“up to 80% of doctors endorse this project” uses which rhetorical device?

With Good Reason: A Guide to Critical Thinking

Christopher Foster Ashford University

James Hardy Ashford University

Gloria Zúñiga y Postigo Ashford University

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James Hardy, Christopher Foster, and Gloria Zúñiga y Postigo

With Good Reason: A Guide to Critical Thinking

Editor in Chief, AVP: Steve Wainwright

Executive Editor: Anna Lustig

Development Editor: Rebecca Paynter

Assistant Editor: Jessica Sarra

Editorial Assistant: Lukas Schulze

Production Editor: Catherine Morris

Media Production: Amanda Nixon, LSF Editorial

Copy Editor: Lauri Scherer, LSF Editorial

Photo Researcher: Amanda Nixon, LSF Editorial

Cover Design: Bambang Suparman Ibrahim

Printing Services: Bordeaux

Production Services: Lachina

Permission Editor: D’Stair Permissions Agency

Cover Image: juuce/iStock and espiegle/iStock

ISBN-10: 1621785661

ISBN-13: 978-1-62178-566-8

Copyright © 2015 Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

All rights reserved.

GRANT OF PERMISSION TO PRINT: The copyright owner of this material hereby grants the holder of this

publication the right to print these materials for personal use. The holder of this material may print the materials

herein for personal use only. Any print, reprint, reproduction or distribution of these materials for commercial use

without the express written consent of the copyright owner constitutes a violation of the U.S. Copyright Act,

17 U.S.C. §§ 101-810, as amended.

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Brief Contents

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Logic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Chapter 2: The Argument . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

Chapter 3: Deductive Reasoning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59

Chapter 4: Propositional Logic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119

Chapter 5: Inductive Reasoning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165

Chapter 6: Deduction and Induction: Putting It All Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207

Chapter 7: Informal Fallacies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239

Chapter 8: Persuasion and Rhetoric . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279

Chapter 9: Logic in Real Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 319

Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 355

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 363

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About the Authors xiii Acknowledgments xv Preface xvii

Chapter 1 An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Logic 1

1 .1 What Is Critical Thinking? 2 The Importance of Critical Thinking 3 Becoming a Critical Thinker 6

1 .2 Three Misconceptions About Logic 7 Logic Is for Robots 7 Logic Does Not Need to Be Learned 9 Logic Is Too Hard 10

1 .3 What Is Logic? 11 The Study of Arguments 11 A Tool for Arriving at Warranted Judgments 12 Formal Versus Informal Logic 14

1 .4 Arguments Outside of Logic 14 Arguments in Ordinary Language 14 Rhetorical Arguments 15 Revisiting Arguments in Logic 16

1 .5 The Importance of Language in Logic 17

1 .6 Logic and Philosophy 19 The Goal of Philosophy 20 Philosophy and Logical Reasoning 20

Summary and Resources 21


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Chapter 2 The Argument 25

2 .1 Arguments in Logic 26 Claims 29 The Standard Argument Form 31

2 .2 Putting Arguments in the Standard Form 33 Find the Conclusion First 34 Find the Premises Next 36 The Necessity of Paraphrasing 38 Thinking Analytically 39

2 .3 Representing Arguments Graphically 42 Representing Reasons That Support a Conclusion 42 Representing Counterarguments 45 Diagramming Efficiently 46

2 .4 Classifying Arguments 47 Deductive Arguments 48 Inductive Arguments 49 Arguments Versus Explanations 50

Summary and Resources 53

Chapter 3 Deductive Reasoning 59

3 .1 Basic Concepts in Deductive Reasoning 60 Validity 60 Soundness 62 Deduction 63

3 .2 Evaluating Deductive Arguments 66 Representing Logical Form 66 Using the Counterexample Method 68

3 .3 Types of Deductive Arguments 70 Mathematical Arguments 70 Arguments From Definitions 71 Categorical Arguments 72 Propositional Arguments 72

3 .4 Categorical Logic: Introducing Categorical Statements 73 Clarifying Particular Statements 76


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Clarifying Universal Statements 76 Accounting for Conversational Implication 78

3 .5 Categorical Logic: Venn Diagrams as Pictures of Meaning 80 Drawing Venn Diagrams 81 Drawing Immediate Inferences 84

3 .6 Categorical Logic: Categorical Syllogisms 91 Terms 91 Distribution 91 Rules for Validity 93 Venn Diagram Tests for Validity 94

