CMU Critical Thinking and Mindful Awareness Discussion

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critical thinking: After reading through the assigned chapter in the text, use the Critical Thinking Log Template below to reflect upon your thoughts, ideas, experiences, as well as what you have learned following the completion of the chapters/activities. Your submission must contain 400 .

Critical Thinking Log Template

  • The most important information/key concepts we need to understand from these chapters are?
  • How can I use the information in the chapters to help me with my daily mindfulness practice?
  • In what ways will the material learned in these chapters help me manage my stress more effectively?
  • What are your thoughts and feedback regarding the information and activities for each chapter?

mindful awareness: In writing your journal entries, there are many opportunities to include personal experiences about your daily living. The purpose of this assignment is for you to reflect on any mindful experience you have after reading the chapters for the week, listening to the CD or the meditation video, or any experience you have during the week where you felt you were mindful. For example:

1. Acknowledge (describe the experience just as it is without internal or external filters).

2. Intentional Attention (describe what each of your senses were experiencing during that moment).

3. Accept Without Judgment (write about how you were or were not able to be present in that experience without judging or having expectations)

4. Willingly Choose (write about how you responded to your experience; what you learned as a result of this experience and how this experience made you more aware for the future).

5. Mindful Meditation Experience (Mindful Practice) write about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences you had during or after your meditation experience.

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fourth EDItION fourth EDItION This clear, learner-friendly text helps today’s students bridge the gap between Its comprehensiveness allows instructors to tailor the material to their individual teaching styles, resulting in an exceptionally versatile text. Highlights of the Fourth Edition: Additional readings and essays in a new Appendix as well as in Chapters 7 and 8 nearly double the number of readings available for critical analysis and classroom discussion. An online chapter, available on the instructor portion of the book’s Web site, addresses critical reading, a vital skill for success in college and beyond. Visit for a wealth of additional student and instructor resources. Bassham I Irwin Nardone I Wallace New and updated exercises and examples throughout the text allow students to practice and apply what they learn. MD DALIM #1062017 12/13/09 CYAN MAG YELO BLK Chapter 12 features an expanded and reorganized discussion of evaluating Internet sources. Critical Thinking thinking, using real-world examples and a proven step-by-step approach. A student ' s Introduction A student's Introduction everyday culture and critical thinking. It covers all the basics of critical Critical Thinking Ba ssha m I Irwin I Nardone I Wall ace CRITICAL THINKING A STUDENT’S INTRODUCTION FOURTH EDITION Gregory Bassham William Irwin Henry Nardone James M. Wallace King’s College TM bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd i 11/24/09 9:53:56 AM TM Published by McGraw-Hill, an imprint of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Copyright © 2011, 2008, 2005, 2002. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written consent of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., including, but not limited to, in any network or other electronic storage or transmission, or broadcast for distance learning. This book is printed on acid-free paper. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 DOC/DOC 0 ISBN: 978-0-07-340743-2 MHID: 0-07-340743-7 Vice President, Editorial: Michael Ryan Director, Editorial: Beth Mejia Sponsoring Editor: Mark Georgiev Marketing Manager: Pam Cooper Managing Editor: Nicole Bridge Developmental Editor: Phil Butcher Project Manager: Lindsay Burt Manuscript Editor: Maura P. Brown Design Manager: Margarite Reynolds Cover Designer: Laurie Entringer Production Supervisor: Louis Swaim Composition: 11/12.5 Bembo by MPS Limited, A Macmillan Company Printing: 45# New Era Matte, R. R. Donnelley & Sons Cover Image: © Brand X/JupiterImages Credits: The credits section for this book begins on page C-1 and is considered an extension of the copyright page. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Critical thinking : a student’s introduction / Gregory Bassham . . . [et al.].—4th ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-07-340743-2 (alk. paper) 1. Critical thinking—Textbooks. I. Bassham, Gregory, 1959– B809.2.C745 2010 160—dc22 2009034761 The Internet addresses listed in the text were accurate at the time of publication. The inclusion of a Web site does not indicate an endorsement by the authors or McGraw-Hill, and McGraw-Hill does not guarantee the accuracy of the information presented at these sites. bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd ii 11/24/09 9:53:56 AM For Enrico, Eric, Nicole, Dylan, Catherine, Daniel, and Kate bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd iii 11/24/09 9:53:57 AM bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd iv 11/24/09 9:53:57 AM CONTENTS A Word to Students xi Preface xiii CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking 1 What Is Critical Thinking? 1 Critical Thinking Standards 2 Clarity 2 Precision 2 Accuracy 3 Relevance 3 Consistency 4 Logical Correctness 5 Completeness 6 Fairness 6 The Benefits of Critical Thinking 7 Critical Thinking in the Classroom 7 Critical Thinking in the Workplace 9 Critical Thinking in Life 9 Barriers to Critical Thinking 10 Egocentrism 11 Sociocentrism 13 Unwarranted Assumptions and Stereotypes 16 Relativistic Thinking 19 Wishful Thinking 24 Characteristics of a Critical Thinker 25 v bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd v 11/26/09 6:18:25 PM vi Contents CHAPTER 2 Recognizing Arguments 29 What Is an Argument? 29 Identifying Premises and Conclusions What Is Not an Argument? 40 Reports 40 Unsupported Assertions 41 Conditional Statements 41 Illustrations 43 Explanations 43 CHAPTER 3 33 Basic Logical Concepts 53 Deduction and Induction 53 How Can We Tell Whether an Argument Is Deductive or Inductive? 56 The Indicator Word Test 57 The Strict Necessity Test 58 The Common Pattern Test 58 The Principle of Charity Test 59 Exceptions to the Strict Necessity Test 61 Common Patterns of Deductive Reasoning 62 Hypothetical Syllogism 62 Categorical Syllogism 65 Argument by Elimination 66 Argument Based on Mathematics 66 Argument from Definition 67 Common Patterns of Inductive Reasoning 67 Inductive Generalization 68 Predictive Argument 68 Argument from Authority 69 Causal Argument 69 Statistical Argument 70 Argument from Analogy 70 Deductive Validity 73 Inductive Strength 77 CHAPTER 4 Language 86 Finding the Right Words: The Need for Precision 86 Vagueness 87 Overgenerality 88 Ambiguity 89 bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd vi 11/24/09 9:53:57 AM Contents The Importance of Precise Definitions 93 Types of Definitions 95 Strategies for Defining 97 Rules for Constructing Good Lexical Definitions Emotive Language: Slanting the Truth 107 The Emotive Power of Words 108 Euphemisms and Political Correctness 114 CHAPTER 5 vii 100 Logical Fallacies—I 119 The Concept of Relevance 119 Fallacies of Relevance 121 Personal Attack (Ad Hominem) 122 Attacking the Motive 123 Look Who’s Talking ( Tu Quoque) 124 Two Wrongs Make a Right 125 Scare Tactics 127 Appeal to Pity 128 Bandwagon Argument 128 Straw Man 129 Red Herring 130 Equivocation 131 Begging the Question 132 CHAPTER 6 Logical Fallacies—II 140 Fallacies of Insufficient Evidence 140 Inappropriate Appeal to Authority 140 Appeal to Ignorance 144 False Alternatives 145 Loaded Question 146 Questionable Cause 147 Hasty Generalization 149 Slippery Slope 150 Weak Analogy 151 Inconsistency 154 CHAPTER 7 Analyzing Arguments 164 Diagramming Short Arguments 164 Tips on Diagramming Arguments 169 Summarizing Longer Arguments 175 Paraphrasing 176 bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd vii 11/28/09 11:42:14 AM viii Contents Finding Missing Premises and Conclusions 180 Summarizing Extended Arguments 182 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Standardizing Arguments 187 CHAPTER 8 Evaluating Arguments and Truth Claims 195 When Is an Argument a Good One? 195 What “Good Argument” Does Not Mean 195 What “Good Argument” Does Mean 196 When Is It Reasonable to Accept a Premise? 198 Refuting Arguments 203 Appendix: Sample Critical Essay 219 CHAPTER 9 A Little Categorical Logic 225 Categorical Statements 225 Translating into Standard Categorical Form Categorical Syllogisms 237 CHAPTER 10 230 A Little Propositional Logic 252 Conjunction 253 Conjunction and Validity 256 Negation 261 Deeper Analysis of Negation and Conjunction Disjunction 271 Conditional Statements 276 CHAPTER 11 265 Inductive Reasoning 285 Introduction to Induction 285 Inductive Generalizations 286 Evaluating Inductive Generalizations 288 Opinion Polls and Inductive Generalizations 292 Statistical Arguments 296 Reference Class 300 Induction and Analogy 303 What Is an Analogy? 303 How Can We Argue by Analogy? 303 bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd viii 12/2/09 2:26:59 PM Contents ix Evaluating Arguments from Analogy 305 Arguing by Analogy 312 Induction and Causal Arguments 313 Correlation and Cause 317 A Few Words about Probability 320 A Closer Look at a Priori Probability 322 CHAPTER 12 Finding, Evaluating, and Using Sources 330 Finding Sources 333 Refining Your Search: Questions and Keywords 334 Directional Information 336 Informational Sources 338 Evaluating Sources 341 Content: Facts and Everything Else 342 The Author and the Publisher 347 The Audience 352 Evaluating Internet Sources 353 Taking Notes 361 Bibliographical Information 361 Content Notes: Quotes, Summaries, and Paraphrases 362 Using Sources 372 Acknowledging Sources 372 Incorporating Sources 376 CHAPTER 13 Writing Argumentative Essays 382 Writing a Successful Argument 384 Before You Write 385 Know Yourself 385 Know Your Audience 386 Choose and Narrow Your Topic 390 Write a Sentence That Expresses Your Claim 393 Gather Ideas: Brainstorm and Research 394 Organize Your Ideas 400 Organize by Methods of Development 403 Writing the First Draft 406 Provide an Interesting Opening 407 Include a Thesis Statement 408 Develop Your Body Paragraphs 409 Provide a Satisfying Conclusion 410 bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd ix 11/24/09 9:53:57 AM x Contents After the First Draft 412 Read What You Have Written and Revise 412 Consider What You Have Not Written and Revise 412 Show Your Work 413 Edit Your Work 413 Hand It In 413 Sample Argumentative Essay 414 CHAPTER 14 Thinking Critically about the Media 425 The Mass Media 425 The News Media 426 The Importance of Context 426 Getting Us to Pay Attention: What Really Drives the Media Keeping Our Interest: The News as Entertainment 432 How the Media Entertain Us 433 Slanting the News 441 Media Literacy 445 Advertising 447 What Ads Do 448 Defenses of Advertising 450 Criticisms of Advertising 450 Common Advertising Ploys 452 CHAPTER 15 430 Science and Pseudoscience 461 The Basic Pattern of Scientific Reasoning 461 The Limitations of Science 468 How to Distinguish Science from Pseudoscience 470 A Case Study in Pseudoscientific Thinking: Astrology 482 Appendix: Essays for Critical Analysis A-1 Notes N-1 Answers to Selected Exercises ANS-1 Credits C-1 Index I-1 bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd x 11/24/09 9:53:57 AM A WORD TO STUDENTS L et’s be honest. Very few of your college textbooks will change your life. But this one truly can. This book will make you a better thinker. It will sharpen your mind, clarify your thoughts, and help you make smarter decisions. We’ll teach you—step by step—how to analyze issues, reason logically, and argue effectively. With effort on your part, this book will hone the thinking and reasoning skills you need to succeed in college, in your career, and in life. Critical thinking is what college is all about. College is not about cramming students’ heads with facts. It’s about teaching students to think. And that’s precisely what this book is designed to do. It will help you develop the skills and dispositions you need to become an independent, self-directed thinker and learner. Collectively, the four authors of this textbook have been teaching critical thinking for over 60 