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Logical Thinking And Critical Thinking

0:14Skip to 0 minutes and 14 secondsIn this clip, we're going to explain what critical thinking is and what sorts of problems a course in critical thinking might address. And finally, we'll let you know what we hope you will learn from the course. So first, what's critical thinking? Essentially critical thinking aims to ensure that we have good reasons for our beliefs. But what does that mean? Well, suppose Patrick and I are discussing whether or not a colleague of ours called Robin-- just because we don't really have a colleague called Robin-- will come to some philosophy department meeting to be held this afternoon. So do you think Robin will be there, Patrick? No. I don't think so. Why do you think that?

0:51Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsMeetings always go bad when Robin is there But that's not a good reason to believe Robin won't be at the meeting. At best, it's a reason to hope he won't be. So what about this reason then? Robin hates meetings, and hardly ever comes to them. Robin only turns up if there's something important on the agenda. And there's nothing on this afternoon's agenda that touches on anything Robin cares about. Well, I admit that's a better reason. It does provide stronger logical support if we make the following assumptions. One, that it's true that Robin almost never comes to meetings because he hates them. Two, that he only turns up if there's something important on the agenda.

1:34Skip to 1 minute and 34 secondsAnd three, that there's nothing on the agenda that Robin cares about. If those three assumptions hold, then it seems plausible that Robin won't show up. But it doesn't settle whether or not Robin will be at the meeting. Well, I reckon this reason will settle it. Robin's in London on sabbatical. We were on Skype together earlier today. That's a better reason to think Robin won't be at the meeting. Of all the reasons you've given me, it gives the strongest logical support. Think of these as premises.

2:08Skip to 2 minutes and 8 secondsIf the meeting is in Auckland, and if we know that London is in England, and if we know that England is roughly a 24 hour trip from Auckland, and if we're very confident that Robin is in London, then we can be very confident that Robin won't be at the meeting this afternoon. Still, can we be absolutely certain that Robin won't be at the meeting. Maybe not. Maybe Robin's a computer hacker, and has managed to fake a Skype call from London to trick Patrick. Or maybe Robin's a mad scientist and has developed some kind of transportation device. Seriously, Tim. Come on. Well, yeah, I know. This all seems rather unlikely.

2:48Skip to 2 minutes and 48 secondsI grant that if your final reason was in fact true, I would have good reason to believe that Robin won't be at the meeting, But it is true. When we think critically, in the sense we're talking about in this course, we're thinking in ways which ensure, insofar as possible, that we have good reason for our beliefs. We're trying to come to a true belief about whether or not Robin will be at the meeting, for instance, in the sense that we're evaluating the reasons which bear upon that belief to see if they're good reasons to believe one thing rather than another.

3:21Skip to 3 minutes and 21 secondsNow as we hope the Robin in the meeting case shows, critical and logical thinking can be, and often is, about very ordinary, everyday issues. I think critically when I weigh up reasons to believe that I should take my car to work rather than go by train. I might consider the reasons for and against taking my car. The likelihood of traffic jams on the roads. The reliability of the train system. How important it is that I get to work by a particular time. And which of the options make it more likely that I will get there by that time. But critical thinking can also be about big questions.

4:01Skip to 4 minutes and 1 secondYou might, for instance, be worried about privacy in the age of the internet and cyber security. Or you might be concerned about various conflicts and wars around the world, and whether your country should be involved. Those and other big questions, of course, are often all over the news. In fact, the small questions and the big questions are often quite closely connected. The reasons which bear upon whether I should go to work by car or train include reasons like the contribution of private car use to global warming. And once I start thinking about global warming, I can engage in another round of reasoning about what beliefs I ought to adopt about that. I might say, for instance, global warming is overrated.

