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what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

Logic, Critical Thinking, and Philosophy

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

Logic defined

Logic as a science and an art, philosophy and logic, critical thinking defined, logic and critical thinking, for students' comments, click here:  how to start a cool discussion in myinfobasket.com, ourhappyschool recommends.

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

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Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking

(10 reviews)

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

Matthew Van Cleave, Lansing Community College

Copyright Year: 2016

Publisher: Matthew J. Van Cleave

Language: English

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Reviewed by "yusef" Alexander Hayes, Professor, North Shore Community College on 6/9/21

Formal and informal reasoning, argument structure, and fallacies are covered comprehensively, meeting the author's goal of both depth and succinctness. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

Formal and informal reasoning, argument structure, and fallacies are covered comprehensively, meeting the author's goal of both depth and succinctness.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

The book is accurate.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

While many modern examples are used, and they are helpful, they are not necessarily needed. The usefulness of logical principles and skills have proved themselves, and this text presents them clearly with many examples.

Clarity rating: 5

It is obvious that the author cares about their subject, audience, and students. The text is comprehensible and interesting.

Consistency rating: 5

The format is easy to understand and is consistent in framing.

Modularity rating: 5

This text would be easy to adapt.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The organization is excellent, my one suggestion would be a concluding chapter.

Interface rating: 5

I accessed the PDF version and it would be easy to work with.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

The writing is excellent.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

This is not an offensive text.

Reviewed by Susan Rottmann, Part-time Lecturer, University of Southern Maine on 3/2/21

I reviewed this book for a course titled "Creative and Critical Inquiry into Modern Life." It won't meet all my needs for that course, but I haven't yet found a book that would. I wanted to review this one because it states in the preface that it... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

I reviewed this book for a course titled "Creative and Critical Inquiry into Modern Life." It won't meet all my needs for that course, but I haven't yet found a book that would. I wanted to review this one because it states in the preface that it fits better for a general critical thinking course than for a true logic course. I'm not sure that I'd agree. I have been using Browne and Keeley's "Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking," and I think that book is a better introduction to critical thinking for non-philosophy majors. However, the latter is not open source so I will figure out how to get by without it in the future. Overall, the book seems comprehensive if the subject is logic. The index is on the short-side, but fine. However, one issue for me is that there are no page numbers on the table of contents, which is pretty annoying if you want to locate particular sections.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

I didn't find any errors. In general the book uses great examples. However, they are very much based in the American context, not for an international student audience. Some effort to broaden the chosen examples would make the book more widely applicable.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

I think the book will remain relevant because of the nature of the material that it addresses, however there will be a need to modify the examples in future editions and as the social and political context changes.

Clarity rating: 3

The text is lucid, but I think it would be difficult for introductory-level students who are not philosophy majors. For example, in Browne and Keeley's "Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking," the sub-headings are very accessible, such as "Experts cannot rescue us, despite what they say" or "wishful thinking: perhaps the biggest single speed bump on the road to critical thinking." By contrast, Van Cleave's "Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking" has more subheadings like this: "Using your own paraphrases of premises and conclusions to reconstruct arguments in standard form" or "Propositional logic and the four basic truth functional connectives." If students are prepared very well for the subject, it would work fine, but for students who are newly being introduced to critical thinking, it is rather technical.

It seems to be very consistent in terms of its terminology and framework.

Modularity rating: 4

The book is divided into 4 chapters, each having many sub-chapters. In that sense, it is readily divisible and modular. However, as noted above, there are no page numbers on the table of contents, which would make assigning certain parts rather frustrating. Also, I'm not sure why the book is only four chapter and has so many subheadings (for instance 17 in Chapter 2) and a length of 242 pages. Wouldn't it make more sense to break up the book into shorter chapters? I think this would make it easier to read and to assign in specific blocks to students.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

The organization of the book is fine overall, although I think adding page numbers to the table of contents and breaking it up into more separate chapters would help it to be more easily navigable.

Interface rating: 4

The book is very simply presented. In my opinion it is actually too simple. There are few boxes or diagrams that highlight and explain important points.

The text seems fine grammatically. I didn't notice any errors.

The book is written with an American audience in mind, but I did not notice culturally insensitive or offensive parts.

Overall, this book is not for my course, but I think it could work well in a philosophy course.

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

Reviewed by Daniel Lee, Assistant Professor of Economics and Leadership, Sweet Briar College on 11/11/19

This textbook is not particularly comprehensive (4 chapters long), but I view that as a benefit. In fact, I recommend it for use outside of traditional logic classes, but rather interdisciplinary classes that evaluate argument read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

This textbook is not particularly comprehensive (4 chapters long), but I view that as a benefit. In fact, I recommend it for use outside of traditional logic classes, but rather interdisciplinary classes that evaluate argument

To the best of my ability, I regard this content as accurate, error-free, and unbiased

The book is broadly relevant and up-to-date, with a few stray temporal references (sydney olympics, particular presidencies). I don't view these time-dated examples as problematic as the logical underpinnings are still there and easily assessed

Clarity rating: 4

My only pushback on clarity is I didn't find the distinction between argument and explanation particularly helpful/useful/easy to follow. However, this experience may have been unique to my class.

To the best of my ability, I regard this content as internally consistent

I found this text quite modular, and was easily able to integrate other texts into my lessons and disregard certain chapters or sub-sections

The book had a logical and consistent structure, but to the extent that there are only 4 chapters, there isn't much scope for alternative approaches here

No problems with the book's interface

The text is grammatically sound

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

Perhaps the text could have been more universal in its approach. While I didn't find the book insensitive per-se, logic can be tricky here because the point is to evaluate meaningful (non-trivial) arguments, but any argument with that sense of gravity can also be traumatic to students (abortion, death penalty, etc)

No additional comments

Reviewed by Lisa N. Thomas-Smith, Graduate Part-time Instructor, CU Boulder on 7/1/19

The text covers all the relevant technical aspects of introductory logic and critical thinking, and covers them well. A separate glossary would be quite helpful to students. However, the terms are clearly and thoroughly explained within the text,... read more

The text covers all the relevant technical aspects of introductory logic and critical thinking, and covers them well. A separate glossary would be quite helpful to students. However, the terms are clearly and thoroughly explained within the text, and the index is very thorough.

The content is excellent. The text is thorough and accurate with no errors that I could discern. The terminology and exercises cover the material nicely and without bias.

The text should easily stand the test of time. The exercises are excellent and would be very helpful for students to internalize correct critical thinking practices. Because of the logical arrangement of the text and the many sub-sections, additional material should be very easy to add.

The text is extremely clearly and simply written. I anticipate that a diligent student could learn all of the material in the text with little additional instruction. The examples are relevant and easy to follow.

The text did not confuse terms or use inconsistent terminology, which is very important in a logic text. The discipline often uses multiple terms for the same concept, but this text avoids that trap nicely.

The text is fairly easily divisible. Since there are only four chapters, those chapters include large blocks of information. However, the chapters themselves are very well delineated and could be easily broken up so that parts could be left out or covered in a different order from the text.

The flow of the text is excellent. All of the information is handled solidly in an order that allows the student to build on the information previously covered.

The PDF Table of Contents does not include links or page numbers which would be very helpful for navigation. Other than that, the text was very easy to navigate. All the images, charts, and graphs were very clear

I found no grammatical errors in the text.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

The text including examples and exercises did not seem to be offensive or insensitive in any specific way. However, the examples included references to black and white people, but few others. Also, the text is very American specific with many examples from and for an American audience. More diversity, especially in the examples, would be appropriate and appreciated.

Reviewed by Leslie Aarons, Associate Professor of Philosophy, CUNY LaGuardia Community College on 5/16/19

This is an excellent introductory (first-year) Logic and Critical Thinking textbook. The book covers the important elementary information, clearly discussing such things as the purpose and basic structure of an argument; the difference between an... read more

This is an excellent introductory (first-year) Logic and Critical Thinking textbook. The book covers the important elementary information, clearly discussing such things as the purpose and basic structure of an argument; the difference between an argument and an explanation; validity; soundness; and the distinctions between an inductive and a deductive argument in accessible terms in the first chapter. It also does a good job introducing and discussing informal fallacies (Chapter 4). The incorporation of opportunities to evaluate real-world arguments is also very effective. Chapter 2 also covers a number of formal methods of evaluating arguments, such as Venn Diagrams and Propositional logic and the four basic truth functional connectives, but to my mind, it is much more thorough in its treatment of Informal Logic and Critical Thinking skills, than it is of formal logic. I also appreciated that Van Cleave’s book includes exercises with answers and an index, but there is no glossary; which I personally do not find detracts from the book's comprehensiveness.

Overall, Van Cleave's book is error-free and unbiased. The language used is accessible and engaging. There were no glaring inaccuracies that I was able to detect.

Van Cleave's Textbook uses relevant, contemporary content that will stand the test of time, at least for the next few years. Although some examples use certain subjects like former President Obama, it does so in a useful manner that inspires the use of critical thinking skills. There are an abundance of examples that inspire students to look at issues from many different political viewpoints, challenging students to practice evaluating arguments, and identifying fallacies. Many of these exercises encourage students to critique issues, and recognize their own inherent reader-biases and challenge their own beliefs--hallmarks of critical thinking.

As mentioned previously, the author has an accessible style that makes the content relatively easy to read and engaging. He also does a suitable job explaining jargon/technical language that is introduced in the textbook.

Van Cleave uses terminology consistently and the chapters flow well. The textbook orients the reader by offering effective introductions to new material, step-by-step explanations of the material, as well as offering clear summaries of each lesson.

This textbook's modularity is really quite good. Its language and structure are not overly convoluted or too-lengthy, making it convenient for individual instructors to adapt the materials to suit their methodological preferences.

The topics in the textbook are presented in a logical and clear fashion. The structure of the chapters are such that it is not necessary to have to follow the chapters in their sequential order, and coverage of material can be adapted to individual instructor's preferences.

The textbook is free of any problematic interface issues. Topics, sections and specific content are accessible and easy to navigate. Overall it is user-friendly.

I did not find any significant grammatical issues with the textbook.

The textbook is not culturally insensitive, making use of a diversity of inclusive examples. Materials are especially effective for first-year critical thinking/logic students.

I intend to adopt Van Cleave's textbook for a Critical Thinking class I am teaching at the Community College level. I believe that it will help me facilitate student-learning, and will be a good resource to build additional classroom activities from the materials it provides.

Reviewed by Jennie Harrop, Chair, Department of Professional Studies, George Fox University on 3/27/18

While the book is admirably comprehensive, its extensive details within a few short chapters may feel overwhelming to students. The author tackles an impressive breadth of concepts in Chapter 1, 2, 3, and 4, which leads to 50-plus-page chapters... read more

While the book is admirably comprehensive, its extensive details within a few short chapters may feel overwhelming to students. The author tackles an impressive breadth of concepts in Chapter 1, 2, 3, and 4, which leads to 50-plus-page chapters that are dense with statistical analyses and critical vocabulary. These topics are likely better broached in manageable snippets rather than hefty single chapters.

The ideas addressed in Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking are accurate but at times notably political. While politics are effectively used to exemplify key concepts, some students may be distracted by distinct political leanings.

The terms and definitions included are relevant, but the examples are specific to the current political, cultural, and social climates, which could make the materials seem dated in a few years without intentional and consistent updates.

While the reasoning is accurate, the author tends to complicate rather than simplify -- perhaps in an effort to cover a spectrum of related concepts. Beginning readers are likely to be overwhelmed and under-encouraged by his approach.

Consistency rating: 3

The four chapters are somewhat consistent in their play of definition, explanation, and example, but the structure of each chapter varies according to the concepts covered. In the third chapter, for example, key ideas are divided into sub-topics numbering from 3.1 to 3.10. In the fourth chapter, the sub-divisions are further divided into sub-sections numbered 4.1.1-4.1.5, 4.2.1-4.2.2, and 4.3.1 to 4.3.6. Readers who are working quickly to master new concepts may find themselves mired in similarly numbered subheadings, longing for a grounded concepts on which to hinge other key principles.

Modularity rating: 3

The book's four chapters make it mostly self-referential. The author would do well to beak this text down into additional subsections, easing readers' accessibility.

The content of the book flows logically and well, but the information needs to be better sub-divided within each larger chapter, easing the student experience.

The book's interface is effective, allowing readers to move from one section to the next with a single click. Additional sub-sections would ease this interplay even further.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

Some minor errors throughout.

For the most part, the book is culturally neutral, avoiding direct cultural references in an effort to remain relevant.

Reviewed by Yoichi Ishida, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Ohio University on 2/1/18

This textbook covers enough topics for a first-year course on logic and critical thinking. Chapter 1 covers the basics as in any standard textbook in this area. Chapter 2 covers propositional logic and categorical logic. In propositional logic,... read more

This textbook covers enough topics for a first-year course on logic and critical thinking. Chapter 1 covers the basics as in any standard textbook in this area. Chapter 2 covers propositional logic and categorical logic. In propositional logic, this textbook does not cover suppositional arguments, such as conditional proof and reductio ad absurdum. But other standard argument forms are covered. Chapter 3 covers inductive logic, and here this textbook introduces probability and its relationship with cognitive biases, which are rarely discussed in other textbooks. Chapter 4 introduces common informal fallacies. The answers to all the exercises are given at the end. However, the last set of exercises is in Chapter 3, Section 5. There are no exercises in the rest of the chapter. Chapter 4 has no exercises either. There is index, but no glossary.