years. Teaching critical thinking is what we do. It’s our passion. We’ve seen how critical thinking can change lives. But you’ll only get out of this course what you put into it. Becoming a critical thinker is hard work. Sometimes working through this book will feel a little like boot camp. There’s a reason for this: No pain, no gain. Becoming a master thinker means toning up your mental muscles and acquiring habits of careful, disciplined thinking. This requires effort, and practice. That’s why the heart of this textbook is the exercises. There are lots of these, and all have been carefully selected and class-tested. You need to do the exercises. As many as you can. (Or at least all that your instructor assigns.) Do the exercises, then check the answers at the back of the book. Practice. Make mistakes. Get feedback. And watch yourself improve. That’s how you’ll work the mental flab off and develop lasting habits of clear, rigorous thinking. Critical thinking is an adventure. Becoming mentally fit is hard work. And thinking independently can be a little scary at times. But in the end you’ll be a smarter, stronger, more confident thinker. xi bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd xi 11/24/09 9:53:57 AM bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd xii 11/24/09 9:53:57 AM PREFACE Nothing is more powerful than reason. —Saint Augustine T he first edition of Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction grew out of our conviction that a critical thinking text that works—that produces real, measurable improvement in students’ critical reasoning skills—must have two essential features: • It must be a text that our increasingly gadget-oriented students actually read. • It must provide abundant, class-tested exercises that give students the practice they need to develop as maturing critical thinkers. In revising Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction for this edition, we’ve tried to remain faithful to this original vision. Many passages have been rewritten to make the book clearer and (we hope) more engaging and accessible. In addition, dozens of new exercises have been added to give students even more opportunities to hone their critical reasoning skills. OVERVIEW OF THE TEXT Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction is designed to provide a versatile and comprehensive introduction to critical thinking. The book is divided into seven major parts: 1. The Fundamentals: Chapters 1–3 introduce students to the basics of critical thinking in clear, reader-friendly language. 2. Language: Chapter 4 discusses the uses and pitfalls of language, emphasizing the ways in which language is used to hinder clear, effective thinking. xiii bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd xiii 11/24/09 9:53:57 AM xiv Preface 3. Fallacies: Chapters 5 and 6 teach students how to recognize and avoid twenty of the most common logical fallacies. 4. Argument Analysis and Evaluation: Chapters 7 and 8 offer a clear, step-by-step introduction to the complex but essential skills of argument analysis and evaluation. 5. Traditional Topics in Informal Logic: Chapters 9–11 offer a clear, simplified introduction to three traditional topics in informal logic: categorical logic, propositional logic, and inductive reasoning. 6. Researching and Writing Argumentative Essays: Chapters 12 and 13 provide students with specific, detailed guidance in producing well-researched, properly documented, and well-written argumentative essays. 7. Practical Applications: Chapters 14 and 15 invite students to apply what they have learned by reflecting critically on two areas in which uncritical thinking is particularly common: the media (Chapter 14) and pseudoscience and the paranormal (Chapter 15). The text can be taught in a variety of ways. For instructors who stress argument analysis and evaluation, we suggest Chapters 1–8. For instructors who emphasize informal logic, we recommend Chapters 1–6 and 9–11. For instructors who focus on writing, we suggest Chapters 1–6 and 12 and 13. And for instructors who stress practical applications of critical thinking, we recommend Chapters 1–6 and 14 and 15. STRENGTHS AND DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF THE TEXT There are a number of features that set this book apart from other critical thinking texts: • A versatile, student-centered approach that covers all the basics of critical thinking—and more—in reader-friendly language • An abundance of interesting (and often humorous or thoughtprovoking) classroom-tested exercises • An emphasis on active, collaborative learning • A strong focus on writing, with complete chapters on using and evaluating sources (Chapter 12) and writing argumentative essays (Chapter 13) • An emphasis on real-world applications of critical thinking, with many examples taken from popular culture, and complete chapters on the media and pseudoscientific thinking bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd xiv 11/24/09 9:53:58 AM Preface xv • An extensive treatment of critical thinking standards, hindrances, and dispositions • A clear and detailed discussion of the distinction between deductive and inductive reasoning • An abundance of thought-provoking marginal quotes, as well as “Critical Thinking Lapses”—outrageous errors in reasoning and thinking • An Online Learning Center that includes detailed chapter summaries, tutorials, and quizzes on the Web at • For the instructor, a password-protected, user-friendly Instructor’s Manual that includes complete answer keys, teaching tips, sample tests and quizzes, and PowerPoint lecture notes WHAT’S NEW TO THE FOURTH EDITION In preparing this edition, we have benefited tremendously from suggestions from users and reviewers of previous editions. The major changes in this edition are these: • A new Appendix has been added, featuring seven new essays for critical analysis. • A new chapter on critical reading is available to course adopters on the Instructor’s part of the book’s Web site. • Chapter 12 features an expanded and reorganized discussion of evaluating Internet sources. • A new sample critical essay has been added, and the sample argumentative essay has been substantially revised. • • • • New readings have been added to Chapters 7 and 8. Many new marginal quotes and boxed passages have been added. Several chapters have been streamlined. New and updated exercises and examples have been added throughout the book. • Both the Instructor’s Manual and student online support resources have been updated and expanded. • A module on the counterexample method of proving invalidity has been added to the Instructor’s Manual. bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd xv 11/24/09 9:53:58 AM xvi Preface ACKNOWLEDGMENTS For valuable feedback leading to this fourth edition we wish to thank Chris Blakey (College of the Canyons), David Campbell (Humboldt State University), Arthur Hadley (Lincoln College of Technology), Brian Barnes (University of Louisville), Cecilia Mun (College of Southern Nevada), Dorcas Chung (California State University–Sacramento), Janet Dumond (King’s College), and Robert Sessions (Kirkwood Community College). Our continued thanks to reviewers of the previous editions: Dan Barwick, David Bowen, James Brooks, Barbara Carlson, B. Steve Csaki, Rory Conces, David Detmer, Andrew Dzida, Thomson Faller, Barbara Forrest, Mary Elizabeth Gleason, Claude Gratton, Perry Hardison, Jann James, Leemon McHenry, Tom MacMillan, Marty Most, Nikolas Pappas, Christopher H. Pearson, Ted Schick, and Corin Sutherland. It is a pleasure to pay tribute to the skilled and courteous people at McGraw-Hill who guided us through the production process, especially Phil Butcher, Lindsay Burt, Nicole Bridge, and David Blatty. Finally, thanks to our families for generously giving us the time to write. Without their love and support, this new edition could never have been completed. bas07437_fm_i-xvi.indd xvi 11/24/09 9:53:58 AM CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO CRITICAL THINKING T his book is about the power of disciplined thinking. It’s about learning to think for yourself and being your own person. It’s about the personal empowerment and enrichment that result from learning to use your mind to its fullest potential. In short, it’s about critical thinking. Critical thinking is what a college education is all about. In many high schools, the emphasis tends to be on “lower-order thinking.” Students are simply expected to passively absorb information and then repeat it back on tests. In college, by contrast, the emphasis is on fostering “higher-order thinking”: the active, intelligent evaluation of ideas and information. This doesn’t mean that factual information and rote learning are ignored in college. But it is not the main goal of a college education to teach students what to think. The main goal is to teach students how to think—that is, how to become independent, self-directed thinkers and learners. WHAT IS CRITICAL THINKING? Often when we use the word critical we mean “negative and fault-finding.” This is the sense we have in mind, for example, when we complain about a parent or a friend who we think is unfairly critical of what we do or say. But critical also means “involving or exercising skilled judgment or observation.” In this sense critical thinking means thinking clearly and intelligently. More precisely, critical thinking is the general term given to a wide range of cognitive skills and intellectual dispositions needed to effectively identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments and truth claims; to discover and overcome personal preconceptions and biases; to formulate and present convincing reasons in support of conclusions; and to make reasonable, intelligent decisions about what to believe and what to do. Put somewhat differently, critical thinking is disciplined thinking governed by clear intellectual standards. Among the most important of these intellectual bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 1 The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. —Martin Luther King Jr. The purpose which runs through all other educational purposes—the common thread of education—is the development of the ability to think. —Educational Policies Commission 1 11/24/09 8:00:16 AM 2 CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking standards are clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, consistency, logical correctness, completeness, and fairness.1 Let’s begin our introduction to critical thinking by looking briefly at each of these important critical thinking standards. CRITICAL THINKING STANDARDS Clarity Everything that can be said can be said clearly. —Ludwig Wittgenstein Before we can effectively evaluate a person’s argument or claim, we need to understand clearly what he or she is saying. Unfortunately, that can be difficult because people often fail to express themselves clearly. Sometimes this lack of clarity is due to laziness, carelessness, or a lack of skill. At other times it results from a misguided effort to appear clever, learned, or profound. Consider the following passage from philosopher Martin Heidegger’s influential but notoriously obscure book Being and Time: Temporality makes possible the unity of existence, facticity, and falling, and in this way constitutes primordially the totality of the structure of care. The items of care have not been pieced together cumulatively any more than temporality itself has been put together “in the course of time” [“mit der Zeit”] out of the future, the having been, and the Present. Temporality “is” not an entity at all. It is not, but it temporalizes itself. . . . Temporality temporalizes, and indeed it temporalizes possible ways of itself. These make possible the multiplicity of Dasein’s modes of Being, and especially the basic possibility of authentic or inauthentic existence.2 Confusion has its costs. —Crosby, Stills, and Nash Clarity is not a mere embellishment of the intellect; it is the very heart of intellectual virtue. —Charles Larmore bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 2 That may be profound, or it may be nonsense, or it may be both. Whatever exactly it is, it is quite needlessly obscure. As William Strunk Jr. and E. B.White remark in their classic The Elements of Style, “[M]uddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a destroyer of life, of hope: death on the highway caused by a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter. . . .”3 Only by paying careful attention to language can we avoid such needless miscommunications and disappointments. Critical thinkers not only strive for clarity of language but also seek maximum clarity of thought. As self-help books constantly remind us, to achieve our personal goals in life we need a clear conception of our goals and priorities, a realistic grasp of our abilities, and a clear understanding of the problems and opportunities we face. Such self-understanding can be achieved only if we value and pursue clarity of thought. Precision Detective stories contain some of the most interesting examples of critical thinking in fiction. The most famous fictional sleuth is, of course, Sherlock Holmes, the immortal creation of British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In Doyle’s stories Holmes is often able to solve complex mysteries when the 11/24/09 8:00:17 AM Critical Thinking Standards bungling detectives from Scotland Yard haven’t so much as a clue. What is the secret of his success? An extraordinary commitment to precision. First, by careful and highly trained observation, Holmes is able to discover clues that others have overlooked. Then, by a process of precise logical inference, he is able to reason from those clues to discover the solution to the mystery. Everyone recognizes the importance of precision in specialized fields such as medicine, mathematics, architecture, and engineering. Critical thinkers also understand the importance of precise thinking in daily life. They understand that to cut through the confusions and uncertainties that surround many everyday problems and issues, it is often necessary to insist on precise answers to precise questions: What exactly is the problem we’re facing? What exactly are the alternatives? What exactly are the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative? Only when we habitually seek such precision are we truly critical thinkers. 