LOGIC AND CRITICAL-THINKING.doc - Critical Thinking Across...

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Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum Project Critical Thinking Core Concepts Contributed by: Lauren Miller and Michael Connelly, Longview Community College Short history of Logic If we take Logic to be the activity of drawing inferences (conclusions) from a body of information, then no doubt humans have been using logic for as long as they have been thinking, or at least consciously thinking. The first Neanderthal to formulate the thought “All members of the Cave-Bear clan are our enemies” along with “Thag is a member of the Cave-Bear clan” very likely put the 2 and the 2 together and reached the conclusion “Thag is our enemy.” Nor is there any particular reason to suppose that the logic of these primitives was primitive logic – that is, they probably drew logically correct conclusions from their data about as often as folks do nowadays (i.e. maybe 62.3% of the time). (Besides, chances are that natural selection quickly weeded out the Neanderthals who tended to draw the conclusion “Thag is our friend” from the above data!) On the other hand, if we take Logic to be the analysis of concepts involved in making inferences, and the identification of standards and patterns of correct inference, Logic can be traced only back to the days of Aristotle (350 years B.C. or so), with some parallel development in early Hindu writings. It’s not clear that this increase in logical self-consciousness improved the accuracy of reasoning processes for humankind in general, but knowing what Aristotle knew about logic can definitely help you be a better reasoner. Around the end of the 19th century, Logic received renewed interest (and an emphasis on symbolic representation), from mathematicians in search of a fundamental connection between logical and mathematical reasoning. Development of, and reaction to, this line of inquiry led to two divergent lines of emphasis in the study of logic, which you may have heard of: Symbolic (or Formal) Logic vs Informal Logic (or Critical Thinking). In a typical symbolic logic course, emphasis is placed on the precise symbolic representation of logical concepts, the study of the abstract relationships between these concepts, and the systematization of these relationships.
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In an “informal logic” or Critical Thinking course, such as ours here at Longview, the focus is instead on the application of logical concepts to the analysis of everyday reasoning and problem- solving. Elements of symbolic logic will frequently be involved, but only to the extent that it contributes to this practical objective. Notice that neither of these directions of emphasis really concern themselves much with how people actually think, or what you might call a psychology of thought. Informal Logic begins with the perception that people don’t actually reason all that well, but jumps from there to the matter of doing something about it. Symbolic Logic begins with the perception of what constitutes good reasoning at a rudimentary level, and goes on from there to investigate good reasoning at higher and higher levels of sophistication.
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  • Fall '12
  • TerryRey
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