The textbook is accurate.

The content of this textbook will not become obsolete soon.

The textbook is written clearly.

The textbook is internally consistent.

The textbook is fairly modular. For example, Chapter 3, together with a few sections from Chapter 1, can be used as a short introduction to inductive logic.

The textbook is well-organized.

There are no interface issues.

I did not find any grammatical errors.

This textbook is relevant to a first semester logic or critical thinking course.

Reviewed by Payal Doctor, Associate Professro, LaGuardia Community College on 2/1/18

This text is a beginner textbook for arguments and propositional logic. It covers the basics of identifying arguments, building arguments, and using basic logic to construct propositions and arguments. It is quite comprehensive for a beginner... read more

This text is a beginner textbook for arguments and propositional logic. It covers the basics of identifying arguments, building arguments, and using basic logic to construct propositions and arguments. It is quite comprehensive for a beginner book, but seems to be a good text for a course that needs a foundation for arguments. There are exercises on creating truth tables and proofs, so it could work as a logic primer in short sessions or with the addition of other course content.

The books is accurate in the information it presents. It does not contain errors and is unbiased. It covers the essential vocabulary clearly and givens ample examples and exercises to ensure the student understands the concepts

The content of the book is up to date and can be easily updated. Some examples are very current for analyzing the argument structure in a speech, but for this sort of text understandable examples are important and the author uses good examples.

The book is clear and easy to read. In particular, this is a good text for community college students who often have difficulty with reading comprehension. The language is straightforward and concepts are well explained.

The book is consistent in terminology, formatting, and examples. It flows well from one topic to the next, but it is also possible to jump around the text without loosing the voice of the text.

The books is broken down into sub units that make it easy to assign short blocks of content at a time. Later in the text, it does refer to a few concepts that appear early in that text, but these are all basic concepts that must be used to create a clear and understandable text. No sections are too long and each section stays on topic and relates the topic to those that have come before when necessary.

The flow of the text is logical and clear. It begins with the basic building blocks of arguments, and practice identifying more and more complex arguments is offered. Each chapter builds up from the previous chapter in introducing propositional logic, truth tables, and logical arguments. A select number of fallacies are presented at the end of the text, but these are related to topics that were presented before, so it makes sense to have these last.

The text is free if interface issues. I used the PDF and it worked fine on various devices without loosing formatting.

1. The book contains no grammatical errors.

The text is culturally sensitive, but examples used are a bit odd and may be objectionable to some students. For instance, President Obama's speech on Syria is used to evaluate an extended argument. This is an excellent example and it is explained well, but some who disagree with Obama's policies may have trouble moving beyond their own politics. However, other examples look at issues from all political viewpoints and ask students to evaluate the argument, fallacy, etc. and work towards looking past their own beliefs. Overall this book does use a variety of examples that most students can understand and evaluate.

My favorite part of this book is that it seems to be written for community college students. My students have trouble understanding readings in the New York Times, so it is nice to see a logic and critical thinking text use real language that students can understand and follow without the constant need of a dictionary.

Reviewed by Rebecca Owen, Adjunct Professor, Writing, Chemeketa Community College on 6/20/17

This textbook is quite thorough--there are conversational explanations of argument structure and logic. I think students will be happy with the conversational style this author employs. Also, there are many examples and exercises using current... read more

This textbook is quite thorough--there are conversational explanations of argument structure and logic. I think students will be happy with the conversational style this author employs. Also, there are many examples and exercises using current events, funny scenarios, or other interesting ways to evaluate argument structure and validity. The third section, which deals with logical fallacies, is very clear and comprehensive. My only critique of the material included in the book is that the middle section may be a bit dense and math-oriented for learners who appreciate the more informal, informative style of the first and third section. Also, the book ends rather abruptly--it moves from a description of a logical fallacy to the answers for the exercises earlier in the text.

The content is very reader-friendly, and the author writes with authority and clarity throughout the text. There are a few surface-level typos (Starbuck's instead of Starbucks, etc.). None of these small errors detract from the quality of the content, though.

One thing I really liked about this text was the author's wide variety of examples. To demonstrate different facets of logic, he used examples from current media, movies, literature, and many other concepts that students would recognize from their daily lives. The exercises in this text also included these types of pop-culture references, and I think students will enjoy the familiarity--as well as being able to see the logical structures behind these types of references. I don't think the text will need to be updated to reflect new instances and occurrences; the author did a fine job at picking examples that are relatively timeless. As far as the subject matter itself, I don't think it will become obsolete any time soon.

The author writes in a very conversational, easy-to-read manner. The examples used are quite helpful. The third section on logical fallacies is quite easy to read, follow, and understand. A student in an argument writing class could benefit from this section of the book. The middle section is less clear, though. A student learning about the basics of logic might have a hard time digesting all of the information contained in chapter two. This material might be better in two separate chapters. I think the author loses the balance of a conversational, helpful tone and focuses too heavily on equations.

Consistency rating: 4

Terminology in this book is quite consistent--the key words are highlighted in bold. Chapters 1 and 3 follow a similar organizational pattern, but chapter 2 is where the material becomes more dense and equation-heavy. I also would have liked a closing passage--something to indicate to the reader that we've reached the end of the chapter as well as the book.

I liked the overall structure of this book. If I'm teaching an argumentative writing class, I could easily point the students to the chapters where they can identify and practice identifying fallacies, for instance. The opening chapter is clear in defining the necessary terms, and it gives the students an understanding of the toolbox available to them in assessing and evaluating arguments. Even though I found the middle section to be dense, smaller portions could be assigned.

The author does a fine job connecting each defined term to the next. He provides examples of how each defined term works in a sentence or in an argument, and then he provides practice activities for students to try. The answers for each question are listed in the final pages of the book. The middle section feels like the heaviest part of the whole book--it would take the longest time for a student to digest if assigned the whole chapter. Even though this middle section is a bit heavy, it does fit the overall structure and flow of the book. New material builds on previous chapters and sub-chapters. It ends abruptly--I didn't realize that it had ended, and all of a sudden I found myself in the answer section for those earlier exercises.

The simple layout is quite helpful! There is nothing distracting, image-wise, in this text. The table of contents is clearly arranged, and each topic is easy to find.

Tiny edits could be made (Starbuck's/Starbucks, for one). Otherwise, it is free of distracting grammatical errors.

This text is quite culturally relevant. For instance, there is one example that mentions the rumors of Barack Obama's birthplace as somewhere other than the United States. This example is used to explain how to analyze an argument for validity. The more "sensational" examples (like the Obama one above) are helpful in showing argument structure, and they can also help students see how rumors like this might gain traction--as well as help to show students how to debunk them with their newfound understanding of argument and logic.

The writing style is excellent for the subject matter, especially in the third section explaining logical fallacies. Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this text!

Reviewed by Laurel Panser, Instructor, Riverland Community College on 6/20/17

This is a review of Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, an open source book version 1.4 by Matthew Van Cleave. The comparison book used was Patrick J. Hurley’s A Concise Introduction to Logic 12th Edition published by Cengage as well as... read more

This is a review of Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, an open source book version 1.4 by Matthew Van Cleave. The comparison book used was Patrick J. Hurley’s A Concise Introduction to Logic 12th Edition published by Cengage as well as the 13th edition with the same title. Lori Watson is the second author on the 13th edition.

Competing with Hurley is difficult with respect to comprehensiveness. For example, Van Cleave’s book is comprehensive to the extent that it probably covers at least two-thirds or more of what is dealt with in most introductory, one-semester logic courses. Van Cleave’s chapter 1 provides an overview of argumentation including discerning non-arguments from arguments, premises versus conclusions, deductive from inductive arguments, validity, soundness and more. Much of Van Cleave’s chapter 1 parallel’s Hurley’s chapter 1. Hurley’s chapter 3 regarding informal fallacies is comprehensive while Van Cleave’s chapter 4 on this topic is less extensive. Categorical propositions are a topic in Van Cleave’s chapter 2; Hurley’s chapters 4 and 5 provide more instruction on this, however. Propositional logic is another topic in Van Cleave’s chapter 2; Hurley’s chapters 6 and 7 provide more information on this, though. Van Cleave did discuss messy issues of language meaning briefly in his chapter 1; that is the topic of Hurley’s chapter 2.

Van Cleave’s book includes exercises with answers and an index. A glossary was not included.

Reviews of open source textbooks typically include criteria besides comprehensiveness. These include comments on accuracy of the information, whether the book will become obsolete soon, jargon-free clarity to the extent that is possible, organization, navigation ease, freedom from grammar errors and cultural relevance; Van Cleave’s book is fine in all of these areas. Further criteria for open source books includes modularity and consistency of terminology. Modularity is defined as including blocks of learning material that are easy to assign to students. Hurley’s book has a greater degree of modularity than Van Cleave’s textbook. The prose Van Cleave used is consistent.

Van Cleave’s book will not become obsolete soon.

Van Cleave’s book has accessible prose.

Van Cleave used terminology consistently.

Van Cleave’s book has a reasonable degree of modularity.

Van Cleave’s book is organized. The structure and flow of his book is fine.

Problems with navigation are not present.

Grammar problems were not present.

Van Cleave’s book is culturally relevant.

Van Cleave’s book is appropriate for some first semester logic courses.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Reconstructing and analyzing arguments

  • 1.1 What is an argument?
  • 1.2 Identifying arguments
  • 1.3 Arguments vs. explanations
  • 1.4 More complex argument structures
  • 1.5 Using your own paraphrases of premises and conclusions to reconstruct arguments in standard form
  • 1.6 Validity
  • 1.7 Soundness
  • 1.8 Deductive vs. inductive arguments
  • 1.9 Arguments with missing premises
  • 1.10 Assuring, guarding, and discounting
  • 1.11 Evaluative language
  • 1.12 Evaluating a real-life argument

Chapter 2: Formal methods of evaluating arguments

  • 2.1 What is a formal method of evaluation and why do we need them?
  • 2.2 Propositional logic and the four basic truth functional connectives
  • 2.3 Negation and disjunction
  • 2.4 Using parentheses to translate complex sentences
  • 2.5 “Not both” and “neither nor”
  • 2.6 The truth table test of validity
  • 2.7 Conditionals
  • 2.8 “Unless”
  • 2.9 Material equivalence
  • 2.10 Tautologies, contradictions, and contingent statements
  • 2.11 Proofs and the 8 valid forms of inference
  • 2.12 How to construct proofs
  • 2.13 Short review of propositional logic
  • 2.14 Categorical logic
  • 2.15 The Venn test of validity for immediate categorical inferences
  • 2.16 Universal statements and existential commitment
  • 2.17 Venn validity for categorical syllogisms

Chapter 3: Evaluating inductive arguments and probabilistic and statistical fallacies

  • 3.1 Inductive arguments and statistical generalizations
  • 3.2 Inference to the best explanation and the seven explanatory virtues
  • 3.3 Analogical arguments
  • 3.4 Causal arguments
  • 3.5 Probability
  • 3.6 The conjunction fallacy
  • 3.7 The base rate fallacy
  • 3.8 The small numbers fallacy
  • 3.9 Regression to the mean fallacy
  • 3.10 Gambler's fallacy

Chapter 4: Informal fallacies

  • 4.1 Formal vs. informal fallacies
  • 4.1.1 Composition fallacy
  • 4.1.2 Division fallacy
  • 4.1.3 Begging the question fallacy
  • 4.1.4 False dichotomy
  • 4.1.5 Equivocation
  • 4.2 Slippery slope fallacies
  • 4.2.1 Conceptual slippery slope
  • 4.2.2 Causal slippery slope
  • 4.3 Fallacies of relevance
  • 4.3.1 Ad hominem
  • 4.3.2 Straw man
  • 4.3.3 Tu quoque
  • 4.3.4 Genetic
  • 4.3.5 Appeal to consequences
  • 4.3.6 Appeal to authority

Answers to exercises Glossary/Index

Ancillary Material

About the book.

This is an introductory textbook in logic and critical thinking. The goal of the textbook is to provide the reader with a set of tools and skills that will enable them to identify and evaluate arguments. The book is intended for an introductory course that covers both formal and informal logic. As such, it is not a formal logic textbook, but is closer to what one would find marketed as a “critical thinking textbook.”

About the Contributors

Matthew Van Cleave ,   PhD, Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, 2007.  VAP at Concordia College (Moorhead), 2008-2012.  Assistant Professor at Lansing Community College, 2012-2016. Professor at Lansing Community College, 2016-

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1 What is Logic?

Matthew Knachel

There’s an ancient view, still widely held, that what makes human beings special—what distinguishes us from the “beasts of the field”—is that we are rational. What does rationality consist in? That’s a vexed question, but one possible response goes roughly like this: we manifest our rationality by engaging in activities that involve reasoning —making claims and backing them up with reasons, acting in accord with reasons and beliefs, drawing inferences from available evidence, and so on.

This reasoning activity can be done well and it can be done badly; it can be done correctly or incorrectly. Logic is the discipline that aims to distinguish good reasoning from bad.

