Critical Thinking and Logic by Douglas Wilson Printed in PHS #3, 1993. Source: http://www.criticalthinking.org/aboutCT/define_critical_thinking.cfm
Douglas Wilson is a founder of Logos School in Moscow, Idaho one of the few American day schools founded on classical learning principles.
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that reads
This bumper sticker provides an example of what modern educators call "critical thinking."
A logical answer to the bumper sticker (for those of us to talk back to bumper stickers) would be, "Says who?"
The person trained in logic questions the bumper sticker because he sees a logical problem with the position presented on the bumper sticker.
This questioner has been trained to recognize such problems, correct them, and arrive at the right answer.
The Difference Between Critical Thinking and Logic
Those who seek to inculcate "critical thinking skills" give all authority to the questioner .
He examines, probes, questions, and so forth, before he settles upon "whatever works for him." The one with the questions has all the authority -- a totally subjective authority.
Logical analysis presupposes that there is such a thing as absolute unchanging truth, and that this truth has authority over us.
We are not allowed to tinker with the truth. Instead of teaching skepticism -- the belief that there are no unchanging answers --this approach teaches that we are looking for validly derived answers.
One of the most important starting points when studying logic is the difference between truth and validity. A valid argument is one that is structurally sound -- the conclusion must be true if the premises are true. The premises may not be true, but if they were, the conclusion would follow necessarily.
Even though the premises are true (cats do have four legs and this animal does have four legs), this is a fallacy of form . The argument is structurally unsound.
Fallacies of Distraction A fallacy of distraction occurs when one is trapped and seeks, by various and sundry means, to change the subject.
Instead of saying, “ You've got me there,” he says, "Look! A comet!”
One example of a fallacy of distraction is the abusive ad hominem: "That can't be right because you're a jerk." The man is attacked instead of his argument.
Another example is that of tuquoque: "Oh yeah? Well, you've done it too!" But of course just because someone else has committed the fallacy does not rescue your argument.
The possibilities for real-life applications are enormous.
Deuteronomy tells us that we are to instruct our children when we rise , when we walk along the way, when we read letters to the editor , and so forth.
Our society has graciously provided us with abundant fallacious grist for our children's logical mill
I recall watching the news one time when my son suddenly pointed at the screen and gave the name of the fallacy.
With any rigorous training at all, it is not long before your children will begin to see fallacies everywhere.
Be warned: unbelievers aren't the only ones who make errors in logic. Logical contradictions will often surface in sermons, Christian books, etc.
Christians will often say things that are true, but still invalid. Are we obligated to defend such errors, just because good people make them? By no means! Truth is still true, no matter how many invalid arguments are enlisted on its side, but how much better to rid it of the invalid millstones that are so often tied around its neck
It is no real help to a child to teach him to applaud when he hears something with which he agrees. Even critical thinking professors do that! We should teach him to always ask these two questions:
(1) Is the conclusion true, and (2) Was the argument sound? If the argument was not sound, can he think of an argument that is?
We want to inculcate both love of truth and trust in God's Word -- which is self-consistent, logical, and true. This is what Solomon was talking about when he said, "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom" (Proverbs 4:7).
After all, we are not Christians because "it works for us."
The Star Trek series portray an optimistic technological future, but one filled with constant conflicts as the crew travels on their odyssey through space.
The show sometimes diminishes the role of human reason and the possibility of objective knowledge.
The Voyager series includes a first officer who is a Native American.
He is a spirit guide that utilizes a combination of science and mysticism to help manage crisis situations. Ironically, the greatest threat is not being lost in some distant quadrant of space, but it is the loss of a personal inner stability.
After sharing highlights from the Star Trek programs, teachers can discuss how the television series reflects different perspectives on truth, knowledge, ethics and intellectual trends.
Students might notice that human reason is less important and there is greater emphasis on relativism. What is the basic definition of the term?
Barzun (2000) relates it means flexible, adaptable; a sliding scale that gives a different reading in similar situations.
Relativism appears to make a few distinctions between moral codes, cultures and religions.
They each reside in a certain time and place in history that should be respected and tolerated.
Yet, Barzun argues that a civilized society often utilizes relative standards for applying the law to individual criminal cases.
He maintains that the anti-relativists who embrace moral absolutes cannot effectively answer the question whose absolute are we to adopt and impose?
The brief example reveals that popular culture can offer numerous instructional opportunities to help students refine their thinking skills through reading and reflective dialog.
-Distinguish between fact, opinion and reasoned judgment. -Check consistency. -Identify unstated assumptions. -Recognize stereotypes and clich és. - Recognize bias, emotional factors, propaganda and semantic slanting. -Recognize different value systems and ideologies.
The affective and psychological dimensions of distance education are important aspects of the teaching and learning process.
Distant educators face the dilemma of how to foster critical thinking with students who vary in their need for academic guidance.
Often, this problem is portrayed as teacher-directed versus self-directed learning models.
In reality, the online teacher will have to adapt his/her teaching style to meet the needs of their students.
Berge (1999) relates that interaction in education involves a continuum from teacher-centered to student-centered approaches.
Distant educators are challenged by using a text-driven form of education.
Today’s online classes rely heavily on printed materials and teacher created lectures and handouts.
Kirby & Goodpaster (2002) note language works intimately with all aspects of our thinking, sensing, feeling, remembering, creating, organizing, reasoning, evaluating, deciding persuading, and acting.
As we become more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of language, and as we increase and refine our own language, we will think better