are the issue, conclusion and reasons. Once these are identified we can evaluate them for ambiguities, value conflicts, assumptions, fallacies, strength or weakness of evidence, rival causes, misuse of statistics, and missing information. The book concludes with a chapter on drawing conclusions from our critical thinking. One fallacy in ARQ involves weak sense vs. strong sense critical thinking. According to the book, weak sense critical thinking occurs when you are defending an idea. ARQ says that weak sense critical thinking ruins, “the potentially humane and progressive aspects of critical thinking.” Strong sense critical thinking happens when we apply critical thinking to all beliefs, including our own. If you believe this either-or fallacy, then you would believe that you can not defend an idea and apply critical thinking to it at the same time, as this would mix weak and strong sense critical thinking. When I read this book I compared it with other books on critical thinking that I have read. I found it to be a simplistic introductory text but it held up relatively well for the narrow scope that it was designed for. The scope was narrow because it focused on static arguments. A static argument is an argument that you can not interact with, such as a book or a speech. Debates and conversations are outside the pureview of this text book. Dr. Harry Frankfurt, the head of the philosophy department at Princeton, wrote a book titled, ‘On Bullshit.’ He identifies bullshit as a statement made without regard for the truth. This is different from lying because liars want to hide the truth in some way.

By definition, bullshit is a practical application of skepticism. A bullshitter will say things such as ‘I have the best car in town’ simply because they want the audience to think more highly of them. I have found the fallacy of bullshit to be the most prominent fallacy when watching pundits, religious figures and drunken frat boys with something to prove. Certain kinds of weak sense critical thinking can be considered bullshit. ‘The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense’ was a great influence on me. It does not use the phrase, ‘critical thinking,’ but it shows that critical thinking is the best response to verbal attacks. It shows how to attack underlieing assumptions in attacks that begin with the following phrases: “If you really…”, “Even you should…”, “Why don’t you ever…”, ‘Everybody understands why you…”, “A person who…”, “Some Xs would…”, and “Don’t you even care…” These phrases are generally used in emotionally charged attacks. Once I became good at defending against those attacks it became much easier to find underlieing assumptions in other attacks, including ad hominem attacks. In my experience the ideas from “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense” work in the following way: As the attacker gets more upset I become more calm and calculating while I dissect their words and use them to my advantage. This elevates the emotional stress on the attacker until they wear themself out. After that they either stop or speak to me in a rational manner. Sometimes they take a swing at me but that’s extreemly rare (I’m not a small person). This book helped me to deal with many angry people in my personal life. Professionally, I have spent 6 years doing tech support and customer service over the phone. I doubt that I would have been able to put up with the angry public for so long had I not studied this book.