Good reasoning is not necessarily effective reasoning. In fact, as we shall see in a subsequent chapter on logical fallacies, bad reasoning is pervasive and often extremely effective—in the sense that people are often persuaded by it. In logic, the standard of goodness is not effectiveness in the sense of persuasiveness, but rather correctness according to logical rules.

For example, consider Hitler. He persuaded an entire nation to go along with a variety of proposals that were not only false but downright evil. You won’t be surprised to hear that if you examine it critically, his reasoning does not pass logical muster. Hitler’s arguments were effective, but not logically correct. Moreover, his persuasive techniques go beyond reasoning in the sense of backing up claims with reasons. Hitler relied on threats, emotional manipulation, unsupported assertions, etc. There are many rhetorical tricks one can use to persuade.

In logic, we study the rules and techniques that allow us to distinguish good, correct reasoning from bad, incorrect reasoning.

Since there are a variety of different types of reasoning and methods with which to evaluate each of these types, plus various diverging views on what constitutes correct reasoning, there are many approaches to the logical enterprise. We talk of logic, but also of logics . A logic is just a set of rules and techniques for distinguishing good reasoning from bad. A logic must formulate precise standards for evaluating reasoning and develop methods for applying those standards to particular instances.

Basic Notions

Reasoning involves claims or statements—making them and backing them up with reasons, drawing out their consequences. Propositions are the things we claim, state, assert.

Propositions are the kinds of things that can be true or false. They are expressed by declarative sentences . We use such sentences to make all sorts of assertions, from routine matters of fact (“the Earth revolves around the Sun”), to grand metaphysical theses (“reality is an unchanging, featureless, unified Absolute”), to claims about morality (“it is wrong to eat meat”).

It is important to distinguish sentences in the declarative mood, which express propositions, from sentences in other moods, which do not. Interrogative sentences, for example, ask questions (“Is it raining?”), and imperative sentences issue commands (“Don’t drink kerosene.”). It makes no sense to ask whether these kinds of sentences express truths or falsehoods, so they do not express propositions.

We also distinguish propositions from the sentences that express them, because a single proposition can be expressed by different sentences. “It’s raining” and “es regnet” both express the proposition that it’s raining; one sentence does it in English, the other in German. Also, “John loves Mary” and “Mary is loved by John” both express the same proposition.

The fundamental unit of reasoning is the argument. In logic, by “argument” we don’t mean a disagreement, a shouting match; rather, we define the term precisely:

Argument = a set of propositions, one of which, the conclusion, is (supposed to be) supported by  the others, the premises.

If we’re reasoning by making claims and backing them up with reasons, then the claim that’s being backed up is the conclusion of an argument; the reasons given to support it are the argument’s premises. If we’re reasoning by drawing an inference from a set of statements, then the inference we draw is the conclusion of an argument, and the statements from which it’s drawn are the premises.

We include the parenthetical hedge—“supposed to be”—in the definition to make room for bad arguments. A bad argument, very roughly speaking, is one where the premises fail to support the conclusion; a good argument’s premises actually do support the conclusion.

Analysis of Arguments

The following passage expresses an argument:

So does this passage:

Again, the ultimate purpose of logic is to evaluate arguments—to distinguish the good from the bad. To do so requires distinctions, definitions, principles, and techniques that will be outlined in subsequent chapters. For now, we will focus on identifying and reconstructing arguments.

The first task is to explicate arguments—to state explicitly their premises and conclusions. A perspicuous way to do this is simply to list declarative sentences expressing the relevant propositions, with a line separating the premises from the conclusion, thus:

  • McDonald’s pays their workers very low wages.
  • The animals that provide McDonald’s meat are raised in deplorable conditions.
  • McDonald’s food is very unhealthy.
  • [latex]/ \therefore[/latex] You shouldn’t eat at McDonald’s. [1]

This is an explication of the first argumentative passage above. To identify the conclusion of an argument, it is helpful to ask oneself, “What is this person trying to convince me to believe by saying these things? What is the ultimate point of this passage?” The answer is pretty clear in this case. Another clue as to what’s going on in the passage is provided by the word “because” in the third sentence. Along with other words, like “since” and “for,” it indicates the presence of a premise. We can call such words premise markers . The symbol “/∴” can be read as shorthand for “therefore.” Along with expressions like “consequently,” “thus,” “it follows that” and “which implies that,” “therefore” is an indicator that the argument’s conclusion is about to follow. We call such locutions conclusion markers . Such a marker is not present in the first argument, but we do see one in the second, which may be explicated thus:

  • The universe is vast and complex.
  • The universe displays an astonishing degree of order.
  • The planets orbit the sun according to regular laws.
  • Animals’ minutest parts are arranged precisely to serve their purposes.
  • Such order and complexity cannot arise at random.
  • [latex]/ \therefore[/latex] The universe must be the product of a designer of enormous power and intellect: God.

Several points of comparison to our first explication are worthy of note here. First, as mentioned, we were alerted of the conclusion by the word “therefore.” Second, this passage required much more paraphrase than the first. The second sentence is interrogative, not declarative, and so it does not express a proposition. Since arguments are, by definition, collections of propositions, we must restrict ourselves to declarative sentences when explicating them. Since the answer to the second sentence’s rhetorical question is clearly “yes,” we paraphrase as shown. The third sentence expresses two propositions, so in our explication we separate them; each one is a premise.

So sometimes, when we explicate an argument, we have to take what’s present in the argumentative passage and change it slightly, so that all of the sentences we write down express the propositions present in the argument. This is paraphrasing. At other times, we have to do even more. For example, we may have to introduce propositions which are not explicitly mentioned within the argumentative passage, but are undoubtedly used within the argument’s reasoning.

There’s a Greek word for argumentative passages that leave certain propositions unstated: enthymemes . Here’s an example:

There’s an implicit premise lurking in the background here—something that hasn’t been said, but which needs to be true for the argument to go through. We need a claim that connects the premise to the conclusion—that bridges the gap between them. Something like this: An all-loving God would not allow innocent people to suffer. Or maybe: widespread suffering is incompatible with the idea of an all-loving deity. The premise points to suffering, while the conclusion is about God; these propositions connect those two claims. A complete explication of the argumentative passage would make a proposition like this explicit:

  • Many innocent people all over the world are suffering.
  • An all-loving God would not allow innocent people to suffer.
  • [latex]/ \therefore[/latex] There cannot be an all-loving God.

This is the mark of the kinds of tacit premises we want to uncover: if they’re false, they undermine the argument. Often, premises like this are unstated for a reason: they’re controversial claims on their own, requiring evidence to support them; so the arguer leaves them out, preferring not to get bogged down. [2] When we draw them out, however, we can force a more robust dialectical exchange, focusing the argument on the heart of the matter. In this case, a discussion about the compatibility of God’s goodness and evil in the world would be in order. There’s a lot to be said on that topic. Philosophers and theologians have developed elaborate arguments over the centuries to defend the idea that God’s goodness and human suffering are in fact compatible. [3]

So far, our analysis of arguments has not been particularly deep. We have noted the importance of identifying the conclusion and clearly stating the premises, but we have not looked into the ways in which sets of premises can support their conclusions. We have merely noted that, collectively, premises provide support for conclusions. We have not looked at how they do so, what kinds of relationships they have with one another. This requires deeper analysis.

Often, different premises will support a conclusion—or another premise—individually, without help from any others. Consider this simple argument:

Propositions 1 and 2 support the conclusion, proposition 3—and they do so independently. Each gives us a reason for believing that the war was unjust, and each stands as a reason even if we were to suppose that the other were not true; this is the mark of independent premises .

It can be helpful, especially when arguments are more complex, to draw diagrams that depict the relationships among premises and conclusion. We could depict the argument above as follows:

Diagram showing premise 1 and 2 each having arrows pointing to the conclusion, 3. This represents that premises 1 and 2 indepdently support conclusion 3.

In such a diagram, the circled numbers represent the propositions and the arrows represent the relationship of support from one proposition to another. Since propositions 1 and 2 each support 3 independently, they get their own arrows.

Other relationships among premises are possible. Sometimes, premises provide support for conclusions only indirectly, by giving us a reason to believe some other premise, which is intermediate between the two claims. Consider the following argument:

In this example, proposition 1 provides support for proposition 2 (the word “hence” is a clue), while proposition 2 directly supports the conclusion in 3. We would depict the relationships among these propositions thus:

Diagram showing the number 1 with an arrow to the number 2, which has an arrow to the number 3. This represents that premise 1 supports premise, which then supports the conclusion, 3.

Sometimes premises must work together to provide support for another claim, not because one of them provides reason for believing the other, but because neither provides the support needed on its own; we call such propositions joint premises . Consider the following:

In this argument, neither premise 1 nor premise 2 supports the conclusion on its own; rather, the second premise, as it were, provides a key that unlocks the conclusion from the conditional premise 1. We can indicate such interdependence diagrammatically with brackets, thus:

Diagram with the numbers 1 and 2 together having an arrow pointing to the number 3. This represents that premises 1 and 2 jointly support the conclusion, 3.

Diagramming arguments in this way can be helpful both in understanding how they work and informing any attempt to critically engage with them. One can see clearly in the first argument that any considerations put forward contrary to one of the independent premises will not completely undermine support for the conclusion, as there is still another premise providing it with some degree of support. In the second argument, though, reasons telling against the second premise would cut off support for the conclusion at its root; and anything contrary to the first premise will leave the second in need of support. And in the third argument, considerations contrary to either of the joint premises will undermine support for the conclusion. Especially when arguments are more complex, such visual aids can help us recognize all of the inferences contained within the argument.

Perhaps it will be useful to conclude by considering a slightly more complex argument. Let’s consider the nature of numbers:

The conclusion of this argument is the last proposition, that numbers are abstract objects. Notice that the first premise gives us a choice between this claim and an alternative—that they are concrete. The second premise denies that alternative, and so premises 1 and 2 are working together to support the conclusion:

Diagram with the numbers 1 and 2 together having an arrow pointing to the number 5. This represents that premises 1 and 2 jointly support the conclusion, 5.

Now we need to make room in our diagram for propositions 3 and 4. They are there to give us reasons for believing that numbers are not concrete objects. First, by asserting that numbers aren’t located in space like concrete objects are, and second by asserting that numbers don’t interact with other objects, like concrete objects do. These are separate, independent reasons for believing they aren’t concrete, so we end up with this diagram:

Diagram with the numbers 1 and 2 together having an arrow pointing to the number 5, with the numbers 3 and 4 each having an arrow pointing to 2. This represents that premises 1 and 2 jointly support the conclusion, 5, and that premises 3 and 4 independently support premise 2.

Logic and Philosophy

At the heart of the logical enterprise is a philosophical question: What makes a good argument? That is, what is it for a set of claims to provide support for some other claim? Or maybe: When are we justified in drawing inferences? To answer these questions, logicians have developed a wide variety of logical systems, covering different types of arguments, and applying different principles and techniques. Many of the tools developed in logic can be applied beyond the confines of philosophy. The mathematician proving a theorem, the computer scientist programming a computer, the linguist modeling the structure of language—all these are using logical methods. Because logic has such wide application, and because of the formal/mathematical sophistication of many logical systems, it occupies a unique place in the philosophical curriculum. A class in logic is typically unlike other philosophy classes in that very little time is spent directly engaging with and attempting to answer the “big questions”; rather, one very quickly gets down to the business of learning logical formalisms. The questions logic is trying to answer are important philosophical questions, but the techniques developed to answer them are worthy of study on their own.

This does not mean, however, that we should think of logic and philosophy as merely tangentially related; on the contrary, they are deeply intertwined. For all the formal bells and whistles featured in the latest high-end logical system, at bottom it is part of an effort to answer the fundamental question of what follows from what. Moreover, logic is useful to the practicing philosopher in at least three other ways.

Philosophers attempt to answer deep, vexing questions—about the nature of reality, what constitutes a good life, how to create a just society, and so on. They give their answers to these questions, and they back those answers up with reasons. Then other philosophers consider their arguments and reply with elaborations and criticisms—arguments of their own. Philosophy is conducted and makes progress by way of exchanging arguments. Since they are the primary tool of their trade, philosophers better know a little something about what makes for good arguments! Logic, therefore, is essential to the practice of philosophy.

But logic is not merely a tool for evaluating philosophical arguments; it has altered the course of the ongoing philosophical conversation. As logicians developed formal systems to model the structure of an ever-wider range of discursive practices, philosophers have been able to apply their insights directly to traditional philosophical problems and recognize previously hidden avenues of inquiry. Since the turn of the 20th century especially, the proliferation of novel approaches in logic has sparked a revolution in the practice of philosophy. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that much of the history of philosophy in the 20th century constituted an ongoing attempt to grapple with new developments in logic, and the philosophical focus on language that they seemed to demand. No philosophical topic—from metaphysics to ethics to epistemology and beyond—was untouched by this revolution.

Finally, logic itself is the source of fascinating philosophical questions. The basic question at its heart—what is it for a claim to follow from others?—ramifies out in myriad directions, providing fertile ground for philosophical speculation. There is logic, and then there is philosophy of logic . Logic is said to be “formal,” for example. What does that mean? It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. [5] Our simplest logical formulations of conditional sentences (those involving “if”), lead to apparent paradoxes. [6] How should those be resolved? Should our formalisms be altered to better capture the natural-language meanings of conditionals? What is the proper relationship between logical systems and natural languages, anyway?

