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Aristotelian Foundations of Critical Thinking


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Dialectic and rhetoric have acquired negative connotations in the last several decades. This presentation suggests that a return to the Aristotelian notions of dialectic and rhetoric can recover the valid senses of those terms, and provide a standpoint from which contemporary contributions to argumentation theory and rhetoric (e.g., Perelman, Grootendorst/van Eemeren) can be viewed in a positive way. An overview of fallacies rounds out how informal logic, argumentation theory and rhetoric intersect to comprise the subject matter of modern critical thinking as a locus of interdisciplinary study.

Published in: Education, Technology, Spiritual
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Aristotelian Foundations of Critical Thinking

  1. 1. The Aristotelian Foundations of Critical Thinking by William R. Minto, Ph.D. !1
  2. 2. Critical Thinking as a Priority for Employee Development !2
  3. 3. “Critical Thinking” Appearing in More Job Postings !3
  4. 4. Critical Thinking as a Critical Job Skill !4
  5. 5. Today’s Schools Should be Teaching Critical Thinking !5
  6. 6. What is Critical Thinking? • What is the definition of “critical thinking?”" • What is the subject matter of critical thinking? !6
  7. 7. Toward a Definition of Critical Thinking • Genus: “thinking” – refers to a conscious cognitive activity, but not all thinking is critical" • Differentia: what attributes distinguish instances of critical thinking from uncritical thinking? !7
  8. 8. Differentiae • Should refer to our basic epistemic goals" • Should exclude other valid modes of thinking, e.g., creative thinking" • Should include both skills and dispositions !8
  9. 9. Critical Thinking Defined “Critical thinking is thinking that attempts to arrive at a justified position on an issue by honestly evaluating alternative positions with respect to available evidence and arguments.”" Based on Hatcher (2000) !9
  10. 10. Aspects of Critical Thinking • Context – There is an issue on which at least two alternative positions are held ! (no “cut-and-dried” solution)" • Reality-Orientation – A justified claim must provide evidence on its behalf" • Reason-Orientation – A justified claim must connect to the evidence by means of reasoning (rational argumentation) !10
  11. 11. Rhetoric Dialectic Fallacies Critical! Thinking Logic Argumentation! Informal! Theory Logic !11
  12. 12. Informal Logic • A normative approach to the study of reasoning in ordinary (non-formal) language. (van Eemeren)" • A branch of logic whose task is to develop non-formal standards, criteria, procedures for the analysis, interpretation, evaluation, criticism and construction of argumentation. (Johnson & Blair) !12
  13. 13. Rhetoric Dialectic Fallacies Critical! Thinking Logic Argumentation! Informal! Theory Logic !13
  14. 14. Argumentation Theory • Informal logic is the philosophical core of argumentation theory" • Different aspects of argumentation also studied in cognitive psychology, law, communications and other fields !14
  15. 15. Rhetoric Dialectic Fallacies Critical! Thinking Logic Argumentation! Informal! Theory Logic !15
  16. 16. Dialectic: A Dirty Word? EVIL Transcendental dialectic leads to antinomies and paralogisms of reason! !16 Immanuel Kant! (1724-1804)
  17. 17. Dialectical Idealism Thesis and antithesis as moments in the advance toward a dialectical synthesis. !17 G. W. F. Hegel! (1770-1831)
  18. 18. Dialectical Materialism legeH .F.W.G Karl Marx" (1818-1883) !18
  19. 19. Dialectic: Negative Connotations • Dialectic is pointless squabbling with no path to resolution (e.g., Scholastic theological debate)" • Dialectic rationalizes and empowers sophistry" • Dialectic is Kantian-Hegelian-Marxist gibberish !19
  20. 20. Pragma-Dialectics Frans van Eemeren &! Rob Grootendorst !20
  21. 21. Pragmatism and Dialectics? !21
  22. 22. !22
  23. 23. Induction and Deduction • Induction - reasoning from particulars to universals, e.g., by example" • Deduction - “arguments in which, certain things being laid down, something other than theses necessarily comes about through them.”" Topics I:1,100a25-26 !23
  24. 24. Aristotle says ... “... we must distinguish how many species there are of dialectical arguments. There are induction and deduction.”" Topics I:12, 105a10-11 !24
  25. 25. Uses of Dialectic • Intellectual training" • Casual encounters" • Philosophical sciences !25
  26. 26. Dialectics Use in Philosophy “For the study of the philosophical sciences it is useful, because the ability to puzzle on both sides of a subject will make us detect more easily the truth and error about the several points that arise.”" Topics I:2, 101a35-38 !26
  27. 27. !27
  28. 28. The Starting Point of Dialectic “A dialectical proposition consists in asking of something which is reputable to all men or to most men or to the wise, i.e., either to all, to most, or the most notable of these.”" Topics I:10, 104a9-12 !28
  29. 29. The Starting Point of Dialectic “...opinions that are in accordance with the arts are dialectical propositions; for people likely to assent to the views held by those who have made a study of these things, e.g., on a question of medicine they will agree with the doctor, and on a question of geometry with the geometrician; and likewise also in other cases.”" Topics I:10, 104a33-37 !29