3 .7 Categorical Logic: Types of Categorical Arguments 111 Sorites 111 Enthymemes 112 Validity in Complex Arguments 113

Summary and Resources 115

Chapter 4 Propositional Logic 119

4 .1 Basic Concepts in Propositional Logic 120 The Value of Formal Logic 121 Statement Forms 122

4 .2 Logical Operators 123 Conjunction 124 Disjunction 126 Negation 128 Conditional 129

4 .3 Symbolizing Complex Statements 133 Truth Tables With Complex Statements 135 Truth Tables With Three Letters 137

4 .4 Using Truth Tables to Test for Validity 140 Examples With Arguments With Two Letters 141 Examples With Arguments With Three Letters 144

4 .5 Some Famous Propositional Argument Forms 149 Common Valid Forms 149 Common Invalid Forms 152

Summary and Resources 158

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Chapter 5 Inductive Reasoning 165

5 .1 Basic Concepts in Inductive Reasoning 166 Inductive Strength 167 Inductive Cogency 170

5 .2 Statistical Arguments: Statistical Syllogisms 171 Form 172 Weak Statistical Syllogisms 173

5 .3 Statistical Arguments: Inductive Generalizations 174 Representativeness 175 Confidence Level 179 Applying This Knowledge 180

5 .4 Causal Relationships: The Meaning of Cause 181 Sufficient Conditions 181 Necessary Conditions 182 Necessary and Sufficient Conditions 183 Other Types of Causes 184 Correlational Relationships 184

5 .5 Causal Arguments: Mill’s Methods 186 Method of Agreement 187 Method of Difference 188 Joint Method of Agreement and Difference 189 Method of Concomitant Variation 190

5 .6 Arguments From Authority 192

5 .7 Arguments From Analogy 193 Evaluating Arguments From Analogy 194 Analogies in Moral Reasoning 197 Other Uses of Analogies 198

Summary and Resources 203

Chapter 6 Deduction and Induction: Putting It All Together 207

6 .1 Contrasting Deduction and Induction 208

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6 .2 Choosing Between Induction and Deduction 211 Availability 211 Robustness 212 Persuasiveness 214

6 .3 Combining Induction and Deduction 216

6 .4 Reasoning About Science: The Hypothetico–Deductive Method 218 Step 1: Formulate a Hypothesis 219 Step 2: Deduce a Consequence From the Hypothesis 219 Step 3: Test Whether the Consequence Occurs 220 Step 4: Reject the Hypothesis If the Consequence Does Not Occur 220

6 .5 Inference to the Best Explanation 225 Form 228 Virtue of Simplicity 229 How to Assess an Explanation 231 A Limitation 232

Summary and Resources 236

Chapter 7 Informal Fallacies 239

7 .1 Fallacies of Support 241 Begging the Question 241 Circular Reasoning 242 Hasty Generalizations and Biased Samples 243 Appeal to Ignorance and Shifting the Burden of Proof 245 Appeal to Inadequate Authority 246 False Dilemma 248 False Cause 249

7 .2 Fallacies of Relevance 251 Red Herring and Non Sequitur 251 Appeal to Emotion 252 Appeal to Popular Opinion 255 Appeal to Tradition 256 Ad Hominem and Poisoning the Well 257

7 .3 Fallacies of Clarity 261 The Slippery Slope 261 Equivocations 262 The Straw Man 264

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Fallacy of Accident 267 Fallacies of Composition and Division 268

Summary and Resources 273

Chapter 8 Persuasion and Rhetoric 279

8 .1 Obstacles to Critical Thinking: The Self 280 Stereotypes 280 Cognitive Biases 282

8 .2 Obstacles to Critical Thinking: Rhetorical Devices 289 Weasel Words 290 Euphemisms and Dysphemisms 291 Proof Surrogates 293 Hyperbole 294 Innuendo and Paralipsis 295

8 .3 The Media and Mediated Information 300 Manipulating Images 301 Advertising 302 Other Types of Mediated Information 306

8 .4 Evaluating the Source: Who to Believe 308 Reputation and Authorship 309 Accuracy and Currency 312 Interested Parties 312

Summary and Resources 314

Chapter 9 Logic in Real Life 319

9 .1 The Argumentative Essay 320 The Problem 321 The Thesis 322 The Premises 323

9 .2 Strengthening the Argumentative Essay 327 Clarification and Support 327 The Objection 329 The Rebuttal 330 Closing Your Essay 331