Traditionally, most logicians have accepted that logic should be “bivalent”: every proposition is either true or false. But natural languages contain vague terms whose boundaries of applicability are not always clear. For example, “bald”: for certain subjects, we might be inclined to say that they’re well on their way to full-on baldness, but not quite there yet; on the other hand, we would be reluctant to say that they’re not-bald. There are in-between cases. For such cases, we might want to say, for example, that the proposition that Fredo is bald is neither true nor false. Some logicians have developed logics that are not bivalent, to deal with this sort of linguistic phenomenon. Some add a third truth-value: “neither” or “undetermined,” for instance. Others introduce infinite degrees of truth (this is called “fuzzy logic”). These logics deviate from traditional approaches. Are they therefore wrong in some sense? Or are they right, and the traditionalists wrong? Or are we even asking a sensible question when we ask whether a particular logical system is right or wrong? Can we be so-called logical “pluralists,” accepting a variety of incompatible logics, depending, for example, on whether they’re useful?

These sorts of questions are beyond the scope of this introductory text, of course. They’re included to give you a sense of just how far one can take the study of logic. The task for now, though, is to begin that study.

First, explicate the following arguments, paraphrasing as necessary and only including tacit premises when explicitly instructed to do so. Next, diagram the arguments.

  • Numbers, if they exist at all, must be either concrete or abstract objects. Concrete objects–like planets and people–are able to interact with other things in cause-and-effect relations. Numbers lack this ability. Therefore, numbers are abstract objects. [ You will need to add an implicit intermediate premise here! ]
  • Abolish the death penalty! Why? It is immoral. Numerous studies have shown that there is racial bias in its application. The rise of DNA testing has exonerated scores of inmates on death row; who knows how many innocent people have been killed in the past? The death penalty is also impractical. Revenge is counterproductive: “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind,” as Gandhi said. Moreover, the costs of litigating death penalty cases, with their endless appeals, are enormous.
  • A just economic system would feature an equitable distribution of resources and an absence of exploitation. Capitalism is an unjust economic system. Under capitalism, the typical distribution of wealth is highly skewed in favor of the rich. And workers are exploited: despite their essential role in producing goods for the market, most of the profits from the sales of those goods go to the owners of firms, not their workers.
  • The mind and the brain are not identical. How can things be identical if they have different properties? There is a property that the mind and brain do not share: the brain is divisible, but the mind is not. Like all material things, the brain can be divided into parts—different halves, regions, neurons, etc. But the mind is a unity. It is my thinking essence, in which I can discern no separate parts. [7]
  • Every able-bodied adult ought to participate in the workforce. The more people working, the greater the nation’s wealth, which benefits everyone economically. In addition, there is no replacement for the dignity workers find on the job. The government should therefore issue tax credits to encourage people to enter the workforce. [ Include in your explication a tacit premise, not explicitly stated in the passage, but necessary to support the conclusion. ]
  • The symbols preceding the conclusion, "[latex]/ \therefore[/latex]" represent the word "therefore." ↵
  • This is not always the reason. Some claims are left tacit simply because everybody accepts them and to state them explicitly would be a waste of time. If we argue, “Elephants are mammals, and so warm-blooded,” we omit the claim that all mammals are warm-blooded for this innocent reason. ↵
  • These arguments even have a special name: they’re called “theodicies.” ↵
  • An extremely compressed version of Plato’s objections to poetry in Book X of The Republic . ↵
  • John MacFarlane, in his widely read PhD dissertation, spends over 300 pages on that question. See: MacFarlane, J. 2000. “What Does It Mean to Say That Logic Is Formal?” University of Pittsburgh. ↵
  • For a concise explanation, see the Wikipedia entry on paradoxes of material implication . ↵
  • A simplified version of an argument from Rene Descartes. ↵

The unambiguated meaning of declarative sentences.

Sentences which communicate that something is, or is not, the case. For example, “Bob won the 50m freestyle.” Declarative sentences can be contrasted with those that pose questions, called interrogative sentences , and those which deliver commands, known as imperative sentences . (Declarative sentences are also known as indicative  sentences)

Words that generally indicate what follows is a premise, e.g. “given that,” “as,” “since.”

Words that generally indicate that what follows is a conclusion, e.g. “therefore,” “thus,” “consequently.”

Arguments which leave certain premises unstated.

Premises which aim to provide sufficient support on their own for the truth of the conclusion.

Premises which attempt to directly support not the conclusion of an argument, but another premise.

Premises which only provide support for the truth of the conclusion when combined.

What is Logic? Copyright © 2020 by Matthew Knachel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Wireless Philosophy

Course: wireless philosophy   >   unit 1, fundamentals: introduction to critical thinking.

  • Introduction to Critical Thinking, Part 1
  • Introduction to Critical Thinking, Part 2
  • Fundamentals: Deductive Arguments
  • Deductive Arguments
  • Fundamentals: Abductive Arguments
  • Necessary and Sufficient Conditions
  • Instrumental vs. Intrinsic Value
  • Implicit Premise
  • Justification and Explanation
  • Normative and Descriptive Claims
  • Fundamentals: Validity
  • Fundamentals: Truth and Validity
  • Fundamentals: Soundness
  • Fundamentals: Bayes' Theorem
  • Fundamentals: Correlation and Causation

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Supplement to Critical Thinking

This supplement elaborates on the history of the articulation, promotion and adoption of critical thinking as an educational goal.

John Dewey (1910: 74, 82) introduced the term ‘critical thinking’ as the name of an educational goal, which he identified with a scientific attitude of mind. More commonly, he called the goal ‘reflective thought’, ‘reflective thinking’, ‘reflection’, or just ‘thought’ or ‘thinking’. He describes his book as written for two purposes. The first was to help people to appreciate the kinship of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry to the scientific attitude. The second was to help people to consider how recognizing this kinship in educational practice “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (iii). He notes that the ideas in the book obtained concreteness in the Laboratory School in Chicago.

Dewey’s ideas were put into practice by some of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study in the 1930s sponsored by the Progressive Education Association in the United States. For this study, 300 colleges agreed to consider for admission graduates of 30 selected secondary schools or school systems from around the country who experimented with the content and methods of teaching, even if the graduates had not completed the then-prescribed secondary school curriculum. One purpose of the study was to discover through exploration and experimentation how secondary schools in the United States could serve youth more effectively (Aikin 1942). Each experimental school was free to change the curriculum as it saw fit, but the schools agreed that teaching methods and the life of the school should conform to the idea (previously advocated by Dewey) that people develop through doing things that are meaningful to them, and that the main purpose of the secondary school was to lead young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18). In particular, school officials believed that young people in a democracy should develop the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems (Aikin 1942: 81). Students’ work in the classroom thus consisted more often of a problem to be solved than a lesson to be learned. Especially in mathematics and science, the schools made a point of giving students experience in clear, logical thinking as they solved problems. The report of one experimental school, the University School of Ohio State University, articulated this goal of improving students’ thinking:

Critical or reflective thinking originates with the sensing of a problem. It is a quality of thought operating in an effort to solve the problem and to reach a tentative conclusion which is supported by all available data. It is really a process of problem solving requiring the use of creative insight, intellectual honesty, and sound judgment. It is the basis of the method of scientific inquiry. The success of democracy depends to a large extent on the disposition and ability of citizens to think critically and reflectively about the problems which must of necessity confront them, and to improve the quality of their thinking is one of the major goals of education. (Commission on the Relation of School and College of the Progressive Education Association 1943: 745–746)

The Eight-Year Study had an evaluation staff, which developed, in consultation with the schools, tests to measure aspects of student progress that fell outside the focus of the traditional curriculum. The evaluation staff classified many of the schools’ stated objectives under the generic heading “clear thinking” or “critical thinking” (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942: 35–36). To develop tests of achievement of this broad goal, they distinguished five overlapping aspects of it: ability to interpret data, abilities associated with an understanding of the nature of proof, and the abilities to apply principles of science, of social studies and of logical reasoning. The Eight-Year Study also had a college staff, directed by a committee of college administrators, whose task was to determine how well the experimental schools had prepared their graduates for college. The college staff compared the performance of 1,475 college students from the experimental schools with an equal number of graduates from conventional schools, matched in pairs by sex, age, race, scholastic aptitude scores, home and community background, interests, and probable future. They concluded that, on 18 measures of student success, the graduates of the experimental schools did a somewhat better job than the comparison group. The graduates from the six most traditional of the experimental schools showed no large or consistent differences. The graduates from the six most experimental schools, on the other hand, had much greater differences in their favour. The graduates of the two most experimental schools, the college staff reported:

… surpassed their comparison groups by wide margins in academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, scientific approach to problems, and interest in contemporary affairs. The differences in their favor were even greater in general resourcefulness, in enjoyment of reading, [in] participation in the arts, in winning non-academic honors, and in all aspects of college life except possibly participation in sports and social activities. (Aikin 1942: 114)

One of these schools was a private school with students from privileged families and the other the experimental section of a public school with students from non-privileged families. The college staff reported that the graduates of the two schools were indistinguishable from each other in terms of college success.

In 1933 Dewey issued an extensively rewritten edition of his How We Think (Dewey 1910), with the sub-title “A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process”. Although the restatement retains the basic structure and content of the original book, Dewey made a number of changes. He rewrote and simplified his logical analysis of the process of reflection, made his ideas clearer and more definite, replaced the terms ‘induction’ and ‘deduction’ by the phrases ‘control of data and evidence’ and ‘control of reasoning and concepts’, added more illustrations, rearranged chapters, and revised the parts on teaching to reflect changes in schools since 1910. In particular, he objected to one-sided practices of some “experimental” and “progressive” schools that allowed children freedom but gave them no guidance, citing as objectionable practices novelty and variety for their own sake, experiences and activities with real materials but of no educational significance, treating random and disconnected activity as if it were an experiment, failure to summarize net accomplishment at the end of an inquiry, non-educative projects, and treatment of the teacher as a negligible factor rather than as “the intellectual leader of a social group” (Dewey 1933: 273). Without explaining his reasons, Dewey eliminated the previous edition’s uses of the words ‘critical’ and ‘uncritical’, thus settling firmly on ‘reflection’ or ‘reflective thinking’ as the preferred term for his subject-matter. In the revised edition, the word ‘critical’ occurs only once, where Dewey writes that “a person may not be sufficiently critical about the ideas that occur to him” (1933: 16, italics in original); being critical is thus a component of reflection, not the whole of it. In contrast, the Eight-Year Study by the Progressive Education Association treated ‘critical thinking’ and ‘reflective thinking’ as synonyms.

In the same period, Dewey collaborated on a history of the Laboratory School in Chicago with two former teachers from the school (Mayhew & Edwards 1936). The history describes the school’s curriculum and organization, activities aimed at developing skills, parents’ involvement, and the habits of mind that the children acquired. A concluding chapter evaluates the school’s achievements, counting as a success its staging of the curriculum to correspond to the natural development of the growing child. In two appendices, the authors describe the evolution of Dewey’s principles of education and Dewey himself describes the theory of the Chicago experiment (Dewey 1936).

Glaser (1941) reports in his doctoral dissertation the method and results of an experiment in the development of critical thinking conducted in the fall of 1938. He defines critical thinking as Dewey defined reflective thinking:

Critical thinking calls for a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Glaser 1941: 6; cf. Dewey 1910: 6; Dewey 1933: 9)

In the experiment, eight lesson units directed at improving critical thinking abilities were taught to four grade 12 high school classes, with pre-test and post-test of the students using the Otis Quick-Scoring Mental Ability Test and the Watson-Glaser Tests of Critical Thinking (developed in collaboration with Glaser’s dissertation sponsor, Goodwin Watson). The average gain in scores on these tests was greater to a statistically significant degree among the students who received the lessons in critical thinking than among the students in a control group of four grade 12 high school classes taking the usual curriculum in English. Glaser concludes:

The aspect of critical thinking which appears most susceptible to general improvement is the attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’s experience. An attitude of wanting evidence for beliefs is more subject to general transfer. Development of skill in applying the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, however, appears to be specifically related to, and in fact limited by, the acquisition of pertinent knowledge and facts concerning the problem or subject matter toward which the thinking is to be directed. (Glaser 1941: 175)

Retest scores and observable behaviour indicated that students in the intervention group retained their growth in ability to think critically for at least six months after the special instruction.

In 1948 a group of U.S. college examiners decided to develop taxonomies of educational objectives with a common vocabulary that they could use for communicating with each other about test items. The first of these taxonomies, for the cognitive domain, appeared in 1956 (Bloom et al. 1956), and included critical thinking objectives. It has become known as Bloom’s taxonomy. A second taxonomy, for the affective domain (Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia 1964), and a third taxonomy, for the psychomotor domain (Simpson 1966–67), appeared later. Each of the taxonomies is hierarchical, with achievement of a higher educational objective alleged to require achievement of corresponding lower educational objectives.