3 Really valuable ideas can only be had at the price of close attention. —Charles S. Peirce Accuracy There is a well-known saying about computers: “Garbage in, garbage out.” Simply put, this means that if you put bad information into a computer, bad information is exactly what you will get out of it. Much the same is true of human thinking. No matter how brilliant you may be, you’re almost guaranteed to make bad decisions if your decisions are based on false information. A good example of this is provided by America’s long and costly involvement in Vietnam. The policymakers who embroiled us in that conflict were not stupid. On the contrary, they were, in journalist David Halberstam’s oftquoted phrase, “the best and the brightest” of their generation. Of course, the reasons for their repeated failures of judgment are complex and controversial; but much of the blame, historians agree, must be placed on false and inadequate information: ignorance of Vietnamese history and culture, an exaggerated estimate of the strategic importance of Vietnam and Southeast Asia, false assumptions about the degree of popular support in South Vietnam, unduly optimistic assessments of the “progress” of the war, and so on. Had American policymakers taken greater pains to learn the truth about such matters, it is likely they would not have made the poor decisions they did. Critical thinkers don’t merely value the truth; they have a passion for accurate, timely information. As consumers, citizens, workers, and parents, they strive to make decisions that are as informed as possible. In the spirit of Socrates’ famous statement that the unexamined life is not worth living, they never stop learning, growing, and inquiring. No one can navigate well through life without an accurate map by which to steer. Knowledge is the possession of such a map, and truth is what the map gives us, linking us to reality. —Tom Morris Relevance Anyone who has ever sat through a boring school assembly or watched a mud-slinging political debate can appreciate the importance of staying focused on relevant ideas and information. A favorite debaters’ trick is to try to distract an audience’s attention by raising an irrelevant issue. Even bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 3 11/24/09 8:00:17 AM 4 CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking Abraham Lincoln wasn’t above such tricks, as the following story told by his law partner illustrates: No tedious and irrelevant discussion can be allowed; what is said should be pertinent. —Plato In a case where Judge [Stephen T.] Logan—always earnest and grave—opposed him, Lincoln created no little merriment by his reference to Logan’s style of dress. He carried the surprise in store for the latter, till he reached his turn before the jury. Addressing them, he said: “Gentlemen, you must be careful and not permit yourselves to be overcome by the eloquence of counsel for the defense. Judge Logan, I know, is an effective lawyer. I have met him too often to doubt that; but shrewd and careful though he be, still he is sometimes wrong. Since this trial has begun I have discovered that, with all his caution and fastidiousness, he hasn’t knowledge enough to put his shirt on right.” Logan turned red as crimson, but sure enough, Lincoln was correct, for the former had donned a new shirt, and by mistake had drawn it over his head with the pleated bosom behind. The general laugh which followed destroyed the effect of Logan’s eloquence over the jury—the very point at which Lincoln aimed.4 Lincoln’s ploy was entertaining and succeeded in distracting the attention of the jury. Had the jurors been thinking critically, however, they would have realized that carelessness about one’s attire has no logical relevance to the strength of one’s arguments. Consistency The guiding principle of rational behavior is consistency. —Deborah J. Bennett It is easy to see why consistency is essential to critical thinking. Logic tells us that if a person holds inconsistent beliefs, at least one of those beliefs must be false. Critical thinkers prize truth and so are constantly on the lookout for inconsistencies, both in their own thinking and in the arguments and assertions of others. There are two kinds of inconsistency that we should avoid. One is logical inconsistency, which involves saying or believing inconsistent things (i.e., things that cannot both or all be true) about a particular matter. The other is practical inconsistency, which involves saying one thing and doing another. Sometimes people are fully aware that their words conflict with their deeds. The politician who cynically breaks her campaign promises once she takes office, the TV evangelist caught in an extramarital affair, the drug counselor arrested for peddling drugs—such people are hypocrites pure and simple. From a critical thinking point of view, such examples are not especially interesting. As a rule, they involve failures of character to a greater degree than they do failures of critical reasoning. More interesting from a critical thinking standpoint are cases in which people are not fully aware that their words conflict with their deeds. Such cases highlight an important lesson of critical thinking: that human beings often display a remarkable capacity for self-deception. Author Harold Kushner cites an all-too-typical example: Ask the average person which is more important to him, making money or being devoted to his family, and virtually everyone will answer family without hesitation. But watch how the average person actually lives out his life. See bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 4 11/24/09 8:00:17 AM 5 Critical Thinking Standards Speaking of Inconsistency . . . Philosophy professor Kenneth R. Merrill offers the following tongue-in-cheek advice for writers. What kind of inconsistency does Merrill commit? 1. Watch your spelling. Writters who mispele a lott of words are propperly reguarded as iliterate. 2. Don’t forget the apostrophe where its needed, but don’t stick it in where theres no need for it. A writers reputation hangs on such trif le’s. 3. Don’t exaggerate. Overstatement always causes infinite harm. 4. Beware of the dangling participle. Forgetting this admonition, infelicitous phrases creep into our writing. 5. Clichés should be avoided like the plague. However, hackneyed language is not likely to be a problem for the writer who, since he was knee-high to a grasshopper, has built a better mouse- trap and has kept his shoulder to the wheel. 6. Keep your language simple. Eschew sesquipedalian locutions and fustian rhetoric. Stay clear of the crepuscular—nay, tenebrific and fuliginous—regions of orotund sonorities. 7. Avoid vogue words. Hopefully, the writer will remember that her words basically impact the reader at the dynamic interface of creative thought and action. To be viable, the writer’s parameters must enable her to engage the knowledgeable reader in a meaningful dialogue— especially at this point in time, when people tend to prioritize their priorities optimally. 8. Avoid profane or abusive language. It is a damned outrage how many knuckledragging slobs vilify people they disagree with.5 where he really invests his time and energy, and he will give away the fact that he really does not live by what he says he believes. He has let himself be persuaded that if he leaves for work earlier in the morning and comes home more tired at night, he is proving how devoted he is to his family by expending himself to provide them with all the things they have seen advertised.6 Critical thinking helps us become aware of such unconscious practical inconsistencies, allowing us to deal with them on a conscious and rational basis. It is also common, of course, for people to unknowingly hold inconsistent beliefs about a particular subject. In fact, as Socrates pointed out long ago, such unconscious logical inconsistency is far more common than most people suspect. As we shall see, for example, many today claim that “morality is relative,” while holding a variety of views that imply that it is not relative. Critical thinking helps us recognize such logical inconsistencies or, still better, avoid them altogether. Logical Correctness To think logically is to reason correctly—that is, to draw well-founded conclusions from the beliefs we hold. To think critically we need accurate and wellsupported beliefs. But, just as important, we need to be able to reason from those bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 5 There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. —Morpheus, in The Matrix Intelligence means a person who can see implications and arrive at conclusions. —Talmud 11/24/09 8:00:17 AM 6 CHAPTER 1 Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal. Note his history. . . . His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. —Mark Twain Introduction to Critical Thinking Critical Thinking Lapse The human race are masters of the ridiculous. There was actually a story in our newspaper of a man who was bitten on the tongue while kissing a rattlesnake. He decided to try a nonscientific remedy he heard about to counteract a snakebite. So he wired his mouth to a pickup truck battery and tried to jump-start his tongue. It knocked him out and he ended up in the hospital, where he lost part of his tongue and one lip.7 beliefs to conclusions that logically follow from them. Unfortunately, illogical thinking is all too common in human affairs. Bertrand Russell, in his classic essay “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” provides an amusing example: I am sometimes shocked by the blasphemies of those who think themselves pious—for instance, the nuns who never take a bath without wearing a bathrobe all the time. When asked why, since no man can see them, they reply: “Oh, but you forget the good God.” Apparently they conceive of the deity as a Peeping Tom, whose omnipotence enables Him to see through bathroom walls, but who is foiled by bathrobes. This view strikes me as curious.8 As Russell observes, from the proposition 1. God sees everything. the pious nuns correctly drew the conclusion 2. God sees through bathroom walls. However, they failed to draw the equally obvious conclusion that 3. God sees through bathrobes. Such illogic is, indeed, curious—but not, alas, uncommon. Completeness It is only when there is completeness and exhaustiveness that there is scholarship. —Hsün Tzu It is not much good thinking of a thing unless you think it out. —H. G. Wells bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 6 In most contexts, we rightly prefer deep and complete thinking to shallow and superficial thinking. Thus, we justly condemn slipshod criminal investigations, hasty jury deliberations, superficial news stories, sketchy driving directions, and snap medical diagnoses. Of course, there are times when it is impossible or inappropriate to discuss an issue in depth; no one would expect, for example, a thorough and wide-ranging discussion of the ethics of human genetic research in a short newspaper editorial. Generally speaking, however, thinking is better when it is deep rather than shallow, thorough rather than superficial. Fairness Finally, critical thinking demands that our thinking be fair—that is, openminded, impartial, and free of distorting biases and preconceptions.That can be very difficult to achieve. Even the most superficial acquaintance with history and the social sciences tells us that people are often strongly disposed to resist 11/24/09 8:00:17 AM The Benefits of Critical Thinking unfamiliar ideas, to prejudge issues, to stereotype outsiders, and to identify truth with their own self-interest or the interests of their nation or group. It is probably unrealistic to suppose that our thinking could ever be completely free of biases and preconceptions; to some extent we all perceive reality in ways that are powerfully shaped by our individual life experiences and cultural backgrounds. But as difficult as it may be to achieve, basic fair-mindedness is clearly an essential attribute of a critical thinker. 