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9 .3 Practical Arguments: Building Arguments for Everyday Use 333 The Claim 333 The Data 334 The Warrant 334 Comparing the Models 335

9 .4 Confronting Disagreement 338 Applying the Principle of Accuracy 339 Applying the Principle of Charity 340 Balancing the Principles of Accuracy and Charity 341 Practicing Effective Criticism 342

9 .5 Case Study: Interpretation and Criticism in Practice 346 Examining the Initial Argument 347 Examining the Objection 347 Examining the Wording 348 Drawing a Conclusion 349

9 .6 Other Applications of Logic 349 Symbolic Logic 350 Computer Science 350 Artificial Intelligence 350 Engineering 351 Politics (Speech Writing) 351

Summary and Resources 351

Glossary 355

References 363

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James Hardy, Ashford University Dr. James Hardy is part of the core faculty of the Humanities & Science department at Ashford University. He obtained a PhD in philosophy from Indiana University, a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Washington, and bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and psy- chology from Utah State University. He has taught philosophy at multiple universities since 1998 and has had the opportunity to teach across the general education spectrum, including courses in algebra, speech, English, and physics. Dr. Hardy’s favorite part of teaching is watch- ing students get excited about learning, helping them achieve their dreams, and seeing their excitement as new worlds of knowledge open up to them.

Dr. Hardy loves spending time outdoors hiking, backpacking, and canoeing—especially when he can do so with family members. He has lived all over the United States and has always found beauty and natural wonders wherever he has lived. The only time he is happier than when he is in nature is when he is spending time with his family.

Christopher Foster, Ashford University Dr. Christopher Foster is lead faculty of the Humanities & Science department at Ashford University. He holds a PhD in philosophy with a specialization in logic and language and a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Kansas (KU). His undergraduate work was completed at the University of California–Davis, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and philosophy. Dr. Foster began his career as a graduate teaching assistant at KU and went on to teach at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. Dr. Foster has a passion for philosophy and believes that digging deeply into life’s ultimate questions is often the best way to improve students’ critical thinking and writing skills. He lives in Orem, Utah, with his wife, Cherie, and two daughters, Avery and Adia.

Gloria Zúñiga y Postigo, Ashford University Dr. Gloria Zúñiga y Postigo is part of the core faculty of the Humanities & Science department at Ashford University. She earned a PhD in philosophy from the University at Buffalo, special- izing in ontology, ethics, and philosophy of economics. Her previous studies are in philosophy at the University of California–Berkeley and economics at California State University–East Bay. Dr. Zúñiga y Postigo’s present research interests include examinations of the effect in our experiences of moral, aesthetic, and economic phenomena; and value in the Brentano School, the Menger School, and the Göttingen Circle scholars. Teaching philosophy is one her greatest passions. She especially enjoys teaching informal logic, because it empowers students with a tool for distinguishing truth from the mere appearance of truth, thereby making it possible for them to achieve fulfilling lives with greater efficacy.

About the Authors

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The authors would like to acknowledge the people who made significant contributions to the development of this text: Anna Lustig, executive editor; Rebecca Paynter, development edi- tor; Jessica Sarra, assistant editor; Lukas Schulze, editorial assistant; Catherine Morris, pro- duction editor; Amanda Nixon, media production; and Lauri Scherer and LSF Editorial, copy editors. Additional thanks go to Justin Harrison and Marc Joseph for their work creating and accuracy checking the ancillary materials for this text.

The authors would also like to thank the following reviewers, as well as other anonymous reviewers, for their valuable feedback and insight:

Justin Harrison, Ashford University

Mark Hébert, Austin College

Marc Joseph, Mills College

Stephen Krogh, Ashford University

Renee Levant, Ashford University

Andrew Magrath, Kent State University

Zachary Martin, Florida State University

John McAteer, Ashford University

Bradley Thames, Ashford University

Finally, but not least importantly, the authors would like to acknowledge their respective spouses—Teresa Hardy, Cherie Farnes, and Jacob Arfwedson—for their loving understand- ing of the long hours that this project demanded, as well as all characters in popular culture (for example, Sherlock Holmes, Mr. Spock, and Dr. House) who have kept logic present in everyday conversations. The rewards of our work are enriched by the former and reassured by the latter.