Bloom’s taxonomy has six major categories. From lowest to highest, they are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Within each category, there are sub-categories, also arranged hierarchically from the educationally prior to the educationally posterior. The lowest category, though called ‘knowledge’, is confined to objectives of remembering information and being able to recall or recognize it, without much transformation beyond organizing it (Bloom et al. 1956: 28–29). The five higher categories are collectively termed “intellectual abilities and skills” (Bloom et al. 1956: 204). The term is simply another name for critical thinking abilities and skills:

Although information or knowledge is recognized as an important outcome of education, very few teachers would be satisfied to regard this as the primary or the sole outcome of instruction. What is needed is some evidence that the students can do something with their knowledge, that is, that they can apply the information to new situations and problems. It is also expected that students will acquire generalized techniques for dealing with new problems and new materials. Thus, it is expected that when the student encounters a new problem or situation, he will select an appropriate technique for attacking it and will bring to bear the necessary information, both facts and principles. This has been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others. In the taxonomy, we have used the term “intellectual abilities and skills”. (Bloom et al. 1956: 38)

Comprehension and application objectives, as their names imply, involve understanding and applying information. Critical thinking abilities and skills show up in the three highest categories of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The condensed version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom et al. 1956: 201–207) gives the following examples of objectives at these levels:

  • analysis objectives : ability to recognize unstated assumptions, ability to check the consistency of hypotheses with given information and assumptions, ability to recognize the general techniques used in advertising, propaganda and other persuasive materials
  • synthesis objectives : organizing ideas and statements in writing, ability to propose ways of testing a hypothesis, ability to formulate and modify hypotheses
  • evaluation objectives : ability to indicate logical fallacies, comparison of major theories about particular cultures

The analysis, synthesis and evaluation objectives in Bloom’s taxonomy collectively came to be called the “higher-order thinking skills” (Tankersley 2005: chap. 5). Although the analysis-synthesis-evaluation sequence mimics phases in Dewey’s (1933) logical analysis of the reflective thinking process, it has not generally been adopted as a model of a critical thinking process. While commending the inspirational value of its ratio of five categories of thinking objectives to one category of recall objectives, Ennis (1981b) points out that the categories lack criteria applicable across topics and domains. For example, analysis in chemistry is so different from analysis in literature that there is not much point in teaching analysis as a general type of thinking. Further, the postulated hierarchy seems questionable at the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. For example, ability to indicate logical fallacies hardly seems more complex than the ability to organize statements and ideas in writing.

A revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) distinguishes the intended cognitive process in an educational objective (such as being able to recall, to compare or to check) from the objective’s informational content (“knowledge”), which may be factual, conceptual, procedural, or metacognitive. The result is a so-called “Taxonomy Table” with four rows for the kinds of informational content and six columns for the six main types of cognitive process. The authors name the types of cognitive process by verbs, to indicate their status as mental activities. They change the name of the ‘comprehension’ category to ‘understand’ and of the ‘synthesis’ category to ’create’, and switch the order of synthesis and evaluation. The result is a list of six main types of cognitive process aimed at by teachers: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create. The authors retain the idea of a hierarchy of increasing complexity, but acknowledge some overlap, for example between understanding and applying. And they retain the idea that critical thinking and problem solving cut across the more complex cognitive processes. The terms ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’, they write:

are widely used and tend to become touchstones of curriculum emphasis. Both generally include a variety of activities that might be classified in disparate cells of the Taxonomy Table. That is, in any given instance, objectives that involve problem solving and critical thinking most likely call for cognitive processes in several categories on the process dimension. For example, to think critically about an issue probably involves some Conceptual knowledge to Analyze the issue. Then, one can Evaluate different perspectives in terms of the criteria and, perhaps, Create a novel, yet defensible perspective on this issue. (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270; italics in original)

In the revised taxonomy, only a few sub-categories, such as inferring, have enough commonality to be treated as a distinct critical thinking ability that could be taught and assessed as a general ability.

A landmark contribution to philosophical scholarship on the concept of critical thinking was a 1962 article in the Harvard Educational Review by Robert H. Ennis, with the title “A concept of critical thinking: A proposed basis for research in the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability” (Ennis 1962). Ennis took as his starting-point a conception of critical thinking put forward by B. Othanel Smith:

We shall consider thinking in terms of the operations involved in the examination of statements which we, or others, may believe. A speaker declares, for example, that “Freedom means that the decisions in America’s productive effort are made not in the minds of a bureaucracy but in the free market”. Now if we set about to find out what this statement means and to determine whether to accept or reject it, we would be engaged in thinking which, for lack of a better term, we shall call critical thinking. If one wishes to say that this is only a form of problem-solving in which the purpose is to decide whether or not what is said is dependable, we shall not object. But for our purposes we choose to call it critical thinking. (Smith 1953: 130)

Adding a normative component to this conception, Ennis defined critical thinking as “the correct assessing of statements” (Ennis 1962: 83). On the basis of this definition, he distinguished 12 “aspects” of critical thinking corresponding to types or aspects of statements, such as judging whether an observation statement is reliable and grasping the meaning of a statement. He noted that he did not include judging value statements. Cutting across the 12 aspects, he distinguished three dimensions of critical thinking: logical (judging relationships between meanings of words and statements), criterial (knowledge of the criteria for judging statements), and pragmatic (the impression of the background purpose). For each aspect, Ennis described the applicable dimensions, including criteria. He proposed the resulting construct as a basis for developing specifications for critical thinking tests and for research on instructional methods and levels.

In the 1970s and 1980s there was an upsurge of attention to the development of thinking skills. The annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Educational Reform has attracted since its start in 1980 tens of thousands of educators from all levels. In 1983 the College Entrance Examination Board proclaimed reasoning as one of six basic academic competencies needed by college students (College Board 1983). Departments of education in the United States and around the world began to include thinking objectives in their curriculum guidelines for school subjects. For example, Ontario’s social sciences and humanities curriculum guideline for secondary schools requires “the use of critical and creative thinking skills and/or processes” as a goal of instruction and assessment in each subject and course (Ontario Ministry of Education 2013: 30). The document describes critical thinking as follows:

Critical thinking is the process of thinking about ideas or situations in order to understand them fully, identify their implications, make a judgement, and/or guide decision making. Critical thinking includes skills such as questioning, predicting, analysing, synthesizing, examining opinions, identifying values and issues, detecting bias, and distinguishing between alternatives. Students who are taught these skills become critical thinkers who can move beyond superficial conclusions to a deeper understanding of the issues they are examining. They are able to engage in an inquiry process in which they explore complex and multifaceted issues, and questions for which there may be no clear-cut answers (Ontario Ministry of Education 2013: 46).

Sweden makes schools responsible for ensuring that each pupil who completes compulsory school “can make use of critical thinking and independently formulate standpoints based on knowledge and ethical considerations” (Skolverket 2018: 12). Subject syllabi incorporate this requirement, and items testing critical thinking skills appear on national tests that are a required step toward university admission. For example, the core content of biology, physics and chemistry in years 7-9 includes critical examination of sources of information and arguments encountered by pupils in different sources and social discussions related to these sciences, in both digital and other media. (Skolverket 2018: 170, 181, 192). Correspondingly, in year 9 the national tests require using knowledge of biology, physics or chemistry “to investigate information, communicate and come to a decision on issues concerning health, energy, technology, the environment, use of natural resources and ecological sustainability” (see the message from the School Board ). Other jurisdictions similarly embed critical thinking objectives in curriculum guidelines.

At the college level, a new wave of introductory logic textbooks, pioneered by Kahane (1971), applied the tools of logic to contemporary social and political issues. Popular contemporary textbooks of this sort include those by Bailin and Battersby (2016b), Boardman, Cavender and Kahane (2018), Browne and Keeley (2018), Groarke and Tindale (2012), and Moore and Parker (2020). In their wake, colleges and universities in North America transformed their introductory logic course into a general education service course with a title like ‘critical thinking’ or ‘reasoning’. In 1980, the trustees of California’s state university and colleges approved as a general education requirement a course in critical thinking, described as follows:

Instruction in critical thinking is to be designed to achieve an understanding of the relationship of language to logic, which should lead to the ability to analyze, criticize, and advocate ideas, to reason inductively and deductively, and to reach factual or judgmental conclusions based on sound inferences drawn from unambiguous statements of knowledge or belief. The minimal competence to be expected at the successful conclusion of instruction in critical thinking should be the ability to distinguish fact from judgment, belief from knowledge, and skills in elementary inductive and deductive processes, including an understanding of the formal and informal fallacies of language and thought. (Dumke 1980)

Since December 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions at the three annual divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association. In December 1987, the Committee on Pre-College Philosophy of the American Philosophical Association invited Peter Facione to make a systematic inquiry into the current state of critical thinking and critical thinking assessment. Facione assembled a group of 46 other academic philosophers and psychologists to participate in a multi-round Delphi process, whose product was entitled Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction (Facione 1990a). The statement listed abilities and dispositions that should be the goals of a lower-level undergraduate course in critical thinking. Researchers in nine European countries determined which of these skills and dispositions employers expect of university graduates (Dominguez 2018 a), compared those expectations to critical thinking educational practices in post-secondary educational institutions (Dominguez 2018b), developed a course on critical thinking education for university teachers (Dominguez 2018c) and proposed in response to identified gaps between expectations and practices an “educational protocol” that post-secondary educational institutions in Europe could use to develop critical thinking (Elen et al. 2019).

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[C01] What is critical thinking?

Module: Critical thinking

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  • C03. Defining critical thinking
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Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following :

  • understand the logical connections between ideas
  • identify, construct and evaluate arguments
  • detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
  • solve problems systematically
  • identify the relevance and importance of ideas
  • reflect on the justification of one's own beliefs and values

Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself.

Critical thinking should not be confused with being argumentative or being critical of other people. Although critical thinking skills can be used in exposing fallacies and bad reasoning, critical thinking can also play an important role in cooperative reasoning and constructive tasks. Critical thinking can help us acquire knowledge, improve our theories, and strengthen arguments. We can use critical thinking to enhance work processes and improve social institutions.

Some people believe that critical thinking hinders creativity because it requires following the rules of logic and rationality, but creativity might require breaking rules. This is a misconception. Critical thinking is quite compatible with thinking "out-of-the-box", challenging consensus and pursuing less popular approaches. If anything, critical thinking is an essential part of creativity because we need critical thinking to evaluate and improve our creative ideas.

§1. The importance of critical thinking

Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill . The ability to think clearly and rationally is important whatever we choose to do. If you work in education, research, finance, management or the legal profession, then critical thinking is obviously important. But critical thinking skills are not restricted to a particular subject area. Being able to think well and solve problems systematically is an asset for any career.

Critical thinking is very important in the new knowledge economy. The global knowledge economy is driven by information and technology. One has to be able to deal with changes quickly and effectively. The new economy places increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills, and the ability to analyse information and integrate diverse sources of knowledge in solving problems. Good critical thinking promotes such thinking skills, and is very important in the fast-changing workplace.

Critical thinking enhances language and presentation skills . Thinking clearly and systematically can improve the way we express our ideas. In learning how to analyse the logical structure of texts, critical thinking also improves comprehension abilities.

Critical thinking promotes creativity . To come up with a creative solution to a problem involves not just having new ideas. It must also be the case that the new ideas being generated are useful and relevant to the task at hand. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in evaluating new ideas, selecting the best ones and modifying them if necessary

Critical thinking is crucial for self-reflection . In order to live a meaningful life and to structure our lives accordingly, we need to justify and reflect on our values and decisions. Critical thinking provides the tools for this process of self-evaluation.

Good critical thinking is the foundation of science and democracy . Science requires the critical use of reason in experimentation and theory confirmation. The proper functioning of a liberal democracy requires citizens who can think critically about social issues to inform their judgments about proper governance and to overcome biases and prejudice.

§2. The future of critical thinking

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape.

The top three skills that supposed to be most relevant are thinking skills related to critical thinking, creativity, and their practical application. These are the cognitive skills that our website focuses on.

§3. For teachers

  • The ideas on this page were discussed in a blog post on edutopia. The author uses the critical thinking framework here to apply to K-12 education. Very relevant to school teachers!

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what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

8. Philosophy and Critical Thinking: The Value of Asking the Deep Questions

Although we’ve emphasized in this guide that critical thinking skills cannot be taught in isolation from subject matter, there is a great deal of critical thinking to be learned from a subject that studies thinking itself: namely, philosophy. Philosophy and critical thinking are a natural pair.

American schools, unlike schools in some other parts of the world, have been hesitant to adopt philosophy courses into the curriculum. (One exception is the International Baccalaureate curriculum which includes a course called “Theory of Knowledge.”) One reason for this is that philosophical texts are often thought of as too dense and difficult for primary and secondary school students. 

Philosophy does, of course, involve a corpus of often quite difficult texts from different traditions, but philosophical reasoning itself is not at all outside the reach of even young children. Indeed, children show an interest in philosophical questions at a very young age. 

Philosophical reasoning itself is not at all outside the reach of even young children. Indeed, children show an interest in philosophical questions at a very young age.

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

And older students, especially those who might be demotivated or struggle in other subjects, can be stimulated by the more open-ended, argumentative, and profound nature of philosophical thinking. Philosophical thinking also has a unique, interdisciplinary character that makes it ideal for helping students see connections across disciplines.

