Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking - Critical Thinking A Short Treatise by...

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1 Critical Thinking A Short Treatise by W. Vincent Wilding What is Critical Thinking? Critical thinking is a methodical, systematic process of evaluating the credibility of incoming information. It enhances and expands our ability to distinguish what is true from what is false. Thus, as critical thinkers, we can make an informed and intelligent response to this information and the accompanying pleas (explicit or implied) that we think, believe, or do what is recommended. Consider this fictional analogy. There is occasional worldwide concern about the possible outbreak of a pandemic resulting from the rapid spread of illnesses, such as bird or swine flu, or an ebola virus. Suppose we live on a small south Pacific island which is a popular tourist destination. If our little island were to be infected with any of these diseases it would most likely spread through the tight-knit population with devastating consequences - to say nothing of the economic ramifications. Word reaches us that one of these diseases is beginning to spread in another part of the world. To protect our island inhabitants and way of life we establish a quarantine system for incoming visitors. These visitors are held in absolute isolation until it is absolutely certain that they are not infected. If any visitor is infected they are not admitted to the island. Disease-free visitors are welcomed into our society and are showered with all of the hospitality that our island can offer. As critical thinkers we behave much as we do on our island. All incoming information is at first not trusted - it is quarantined and evaluated. Only information that passes our rigorous test for reliability and truth is permitted to stick around. Once information is accepted it becomes part of our collective knowledge base which guides our attitudes, beliefs and actions - it becomes part of our island society. By the way, it is a fascinating and rewarding job to be the gatekeeper of your own island - your own mind. It is a position of great responsibility and power. The skills that make a good gatekeeper are to be coveted and developed with the greatest care. Clarification of a few terms will help in our discussion of critical thinking principles. Information comes to us in the form of one or more arguments. An argument is the reason(s) for doing or believing what is being recommended. An argument is a set of propositions which consists of one or more conclusions (the primary claims of the
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2 argument) and supporting claims or premises. Thus arguments contain the justification for the recommended action. Rhetoric is persuasion through the power of words - not through the quality of the reasons. Rhetoric is often a powerful means of persuasion, but as critical thinkers we need to distinguish between rhetoric and good (sound) arguments. Rhetoric will be discussed in more detail shortly. Recognizing that truth is the way things are, then a valid argument is one that if the premises
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This note was uploaded on 03/06/2012 for the course CHEM 311 taught by Professor Vincentwilding during the Fall '11 term at BYU.

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Critical Thinking - Critical Thinking A Short Treatise by...

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