7 Closed-mindedness means premature intellectual old age. —John Dewey E XERCISE 1.1 I. Break into groups of four or five. Choose one member of your group to take notes and be the group reporter. Discuss your education up to this point. To what extent has your education prepared you to think clearly, precisely, accurately, logically, and so forth? Have you ever known a person (e.g., a teacher or a parent) who strongly modeled the critical thinking standards discussed in this section? If so, how did he or she do that? II. Have you ever been guilty of either practical inconsistency (saying one thing and doing another) or logical inconsistency (believing inconsistent things about a particular topic or issue)? In small groups think of examples either from your own experience or from that of someone you know. Be prepared to share your examples with the class as a whole. THE BENEFITS OF CRITICAL THINKING Having looked at some of the key intellectual standards governing critical reasoning (clarity, precision, and so forth), let’s now consider more specifically what you can expect to gain from a course in critical thinking. Critical Thinking in the Classroom When they first enter college, students are sometimes surprised to discover that their professors seem less interested in how they got their beliefs than they are in whether those beliefs can withstand critical scrutiny. In college the focus is on higher-order thinking: the active, intelligent evaluation of ideas and information. For this reason critical thinking plays a vital role throughout the college curriculum. In a critical thinking course, students learn a variety of skills that can greatly improve their classroom performance. These skills include • understanding the arguments and beliefs of others • critically evaluating those arguments and beliefs • developing and defending one’s own well-supported arguments and beliefs Let’s look briefly at each of these three skills. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 7 The main aim of education is practical and reflective judgment, a mind trained to be critical everywhere in the use of evidence. —Brand Blanchard 11/24/09 8:00:17 AM 8 CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking Doonesbury © G. B. Trudeau. Reprinted with permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved. To succeed in college, you must, of course, be able to understand the material you are studying. A course in critical thinking cannot make inherently difficult material easy to grasp, but critical thinking does teach a variety of skills that, with practice, can significantly improve your ability to understand the arguments and issues discussed in your college textbooks and classes. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 8 11/24/09 8:00:17 AM 9 The Benefits of Critical Thinking In addition, critical thinking can help you critically evaluate what you are learning in class. During your college career, your instructors will often ask you to discuss “critically” some argument or idea introduced in class. Critical thinking teaches a wide range of strategies and skills that can greatly improve your ability to engage in such critical evaluations. You will also be asked to develop your own arguments on particular topics or issues. In an American Government class, for example, you might be asked to write a paper addressing the issue of whether Congress has gone too far in restricting presidential war powers. To write such a paper successfully, you must do more than simply find and assess relevant arguments and information. You must also be able to marshal arguments and evidence in a way that convincingly supports your view. The systematic training provided in a course in critical thinking can greatly improve that skill as well. We don’t want you to axiomatically accept the conventional wisdom on a particular subject. Indeed, your first instinct should be to question it. —John J. Mearsheimer Critical Thinking in the Workplace Surveys indicate that fewer than half of today’s college graduates can expect to be working in their major field of study within five years of graduation. This statistic speaks volumes about changing workplace realities. Increasingly, employers are looking not for employees with highly specialized career skills, since such skills can usually best be learned on the job, but for employees with good thinking and communication skills—quick learners who can solve problems, think creatively, gather and analyze information, draw appropriate conclusions from data, and communicate their ideas clearly and effectively. These are exactly the kinds of generalized thinking and problem-solving skills that a course in critical thinking aims to improve. There is nothing more practical than sound thinking. —Foundation for Critical Thinking Critical Thinking in Life Critical thinking is valuable in many contexts outside the classroom and the workplace. Let’s look briefly at three ways in which this is the case. First, critical thinking can help us avoid making foolish personal decisions. All of us have at one time or another made decisions about consumer purchases, relationships, personal behavior, and the like that we later realized were seriously misguided or irrational. Critical thinking can help us avoid such mistakes by teaching us to think about important life decisions more carefully, clearly, and logically. Second, critical thinking plays a vital role in promoting democratic processes. Despite what cynics might say, in a democracy it really is “we the people” who have the ultimate say over who governs and for what purposes. It is vital, therefore, that citizens’ decisions be as informed and as deliberate as possible. Many of today’s most serious societal problems—environmental destruction, nuclear proliferation, religious and ethnic intolerance, decaying inner cities, failing schools, spiraling health-care costs, to mention just a few—have largely been caused by poor critical thinking. And as Albert Einstein once remarked, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the level of thinking we were at when we created them.” bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 9 11/24/09 8:00:21 AM 10 CHAPTER 1 Citizens who think for themselves, rather than uncritically ingesting what their leaders tell them, are the absolutely necessary ingredient of a society that is to remain truly free. —Howard Kahane Introduction to Critical Thinking Third, critical thinking is worth studying for its own sake, simply for the personal enrichment it can bring to our lives. One of the most basic truths of the human condition is that most people, most of the time, believe what they are told. Throughout most of recorded history, people accepted without question that the earth was the center of the universe, that demons cause disease, that slavery was just, and that women are inferior to men. Critical thinking, honestly and courageously pursued, can help free us from the unexamined assumptions and biases of our upbringing and our society. It lets us step back from the prevailing customs and ideologies of our culture and ask, “This is what I’ve been taught, but is it true? In short, critical thinking allows us to lead self-directed, “examined” lives. Such personal liberation is, as the word itself implies, the ultimate goal of a liberal arts education. Whatever other benefits it brings, a liberal education can have no greater reward. BARRIERS TO CRITICAL THINKING The preceding section raises an obvious question: If critical thinking is so important, why is it that uncritical thinking is so common? Why is it that so many people—including many highly educated and intelligent people—find critical thinking so difficult? The reasons, as you might expect, are quite complex. Here is a list of some of the most common barriers to critical thinking: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 10 lack of relevant background information poor reading skills bias prejudice superstition egocentrism (self-centered thinking) sociocentrism (group-centered thinking) peer pressure conformism provincialism narrow-mindedness closed-mindedness distrust in reason relativistic thinking stereotyping unwarranted assumptions scapegoating rationalization 11/24/09 8:00:21 AM Barriers to Critical Thinking • • • • • • • • • 11 denial wishful thinking short-term thinking selective perception selective memory overpowering emotions self-deception face-saving fear of change Let’s examine in detail five of these impediments—egocentrism, sociocentrism, unwarranted assumptions, relativistic thinking, and wishful thinking— that play an especially powerful role in hindering critical thinking. Egocentrism Egocentrism is the tendency to see reality as centered on oneself. Egocentrics are selfish, self-absorbed people who view their interests, ideas, and values as superior to everyone else’s. All of us are affected to some degree by egocentric biases. Egocentrism can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Two common forms are self-interested thinking and self-serving bias. Self-interested thinking is the tendency to accept and defend beliefs that harmonize with one’s self-interest. Almost no one is immune to self-interested thinking. Most doctors support legislation making it more difficult for them to be sued for malpractice; most lawyers do not. Most state university professors strongly support tenure, paid sabbaticals, low teaching loads, and a strong faculty voice in university governance; many state taxpayers and university administrators do not. Most factory workers support laws requiring advance notice of plant closings; most factory owners do not. Most American voters favor campaign finance reform; most elected politicians do not. Of course, some of these beliefs may be supported by good reasons. From a psychological standpoint, however, it is likely that self-interest plays at least some role in shaping the respective attitudes and beliefs. Self-interested thinking, however understandable it may seem, is a major obstacle to critical thinking. Everyone finds it tempting at times to reason that “this benefits me, therefore it must be good”; but from a critical thinking standpoint, such “reasoning” is a sham. Implicit in such thinking is the assumption that “What is most important is what I want and need.” But why should I, or anyone else, accept such an arbitrary and obviously self-serving assumption? What makes your wants and needs more important than everyone else’s? Critical thinking condemns such special pleading. It demands that we weigh evidence and arguments objectively and impartially. Ultimately, it demands that we revere truth—even when it hurts. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 11 How quick come the reasons for approving what we like! —Jane Austen Admit your faults. I would if I had any. —Milton Berle 11/24/09 8:00:21 AM 12 CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking CALVIN AND HOBBES © Watterson. Reprinted with permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are aboveaverage drivers. —Dave Barry Self-serving bias is the tendency to overrate oneself—to see oneself as better in some respect than one actually is. We have all known braggarts or know-it-alls who claim to be more talented or knowledgeable than they really are. If you are like most people, you probably think of yourself as being an unusually self-aware person who is largely immune from any such self-deception. If so, then you too are probably suffering from self-serving bias. Studies show that self-serving bias is an extremely common trait. In one survey one million high school seniors were asked to rate themselves on their “ability to get along with others.” Not a single respondent rated himself below average in such ability.9 Other surveys have shown that 90 percent of business managers and more than 90 percent of college professors rate their performance as better than average. It is easy, of course, to understand why people tend to overrate themselves.We all like to feel good about ourselves. Nobody likes to think of himself or herself as being “below average” in some important respect. At the same time, however, it is important to be able to look honestly at our personal strengths and weaknesses. We want to set high personal goals, but not goals that are wildly unrealistic. Selfconfidence grounded in genuine accomplishment is an important element of success. Overconfidence is an obstacle to genuine personal and intellectual growth. E XERCISE 1.2 Are you overconfident in your beliefs? Here’s a simple test to determine if you are. For each of the following ten items, provide a low and a high guess such that you are 90 percent sure the correct answer falls between the two.Your challenge is to be neither too narrow (i.e., overconfident) nor too wide (i.e., underconfident). If you successfully meet the challenge, you should have 10 percent misses—that is, exactly one miss.10 bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 12 11/24/09 8:00:21 AM Barriers to Critical Thinking 13 90% Confidence Range LOW HIGH 1. Martin Luther King’s age at death __________ __________ 2. Length of Nile River (in miles) __________ __________ 3. Percentage of African Americans in the United States __________ __________ 4. Number of books in the Old Testament __________ __________ 5. Diameter of the moon (in miles) __________ __________ 6. Weight of an empty Boeing 747 (in pounds) __________ __________ 7. Current population of California __________ __________ 8. Year in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born __________ __________ 9. Air distance from London to Tokyo (in miles) __________ __________ 10. Deepest known point in the ocean (in feet) __________ __________11 He who knows most, knows best how little he knows. —Thomas Jefferson Sociocentrism Sociocentrism is group-centered thinking. Just as egocentrism can hinder rational thinking by focusing excessively on the self, so sociocentrism can hinder rational thinking by focusing excessively on the group. Sociocentrism can distort critical thinking in many ways. Two of the most important are group bias and conformism. Group bias is the tendency to see one’s own group (nation, tribe, sect, peer group, and the like) as being inherently better than others. Social scientists tell us that such thinking is extremely common throughout human history and across cultures. Just as we seem naturally inclined to hold inflated views of ourselves, so we find it easy to hold inflated views of our family, our community, or our nation. Conversely, we find it easy to look with suspicion or disfavor on those we regard as “outsiders.” Most people absorb group bias unconsciously, usually from early childhood. It is common, for example, for people to grow up thinking that their society’s beliefs, institutions, and values are better than those of other societies. Consider this exchange between eight-year-old Maurice D. and the wellknown Swiss scientist and philosopher Jean Piaget: Custom and example have a much more persuasive power than any certitude obtained by way of inquiry. —René Descartes Maurice D. (8 years, 3 months old): If you didn’t have any nationality and you were given a free choice of nationality, which would you choose? Swiss nationality. Why? Because I was born in Switzerland. Now look, do you think the French and bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 13 11/24/09 8:00:22 AM 14 CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking Pop Culture Connection Poker and Critical Thinking Poker players fall victim to critical thinking barriers like wishful thinking and self-serving bias just like anybody else.12 One barrier that can be particularly costly to poker players is overconfidence. Overconfident players think that they’re better, or luckier, than they actually are. This often leads them to play with far superior opponents, to stay in too many hands, and to bet recklessly. The result: Players who overrate their abilities quickly become ATMs for their tablemates. Poker legend Doyle Brunson tells a cautionary tale about the dangers of overconfidence. A cocky New Yorker calling himself “Rochester Ricky” and flashing a big bankroll walked into a Fort Worth poker parlor. Around the table sat Amarillo Slim, Puggy Pearson, Johnny Moss, Sailor Roberts, Brunson himself, and a couple of Texas businessmen. Two things quickly became apparent. Though he knew his game, Rochester hadn’t played much no-limit poker, and he hadn’t a clue he was playing against some of the best no-limit Hold’em poker talent in the world. Rochester didn’t realize that strategies that work well in limit games (for example, calling frequently and bluffing cautiously) often backfire in no-limit games. His parting words as he gathered up the paltry remnants of his $10,000 bankroll were “If you guys are ever in Rochester, don’t bother to look me up. You won’t see me playing Hold’em against Texans as long as I live.”13 As the great American philosopher Clint Eastwood said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” To those who would investigate the cause of existing opinions, the study of predispositions is much more important than the study of argument. —W. E. H. Lecky bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 14 the Swiss are equally nice, or the one nicer or less nice than the other? The Swiss are nicer. Why? The French are always nasty. Who is more intelligent, the Swiss or the French, or do you think they’re just the same? The Swiss are more intelligent. Why? Because they learn French quickly. If I asked a French boy to choose any nationality he liked, what country do you think he’d choose? He’d choose France. Why? Because he was born in France. And what would he say about who’s nicer? Would he think the Swiss and the French equally nice or one better than the other? He’d say the French are nicer. Why? Because he was born in France. And who would he think more intelligent? The French. Why? He’d say that the French want to learn quicker than the Swiss. Now you and the French boy don’t really give the same answer. Who do you think answered best? I did. Why? Because Switzerland is always better.14 Although most people outgrow such childish nationalistic biases to some extent, few of us manage to outgrow them completely. Clearly, this kind of “mine-is-better” thinking lies at the root of a great deal of human conflict, intolerance, and oppression. Conformism refers to our tendency to follow the crowd—that is, to conform (often unthinkingly) to authority or to group standards of conduct 11/24/09 8:00:22 AM Barriers to Critical Thinking 15 and belief. The desire to belong, to be part of the in-group, can be among the most powerful of human motivations. As two classic experiments demonstrate, this desire to conform can seriously cripple our powers of critical reasoning and decision making. In the first experiment, conducted in the 1950s by Solomon Asch, groups of eight college students were asked to match a standard line like the following with three comparison lines such as these: A B C In each group, only one of the eight participants was unaware of the true nature of the experiment; the other seven were confederates working in league with the experimenter. In each case the single true subject was seated at the end of the table and asked to answer last. In some trials the seven confederates unanimously gave the correct answer (B); in others they unanimously gave an incorrect answer. The results: When no pressure to conform was present, subjects gave the correct answer more than 99 percent of the time. When faced with the united opposition of their peers, however, almost one-third (32 percent) of the subjects refused to believe their own eyes and gave answers that were obviously incorrect! Another famous experiment was conducted by Stanley Milgram in the 1960s.15 In Milgram’s experiment, subjects were asked to administer a series of increasingly severe electrical shocks to people whom the subjects could hear but couldn’t see. (In fact, no actual shocks were given; the shock “victims” were actually confederates who merely pretended to be in pain.) Subjects were told that they were participating in a study of the effects of punishment on learning.Their task was to act as “teachers” who inflicted progressively more painful shocks on “learners” whenever the latter failed to answer a question correctly. The severity of the shocks was controlled by a series of thirty switches, which ranged in 15-volt intervals from 15 volts (“Slight Shock”) to 450 volts (“XX Danger: Severe Shock”). The purpose of the study was to determine how far ordinary people would go in inflicting pain on total strangers, simply because they were asked to do so by someone perceived to be “an authority.” The results were, well, shocking. More than 85 percent of the subjects continued to administer shocks beyond the 300-volt mark, long after the point at which they could hear the victims crying out or pounding on the walls in pain. After the 330-volt mark, the screaming stopped, and for all the subjects knew, the victims were either unconscious or dead. Despite that, nearly twothirds (65 percent) of the subjects continued to administer shocks, as they were instructed, until they had administered the maximum 450 volts. The lesson of these studies is clear: “Authority moves us. We are impressed, influenced, and intimidated by authority, so much so that, under the right conditions, we abandon our own values, beliefs, and judgments, even doubt our own immediate sensory experience.”16 As critical thinkers, we need bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 15 When fifty million people say a foolish thing it is still a foolish thing. —Anatole France When all think alike, then no one is thinking. —Walter Lippmann Man is born to think for himself. —Denis Diderot 11/24/09 8:00:22 AM 16 CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking to be aware of the seductive power of peer pressure and reliance on authority and develop habits of independent thinking to combat them. Unwarranted Assumptions and Stereotypes An assumption is something we take for granted, something we believe to be true without any proof or conclusive evidence. Almost everything we think and do is based on assumptions. If the weather report calls for rain, we take an umbrella because we assume that the meteorologist is not lying, that the report is based on a scientific analysis of weather patterns, that the instruments are accurate, and so forth. There may be no proof that any of this is true, but we realize that it is wiser to take the umbrella than to insist that the weather bureau provide exhaustive evidence to justify its prediction. Although we often hear the injunction “Don’t assume,” it would be impossible to get through a day without making assumptions; in fact, many of our daily actions are based on assumptions we have drawn from the patterns in our experience.You go to class at the scheduled time because you assume that class is being held at its normal hour and in its same place. You don’t call the professor each day to ask if class is being held; you just assume that it is. Such assumptions are warranted, which means that we have good reason to hold them. When you see a driver coming toward you with the turn signal on, you have good reason to believe that the driver intends to turn.You may be incorrect, and it might be safer to withhold action until you are certain, but your assumption is not unreasonable. Unwarranted assumptions, however, are unreasonable. An unwarranted assumption is something taken for granted without good reason. Such assumptions often prevent our seeing things clearly. For example, our attraction for someone might cause us to assume that he or she feels the same way and thus to interpret that person’s actions incorrectly. One of the most common types of unwarranted assumptions is a stereotype. The word stereotype comes from the printing press era, when plates, or stereotypes, were used to produce identical copies of one page. Similarly, when we stereotype, as the word is now used, we assume that individual people have all been stamped from one plate, so all politicians are alike, or Muslims, or African Americans, professors, women, and so forth. When we form an opinion of someone that is based not on his or her individual qualities but, rather, on his or her membership in a particular group, we are assuming that all or