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

Philosophy for Kids

Philosophical reasoning is not something foreign to kids that needs to be forced on them from the outside. They all naturally ask philosophical questions like : 

  • “How can we be sure that everything is not a dream?”
  • “When Dad tells me to be good, what does he mean?”
  • “Why is time so slow sometimes?”

Philosophy for kids programs and courses can help encourage this inquisitiveness and help kids to learn to channel it into a reflective frame of mind.

Many philosophy for kids programs attempt to initiate this type of thinking through narrative. For example, the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children ( IAPC ) at Montclair State University, which goes back to the work of Matthew Lipman in the 1970s, uses stories to stimulate discussion of a philosophical topic. Children then discuss the topic in a “community of inquiry” where the teacher acts as a facilitator, who “both guides the children and models for them — by asking open-ended questions, posing alternative views, seeking clarification, questioning reasons, and by demonstrating self-correcting behavior.”

Other philosophy for kids initiatives use other stimuli, like visuals, thought experiments, or simply probing questions. But they share the goal of building a “community of inquiry,” where students get a chance to discuss and refine their ideas with one another, undertake to understand outside perspectives, and consider big questions outside the scope of more standard learning.

There is evidence that these kinds of philosophical activities can have a positive impact on student achievement . The Education Endowment Foundation in the UK found in an initial study of Philosophy for Children for 8-10 year olds that the program was promising: students made gains in math and reading compared to those who did not participate.

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

Teaching Philosophy to Middle and High School Students

As they get older, students are ready for more complex philosophical reasoning as well as instruction in formal logic. Philosophy can, moreover, be a driver of interdisciplinarity during middle and high school, since reflecting on the state of knowledge in other disciplines is one of the core tasks of philosophy.

Philosophy can, moreover, be a driver of interdisciplinarity during middle and high school, since reflecting on the state of knowledge in other disciplines is one of the core tasks of philosophy.

This kind of interdisciplinarity may help address one of the thorniest problems with critical thinking instruction: namely, transferability. As we’ve noted, critical thinking skills in one domain do not easily transfer to other domains. Teaching general critical thinking skills without any context is thus generally not effective . But that doesn’t mean students shouldn’t spend time thinking about how the skills and knowledge they’ve gained in one domain relate to those gained in another. Philosophical reasoning is a perfect complement here. 

One way teachers can get middle and high school students to start thinking more philosophically in an interdisciplinary context is through epistemology, or the study of knowledge.

Idea for Discussion : What Is Knowledge?

Philosophy is concerned, more than many other disciplines, with definitions. It takes concepts that we might take for granted, like knowledge, and problematizes them, by asking questions like:

  • How do we know something?
  • Are there general principles for what counts as knowledge or does it depend on the discipline?
  • How do we come to know things in science? In our daily lives? In religion or aesthetic experiences?

It’s easy for these conversations to become too abstract so it’s best to start with something concrete. Break students up and assign them each a particular subject matter: art, science, religion, and morality, for example. Ask them to define knowledge in each of these domains?

  • How do you know a piece of artwork is good?
  • How is a scientific theory known to be true?
  • How do people know a religious belief they have is true?
  • How do we know the difference between right and wrong moral actions?

Ask students to come up with a definition. As they discuss, circulate to make sure students are using examples from their own study and experiences and trying to develop a list of criteria for knowledge in these different domains.

Bring the class back together to evaluate the definitions. Ask students from other groups to scrutinize each others’ definitions. The teacher might raise certain objections to try and deepen discussion:

  • In science, for example, a group might say a theory is known to be true because it is verified in experimental results. But Isaac Newton’s physics were eventually shown to be inaccurate in certain cases. Is it right to say that before Albert Einstein came along, with a new, more experimentally accurate theory, people knew Newton’s theory was true? Or did they only think they knew?

Then, ask students to reflect on whether there is anything shared among these different kinds of “knowledge.” Questions that might come up include:

  • Are there any general shared principles of inquiry common to these different domains: for example, experimentation or learning from one’s predecessors?
  • Is it just happenstance that we happen to apply the words “know” and “knowledge” to these very different activities?
  • Can we draw a clean distinction between practical knowledge (“knowing how”) and theoretical knowledge (“knowing that”)?

Download our

 teachers’ guide.

(please click here)

Sources and Resources

Goering, Sara, Nicholas J. Shudak, and Thomas E. Wartenberg, eds (2013). Philosophy in schools: An introduction for philosophers and teachers . Routledge. Collection of essays on different aspects of pre-college philosophy education.

Lone, J. M. & Burroughs, M.D. (2016). Philosophy in education: Questioning and dialogue in schools . Rowman & Littlefield. Argument for introducing philosophy in the K-12 context, with lesson ideas for elementary, middle, and high school. 

Millett, S., & Tapper, A. (2012). Benefits of collaborative philosophical inquiry in schools. Educational Philosophy and Theory , 44(5), 546-567. Overview on research into philosophy for kids and collaborative philosophical inquiry more broadly. 

Pritchard, Michael (2018). Philosophy for children . The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . Encyclopedia entry on the history of rationale for philosophy for children. Also offers details on different approaches and more resources.

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Philosophy Behind Critical Thinking: A Concise Overview

Philosophy Behind Critical Thinking

The philosophy behind critical thinking delves into the deeper understanding of what it means to think critically and to develop the ability to reason, analyze, and evaluate information in a structured and systematic manner. Critical thinking has intricate connections with philosophy, mainly because it originated from ancient philosophical teachings. At its core, the concept of critical thinking is rooted in the Socratic method of questioning, which emphasizes the importance of inquiry and rational thinking as a means to achieve knowledge.

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

Understanding critical thinking necessitates exploring the various philosophical groundings, which delves into epistemology, the branch of philosophy that deals with knowledge, truth, and belief. Epistemological theories help elucidate different approaches to critical thinking, such as the psychological approach, focusing on cognitive processes, and the cultural and social context approach, emphasizing the importance of context in shaping critical thought. In the realm of education, the role of critical thinking cannot be understated, as it is a vital component of teaching and learning, shaping the way individuals process and interpret information and develop intellectually.

Key Takeaways

  • Critical thinking is deeply rooted in ancient philosophical teachings, particularly the Socratic method of questioning.
  • Different philosophical groundings provide varying approaches to critical thinking, such as psychological and cultural/social context approaches.
  • The importance of critical thinking in education is paramount, as it shapes how individuals process, interpret, and develop intellectually.

Understanding Critical Thinking

Definition and Process

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It involves engaging in reflective and independent thinking . To understand the logical connections between ideas, one needs to identify, construct, and evaluate arguments.

Logic, Reason, Rationality

Logic, reason, and rationality are essential components of critical thinking. Logic refers to the systematic approach to reasoning and validating claims through principles and rules. Reasoning, on the other hand, is the process of drawing conclusions based on logic, evidence, and assumptions. Rationality encompasses the use of logic and reason to make well-informed decisions, judgments, and evaluations.

Strategies and Patterns

To develop critical thinking skills, individuals must employ various strategies and recognize patterns in their thinking. Some common strategies include:

  • Analysis : Breaking down complex problems, data, or texts into simpler parts to understand what they mean and explain the implications to others.
  • Interpretation : Making sense of information and grasping its relevance in a given context.
  • Inference : Drawing reasonable conclusions based on available evidence and logic.
  • Evaluation : Assessing the credibility and validity of claims, arguments, or sources of information.

Recognizing patterns in thinking involves identifying common errors, biases, and other factors that might hinder critical thinking and refining one’s thought process accordingly.

Justification and Argumentation

Justification and argumentation play a crucial role in critical thinking. Justification refers to providing reasons or evidence in support of a claim, while argumentation involves constructing and evaluating arguments . Both justification and argumentation require logical reasoning, analysis of evidence, and clear communication of ideas.

Clarity and Reflection

Clarity is essential for effective critical thinking. This entails expressing ideas and arguments in a clear, concise, and organized manner. Furthermore, critical thinkers must also engage in reflection — the process of examining their own thought processes, assumptions, and biases. Reflecting on one’s beliefs and values helps individuals refine their thinking and develop a more nuanced understanding of the world around them.

In conclusion, understanding critical thinking involves exploring its definition, process, and key components, such as logic, reason, rationality, strategies, patterns, justification, argumentation, clarity, and reflection. By cultivating a strong foundation in these areas, individuals can develop their ability to think critically and make well-informed decisions in various aspects of life.

Psychological Approach to Critical Thinking

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

Cognition and Pattern Recognition

The psychological approach to critical thinking emphasizes the role of cognition and pattern recognition in the process. Cognitive psychologists recognize that our minds have a natural ability to identify patterns and relationships in the information we encounter. This involves categorizing, comparing, and evaluating various pieces of information. By developing cognitive skills, individuals can more effectively analyze and evaluate complex arguments, ultimately fostering their critical thinking abilities.

Bias and Judgments

Another aspect of the psychological approach to critical thinking is the examination of biases and judgments. Bias refers to the systematic errors or distortions in human reasoning that can arise from emotions, beliefs, or external factors. When individuals possess a strong bias, it can impede their ability to think critically and accurately evaluate information. By being aware of these biases and actively seeking to minimize their influence, one can improve their critical thinking skills and make more accurate judgments.

Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

Finally, the psychological approach to critical thinking also emphasizes the importance of problem-solving and decision-making abilities. Effective problem-solving is accomplished by identifying the problem, gathering and evaluating relevant information, and formulating potential solutions. Strong decision-making skills involve comparing potential solutions and selecting the most effective one based on logical reasoning and evidence.

In conclusion, the psychological approach to critical thinking focuses on fostering cognitive skills, identifying and minimizing biases, and developing strong problem-solving and decision-making abilities. By enhancing these aspects, individuals can become more effective critical thinkers and make well-informed decisions throughout their lives.

Philosophical Groundings

Roots of critical thought.

The roots of critical thought can be traced back to ancient Greek philosophy, particularly the ideas developed by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. In their teachings, these philosophers emphasized the importance of questioning and examining beliefs, seeking evidence, and evaluating arguments logically. Through these pursuits, they laid a strong foundation for the development of critical thinking in modern times.

Major Philosophers and Approaches

Several major philosophers and their approaches have significantly contributed to the evolution of critical thinking. Among them, Socrates’ method of inquiry, known as the Socratic Method, involves continuous questioning and probing for deeper understanding. Plato, a student of Socrates, focused on the power of dialectical reasoning, urging individuals to engage in dialogue and debate to examine their own beliefs and the beliefs of others.

Aristotle contributed to critical thinking by emphasizing the importance of logic and coherent reasoning to gain knowledge. He also explored rhetoric, expounding on its role in persuasive argumentation. In more recent times, figures such as John Dewey and Karl Marx have provided insights into the role of critical thinking in education and social transformation.

Informal Logic and its Importance

Informal logic plays a crucial role in critical thinking as it concerns the principles and methods used to analyze everyday arguments and reasoning beyond the scope of formal logic. It complements formal logic, which deals strictly with logical systems and symbols. Informal logic helps individuals assess the validity, soundness, and context of arguments encountered in daily life. By honing their skills in informal logic, individuals can become better critical thinkers and more adept at navigating complex situations and decision-making processes.

Through the teachings of philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, as well as the application of informal logic and logical reasoning, the concept of critical thinking has evolved into an essential aspect of learning and decision-making in modern society. Embracing these foundational elements can empower individuals to develop the skills necessary to think critically and effectively in various aspects of life.

Critical Thinking in Cultural and Social Context

Race and gender perspectives.

Critical thinking is a universal skill that transcends cultural and social boundaries. However, it is essential to consider the impact of race and gender on the development and exercise of critical thinking skills. People from marginalized groups may experience unique challenges and perspectives that influence their critical thinking abilities. For example, in a cross-cultural study examining critical thinking among nurse scholars in Thailand and the United States, distinctive perspectives on critical thinking were observed due to cultural differences. Understanding the intersections of race, gender, and critical thinking can help create more inclusive education and workplace environments that foster critical thinking for everyone.

Critical Thinking in a Democratic Society

In a democratic society, critical thinking plays a crucial role in informed decision-making, civic engagement, and open discussion. The healthy functioning of a democracy relies on the citizens’ capacity to discern reliable information, assess arguments, and make rational choices. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , critical thinking includes abilities and dispositions that lead individuals to think critically when appropriate. Developing these skills allows members of democratic societies to engage in productive debates, evaluate policies, and hold leaders accountable.

Culture, Society, and Critical Thinking

Cultural backgrounds and societal norms can significantly impact how individuals approach critical thinking. Different cultures may emphasize various ways of thinking, problem-solving, and expressing ideas. As a result, critical thinking can manifest differently across cultures, often influenced by aspects such as language, traditions, and values. A study discussing critical thinking in its historical and social contexts highlights the importance of considering cultural influences when evaluating and teaching critical thinking.

In summary, critical thinking is an essential skill across various cultural, racial, gender, and social contexts. By acknowledging these differences and understanding the significance of critical thinking in democratic societies, educators and societies can promote a more inclusive environment for cultivating critical thinking skills.

Role of Critical Thinking in Education

Aims of education.

The primary aim of education is to foster the development of individuals’ cognitive capabilities, empowering them to grow into confident, knowledgeable and discerning adults. Critical thinking plays a significant role in education as it helps students acquire and apply knowledge more effectively, by analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information from diverse sources in a systematic manner, leading to more accurate and informed decisions.

