Checklist for Thinking About a Philosophical Issue
- List all subissues. Divide the cluster of issues into individual questions.
- Eliminate the factual (scientific and quantifiable) questions and issues.
Remember Russell's point that it is not a philosophical question if a factual
answer is possible. (See
Debatable and Nondebatable Statements)
- Choose one question to address. It is impossible to deal rationally with
an entire cluster of issues at one time.
- Inquire. Seek evidence about the issue. Sources can be your own
experience, history of the issue, legal precedents, information and stories
from other people, newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television
stories, books, and many others.
- Interpret the evidence. Consider the status and authority of the sources,
people's possible motives and vested interests, possible bias of sources, and
the way the evidence was presented. Ask these questions:
- How accurate is the observation?
- What is the character, and the reputation, of the observer, the
journal, the source of the information?
- If there is more than one report or observation, do the reports
- How consistent is this with other evidence?
- How impartial is the observer? Do they avoid unsupported
assertions, oversimplifications, generalizations, and other fallacies?
- If research is presented, are the details of the data gathering
and analysis given?
- Has enough evidence been gathered? If you are not sure, it might be
wiser to suspend judgment at this point.
- Analyze and weigh the positions (viewpoints). Follow these steps (based
- Identify all assertions made.
- Identify all qualifications and conditions.
- Notice the connections between ideas and assertions.
- Decide which assertions are the main ones.
- Raise questions about each assertion. Do you believe it?
- Are there any biases evident?
- Are there any underlying assumptions which have been glossed over?
- Is there anything that has not been stated? Any parts of the issue
which have not been discussed?
- Have you explored all the consequences and ramifications of the
conclusions you are considering?
- Form a jugment.
- Review your own biases and tendencies. Be honest with yourself.
Be sure that your final judgment is objective and clear.
- Be precise in the statement of your judgment.
- If they are necessary, include qualifications.
- Distinguish certainty from probability.
If you have comments, or have something you would like to see added to this site, please send me a message. Thanks!
Return to the Home Page |
Return to Critical Thinking