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With Good Reason: A Guide to Critical Thinking examines the specific ways we use language to reason about things. The study of logic improves our ability to think. It forces us to pay closer attention to the way language is used (and misused). It helps make us better at providing good reasons for our decisions. With Good Reason: A Guide to Critical Thinking seeks to help you examine and develop these abilities in order to improve them and to avoid being per- suaded by the faulty reasoning of others.

Textbook Features With Good Reason: A Guide to Critical Thinking includes a number of features to help students understand key concepts and think critically:

Everyday Logic boxes give students the opportunity to see principles applied to a variety of real-world scenarios.

A Closer Look boxes give students the chance to explore more in-depth concepts and issues in critical thinking.

Figures illustrate a variety of concepts in easy-to-understand ways.

Practice Problems provide an opportunity for students to exercise the knowledge they have learned in each chapter.

Knowledge Checks test preconceptions about and comprehension of each chapter’s top- ics and lead to a personalized reading plan based on these results.

Moral of the Story boxes and Chapter Summaries review the key ideas and takeaways in each chapter.

Interactive Features in the e-book allow students to engage with the content on a more dynamic level. Animated scenarios in Logic in Action show students how logic might be used in real life. Consider This interactions invite students to think about various issues in more depth. Interactive exercises in Connecting the Dots give students further opportuni- ties to practice what they have learned.

Key Terms list and define important vocabulary discussed in the chapter, offering an opportunity for a final review of chapter concepts. In the e-book, students can click on the term to reveal the definition and quiz themselves in the process.


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1An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Logic

Hemera Technologies/Ablestock.com/Thinkstock

Learning Objectives After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

1. Explain the importance of critical thinking and logic.

2. Describe the relationship between critical thinking and logic.

3. Explain why logical reasoning is a natural human attribute that we all have to develop as a skill.

4. Identify logic as a subject matter applicable to many other disciplines and everyday life.

5. Distinguish the various uses of the word argument that do not pertain to logic.

6. Articulate the importance of language in logical reasoning.

7. Describe the connection between logic and philosophy.

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Section 1.1 What Is Critical Thinking?

This book will introduce you to the tools and practices of critical thinking. Since the main tool for critical thinking is logical reasoning, the better part of this book will be devoted to discuss- ing logic and how to use it effectively to become a critical thinker.

We will start by examining the practical importance of critical thinking and the virtues it requires us to nurture. Then we will explore what logic is and how the tools of logic can help us lead easier and happier lives. We will also briefly review a critical concept in logic—the argument—and discuss the importance of language in making good judgments. We will con- clude with a snapshot of the historical roots of logic in philosophy.

1.1 What Is Critical Thinking? What is critical thinking? What is a critical thinker? Why do you need a guide to think criti- cally? These are good questions, but ones that are seldom asked. Sometimes people are afraid to ask questions because they think that doing so will make them seem ignorant to others. But admitting you do not know something is actually the only way to learn new things and better understand what others are trying to tell you.

There are differing views about what critical thinking is. For the most part, people take bits and pieces of these views and carry on with their often imprecise—and sometimes conflicting— assumptions of what critical thinking may be. However, one of the ideas we will discuss in this book is the fundamental importance of seeking truth. To this end, let us unpack the term critical thinking to better understand its meaning.

First, the word thinking can describe any number of cognitive activities, and there is certainly more than one way to think. We can think analytically, creatively, strategically, and so on (Sousa, 2011). When we think analytically, we take the whole that we are examining—this could be a term, a situation, a scientific phenomenon—and attempt to identify its components. The next step is to examine each component individually and understand how it fits with the other com- ponents. For example, we are currently examining the meaning of each of the words in the term critical thinking so we can have a better understanding of what they mean together as a whole.

Analytical thinking is the kind of thinking mostly used in academia, science, and law (includ- ing crime scene investigation). In ordinary life, however, you engage in analytical thinking more often than you imagine. For example, think of a time when you felt puzzled by some- one else’s comment. You might have tried to recall the original situation and then parsed out the language employed, the context, the mood of the speaker, and the subject of the com- ment. Identifying the different parts and looking at how each is related to the other, and how together they contribute to the whole, is an act of analytical thinking.