In addition, critical thinking allows students to question existing knowledge and challenge conventional wisdom, thus avoiding indoctrination and promoting intellectual independence. This helps in nurturing open-minded and critical citizens who can contribute positively to society.

Skills Development

Critical thinking involves a variety of skills and abilities that are essential for students’ personal and professional success. These include problem-solving, decision making, logical reasoning, and effective communication, among others. By teaching these skills in the classroom, educators enable learners to confront complex issues and dilemmas with confidence and clarity, fostering their cognitive, social, and emotional growth.

Classroom activities focused on critical thinking are essential to help students develop a systematic approach to problem-solving and sharpen their analytical skills. Practical tasks, like debates, group discussions, case studies, or role plays, can be employed to engage students in active learning, thus enhancing their critical thought processes.

Standardized Tests vs. Critical Thought

While standardized tests have dominated the contemporary education system, there is growing concern regarding their effectiveness in promoting critical thinking. Some argue that standardized tests prioritize the acquisition of specific knowledge over the development of essential skills and abilities, leading to an education that is more focused on rote memorization than meaningful learning.

However, introducing critical thinking elements in the curriculum or classroom activities does not require a complete removal of standardized tests. Educators can strike a balance between knowledge acquisition and skill development by incorporating critical thinking exercises in conjunction with traditional assessments. In doing so, students can better prepare for life beyond the classroom, developing a mindset that values continuous learning, reflection, and intellectual curiosity.

Importance of Open-Mindedness and Skepticism

Being skeptical vs. being cynical.

It is essential to understand the difference between being skeptical and being cynical. Skepticism in critical thinking involves questioning assertions and assumptions, seeking evidence, and evaluating arguments from a neutral, objective viewpoint. On the other hand, cynicism is a distrustful attitude, where one assumes negative intentions or outcomes.

A critical thinker should strive to be skeptical rather than cynical. Approaching situations with skepticism allows for the exploration of different viewpoints and the willingness to change one’s mind based on new evidence, while cynicism can lead to the dismissal of valid arguments due to preconceived negative beliefs.

Traits of an Open-Minded Thinker

Open-mindedness is an essential trait for critical thinkers. Some key characteristics of an open-minded thinker include:

  • Cognitive flexibility : Adapting to and considering new information or perspectives.
  • Tolerance for ambiguity : Accepting the possibility that there may be multiple valid solutions or interpretations.
  • Willingness to change : Being open to revising beliefs and opinions when presented with strong evidence or arguments.

Being open-minded allows critical thinkers to explore various perspectives and ideas and to evaluate them fairly. This inclination towards cognitive flexibility helps in avoiding rigidity in thinking, enabling better decision-making and problem-solving.

Role of Curiosity and Empathy in Critical Thinking

Curiosity and empathy play crucial roles in effective critical thinking. A curious individual seeks knowledge and understanding, thus asking relevant questions and engaging in Socratic questioning. Socratic questioning is a method of probing and analyzing through questions to encourage self-reflection and deeper understanding. This technique fosters critical thinking by challenging assumptions and providing opportunities to explore diverse viewpoints.

Empathy, on the other hand, permits critical thinkers to comprehend and appreciate different perspectives by placing themselves in others’ shoes. An empathetic approach contributes to open-mindedness and cultivates a sense of humility, recognizing that individuals may hold contrasting opinions based on personal experiences or beliefs. The combination of curiosity and empathy enhances critical thinking by promoting a more inclusive and nuanced understanding of complex issues and scenarios.

In the realm of philosophy, critical thinking holds a prominent position. It is a process that revolves around using and assessing reasons to evaluate statements, assumptions, and arguments in ordinary situations. The ultimate goal of critical thinking is to foster good beliefs, aligning them with goals such as truth, usefulness, and rationality 1 .

John Dewey played a crucial role in shaping the concept of critical thinking by introducing it as an educational goal 2 . He connected it with a scientific attitude of mind, highlighting the importance of reflective thought in the process of critical thinking. This approach enhances one’s ability to understand and analyze situations, leading to informed and rational decisions.

Critical thinking equips individuals with the tools necessary to think carefully with clarity, depth, precision, accuracy, and logic 3 . It has applications across various domains, such as science, where great scientists like Albert Einstein have benefited from critical thinking skills to discover groundbreaking concepts.

In conclusion, the philosophy behind critical thinking emphasizes the importance of cultivating a rational and reflective mindset. As an essential skill for problem-solving and decision-making, critical thinking plays a vital role in developing well-rounded individuals ready to navigate the complexities of the world.

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The Importance of Logic and Philosophy

Together they provide a means for thinking deductively

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Few people in society today spend much time studying either  philosophy  or  logic . This is unfortunate because so much relies on both: Philosophy is a fundamental component of all areas of human inquiry, while logic is the basis that underpins philosophy. Understanding the relation between logic and philosophy will help you grasp the importance of each.

Philosophy comes from the Greek word Φιλοσοφίαfor ( filosofía ), meaning "love of wisdom," providing two important starting points: love (or passion) and wisdom (knowledge, understanding). Philosophy sometimes seems to be pursued without passion as if it were a technical subject like engineering or mathematics. Although there is a role for dispassionate research, philosophy must derive from some passion for the ultimate goal: a reliable, accurate understanding of ourselves and our world.

Philosophy has something to say when it comes to science, art, and even  religion —where philosophy provides some useful concepts on objectivity versus subjectivity—politics, and medicine.

Logic is the science of how to evaluate arguments and reasoning. Critical thinking is a process of evaluation that uses logic to separate truth from falsehood, and reasonable from unreasonable beliefs. If you want to better evaluate the various claims, ideas, and arguments you encounter, you need a better understanding of basic logic and the process of critical thinking.

Logic is not a matter of opinion: When it comes to evaluating arguments, there are specific principles and criteria that you should use. If you use those principles and criteria, then you are using logic; if you aren’t, then you are not justified in claiming to use logic or be logical. This is important because sometimes people don’t realize that what sounds reasonable isn’t necessarily logical. This reasoning process—using principals of logic in your reasoning, thinking, and arguments—is critical to the practice of philosophy.

The Logic of Philosophy

Rick Lewis writing in " Philosophy Now " explains why logic and philosophy are so intimately intertwined:

"Just as philosophy ... underlies all other branches of human enquiry, so logic is the most fundamental branch of philosophy. Philosophy is based on reasoning, and logic is the study of what makes a sound argument, and also of the kind of mistakes we can make in reasoning. So study logic and you will become a better philosopher and a clearer thinker generally."

Logic is a way of thinking clearly and basing your reasoning on objective facts that you use in practicing philosophy. Lewis uses the example of Mr. Spock—the logic-spouting alien on the starship U.S.S. Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" series. Spock, explaining logic to Capt. James T. Kirk in one episode, noted that:

“Logic, captain, is the general science of inference. Deductive logic, in which a conclusion follows from a set of premises, is distinguished from inductive logic, which studies the way in which premises may support a conclusion without entailing it.... Aristotle is generally regarded as the first great Earth logician, and Aristotelian logic dominated the subject on your planet until the 19th century.”

 Aristotle is, indeed, the world's first great logician, but the famous thinker is remembered today primarily as a great Greek philosopher.  

Aristotle used logic to underpin his philosophy in developing the method of deductive reasoning and then applied those two concepts to science, metaphysics, ethics, and politics. Go back far enough, and it's clear that you can't separate philosophy and logic; you can't have one without the other. Philosophy is based on the idea that you need to think clearly to grapple with the major (and minor) questions of the universe; logic is the way to accomplish that Herculean task.

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PHIL 110: Logic and Critical Thinking

Students will develop rational thinking skills through a combination of theory and practice. They will discuss good and bad thinking habits, learning to apply the former and to avoid the latter. This class includes an introduction to truth-tables and rules of inference in symbolic logic. The aim is to improve students' capacity for rational reasoning, question widely held beliefs, resist empty rhetoric and propaganda, distinguish relevant from irrelevant considerations, and construct sound arguments. PHIL 110 satisfies the math requirement for some majors.

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The Importance of Logic and Critical Thinking

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"Critical thinking is a desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and hatred for every kind of imposture." - Francis Bacon (1605)

As parents, we are tasked with instilling a plethora of different values into our children. While some parents in the world choose to instill a lack of values in their kids, those of us that don't want our children growing up to be criminals and various misfits try a bit harder. Values and morality are one piece of the pie. These are important things to mold into a child's mind, but there are also other items in life to focus on as well. It starts with looking both ways to cross the street and either progresses from there, or stops.

If you stopped explaining the world to your children after they learned to cross the street, then perhaps you should stop reading and go back to surfing for funny pictures of cats. I may use some larger words that you might not understand, making you angry and causing you to leave troll-like comments full of bad grammar and moronic thought processes. However, if you looked at the crossing the street issue as I did – as a logical problem with cause and effect and a probable solution – then carry on. You are my target audience.

Or perhaps the opposite is true, as the former are the people that could benefit from letting some critical thinking into their lives. So what exactly is critical thinking? This bit by Linda Elder in a paper on CriticalThinking.org pretty much sums it up:

Through critical thinking, as I understand it, we acquire a means of assessing and upgrading our ability to judge well. It enables us to go into virtually any situation and to figure out the logic of whatever is happening in that situation. It provides a way for us to learn from new experiences through the process of continual self-assessment. Critical thinking, then, enables us to form sound beliefs and judgments, and in doing so, provides us with a basis for a 'rational and reasonable' emotional life. — Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines, Winter, 1996. Vol. XVI, No. 2.

The rationality of the world is what is at risk. Too many people are taken advantage of because of their lack of critical thinking, logic and deductive reasoning. These same people are raising children without these same skills, creating a whole new generation of clueless people.

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To wit, a personal tale of deductive reasoning:

Recently I needed a new transmission for the family van. The warranty on the power train covers the transmission up to 100,000 miles. The van has around 68,000 miles on it. Therefore, even the logic-less dimwit could easily figure that the transmission was covered. Well, this was true until the dealership told me that it wasn't, stating that because we didn't get the scheduled transmission service (which is basically a fluid change) at 30,000 and 60,000 miles the warranty was no longer valid. Now, there are many people that would argue this point, but many more that would shrug, panic, and accept the full cost of repairs.

I read the warranty book. I had a receipt that said the fluid was checked at 60,000 but not replaced. A friend on Twitter pointed out the fact that they were using 100,000 mile transmission fluid. So logically, the fluid would not have to be replaced under 100,000 miles if it wasn't needed, right? So why the stipulation that it needed to be replaced at 60,000 and the loose assumption that not doing that would void the warranty? So I asked the warranty guy to show me in the book where the two items are related. Where it explicitly says that if you don't get the service, the transmission isn't covered. There were portions where it said the service was recommended, but never connecting to actual repairs. Finally the warranty guy shrugged, admitted I was right and said the service was covered.

In this case, valid logic equaled truth and a sound argument. I used very simple reasoning and logic to determine that I was being inadvertently screwed. I say "inadvertently" because I truly believe based on their behavior that they were not intentionally trying to screw me. They believed the two items were related, they had had this argument many times before and were not prepared to be questioned. While both the service manager and the warranty guy seemed at least junior college educated, proving my argument to them took longer than it should have between three adults.

However, valid logic does not always guarantee truth or a sound argument. This is where it gets a little funky. Valid logic is when the structure of logic is correct in the way of syntax and semantics rather than truth. Truth comes from deductive reasoning of said logic. For example:

All transmissions are covered parts. All covered parts are free. Therefore, all transmissions are free. This logic is technically valid, and if the premises are true, then of course the conclusion must be true. You can see here however that it's not always true, though in some situations it could be. While the logic is valid, not all transmissions are free, only those covered by the warranty. So based on that, saying all transmissions are free is not sound logic.

To take it one step further:

All Daleks are brown. Some brown things are Cylons . Therefore, some Daleks are Cylons. Sci-fi fan or not, you probably know that this is not true. The basic lesson here is that, while the logic above might seem valid because of the structure of the statement, it takes a further understanding to figure out why it's not necessarily true: That is, based on the first two statements it's possible that some Daleks are Cylons, but it's not logically concludable. That's where deductive reasoning comes on top of the logic. The underlying lesson here is not to immediately assume everything you read or are told is true, something all children need to and should learn.

This is the direct lesson that needs to be passed on to our children: that of not accepting the immediately visible logic. While not all problems are complex enough to require the scientific method, some of them need some deduction to determine if they are true. Take the example above — how many kids would immediately be satisfied with the false conclusion? Sure, it's a bit geeky with the examples, but switch out bears for Daleks and puppies for Cylons. That makes it easier, and takes the actual research out of it (to find out what Daleks and Cylons are respectively) but many people would just accept that in fact some bears are puppies, if presented with this problem in the context of a textbook or word problem.

Maybe I'm being paranoid or thinking too doomsday, whatever, but I think this is an epidemic. Children are becoming lazier and not as self sufficient because their parents have a problem with watching a three year old cry after they tell her to remove her own jeans, or ask her to put away her own toys (yes, organizational logic falls under the main topic). These are the same parents who do their kid's science project while the kid is playing video games. These kids grow up lacking the simple problem solving skills that make navigating life much easier. Remember when you were growing up and you had the plastic stacking toys ? Well, instead of toys for early development like that, parents are just plopping their kids down in front of the television. While there is some educational type programming on television, it's just not the same as hands-on experience.

