Chapter 4 Overview

Critical Thinking

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If the full use of critical thinking involves the construction and evaluation of various forms of argument, the first step toward that skill requires looking at the building blocks of arguments, namely claims. We have considered the clear form that a claim must take; it is now time to turn to the claim's content, and how we know whether to accept or reject it. When a claim arrives in the context of a developed argument, we will have to examine that whole argument before passing judgment on the claim. But plenty of claims get asserted on their own, without backing from arguments, factual statistics, or anything else. To guide our judgment about such alleged information, we apply more elementary, more foundational principles. Part 2 begins the process of determining how to treat isolated claims. In the present chapter, we look at those claims that purport to deliver information and measure them against two general standards of credibility. These standards do not work as all-purpose tests, but they do show how to begin assessing new claims that arrive without argument. 1. When a claim comes without any evidence or proof to support it, you have to decide whether to accept or reject the claim. a. In the absence of an argument or other support, a claim has to be assessed on the grounds of credibility. i. Credibility comes in degrees, giving you reasons to be extremely suspicious of what you hear, extremely eager to believe it, or any strength of acceptance in between. ii. The mistakes people make about unsupported claims are usually mistakes of believing something too easily, though it is also possible to go wrong in the opposite direction and treat claims more suspiciously than you should. b. Claims and their sources both need to be credible. i. Sometimes you disbelieve a perfectly reasonable-sounding claim because you judge (rightly or wrongly) that the person who tells it to you is untrustworthy. ii. Another claim may be so wild on the face of it that you won't believe it no matter who is speaking. iii. As a general rule: It is reasonable to be suspicious if a claim either lacks credibility inherently or comes from a source that lacks credibility. 2. A reasonable bias exists against claims that deny direct observation. a. Direct observation makes a solid basis for knowledge, not easily made up for by other sources. b. Still, several factors can render observations unreliable, and it is wise to consider such factors before rejecting a competing claim. i. Observations depend on the conditions under which they are made. 1. What you hear in a noisy room is less reliable than what you hear in quiet, and so on. 2.
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Chapter 4 Overview - Chapter 4 Overview If the full use of...

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