  30. 30. Dialectical Deduction “... if something has been demonstrated it cannot be otherwise – the deduction, therefore, must depend on necessities. For from truths, one can deduce without demonstrating, but from necessities one cannot deduce without demonstrating.”" Posterior Analytics I:6,74b14-17 !30
  31. 31. Necessity Demonstration Deduction Dialectic !31 Truth
  32. 32. Dialectic – Summary • Reasoning from premises constituting reputable opinion" • Reasoning from truths, or likely truths, but not first principles of the sciences nor from necessary truths (e.g., axioms)" • Implemented using a question-and-answer technique" • Starts from a choice between contradictories! (“Is virtue but a habit, or no?”)" • A technique for the discovery or provision of arguments !32
  33. 33. Rhetoric Dialectic Fallacies Critical! Thinking Logic Argumentation! Informal! Theory Logic !33
  34. 34. Rhetoric: Negative Connotations • Persuasion by any means, ethical or not" • Persuasion by pure appeal to emotion" • The opposite of logic" • Verbal hot air, puffery, words without substance" • Self-aggrandizing erudition of blowhards !34
  35. 35. !35
  36. 36. The Rhetorical Aspect !36
  37. 37. What is Rhetoric? “Rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic.”" Rhetoric I:1,1354a1" ! “Rhetoric is an offshoot (branch) of dialectic.”" Rhetoric I;1,1356a25-30 !37
  38. 38. Rhetorical vs. Dialectic Rhetoric Dialectic Example Induction Enthymeme Deduction !38
  39. 39. Enthymeme: Rhetorical Deduction “Everyone who effects persuasion through proof does in fact use either enthymemes or examples: there is no other way.”" Rhetoric I:2,1356b5-6 !39
  40. 40. Rhetoric in Aristotle “Rhetoric may be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.”" Rhetoric I:2,1355b27-28 !40
  41. 41. Ethos “Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker ...”" ! Rhetoric 1:2,1356a2-3 !41
  42. 42. The! Rhetorical! Triangle Ethos !42
  43. 43. Pathos “... the second, on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind ...”" ! Rhetoric 1:2,1356a3-4" ! !43
  44. 44. The! Rhetorical! Triangle Pathos Ethos !44
  45. 45. Logos Proof through logical reasoning !45
  46. 46. Logos The! Rhetorical! Triangle Pathos Ethos !46
  47. 47. Sophistry “ merely apparent in its conformity to the subject matter, so that it is deceptive and unfair. For just as unfairness in a contest is a definite type of fault, and is a kind of foul fighting, so the art of contentious reasoning is foul fighting in disputation.”! Sophistical Refutations 11:171b20-23 !47
  48. 48. Sophistry as a Dishonorable Profession “Those who do this in order to win the mere victory are thought to be contentious and quarrelsome persons, while those who do it to win a reputation with a view to making money are sophistical. For sophistry is a kind of art of money-making from a merely apparent wisdom.... the art of sophistry is a certain appearance of wisdom without the reality.”" Sophistical Refutations 11,171b25-33 !48
  49. 49. Rhetoric Dialectic Fallacies Critical! Thinking Logic Argumentation! Informal! Theory Logic !49
  50. 50. Aristotle’s Concept of Fallacy “That some deductions are genuine, while others seem to be so – but are not – is evident. This happens with arguments, as also elsewhere, through a certain likeness between the genuine and the sham.”" Sophistical Refutations 1:164b24-26 !50
  51. 51. Contemporary Treatments of Fallacies Well over 100 fallacies !51
  52. 52. 180+ Fallacies? !52
  53. 53. Fallacies in Aristotle • Fallacies received extended discussion in Sophistical Refutations! • Two divisions: " ! dependent on language" ! not dependent on language !53
  54. 54. Fallacies of Language • equivocation" • amphibole" • composition" • division" • accent" • figure of speech !54
  55. 55. Other Aristotelian Fallacies Text Text Complex!55Question
  56. 56. Other Aristotelian Fallacies 1.If it was raining, the road will be wet." 2.The road is wet." 3.Therefore, it was raining. Affirming the Consequent !56
  57. 57. Affirming the Consequent Oops. !57
  58. 58. Other Aristotelian Fallacies False !5Cause 8
  59. 59. Other Aristotelian Fallacies False Cause !59
  60. 60. Other Aristotelian Fallacies Begging the Question0 (Circular reasoning) !6
  61. 61. Other Aristotelian Fallacies • accident" • secundum quid (hasty generalization)" • ignoratio elenchi (irrelevant conclusion) !61
  62. 62. Modern Additions Ad hominem !62
  63. 63. Modern Additions Ad misericordiam !63
  64. 64. Modern Additions Ad populum !64
  65. 65. Modern Additions Ad baculum !65
  66. 66. Other Modern Additions • ad verecundiam" • ad ignorantiam" • ... ad nauseum !66
  67. 67. !67
  68. 68. Aristotelian Foundations of Critical • Critical Thinking as a subject matter discipline continues to show strong Aristotelian influence" • The importance attached to critical thinking by business and education leaders is a bright spot in the culture !68
  69. 69. Aristotle’s Organon • Posterior Analytics — deals with demonstration, definition, and scientific knowledge" Topics — the method of dialectic; a handbook for arguers" Sophistical Refutations — logical fallacies; relationship of logic and rhetoric !69
  70. 70. Aristotle’s Organon • The Categories — introduces Aristotle's 10-fold classification of existents." On Interpretation — introduces Aristotle's theory of the proposition and the various relations between affirmative, negative, universal, and particular propositions. " Prior Analytics — introduces the theory of the syllogism, and discusses inductive inference. !70
  71. 71. !71