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Critical Thinking 4

11 Dec

After all the theories, finally we can try to use critical thinking in analysing others’ arguments. Like what Howard said, there are times when people just talk in such a complicated way that we have to sit down and dissect the arguments to understand it.

How? Divide and Conquer

Part 1: Divide

  1. Identify the conclusion(s) & annotate with C1, C2 etc.
  2. Decide which of them is the main conclusion (one that summarise the whole text) and annotate C.
  3. Change the secondary conclusions to be premises to support the conclusion, and annotate P1, P2 etc.
  4. Identify the stated premises that support P1,P2 etc & annotate with P1.1, P2.1 etc
  5. Identify the missing premises that needed to support any of the conclusion & annotate with MP1, MP2 etc
  6. If there is no conclusion, identify the missing conclusion & annotate MC1, MC2 etc
  7. Identify the shape starting from the main conclusion and work upward.

Voila, we have the relationship tree. We have identified whether the premises do support the conclusion.

Sometimes when the premises do not make sense, make some assumptions or sound foolish, we still have to apply Principle of Charity to improve the argument. But the name Principle of Charity is a bit deceiving (hahaha) since we improve the argument in order to prove that it is a foolish argument.

Part 2: Conquer

After identifying all the premises, we then ready to do the logical strength and truthfulness test. 

  1. Do the premises have logical strength (Note: skip this step if V shape)
  2. Is each of them true?

If the premises fulfill these two tests, then conclusion is sound.

PS: not the end yet. should be more to come next semester


Critical Thinking 3

11 Dec

Apparently, there are really a lot more in Critical Thinking than I expected. The stuff in the previous critical thinking posts still have a long way to go. Next is about variation of how to build an argument.

Any argument will use these three basic shapes:

  1. Tree shape
  2. T shape
  3. V shape
  4. Combine them and we will have Complex shape

Tree shape is the simplest argument model. Basically we have a premise leads to a conclusion. Along the way, the one premise may arrive at a  secondary conclusion, lead to conclusion.

Tree shape: P1 –>P2–>P3…. ==> Conclusion

T shape happens when we have two or more premises, all are needed to arrive at the conclusion.

T shape: P1 and P2 and P3…. ==> Conclusion

V shape happens when we have two or more premises, each one is enough to arrive at the conclusion.

V shape: P1 or P2 or P3 ….==> Conclusion

Combination shape basically use two or more of the basic shapes.

Eg: (P1.1 and P1.2) or (P2.1 –> P2.2) ==> Conclusion

 So the logical strength rule only apply to Tree shape and T shape, and not applicable to V shape.

However, the problem is sometimes T shape and V shape is not very clear cut and it depends on personal judgement to decide which shape it is.

I guess that’s why sometimes we can argue for very long and still cannot come to an agreement.

Critical Thinking 2

24 Nov

 As mentioned in part 1, a sound argument must pass three tests:

  1. Is there any degree of logical strength between the premises – matter if the premises are true or false?
  2. Are the premises true?
  3. Do the premises support the conclusion?

So after we find out if the premises have logical strength and indeed are true, we must think if they actually support the conclusion. If they do support the conclusion, to what degree the support is. It is to say, are the premises are enough for us to have 100% certainty that the conclusion is sound.

There are two types of conditions:

  1. Necessary condition: the premises (stated and implied) are needed to come to conclusion, but that’s not all because we still need more premises or data to say that our conclusion is true. So conclusion may only happen if premises are true, but more premises are needed for us to say that the conclusion is true.
  2. Sufficient condition: the premises (stated and implied) are enough to come to conclusion; we don’t need anymore premises or data to say that our conclusion is true.

Well, I think it’s not that simple. For example: “To get distinction, you need to score an average of 65% or higher on your course work, 70% or higher on your dissertation, and score 70% or more overall. “ In this argument, the three premises together are sufficient to guarantee the outcome, and each premises is necessary condition for the outcome.

However, say my teacher only tell me,”To get distinction, you need to score an average of 65% or higher on your course work and 70% or higher on your dissertation.” without mentioning the 70% or more overall. I would assume that the two premises are actually sufficient for me to get a distinction when they are actually not.

How can we know if our premises are enough to come to conclusion? How can we know if no information is missing? With our limited knowledge, how can we be confidence with our conclusion?

Primary purpose of argument is to arrive at an understanding of things that is as reasonable and plausible as it can be

Critical Thinking

11 Nov

homer-simpson-wallpaper-brain-1024.jpg“What? A class on deductive and inductive reasoning? We have to spend so many weeks just for this? I learned this in my language class in high school.”

Even though I am not familiar with analysing statements, I was rather dubious when I started the class. I thought it was simple. I studied engineering for my bachelor degree where I analysed numbers and problems logically, and I knew reasoning. But after few classes, I started to see it in different light. I was not aware how important it was and how to see it using the appropriate steps. 

Howard, in critical thinking class, said:

“As intelligent people, we must somewhat troubled by the extent to which we depend upon the word of others for what we call our ‘knowledge’. We must at least a little uncomfortable abut the extent to which we depend upon the intentional transmission to us by others of much of the information we accept as true. The knowledge we get from others is called testimony.”

The method to ascertain what reliable or sound testimony is ‘reasoning’. Concious use of reason enables us to apply standards that produce sound arguments.

A sound argument must pass three tests:

  1. Is there any degree of logical strength between the premises – matter if the premises are true or false?
  2. Are the premises true?
  3. Do the premises support the conclusion?

Simple concept but very powerful one. Logical strength is a tricky concept. Even when the premises are false, there can be logical strength with various degree. But only when the premises agree with all the three test, it is an argument with various degree of soundness. Only when the degree is high, we can somewhat conclude that it is credible.

Watching documentary

18 Oct

There are few points that a lecturer said before he showed us a documentary:

Always remember this: Do not take documentary as representation of truth. It is not. Documentary is used to point out an opinion. The facts are build around the opinion. Documentary is not the end of the idea. There are history and agenda behind documentary.

In short, he was saying that documentary is usually loop-sided.

How then you know what is truth? By getting information from both sides. Read widely on various sources. That’s the only way.

Rule#1: Make significant interesting

16 Oct

Howard Barrell, my lecturer in Cardiff, told the our class which full of journalist wanna-be:

“You want to know the rule of thumb of a good journalist?”

“It’s to make significant interesting. The key is interesting, interesting, interesting.”

“When I was a young abnoxious journalist, I had important stories to tell. I thought that it was so important that everyone had moral obligation to read it. But it’s not the case. The more significant the story is, the greater my obligation to make the story interesting so that people will read it.”