4:43Skip to 4 minutes and 43 secondsBut then I would ask you why you say that. Well, I would respond, I remember summers when I was a boy. They used to go on and on. Now you just can't count on a decent summer. I don't reckon it's any warmer. But Tim, what you remember from your childhood isn't a very good reason to doubt the scientific consensus on global warming. Fair enough. In fact, we face constant demands to exercise our critical thinking skills. All sorts of people tried to persuade us of all sorts of things. That people who write editorials and letters to the editor, politicians, lecturers, advertisers, evangelists, radio hosts, health authorities, your parents, your children, your friends, and so on.

5:28Skip to 5 minutes and 28 secondsAnd when someone's trying to convince you of something, you should think what reasons have I really been given for believing what this person wants me to believe? Are they good reasons? This is what we mean by critical and logical thinking. Now here's something surprising. Since we're all called upon to exercise our critical thinking skills all the time, since we might even think that the capacity to exercise those skills is part of what makes humans special, you'd think we'd all, or almost all of us, be pretty good at it, that we wouldn't often make simple errors, and there wouldn't be widespread tendencies to adopt unjustified or bad beliefs. But guess what?

6:12Skip to 6 minutes and 12 secondsWe are all inclined to make certain kinds of errors when we're deciding which beliefs to adopt. We hope that this course will teach you how to be careful so that you will at least know when to be on the lookout for these corrupting tendencies. In this course, we'll give you several examples of bad reasoning and we'll give you tools to assess that in a clear way. These tools will safeguard you from encounters with bad reasoning.


PHIL 2140 Introduction to Logic vs
PHIL/PSYC 2100 Critical Thinking

After taking Introduction to Logic, students are sometimes telling me that they had expected something quite different from this course than what they ended up getting. And, as it turns out, they had expected a course that is more like Critical Thinking. Similarly, sometimes students take Critical Thinking, expecting a course more like Introduction to Logic, though this is less common. Still, apparently students are sometimes confused on the course content of these two courses, and I want to make sure that students take the course that best fits their needs and wishes. So, let me say a few things about the difference between PHIL-2140 Introduction to Logic, and PHIL/PSYC-2100 Critical Thinking.

The first difference is as follows. Traditionally, logic is the study of reasoning. In particular, logic tries to tell us what is good reasoning, and what is bad reasoning. Thus, logic is a normative theory of how one should reason, rather than a descriptive theory of how we humansactually reason. PHIL/PSYC-2100 Critical Thinking is a course on how humans actually reason (hence it is cross-listed under Psychology as well as Philosophy), while PHIL-2140 Introduction to Logic is a course on how one should reason.

The second difference is that PHIL-2140 Introduction to Logic is really an introduction to formal logic. As such, it has a distinct flavor of both (discrete) mathematics and computer science: there are abstract symbols to form complex expressions, and precisely defined operations to manipulate those expressions. Indeed, follow-up courses to Introduction to Logic, such as PHIL-4140 Intermediate Logic, PHIL-4420 Computability and Logic, and PHIL-6240 Logic and AI, all continue on these themes. And, finally, LSAT and GRE tests like to ask questions that have clear-cut answers, so you'll find the kinds of logic problems we do in this course reflected in those tests. So, if you like mathematics, computer science, or want 'hard' answers, take PHIL-2140 Introduction to Logic.

On the other hand, if your aim is to analyze everyday life reasoning, where answers are far less clear cut, and you are dealing with gray areas and fuzzy boundaries, you may want to take PHIL/PSYC-2100 Critical Thinking. This course deals more with everyday beliefs, and deals with the quirks of human psychology. Indeed, Critical Thinking is more related to such courses as PHIL-1110 Introduction to Philosophy, PSYC-1200 General Psychology, PHIL/PSYC-2120 Introduction to Cognitive Science, and PSYC 4370 Cognitive Psychology. The content matter of Critical Thinking is also much more broad, and what you learn in Critical Thinking you can apply daily to almost any situation. So, if you are looking for a practical course you can readily apply to real life, take PHIL/PSYC-2100 Critical Thinking.

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