Strategies for Critical Thinking|
Philosophy 1301 w/ Colby Glass
Strategies for critical thinking:
- Know yourself... Be honest, noting where you are vulnerable so that you can
predict where your problems occur. Anticipate your reactions and prejudices and then consciously resist their influence.
- Philosophy is very personal
- It deals with very painful issues
- life and death
- Critical thinking can give you more freedom to choose wisely.
- You are not so limited by your own background.
- You do not have to be fair, or unbiased, or reasonable, but if not, you will live in a very small world with few choices and many fears.
- Be observant
- Example of Dr. Joseph Bell... basis for Sherlock Holmes
(reading, p. 22-24, of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
- Clarify issues
- Narrow/limit questions to avoid oversimplification and shallowness.
- Be precise in your focus. Choose a specific issue which cannot be subdivided.
- Most controversial questions are "a cluster of smaller issues."
- best ex. is abortion -- when do we become human, what are
the responsibilities of doctors, what are the rights of unborn children, what are the mother's rights, which rights should have priority, what about handicaps, what about very young mothers, what about rape, etc.
- CLASS EXERCISE...break down the sub-issues in the larger issue: Does a government ever have the right to impose the death penalty for a criminal offense?
- Should get at least the following sub-issues:
- Can criminals be rehabilitated?
- Cost of imprisonment on society?
- Social consequences of the death penalty?
- Legal consequences of death penalty?
- Should all crimes be handled the same?
- Should chronic offenders be treated differently?
- Are there other alternatives which work?
- If it's wrong for a criminal to take a life, how can it be right for the state?
- Do legal penalties serve as deterrents to crime?
- Is there an effective way to deter crime? Possible at all?
- The rights of the victims.
- What is the purpose of the death penalty: deterrence or retribution, or a cheap alternative?
- Should there be exceptions (mental illness, etc.)?
- Reason for death penalty (retribution, removal of danger)?
- State the issue or question in a clear, precise question.
- State all the arguments on each side of the issue, noting the substantiation or evidence for each argument presented.
- Conduct an inquiry
- INQUIRY is seeking answers and gathering evidence to help us draw conclusions.
- There are two kinds:
- Inquiry into facts
- Inquiry into opinions (Sociology, Anthropology)
- Where to look for information:
- our own experience and observations
- background on the issue
- facts and statistics
- information about people involved
- articles in newspapers, journals, books
- It's hard to know when to stop inquiring (see Hasty Conclusions)
- Interpret the evidence
- Questions to ask (quoted from Ruggiero)
- How accurately did I/others observe?
- Is what I experienced or observed typical of all such cases?
- Did the person who reported the matter to me experience or observe the matter herself? Or was she reporting someone else's experience?
- Does the reporter's reputation warrant my accepting the report at face value (Is she regarded as a careful observer)?
- If more than one person experienced or observed the matter, do their reports agree?
- How consistent is this particular piece of evidence with other evidence?
- If the evidence is found in a magazine article, how
reputable is the magazine? (explain juried journals)
- How careful does the writer seem to be about avoiding unsupported assertions, oversimplifications, sweeping generalizations? How impartial is the writer?
- If the article, book, or TV program refers to the results of research, does it provide important details?
(discuss standards of details in research journals
ie., ability to replicate the experiment)
IT IS HUMAN NATURE TO OMIT EVIDENCE WHICH
DOESN'T SUPPORT THE POSITION ESPOUSED
The usual result is several possible interpretations...
- Important distinctions to make:
- between the person and the idea
- parents (authority)
- friends (bias)
- between what is said and the way it is said
- "My SON, I want you to have this precious dog!"
- between people's motives and their ideas.
- ex. of the used car salesman running over the dog
Then, you must choose the most reasonable (based on its relation to the
evidence). -ex. used car... little old lady drove it only on Sundays.
- Analyze viewpoints.. Appraise the reasonableness of assertions being made.
- Read carefully for explicit and implicit messages
- Identify all assertions
- Notice qualifying words
- Note connections between ideas
- Note conditions stated
- Identify the main assertions being "sold"
- Summarize the article
- Raise questions.. This gets us beyond judging on appearance, and helps us avoid gut reactions.
- Forming judgments
- A judgment is a conclusion arrived at through the examination of evidence and careful reasoning.
- Strive for a balanced view
- Deal with probability
- Make the subject specific
- Make your predicate (what is said about the subject) exact
- Include all necessary qualifications
- Avoid exaggeration
Please send comments to:
Colby Glass, MLIS
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