When we think creatively, we are not focused on relationships between parts and their wholes, as we are when we think analytically. Rather, we try to free our minds from any boundaries such as rules or conventions. Instead, our tools are imagination and innovation. Suppose you are cooking, and you do not have all the ingredients called for in your recipe. If you start thinking creatively, you will begin to look for things in your refrigerator and pantry that can substitute for the missing ingredients. But in order to do this, you must let go of the recipe’s expected outcome and conceive of a new direction.

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Section 1.1 What Is Critical Thinking?

When we think strategically, our focus is to first lay out a master plan of action and then break it down into smaller goals that are organized in such a way as to support our outcomes. For exam- ple, undertaking a job search involves strategic planning. You must identify due dates for applications, request let- ters of recommendations, prepare your résumé and cover letters, and so on. Thinking strategically likely extends to many activities in your life, whether you are going grocery shopping or planning a wedding.

What, then, does it mean to think criti- cally? In this case the word critical has nothing to do with criticizing others in a negative way or being surly or cynical.

Rather, it refers to the habit of carefully evaluating ideas and beliefs, both those we hear from others and those we formulate on our own, and only accepting those that meet certain stan- dards. While critical thinking can be viewed from a number of different perspectives, we will define critical thinking as the activity of careful assessment and self-assessment in the process of forming judgments. This means that when we think critically, we become the vigilant guard- ians of the quality of our thinking.

Simply put, the “critical” in critical thinking refers to a healthy dose of suspicion. This means that critical thinkers do not simply accept what they read or hear from others—even if the information comes from loved ones or is accompanied by plausible-sounding statistics. Instead, critical thinkers check the sources of information. If none are given or the sources are weak or unreliable, they research the information for themselves. Perhaps most importantly, critical thinkers are guided by logical reasoning.

As a critical thinker, always ask yourself what is unclear, not understood, or unknown. This is the first step in critical thinking because you cannot make good judgments about things that you do not understand or know.

The Importance of Critical Thinking Why should you care about critical thinking? What can it offer you? Suppose you must make an important decision—about your future career, the person with whom you might want to spend the rest of your life, your financial investments, or some other critical matter. What considerations might come to mind? Perhaps you would wonder whether you need to think about it at all or whether you should just, as the old saying goes, “follow your heart.” In doing so, you are already clarifying the nature of your decision: purely rational, purely emotional, or a combination of both.


Critical thinking involves carefully assessing information and its sources.

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Section 1.1 What Is Critical Thinking?

In following this process you are already starting to think critically. First you started by asking questions. Once you examine the answers, you would then assess whether this information is sufficient, and perhaps proceed to research further information from reli- able sources. Note that in all of these steps, you are making distinctions: You would distinguish between relevant and irrelevant questions, and from the relevant questions, you would distin- guish the clear and precise ones from the others. You also would distinguish the answers that are helpful from those that are not. And finally, you would separate out the good sources for your research, leaving aside the weak and biased ones.

Making distinctions also determines the path that your examination will follow, and herein lies the connection between critical thinking and logic. If you decide you should examine the best reasons that support each of the possible options available, then this choice takes you in the direction of logic. One part of logical reasoning is the weighing of evidence. When making an important decision, you will need to identify which factors you consider favorable and which you consider unfavorable. You can then see which option has the strongest evidence in its favor (see Everyday Logic: Evidence, Beliefs, and Good Thinking for a discussion of the importance of evidence).

Consider the following scenario. You are 1 year away from graduating with a degree in busi- ness. However, you have a nagging feeling that you are not cut out for business. Based on your research, a business major is practical and can lead to many possibilities for well-paid employment. But you have discovered that you do not enjoy the application or the analysis of quantitative methods—something that seems to be central to most jobs in business. What should you do?

Many would seek advice from trusted people in their lives—people who know them well and thus theoretically might suggest the best option for them. But even those closest to us can offer conflicting advice. A practical parent may point out that it would be wasteful and possibly risky to switch to another major with only 1 more year to go. A reflective friend may point out that the years spent studying business could be considered simply part of a journey of self-discovery, an investment of time that warded off years of unhappiness after gradua- tion. In these types of situations, critical thinking and logical reasoning can help you sort out competing considerations and avoid making a haphazard decision.

We all find ourselves at a crossroads at various times in our lives, and whatever path we choose will determine the direction our lives will take. Some rely on their emotions to help them make their decisions. Granted, it is difficult to deny the power of emotions. We recall more vividly those moments or things in our lives that have had the strongest emotional


Can you recall a time when you acted or made a decision while you were experiencing strong emotions? Relying on our emotions to make decisions undermines our ability to develop confidence in our rational judgments. Moreover, emotional decisions cannot typically be justified and often lead to regret.

