Critical Thinking: The Basics is an accessible and engaging introduction to the field of critical thinking, drawing on philosophy, communication and psychology. Emphasising its relevance to decision-making (in personal, professional and civic life), academic literacy and personal development, this book supports the reader in understanding and developing the knowledge and skills needed to avoid poor reasoning, to reconstruct and evaluate arguments, and to engage constructively in dialogues.
Topics covered include:
• the relationship between critical thinking, emotions and the psychology of persuasion
• the role of character dispositions such as open-mindedness, courage and perseverance
• argument identification and reconstruction • fallacies and argument evaluation.
With discussion questions and exercises and suggestions for further reading at the end of the main chapters, this book is an essential read for students approaching the field of critical thinking for the first time, and for the general reader wanting to improving their thinking skills and decision-making abilities.
Stuart Hanscomb is a Lecturer in Philosophy and Communication at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Glasgow, UK.
AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY NANCY STANLICK
ANIMAL ETHICS TONY MILIGAN
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE KEVIN WARWICK
BIOETHICS ALASTAIR CAMPBELL
EASTERN PHILOSOPHY (SECOND EDITION) VICTORIA HARRISON
EVOLUTION SHERRIE LYONS
FOOD ETHICS RONALD SANDLER
FREE WILL MEGAN GRIFFITH
HUMAN GENETICS (SECOND EDITION) RICKI LEWIS
METAPHYSICS MICHAEL RAE
PHENOMENOLOGY DAN ZAHAVI
PHILOSOPHY (FIFTH EDITION) NIGEL WARBURTON
CONSCIOUSNESS KEITH FRANKISH
ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS BEN DIXON AND MAHESH ANANTH
GLOBAL JUSTICE CARL DEATH
LOGIC (SECOND EDITION) J.C. BEALL
PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AMY KIND
First published 2017 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
© 2017 Stuart Hanscomb
The right of Stuart Hanscomb to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Names: Hanscomb, Stuart, author. Title: Critical thinking : the basics / Stuart Hanscomb. Description: 1 [edition]. | New York : Routledge, 2016. | Series: The basics | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016023190| ISBN 9781138826236 (hardback) | ISBN 9781138826243 (pbk.) | ISBN 9781315739465 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Critical thinking. Classification: LCC B105.T54 H363 2016 | DDC 160—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016023190
ISBN: 978-1-138-82623-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-138-82624-3 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-73946-5 (eBook)
Typeset in Bembo Std and Scala Sans by Book Now Ltd, London
List of boxes vi Acknowledgements vii
Introduction: waking up to bad arguments 1
1 Rationality, cognitive biases and emotions 26
2 Critical thinking and dispositions 57
3 Arguments and argument reconstruction 78
4 Argument forms and fallacies 100
5 Arguments and social power: authority, threats and other features of message source 115
6 Causal arguments, generalisations, arguments from consequences and slippery slope arguments 167
7 Arguments from analogy 206
8 Further fallacies 218
Glossary 232 Select bibliography 243 Index 249
0.1 What is an argument? 4 0.2 Definition of critical thinking 24 4.1 Fundamental critical questions 107 4.2 Necessary and sufficient conditions 108 4.3 Fundamental critical questions and some examples
of sub-questions 109 5.1 French and Raven’s ‘bases of social power’ 118
My thanks go primarily to Benjamin Franks for his numerous helpful suggestions and comments during the writing of this book.
Also to those students, GTAs and staff who contributed so much to T&C, A-R-T, and CTC.
And to Tim Ewing (at http://timemit.deviantart.com/) for the cover image.
WAKING UP TO BAD ARGUMENTS
My husband says I’m argumentative. He’s wrong though, and here are three reasons why …
(Sacha T. Burnstorm, pers. comm.)
I wake up this morning to be told on the news that a culture that forces people to get up early and start work at 9 is a form of ‘torture’. I hit the snooze button and wonder if an appeal to human rights could save me from having to give my 9 a.m. lecture. Unchangeable bodily rhythms and the idea that we’re better suited to 10 or 11 o’clock starts seem very important, but even if the hypothesis is correct, have our lives thus far really been ‘torture’? Sleep deprivation is a well- known method of cruel and unusual punishment, but anyone who has endured it might be rightly dubious of classifying an early start in this way. It’s good for headlines though.
I shuffle to the kitchen and put the kettle on. Soon my 3-year- old son appears, yawning, looking for his breakfast. ‘Would you like brown flakes or yellow flakes?’ I ask, knowing this is what’s called a ‘false dichotomy’. There are several other cereal options but this keeps things simple. As wilful as he can be, he seems content to have his options framed in this narrow way first thing in the morning. Hopefully this isn’t a form of torture.
2 WAKING UP TO BAD ARGUMENTS
Cycling to work, I take a route past a big field of cattle. There is a hedge that I can see over, and the sight of my moving head seems to spook one of the animals. He starts to run with me, parallel to the road along the side of the hedge. As he passes other cattle, they start galloping as well and before long I have caused a stampede. After about 20 seconds the original runner slows to a halt and the others do the same. They herd again, snorting and steaming, looking agitated, and possibly slightly embarrassed.
I have picked up speed and become aware of my reluctance to use the smallest and largest gear cogs (first and sixth) on my bike. Brief reflection shows me that this is conditioned response caused by the disintegration of the gear mechanism on my previous (ancient and dilapidated) bike, which meant that the use of these gears ran a high risk of the chain falling off. There is no reason to think that would happen with my new bike, but the learning has transferred itself and I limit myself for no reason.
Most animals and toddlers are not what we would call ‘critical thinkers’, but nor are we much of the time. This series of events is no exaggeration. Poor reasoning and the absence of reason- ing on occasions where it would serve us well are everywhere. Life is typically fast-paced and mistakes will happen, but even when things are slowed down (for example, drafting a speech rather than being interviewed on the radio), we think erroneously in predictable ways.
Adding to our vulnerability is that bad arguments are often persuasive – entertaining even – impeding our ability and motiva- tion to put them in their place. Professional persuaders (working in, say, politics or marketing) know two important things:
1. our critical thinking capabilities are not what they might be, and 2. the particular forms of persuasive communication that make us
less likely to pay attention to, or even look for, poor reasoning, and that are therefore more likely to win us round to their point of view.
Arguments based on dubious, partial or irrelevant claims can be remarkably effective if they target our cognitive and emotional biases.
3WAKING UP TO BAD ARGUMENTS
0.1 WHAT IS CRITICAL THINKING?
This is a book about how to avoid reaching the wrong conclusion in everyday, professional and academic contexts. The fundamental subject matter of critical thinking is the reasoning we apply in a wide variety of circumstances, and its aims are twofold:
1. to improve our ability to reason and generate strong arguments; 2. to improve our ability to assess the strength of the arguments used