virtually all members of that group are alike. Because people are not identical, no matter what race or other similarities they share, stereotypical conceptions will often be false or misleading. Typically, stereotypes are arrived at through a process known as hasty generalization, in which one draws a conclusion about a large class of things (in this case, people) from a small sample. If we meet one South Bergian who is rude, we might jump to the conclusion that all South Bergians are rude. Or we might generalize from what we have heard from a few friends or read bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 16 11/24/09 8:00:22 AM 17 Barriers to Critical Thinking in a single news story. Often the media—advertisements, the news, movies, and so forth—encourage stereotyping by the way they portray groups of people. The assumptions we need to become most conscious of are not the ones that lead to our routine behaviors, such as carrying an umbrella or going to class, but the ones on which we base our more important attitudes, actions, and decisions. If we are conscious of our tendency to stereotype, we can take measures to end it. General notions are generally wrong. —Mary Worthley Montague E XERCISE 1.3 I. Read this story and answer the questions that follow. When it happened, a disturbing mix of feelings bubbled inside you. It sickened you to watch the boat slip beneath the waves and disappear forever; so much work had gone into maintaining it and keeping it afloat, but at least everyone was safe in the tiny lifeboat you’d had just enough time to launch. You secretly congratulated yourself for having had the foresight to stock the lifeboat with a few emergency items, such as a small amount of food and water, but you knew that a boat built to hold three, maybe four people wasn’t going to survive too long with such an overload of passengers. You looked around at your companions: the brilliant Dr. Brown, whose cleverness and quick wit had impressed you on many occasions; Marie Brown, pregnant and clearly exhausted from the climb into the lifeboat; Lieutenant Ashley Morganstern, a twenty-year veteran who’d seen the most brutal sorts of combat; the lieutenant’s secretary and traveling companion, whose shirt you noticed for the first time bore the monogram LB, but whom everyone called, simply, “Letty”; and Eagle-Eye Sam, the trusted friend who’d been at your side for many years as you sailed the oceans in your precious, now-vanished boat and whose nickname came from his ability to spot the smallest objects seemingly miles away at sea. Seeing the fear on your passengers’ faces, you tried to comfort them: “Don’t worry; we’ll be fine. They’ll be looking for us right away. I’m sure of it.” But you weren’t so sure. In fact, you knew it wasn’t true. It might be days before you were found, since you’d had no time to radio for help. Rescuers probably wouldn’t be dispatched until Friday, five days from now, when your failure to show up in port would finally arouse concern. On the third day, your passengers showed increasing signs of frustration, anger, and fear. “Where are they?” Marie cried. “We can’t go on like this!” You knew she was right. We can’t, you thought, not all of us anyway. On the fourth day, the food was completely gone, and just enough water remained to keep perhaps three people alive for another day, maybe two. Suddenly, things got worse. “Is that water?!” Marie screamed, pointing a shaking finger at the bottom of the lifeboat. Horrified, you looked down to see a slight trickle of water seeping in at the very center of the boat. Dr. Brown grabbed a T-shirt that was lying in the bottom of the boat and used it like a sponge to absorb the water, wringing it out over the side and plunging it into the invading water again and again. But it was no use; the water began to seep in faster than Brown could work. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 17 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM 18 CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking “We’re too heavy,” the lieutenant insisted without emotion. “We’ve got to lighten the load. Someone has to get out and swim.” “Swim?!” Marie gasped in disbelief. “Are you insane?! There are sharks in these waters!” “Who’s it going to be, Captain?” the lieutenant asked almost coldly, staring you square in the eye. “Which one of us swims?” “Me. I’ll go,” you say, swinging your leg out over the side of the boat. “No,” Letty insisted. “You’re the only one who knows how to navigate. If you go, we’ll all die. You must choose one of us to sacrifice.” And so you did. A. Answer the following questions individually. 1. Which one did you choose? Why? Why didn’t you choose the others? 2. As you read, you probably imagined what the characters looked like. From the image you had of them, describe the following characters in a few sentences: The Captain Dr. Brown Marie Brown Lieutenant Ashley Morganstern Letty Eagle-Eye Sam 3. Do you think Dr. Brown is related to Marie Brown? If so, how? B. Now form groups of three and complete the following tasks: 1. Compare your responses to question 1 in part A. Discuss the reasons for your decisions. Is there any consensus in the group? 2. Do you all agree on the relationship between Dr. Brown and Marie Brown? 3. What evidence is there in the story to support your answer for question 3 in part A? Is it possible that they are related in another way or not at all? 4. Look at your portraits of Dr. Brown. How many assumptions did you and your group members make about the doctor’s gender, age, appearance, and profession? What evidence in the story supports your image of the doctor? If your images are similar, what do you think accounts for that similarity? Are your mental images similar to ones we normally see in the media, for example? 5. Look at your portraits of the other characters. First, what similarities do you find among your group’s members? Second, what evidence is there in the story to support your assumptions? Are other assumptions possible? Finally, where do you think your mental images came from? II. In groups of three or four, name and explain a stereotypical conception people may have had about you over the years. Note how that stereotypical conception keeps others from coming to know you more accurately. Turn your page over and exchange papers with other members of your group. See if the other members can determine which stereotype description goes with what member of your group. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 18 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM Barriers to Critical Thinking 19 Relativistic Thinking Virtually every college professor has had at least one conversation like the following: Janie: Professor X, I don’t understand why you gave me a D on this paper. Prof. X: Well, as I noted in my written comments, you state your opinions, but you don’t offer any reasons to back them up. Janie: Do you mean you gave me a low grade because you disagree with my opinions? Prof. X: No, not at all, Janie.You received a low grade because you didn’t give any reasons to support your opinions. Janie: But isn’t everyone entitled to his or her own opinion? And can anyone ever really prove that his or her opinion is right and everyone else’s is wrong? Why, then, do I have to give reasons for my opinions when I’m entitled to hold them and no one can prove that they’re wrong? Janie, here, has fallen into the trap of relativistic thinking. It is crucial to understand why this is a trap, because once one has fallen into it, it is very difficult to see any point in studying critical thinking at all. Relativism is the view that truth is a matter of opinion. There are two popular forms of relativism: subjectivism and cultural relativism. Subjectivism is the view that truth is a matter of individual opinion. This is the view Janie apparently holds. According to subjectivism, whatever an individual believes is true, is true for that person, and there is no such thing as “objective” or “absolute” truth, i.e., truth that exists independent of what anyone believes. For example, suppose Bobby believes that abortion is wrong and Alice believes that abortion is not always wrong. According to subjectivism, abortion is always wrong for Bobby and not always wrong for Alice. Both beliefs are true—for them. And truth for one individual or another is the only kind of truth there is. The other common form of relativism is cultural relativism. This is the view that truth is a matter of social or cultural opinion. In other words, cultural relativism is the view that what is true for person A is what person A’s culture or society believes is true. Drinking wine, for example, is widely considered to be wrong in Iran but is not generally considered to be wrong in France. According to cultural relativism, therefore, drinking wine is immoral in Iran but is morally permissible in France. Thus, for the cultural relativist, just as for the subjectivist, there is no objective or absolute standard of truth. What is true is whatever most people in a society or culture believe to be true. Relatively few people endorse subjectivism or cultural relativism in the pure, unqualified forms in which we have stated them.Almost everybody would admit, for example, that 1 ⫹ 1 ⫽ 2 is true, no matter who might be ignorant or deluded enough to deny it. What relativists usually claim, therefore, is not that all truth is relative, but that truth is relative in some important domain(s). By far the most common form of relativism is moral relativism. Like relativism generally, moral relativism comes in two major forms: moral subjectivism and bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 19 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM 20 CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking cultural moral relativism. Moral subjectivism is the view that what is morally right and good for an individual, A, is whatever A believes is morally right and good. Thus, if Andy believes that premarital sex is always wrong, and Jennifer believes that it is not always wrong, according to moral subjectivism premarital sex is always wrong for Andy and is not always wrong for Jennifer. The other major form of moral relativism is cultural moral relativism, the view that what is morally right and good for an individual, A, is whatever A’s society or culture believes is morally right and good. Thus, according to cultural moral relativism, if culture A believes that polygamy is wrong, and culture B believes that polygamy is right, then polygamy is wrong for culture A and right for culture B. Cultural moral relativism is a very popular view today, especially among the young. There are two major reasons people seem to find it so attractive. One has to do with the nature of moral disagreement, and the other concerns the value of tolerance. Ethics, obviously, is very different from math or science. In math and science, there are arguments and disagreements, but not nearly to the extent there are in ethics. In ethics there is widespread disagreement, the disagreements often go very deep, and there seems to be no rational way to resolve many of them. What this shows, some people conclude, is that there is no objective truth in ethics; morality is just a matter of individual or societal opinion. Another reason people find cultural moral relativism attractive is that it seems to support the value of tolerance. Throughout history, terrible wars, persecutions, and acts of religious and cultural imperialism have been perpetrated by people who firmly believed in the absolute righteousness of their moral beliefs and practices. Cultural moral relativism seems to imply that we must be tolerant of other cultures’ moral beliefs and values. If culture A believes that polygamy is wrong, and culture B believes that it is right, then culture A must agree that polygamy is right for culture B, no matter how offensive the practice may be to culture A. Despite these apparent attractions, however, there are deep problems with cultural moral relativism, as the following exercise (adapted from a set of roleplaying scenarios developed by Professor Grant H. Cornwell17) will illustrate. E XERCISE 1.4 In groups of four or five, choose a group reporter to take notes and be the group spokesperson. Read and discuss one of the following case studies as assigned by your instructor. Case 1 Definition: A cultural moral relativist is one who maintains the following thesis: Whatever members of a culture believe is morally right and good is morally right and good for them. You are a member of culture C studying cultures A and B.You are a committed cultural moral relativist, i.e., you maintain wholeheartedly the relativist thesis. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 20 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM Barriers to Critical Thinking 21 Culture A is a pacifist culture and believes that it is always morally wrong to commit a violent act against another human being for any reason. Culture B is a militaristic and slaveholding culture. Its members believe that it is morally good and right to invade, subjugate, and enslave other cultures. While you are observing them, culture B invades culture A. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What can you consistently believe with regard to the morality of culture A? The morality of culture B? Specifically, as a consistent moral relativist, can you criticize or condemn the morality of culture A? Of culture B? 2. What can you consistently do with regard to culture B’s invasion and attempted subjugation of culture A? Case 2 Definition: A cultural moral relativist is one who maintains the following thesis: Whatever members of a culture believe is morally right and good is morally right and good for them. You are a member of culture B and a committed cultural moral relativist, i.e., you maintain wholeheartedly the relativist thesis. Culture B is a militaristic and slaveholding culture. A majority of its members believe that it is morally right and good to invade, subjugate, and enslave other cultures. Culture A is a pacifist culture. A majority of its members believe that it is always wrong to commit any act of violence against another human being for any reason. Culture B believes that it is morally wrong for culture A to practice pacifism. Culture B invades culture A. Its aim is to subjugate and enslave members of culture A and force some of them to participate in gladiatorial bouts for the amusement of members of culture B. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Is there any logical inconsistency in being a cultural moral relativist and also belonging to culture B? (Hint: Consider not only what culture B believes is right and good for its own members to do but also what it believes is right and good for other cultures to do.) If so, which beliefs, precisely, are inconsistent? 2. What can you consistently believe with regard to the morality of culture A? The morality of culture B? Specifically, as a consistent moral relativist, can you criticize or condemn the morality of culture A? Of culture B? 3. What can you consistently do with regard to culture B’s invasion and attempted conquest of culture A? Case 3 Definition: A cultural moral relativist is one who maintains the following thesis: Whatever members of a culture believe is morally right and good is morally right and good for them. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 21 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM 22 CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking Culture B consists of two subcultures: the Alphas and the Betas. The Alphas are a ruling majority group. They believe that it is morally right to randomly select a young child for sacrifice at the beginning of each year. The Betas are an oppressed minority group with its own distinctive cultural, moral, and religious practices. Betas believe strongly that child sacrifice is morally wrong. You are a member of culture B and a Beta.You are also a committed cultural moral relativist, i.e., you maintain wholeheartedly the relativist thesis. Culture A is a pacifist culture. Members of this culture believe that it is always wrong to commit any act of violence against another human being for any reason. The Alphas believe that it is morally right to impose their beliefs and values on culture A. They believe that it is a moral atrocity that culture A does not sacrifice children, and they believe that they have a moral duty to use whatever means are necessary to change the beliefs of culture A and have its members comply with this practice. Culture B invades culture A and begins its program of subjugation and indoctrination. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Is it possible for an individual to belong to more than one culture at the same time? If so, does this pose any logical difficulty for the cultural moral relativist? 2. Is there any logical difficulty in being a moral relativist and belonging to culture B? (Hint: Consider not only what culture B believes is right and good for its own members to do but also what it believes is right and good for other cultures to do.) 3. What can you consistently believe with regard to the morality of culture A? The morality of culture B? Specifically, as a consistent moral relativist, can you criticize or condemn the morality of culture A? Of culture B? 4. What can you consistently do with regard to culture B’s invasion and attempted subjugation of culture A? 5. Suppose that sometime in the future the Betas become the majority subculture in culture B, and a majority of culture B comes to believe that child sacrifice is wrong. Can this be described as “moral progress” from the standpoint of cultural moral relativism? Why or why not? These cases highlight several serious problems with cultural moral relativism. 1. Relativism makes it impossible for us to criticize other cultures’ customs and values, even those that intuitively seem to us to be terribly wrong. We can no longer say, for example, that a particular culture is wrong to practice slavery or child sacrifice, as long as that culture believes that those practices are morally right. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 22 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM Barriers to Critical Thinking 23 2. Relativism makes it impossible for us to criticize our own societies’ customs and values. Suppose you personally oppose racial segregation, but a majority of your society supports it. According to relativism, you must change your mind and agree that racial segregation is right in your society. In fact, if relativism is true, anyone who criticizes majority values is always wrong. Total conformity to majority opinion is required. 3. Relativism rules out the idea of moral progress. Moral values can change, but if relativism is true, they can never become better or worse, for relativism implies that what is right for a society is what that culture believes is right at that time. Thus, a relativist cannot say, for example, that the abolition of slavery or laws outlawing gender discrimination represented moral progress in the United States. 4. Relativism can lead to conflicting moral duties. There are several ways in which a relativist might find himself stuck with conflicting moral beliefs and duties. Cases 2 and 3 highlight two ways in which this can occur:18 a. When a relativist is a member of a society that holds beliefs that conflict with moral relativism (cases 2 and 3). If your society believes, for example, that child sacrifice is absolutely and objectively right, then you too, as a moral relativist, must believe that child sacrifice is absolutely and objectively right, for whatever moral beliefs your society holds, you must hold as well. b. When a relativist belongs to two or more cultures and those cultures hold mutually inconsistent moral beliefs (case 3). Can a person belong to two different cultures at the same time? It is hard to see why not. An Amish farmer living in Ohio, for instance, would seem to be a member of both an Amish culture and a larger American one. If such dual membership is possible, however, conflicts can clearly occur between the two cultures’ moral codes. And given relativism’s claim that what is right for a person is whatever his or her culture believes is right, this could lead to conflicting moral duties. Thus, cultural moral relativism has consequences that make it very difficult to accept. In addition, however, it can be shown that the two main reasons people are attracted to cultural moral relativism—ethical disagreement and the value of tolerance—are not good reasons at all. First, does the fact that there is deep disagreement in ethics show that there is no objective moral truth—that ethics is just a matter of opinion? Hardly. Think about another area in which there is deep, pervasive, and seemingly irresolvable disagreement: religion. People disagree vehemently over whether God exists, whether there is an afterlife, and so forth; yet we don’t conclude from this that there is no objective truth about these matters. It may be difficult to know whether God exists. But whether he exists is not simply a matter of opinion. Thus, deep disagreement about an issue does not show that there is no objective truth about that issue. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 23 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM 24 CHAPTER 1 We all need to be a little humble in our certainties. —Tom Morris Introduction to Critical Thinking Second, as the cases in Exercise 1.4 make clear, cultural moral relativism does not necessarily support the value of tolerance. Relativism tells us that we should accept the customs and values of our society. Thus, if you live in an intolerant society, relativism implies that you too should be intolerant. Does this mean that cultural moral relativism has nothing at all to teach us? No. The fact that people disagree so much about ethics does not show that moral truth is simply a matter of opinion, but it should make us cautious and open-minded regarding our own ethical beliefs. If millions of obviously decent, intelligent people disagree with you, how can you be sure that your values are the correct ones? In this way relativism can teach us an important lesson about the value of intellectual humility. But we don’t need relativism— which is a false and confused theory—to teach us this lesson. We can learn it just by opening our hearts and minds and thinking critically about the challenges of living an ethical life. Wishful Thinking The easiest thing of all is to deceive one’s self; for what a man wishes, he generally believes to be true. —Demosthenes A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. —Paul Simon The universe is what it is, not what I choose that it should be. —Bertrand Russell Once, as a Little Leaguer, one of the authors was thrown out at the plate in a foolish attempt to stretch a triple into a home run, possibly costing the team the game. Angry and disappointed, he refused to believe that he had really been thrown out. “I was safe by a mile,” he said plaintively to his disbelieving coaches and teammates. It was only years later, when he was an adult, that he could admit to himself that he really had been out—out, in fact, by a mile. Have you ever been guilty of wishful thinking—believing something not because you had good evidence for it but simply because you wished it were true? If so, you’re not alone.Throughout human history, reason has done battle with wishful thinking and has usually come out the loser. People fear the unknown and invent comforting myths to render the universe less hostile and more predictable. They fear death and listen credulously to stories of healing crystals, quack cures, and communication with the dead.They fantasize about possessing extraordinary personal powers and accept uncritically accounts of psychic prediction, levitation, and ESP. They delight in tales of the marvelous and the uncanny, and they buy mass-market tabloids that feature headlines such as “Spiritual Sex Channeler: Medium Helps Grieving Widows Make Love to their Dead Husbands.”19 They kid themselves into thinking, “It can’t happen to me,” and then find themselves dealing with the consequences of unwanted pregnancies, drunk-driving convictions, drug addiction, or AIDS. E XERCISE 1.5 I. Have you ever been guilty of self-interested thinking, self-serving bias, group bias, conformism, or wishful thinking? Without embarrassing yourself too much, discuss these critical thinking lapses in groups of three or four, then share with the class whatever examples you’d like to discuss. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 24 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM 25 Characteristics of a Critical Thinker II. This textbook gives a number of examples of self-interested thinking, self-serving bias, group bias, conformism, and wishful thinking. Jot down at least two additional examples of each of these five critical thinking hindrances. Divide into groups of three or four, discuss your examples with the group, and share what you think are the best examples with the class as a whole. CHARACTERISTICS OF A CRITICAL THINKER So far in this chapter, we have discussed (1) the nature of critical thinking; (2) key critical thinking standards such as clarity, precision, accuracy, and fairness; (3) the benefits of critical thinking; and (4) some major impediments to critical thinking, including egocentrism, sociocentrism, relativistic thinking, unwarranted assumptions, and wishful thinking. With this as background, we are now in a position to offer a general profile of a critical thinker.The following list contrasts some of the key intellectual traits of critical thinkers with the relevant traits of uncritical thinkers.20 Critical Thinkers . . . Uncritical Thinkers . . . Have a passionate drive for clarity precision, accuracy, and other critical thinking standards. Are sensitive to ways in which critical thinking can be skewed by egocentrism, sociocentrism, wishful thinking, and other impediments. Often think in ways that are unclear, imprecise, and inaccurate. Often fall prey to egocentrism, sociocentrism, relativistic thinking, unwarranted assumptions, and wishful thinking Often misunderstand or evaluate unfairly arguments and viewpoints. Think illogically and draw unsupported conclusions from evidence and data. Pretend they know more than they do and ignore their limitations. Are skilled at understanding, analyzing, and evaluating arguments and viewpoints. Reason logically and draw appropriate conclusions from evidence and data. Are intellectually honest with themselves, acknowledging what they don’t know and recognizing their limitations. Listen open-mindedly to opposing points of view and welcome criticisms of beliefs and assumptions. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 25 What is the hardest task in the world? To think. —Ralph Waldo Emerson Are closed-minded and resist criticisms of beliefs and assumptions. 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM 26 CHAPTER 1 Character is destiny. —Heraclitus To become a critical thinker is not, in the end, to be the same person you are now, only with better abilities; it is, in an important sense, to become a different person. —Gerald Nosich Introduction to Critical Thinking Base their beliefs on facts and evidence rather than on personal preference or self-interest. Are aware of the biases and preconceptions that shape the way they perceive the world. Think independently and are not afraid to disagree with group opinion. Are able to get to the heart of an issue or a problem, without being distracted by details. Have the intellectual courage to face and assess fairly ideas that challenge even their most basic beliefs. Pursue truth and are curious about a wide range of issues. Have the intellectual perseverance to pursue insights or truths despite obstacles or difficulties Often base beliefs on mere personal preference or selfinterest. Lack awareness of their own biases and preconceptions. Tend to engage in “groupthink,” uncritically following the beliefs and values of the crowd. Are easily distracted and lack the ability to zero in on the essence of an issue or a problem. Fear and resist ideas that challenge their basic beliefs. Are often relatively indifferent to truth and lack curiosity. Tend not to persevere when they encounter intellectual obstacles or difficulties. A course in critical thinking is like most other things in life: You get out of it what you put into it. If you approach critical thinking as a chore—a pointless general education requirement you need to get out of the way before you can turn to more “relevant” courses in your major—a chore it will be. On the other hand, if you approach critical thinking as an opportunity to learn habits of disciplined thinking that are vital to success in school, in your career, and in your life as a liberally educated person, critical thinking can be a rewarding and even transformative experience. E XERCISE 1.6 I. Review the list of critical thinking traits on pages 25–26, then write a 250-word essay in which you address the following questions:Which of the traits listed do you think is your strongest critical thinking trait? Why? Which is your weakest? Why? What could you do to improve in this latter regard? Be specific and realistic. II. In groups of three or four, define the following critical thinking traits: intellectual honesty, open-mindedness, fair-mindedness, intellectual courage, and intellectual perseverance. (See the list of critical thinking traits on pages 25–26 for some broad hints.) Give an example of each. III. In groups of three or four, think of examples, either from your experience or from your knowledge of current events or history, of individuals who possess, or did possess, the quality of intellectual courage to an unusual degree. What about bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 26 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM Summary 27 them leads you to think of them as being especially intellectually courageous? Do the same for the qualities of open-mindedness, intellectual honesty, and intellectual perseverance. Be prepared to share your group’s best examples with the class. SUMMARY 1. Critical thinking is the general term given to a wide range of cognitive skills and intellectual dispositions needed to effectively identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments and truth claims; to discover and overcome personal preconceptions and biases; to formulate and present convincing reasons in support of conclusions; and to make reasonable, intelligent decisions about what to believe and what to do. It is disciplined thinking governed by clear intellectual standards that have proven their value over the course of human history. Among the most important of these intellectual standards are clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, consistency, logical correctness, completeness, and fairness. 2. Critical thinking is beneficial for many reasons. It can help students do better in school by improving their ability to understand, construct, and criticize arguments. It can help people succeed in their careers by improving their ability to solve problems, think creatively, and communicate their ideas clearly and effectively. It can also reduce the likelihood of making serious mistakes in important personal decisions, promote democratic processes by improving the quality of public decision making, and liberate and empower individuals by freeing them from the unexamined assumptions, dogmas, and prejudices of their upbringing, their society, and their age. To learn is to face transformation. —Parker J. Palmer 3. Major barriers to critical thinking include egocentrism, sociocentrism, unwarranted assumptions, relativistic thinking, and wishful thinking. Egocentrism is the tendency to see reality as centered on oneself. Two common forms of egocentrism are self-interested thinking (the tendency to accept and defend beliefs that accord with one’s own self-interest) and self-serving bias (the tendency to overrate oneself). Sociocentrism is group-centered thinking. Two common varieties of sociocentrism are group bias (the tendency to see one’s culture or group as being better than others) and conformism (the tendency to conform, often unthinkingly, to authority or to group standards of conduct and belief). Unwarranted assumptions are things we take for granted without good reason. Often, unwarranted assumptions take the form of stereotypes. Stereotypes are generalizations about a group of people in which identical characteristics are assigned to all or virtually all members of the group, often without regard to whether such attributions are accurate. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 27 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM 28 CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Critical Thinking Relativistic thinking is thinking that is based on the idea that there is no “objective” or “absolute” truth because truth is simply a matter of opinion. The most popular form of relativism is moral relativism, which holds that what is morally right and good varies from individual to individual (moral subjectivism) or from culture to culture (cultural moral relativism). Wishful thinking is believing something because it makes one feel good, not because there is good reason for thinking that it is true. 4. Critical thinkers exhibit a number of traits that distinguish them from uncritical thinkers. Among the most important of these traits are a passionate drive for clarity, precision, accuracy, and other intellectual standards that characterize careful, disciplined thinking; a sensitivity to the ways in which critical thinking can be skewed by egocentrism, wishful thinking, and other psychological obstacles to rational belief; honesty and intellectual humility; open-mindedness; intellectual courage; love of truth; and intellectual perseverance. bas07437_ch01_001-028.indd 28 11/24/09 8:00:23 AM CHAPTER 2 RECOGNIZING ARGUMENTS A s we saw in the previous chapter, critical thinking is centrally concerned with reasons: identifying reasons, evaluating reasons, and giving reasons. In critical thinking, passages that present reasons for a claim are called arguments. In this chapter we explore the concept of an argument and explain how to distinguish arguments from nonarguments. WHAT IS AN ARGUMENT? When people hear the word argument, they usually think of some kind of quarrel or shouting match. In critical thinking, however, an argument is simply a claim defended with reasons. Arguments are composed of one or more premises and a conclusion. Premises are statements in an argument offered as evidence or reasons why we should accept another statement, the conclusion. The conclusion is the statement in an argument that the premises are intended to prove or support. An argument, accordingly, is a group of statements, one or more of which (called the premises) are intended to prove or support another statement (called the conclusion). A statement is a sentence that can be viewed as either true or false.1 Here are some examples of statements: Red is a color. Canada is in South America. God does not exist. Abortion is morally wrong. Some of these statements are clearly true, some are clearly false, and some are controversial. Each of them is a statement, however, because each can be prefaced with the phrase “It is true that” or “It is false that.” 29 bas07437_ch02_029-052.indd 29 11/24/09 8:01:34 AM 30 CHAPTER 2 Recognizing Arguments Four things should be noted about statements. First, a sentence may be used to express more than one statement. For example, the grammatical sentence Roses are red and violets are blue expresses two distinct statements (“roses are red” and “violets are blue”). Each of these is a statement because each is capable of standing alone as a declarative sentence. Second, a statement can sometimes be expressed as a phrase or an incomplete clause, rather than as a complete declarative sentence. Consider the sentence With mortgage interest rates at thirty-year lows, you owe it to yourself to consider refinancing your home. (radio ad) Grammatically, this is a single declarative sentence. The speaker’s intent, however, is clearly to defend one assertion (“You owe it to yourself to consider refinancing your home”) on the basis of another (“Mortgage interest rates are at thirty-year lows”). The fact that we have to rephrase the sentence slightly to make this explicit should not obscure the fact that two statements are being offered rather than one. Third, not all sentences are statements, that is, sentences that either assert or deny that something is the case. Here are some examples of sentences that are not statements: What time is it? (question) Hi, Dad! (greeting) Close the window! (command) Please send me your current catalog. (request) Let’s go to Paris for our anniversary. (proposal) Insert tab A into slot B. (instruction) Oh, my goodness! (exclamation) None of these is a statement because none of them asserts or denies that anything is the case. None says, in effect, “This is a fact. Accept this; it is true.” Consequently, sentences like these are not parts of arguments. Finally, statements can be about subjective matters of personal experience as well as objectively verifiable matters of fact. If I say, for example, I feel a slight twinge in my left knee this is a statement because it is either true or false (I might be lying, after all), even though other people may have no way of verifying whether I am telling the truth. bas07437_ch02_029-052.indd 30 11/24/09 8:01:35 AM Wha...
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The Most Important Information we need to Understand from the Chapters.

The vital information we need to comprehend from chapters is how individuals can build
their own lives towards a better direction by reasoning logically and arguing effectively (Bassham,
2011). Naturally, individuals will also look for ways to make their lives better. However, many

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