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Section 1.1 What Is Critical Thinking?

impact: a favorite toy, a first love, a painful loss. Many interpret gut feelings as revelations of what they need to do. It is thus easy to assume that emotions can lead us to truth. Indeed, emotions can reveal phenomena that may be otherwise inaccessible. Empathy, for example, permits us to share or recognize the emotions that others are experiencing (Stein, 1989).

The problem is that, on their own, emotions are not reliable sources of information. Emotions can lead you only toward what feels right or what feels wrong—but cannot guarantee that what feels right or wrong is indeed the right or wrong thing to do. For example, acting self- ishly, stealing, and lying are all actions that can bring about good feelings because they satisfy our self-serving interests. By contrast, asking for forgiveness or forgiving someone can feel wrong because these actions can unleash feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, and vulner- ability. Sometimes emotions can work against our best interests. For example, we are often fooled by false displays of goodwill and even affection, and we often fall for the emotional appeal of a politician’s rhetoric.

The best alternative is the route marked by logical reasoning, the principal tool for developing critical thinking. The purpose of this book is to help you learn this valuable tool. You may be wondering, “What’s in it for me?” For starters, you are bound to gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your decisions are not based solely on a whim or a feeling but have the support of the firmer ground of reason. Despite the compelling nature of your own emo- tional barometer, you may always wonder whether you made the right choice, and you may not find out until it is too late. Moreover, the emotional route for decision making will not help you develop confidence in your own judgments in the face of uncertainty.

In contrast, armed with the skill of logical reasoning, you can lead a life that you choose and not a life that just happens to you. This power alone can make the difference between a happy and an unhappy life. Mastering critical thinking results in practical gains—such as the ability to defend your views without feeling intimidated or inadequate and to protect yourself from manipulation or deception. This is what’s in it for you, and this is only the beginning.

Everyday Logic: Evidence, Beliefs, and Good Thinking

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence. —W. K. Clifford (1879, p. 186)

British philosopher and mathematician W. K. Clifford’s claim—that it is unethical to believe anything if you do not have sufficient evidence for it—elicited a pronounced response from the philosophical community. Many argued that Clifford’s claim was too strong and that it is acceptable to believe things for which we lack the requisite evidence. Whether or not one absolutely agrees with Clifford, he raises a good point. Every day, millions of people make deci- sions based on insufficient evidence. They claim that things are true or false without putting in the time, effort, and research necessary to make those claims with justification.

You have probably witnessed an argument in which people continue to make the same claims until they either begin to become upset or merely continue to restate their positions without adding anything new to the discussion. These situations often devolve and end with state- ments such as, “Well, I guess we will just agree to disagree” or “You are entitled to your opin- ion, and I am entitled to mine, and we will just have to leave it at that.” However, upon further reflection we have to ask ourselves, “Are people really entitled to have any opinion they want?”


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Section 1.1 What Is Critical Thinking?

From the perspective of critical thinking, the answer is no. Although people are legally entitled to their beliefs and opinions, it would be intellectually irresponsible of them to feel entitled to an opinion that is unsupported by logical reasoning and evidence; people making this claim are conflating freedom of speech with freedom of opinion. A simple example will illustrate this point. Suppose someone believes that the moon is composed of green cheese. Although he is legally entitled to his belief that the moon is made of green cheese, he is not rationally entitled to that belief, since there are many reasons to believe and much evidence to show that the moon is not composed of green cheese.

Good thinkers constantly question their beliefs and examine multiple sources of evidence to ensure their beliefs are true. Of course, people often hold beliefs that seem warranted but are later found not to be true, such as that the earth is flat, that it is acceptable to paint baby cribs with lead paint, and so on. However, a good thinker is one who is willing to change his or her views when those views are proved to be false. There are certain criteria that must be met for us to claim that someone is entitled to a specific opinion or position on an issue.

There are other examples where the distinction is not so clear. For instance, some people believe that women should be subservient to men. They hold this belief for many reasons, but the pre- dominant one is because specific religions claim this is the case. Does the fact that a religious text claims that women should serve men provide sufficient evidence for one to believe this claim? Many people believe it does not. However, many who interpret their religious texts in this man- ner would claim that these texts do provide sufficient evidence for such claims.

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