critical thinking


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critical thinking

  1. 1. SCIENTIFIC REASONING & CRITICAL THINKING Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following : understand the logical connections between ideas identify, construct and evaluate arguments detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning solve problems systematically identify the relevance and importance of ideas reflect on the justification of one's own beliefs and values Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself or herself. Critical thinking should not be confused with being argumentative or being critical of other people. Although critical thinking skills can be used in exposing fallacies and bad reasoning, critical thinking can also play an important role in cooperative reasoning and constructive tasks. Critical thinking can help us acquire knowledge, improve our theories, and strengthen arguments. We can use critical thinking to enhance work processes and improve social institutions. Some people believe that critical thinking hinders creativity because it requires following the rules of logic and rationality, but creativity might require breaking rules. This is a misconception. Critical thinking is quite compatible with thinking "out-of-the-box", challenging consensus and pursuing less popular approaches. If anything, critical thinking is an essential part of creativity because we need critical thinking to evaluate and improve our creative ideas. How to improve Critical thinking is a meta-thinking skill. It requires thinking about thinking. We have to reflect on the good principles of reasoning and make a conscious effort to internalize them and apply them in daily life. This is notoriously hard to do and often requires a long period of training. The mastery of critical thinking is similar to the mastery of many other skills. There are three important components: theory, practice, and attitude. § C04.1 Theory § C04.2 Practice § C04.3 Attitudes Good critical thinking skills require not just knowledge and practice. Persistent practice can bring about improvements only if one has the right kind of motivation and attitude. The following attitudes are not uncommon, but they will not help you improve your thinking: - I prefer being given the correct answers rather than figuring them out myself. - I don't like to think a lot about my decisions as I rely only on gut feelings. - I don't usually review the mistakes I have made. - I don't like to be criticized. What is logic? A preliminary definition The term "logic" came from the Greek word logos, which is sometimes translated as "sentence", "discourse", "reason", "rule", and "ratio". Of course, these translations are not enough to help us understand the more specialized meaning of "logic" as it is used today. So what is logic? Briefly speaking, we might define logic as the study of the principles of correct reasoning. This is a rough definition,
  2. 2. SCIENTIFIC REASONING & CRITICAL THINKING because how logic should be properly defined is actually quite a controversial matter. How is science different from logic? - Science does involve logic, since we need logic to test our theories and check whether they are consistent. But for a theory to be a scientific one, it must either describe actual empirical facts about the world or the laws of nature in our universe. This is not the case with logic. How is mathematics different from logic? - The relationship between mathematics and logic is rather complicated philosophical issue. To give a very short answer, the content of mathematics is restricted to abstract objects like numbers, functions, triangles, etc. But the principles and laws of logic are very general and are not restricted to such concepts. What is a statement? There are three main sentence types in English: Declarative sentences are used for assertions, e.g. "He is here." Interrogative sentences are used to ask questions, e.g. "Is he here?" Imperative sentences are used for making requests or issuing commands, e.g. "Come here!" For present purposes, we shall take a statement to be any declarative sentence. A declarative sentence is a complete and grammatical sentence that makes a claim. Snow is white. The moon is made of green cheese. Everyone is here. Whatever will be, will be. The data and information provided on this web page is for informational purposes only, and is not intended for trading or commercial purposes, unless written prior permission is obtained by the user from the author, though the author will not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. As you can see, statements can be true or false, and they can be simple or complex. But they must be grammatical and complete sentences. So these are not statements : The United Nations [ A proper name, but not a sentence ] Bridge over troubled waters. [ Not a complete sentence ] Come here right now! [ A command that is not a complete sentence making a claim ] Will you be available on Tuesday or Wednesday? [ A question ] HJGAS&*^@#JHGKJAS*&^*!@GJHGA A*&S [ Ungrammatical ] Exercise 1 identify if the ffg. Whether it is a statement or not. 1. One plus one equals three. 2. Can you come to the party please? 3. AJH$%^#@! 4. If it rains then the street will be wet. 5. We all feel very sorry for you. 6. Come here! 7. A chicken is a song that weighs ten tons. 8. All statements are true. 9. It is true that it is raining 10. I am ordering you to stop talking in class. Exercise 2 Rewrite these utterances or headlines as statements. 1. Inflation rising. 2. Kidnapper : no ransom, boy dies 3. Scientists : coffee good for health 4. Paintings stolen from Presidential Palace. 5. No money, I no work.
  3. 3. SCIENTIFIC REASONING & CRITICAL THINKING Argument – any group of propositions of which one is claimed to follow logically from the others. Central Parts of an argument a. Premiss: (more usually spelled "premise") a proposition which gives reasons, grounds, or evidence for accepting some other proposition, called the conclusion. b. Conclusion: a proposition, which is purported to be established on the basis of other propositions. In everyday life, people often use "argument" to mean a quarrel between people. But in logic and critical thinking, an argument is a list of statements, one of which is the conclusion and the others are the premises or assumptions of the argument. To give an argument is to provide a set of premises as reasons for accepting the conclusion. To give an argument is not necessarily to attack or criticize someone. Arguments can also be used to support other people's viewpoints. Here is an example of an argument: If you want to find a good job, you should work hard. You do want to find a good job. So you should work hard. I played DOTA all the way yesterday even without reviewing my notes since I got the highest score in my exam today, so playing games would be better help to improve my grades. Exercise 3 See if you can give arguments to support some of your beliefs. - Do you think the economy is going to improve or worsen in the next six months? Why or why not? What arguments can you give to support your position? - Or think about something different, do you think computers can have emotions? Again, what arguments can you give to support your viewpoint? Make sure that your arguments are composed of statements. Exercise 4 Do these passages contain argument? What are their conclusions? 1. Cutting the interest rate will have no effect on the stock market this time round as people have been expecting a rate cut all along. This factor has already been reflected in the market. 2. So it is raining heavily and this building might collapse. But I don't really care. 3. Virgin would then dominate the rail system. Is that something the government should worry about? Not necessarily. The industry is regulated, and one powerful company might at least offer a more coherent schedule of services than the present arrangement has produced. The reason the industry was broken up into more than 100 companies at privatization was not operational, but political: the Conservative government thought it would thus be harder to renationalize. The Economist 16.12.2000 4. Bill will pay the ransom. After all, he loves his wife and children and would do everything to save them.
  4. 4. SCIENTIFIC REASONING & CRITICAL THINKING How to look for arguments How do we identify arguments in real life? There are no easy mechanical rules, and we usually have to rely on the context in order to determine which are the premises and the conclusions. But sometimes the job can be made easier by the presence of certain premise or conclusion indicators. For example, if a person makes a statement, and then adds "this is because ...", then it is quite likely that the first statement is presented as a conclusion, supported by the statements that come afterwards. Other words in English that might be used to indicate the premises to follow include : since firstly, secondly, ... for, as, after all, assuming that, in view of the fact that follows from, as shown / indicated by may be inferred / deduced / derived from Of course whether such words are used to indicate premises or not depends on the context. For example, "since" has a very different function in a statement like "I have been here since noon", unlike "X is an even number since X is divisible by 4". Conclusions, on the other hand, are often preceded by words like: therefore, so, it follows that hence, consequently suggests / proves / demonstrates that entails, implies