My father is an engineer, and he taught me logic and reasoning by making me solve simple, then complex, problems on my own. Or at least giving me the opportunity to solve them on my own. This helped develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, something a lot of children lack these days. Too often I see children that are not allowed to solve problems on their own; instead their parents simply do it for them without argument or discussion. Hell, I am surrounded by adults every day that are unable to solve simple problems, instead choosing to immediately ask me at which point I have to fill the role that their parents never did and – knowing the solution – tell them to solve it themselves, or at least try first.

One of the things I like to work on with my kids is math. There is nothing that teaches deductive reasoning and logic better than math word problems. They are at the age where basic algebra can come into play, which sharpens their reasoning skills because they start to view real world issues with algebraic solutions. Another thing is logic puzzles , crossword puzzles and first person shooters. Actually, not that last one. That's just the reward.

Since I weeded out the folks that don't teach their kids logic in the first two paragraphs, as representatives of the real world it's up to the rest of us to spread the knowledge. It won't be easy. The best thing we can do is teach these thought processes to our children, so that they may look at other children with looks of bewilderment when other children are unable to solve simple tasks. Hopefully, they will not simply do the task for them, but teach them to think. I'm not saying we need to build a whole new generation of project managers and analysts, but it would be better than a generation of task-oriented mindless office drones with untied shoelaces, shoving on a door at the Midvale School for the Gifted .

h/t to @aubreygirl22 for the logical conversation. Image: Flickr user William Notowidagdo. Used under Creative Commons License.

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1.1: What is an Argument?

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  • Matthew Van Cleave
  • Lansing Community College

This is an introductory textbook in logic and critical thinking. Both logic and critical thinking centrally involve the analysis and assessment of arguments. “Argument” is a word that has multiple distinct meanings, so it is important to be clear from the start about the sense of the word that is relevant to the study of logic. In one sense of the word, an argument is a heated exchange of differing views as in the following:

Sally: Abortion is morally wrong and those who think otherwise are seeking to justify murder!

Bob: Abortion is not morally wrong and those who think so are right-wing bigots who are seeking to impose their narrow-minded views on all the rest of us!

Sally and Bob are having an argument in this exchange. That is, they are each expressing conflicting views in a heated manner. However, that is not the sense of “argument” with which logic is concerned. Logic concerns a different sense of the word “argument.” An argument, in this sense, is a reason for thinking that a statement, claim or idea is true. For example:

Sally: Abortion is morally wrong because it is wrong to take the life of an innocent human being, and a fetus is an innocent human being.

In this example Sally has given an argument against the moral permissibility of abortion. That is, she has given us a reason for thinking that abortion is morally wrong. The conclusion of the argument is the first four words, “abortion is morally wrong.” But whereas in the first example Sally was simply asserting that abortion is wrong (and then trying to put down those who support it), in this example she is offering a reason for why abortion is wrong.

We can (and should) be more precise about our definition of an argument. But before we can do that, we need to introduce some further terminology that we will use in our definition. As I’ve already noted, the conclusion of Sally’s argument is that abortion is morally wrong. But the reason for thinking the conclusion is true is what we call the premise . So we have two parts of an argument: the premise and the conclusion. Typically, a conclusion will be supported by two or more premises. Both premises and conclusions are statements. A statement is a type of sentence that can be true or false and corresponds to the grammatical category of a “declarative sentence.” For example, the sentence,

The Nile is a river in northeastern Africa

is a statement. Why? Because it makes sense to inquire whether it is true or false. (In this case, it happens to be true.) But a sentence is still a statement even if it is false. For example, the sentence,

The Yangtze is a river in Japan

is still a statement; it is just a false statement (the Yangtze River is in China). In contrast, none of the following sentences are statements:

Please help yourself to more casserole

Don’t tell your mother about the surprise

Do you like Vietnamese pho?

The reason that none of these sentences are statements is that it doesn’t make sense to ask whether those sentences are true or false (rather, they are requests or commands, and questions, respectively).

So, to reiterate: all arguments are composed of premises and conclusions, which are both types of statements. The premises of the argument provide a reason for thinking that the conclusion is true. And arguments typically involve more than one premise. A standard way of capturing the structure of an argument is by numbering the premises and conclusion. For example, recall Sally’s argument against abortion:

Abortion is morally wrong because it is wrong to take the life of an innocent human being, and a fetus is an innocent human being.

We could capture the structure of that argument like this:

1. It is morally wrong to take the life of an innocent human being 2. A fetus is an innocent human being 3. Therefore, abortion is morally wrong

By convention, the last numbered statement (also denoted by the “therefore”) is the conclusion and the earlier numbered statements are the premises. This is what we call putting an argument into standard argument form . We can now give a more precise definition of an argument. An argument is a set of statements, some of which (the premises) attempt to provide a reason for thinking that some other statement (the conclusion) is true. Although arguments are typically given in order to convince or persuade someone of the conclusion, the argument itself is independent of one’s attempt to use it to convince or persuade. For example, I have just given you this argument not in an attempt to convince you that abortion is morally wrong, but as an illustration of what an argument is. Later on in this chapter and in this book we will learn some techniques of evaluating arguments, but for now the goal is to learn to identify an argument, including its premises and conclusion(s). It is important to be able to identify arguments and understand their structure, whether or not you agree with conclusion of the argument. In the next section I will provide some techniques for being able to identify arguments.

Which of the following sentences are statements and which are not?

1. No one understands me but you. 2. Alligators are on average larger than crocodiles. 3. Is an alligator a reptile or a mammal? 4. An alligator is either a reptile or a mammal. 5. Don’t let any reptiles into the house. 6. You may kill any reptile you see in the house. 7. East Africans are not the best distance runners. 8. Obama is not a Democrat. 9. Some humans have wings. 10. Some things with wings cannot fly. 11. Was Obama born in Kenya or Hawaii? 12. Oh no! A grizzly bear! 13. Meet me in St. Louis. 14. We met in St. Louis yesterday. 15. I do not want to meet a grizzly bear in the wild.

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Critical thinking and logic.

Critical thinking is fundamentally a process of questioning information and data. You may question the information you read in a textbook, or you may question what a politician or a professor or a classmate says. You can also question a commonly-held belief or a new idea. With critical thinking, anything and everything is subject to question and examination.

Logic’s Relationship to Critical Thinking

The word logic comes from the Ancient Greek logike , referring to the science or art of reasoning. Using logic, a person evaluates arguments and strives to distinguish between good and bad reasoning, or between truth and falsehood. Using logic, you can evaluate ideas or claims people make, make good decisions, and form sound beliefs about the world. [1]

Questions of Logic in Critical Thinking

Let’s use a simple example of applying logic to a critical-thinking situation. In this hypothetical scenario, a man has a PhD in political science, and he works as a professor at a local college. His wife works at the college, too. They have three young children in the local school system, and their family is well known in the community.

The man is now running for political office. Are his credentials and experience sufficient for entering public office? Will he be effective in the political office? Some voters might believe that his personal life and current job, on the surface, suggest he will do well in the position, and they will vote for him.

In truth, the characteristics described don’t guarantee that the man will do a good job. The information is somewhat irrelevant. What else might you want to know? How about whether the man had already held a political office and done a good job? In this case, we want to ask, How much information is adequate in order to make a decision based on logic instead of assumptions?

The following questions, presented in Figure 1, below, are ones you may apply to formulating a logical, reasoned perspective in the above scenario or any other situation:

  • What’s happening? Gather the basic information and begin to think of questions.
  • Why is it important? Ask yourself why it’s significant and whether or not you agree.
  • What don’t I see? Is there anything important missing?
  • How do I know? Ask yourself where the information came from and how it was constructed.
  • Who is saying it? What’s the position of the speaker and what is influencing them?
  • What else? What if? What other ideas exist and are there other possibilities?

Infographic titled "Questions a Critical Thinker Asks." From the top, text reads: What's Happening? Gather the basic information and begin to think of questions (image of two stick figures talking to each other). Why is it Important? Ask yourself why it's significant and whether or not you agree. (Image of bearded stick figure sitting on a rock.) What Don't I See? Is there anything important missing? (Image of stick figure wearing a blindfold, whistling, walking away from a sign labeled Answers.) How Do I Know? Ask yourself where the information came from and how it was constructed. (Image of stick figure in a lab coat, glasses, holding a beaker.) Who is Saying It? What's the position of the speaker and what is influencing them? (Image of stick figure reading a newspaper.) What Else? What If? What other ideas exist and are there other possibilities? (Stick figure version of Albert Einstein with a thought bubble saying "If only time were relative...".

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  • Thinking Critically. Authored by : UBC Learning Commons. Provided by : The University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus. Located at : http://www.oercommons.org/courses/learning-toolkit-critical-thinking/view . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Critical Thinking Skills. Authored by : Linda Bruce. Provided by : Lumen Learning. Located at : https://courses.candelalearning.com/lumencollegesuccess/chapter/critical-thinking-skills/ . License : CC BY: Attribution

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The Relationship Between Critical Thinking and Critical Theory

Comparing approaches..

Posted February 15, 2024 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

  • Critical theory is a way of identifying, critiquing, and challenging social dynamics and power structures.
  • Modern critical theory seems to skip a lot of steps associated with logic and mechanisms of good thinking.
  • Human beings think in hierarchically structured fashion, and they develop social groups in a similar manner.

I recently asked a fellow academic, in conversation, how they try to integrate critical thinking into their classroom, and they replied that they don’t have "much time for that kind of thing." I quickly realised that they didn’t know what I was talking about and likely confused it for something else. This shouldn’t have been entirely surprising to me, given research by Lloyd and Bahr (2010) indicates that, unfortunately, many educators are not au fait with what critical thinking actually is. Following further conversation, I came to understand what this academic was referring to: critical theory. This was neither the first time I’ve encountered such confusion of terms, nor was it the first time I heard criticism of the field.

What Critical Theory Is

I recognise that the phrasing "critical lens" one often hears in educational contexts might be a bit ambiguous and could be perceived in various ways. Critical thinking is many things, but one thing it is not is critical theory. Critical theory is an arts and humanities approach to identifying, critiquing, and challenging social dynamics and power structures within society (e.g., see Tyson 2023, Marcuse, 1968). Simply, it’s a critique of society; hence, the name—though some in the field would argue this and uphold the belief that it’s an association with our beloved critical thinking. I would argue that such people would fit in well with the aforementioned cohort of people who don’t really understand what critical thinking is.

The critical theory approach developed out of post-World War II German social climates as a means of exploring how Germany and, indeed, Europe got to where they were at that point in time. This is reasonable; indeed, psychology was interested in these implications as well (e.g., consider the work of Milgram and Asch). Critical theory grew from there into other socially aware applications. Despite methodological concerns, there is some good work done through critical theory. However, there is also considerable poor research done in this area. I would argue that the core reason for this is that the approach is often founded in bias . That is, unfortunately, a lot of modern critical theory starts with the proposition that some dynamic is "bad." Now, I’m not saying that many of the dynamics often under investigation aren’t bad, but starting research on the basis of a biased perspective doesn’t sound like a particularly promising rationale. Where’s the critical thinking? Where’s the evaluation? If you truly care about the topic, apply critical thinking from an unbiased perspective. Modern critical theory seems to skip a lot of steps associated with logic and the mechanisms of good thinking.

The purpose of this brief discussion on critical theory is two-fold. First, it’s argued that there has been "considerable" growth in the field in recent years (e.g., critical theory student numbers, growing presence in popular society, and growing inclusion in educational curricula), which is concerning given the rationale above, and, second, consistent with my observation in the introduction, its name is unfortunately similar to "critical thinking" and, thus, the two are often confused for one another. Please, don’t make this mistake.

Power Structures

Similar to the aforementioned negative social dynamics, I’m not saying that power structures don’t exist either. Look at families: Parents hold "power" over their children. Look at jobs: Employees are under the power of their managers, who are under the power of other managers, and so on. Indeed, depending on what country you live in, your government has varying levels of power over those it governs (e.g., with respect to law and policy-making). Some will argue that it’s the people who should be governing themselves: voting in law- and policy-makers as representatives, which is reasonable to me, but not all governments are like this— that’s politics for you (e.g., largely belief-led) , so what can you do? "Think critically about it" would be a reasonable response in the context of this page, and that is notably distinct from engaging in critical theory.

The point is that such "structures" are naturally occurring. Human beings think in hierarchically structured fashion (e.g., through schema construction, classification, categorisation) and they develop social groups in a similar manner. That’s not to say that we should accept such structures in all situations, but no amount of academia is likely to change human nature; believe me, we’ve been trying to get people to think critically for a long time. Another important consideration for recognising this commonality is our expectance of these structures. Unfortunately, because we expect to see them everywhere, we wind up creating many of them, through our interpretations, when they might not even exist.

So, if you are approaching your research from the perspective that because something (e.g., some group) experiences, for example, a less-than-desirable event or condition, it’s very easy—without the application of critical thinking—that such negative outcomes should be attributed to some other group, in a sort of causal relationship. The problem is, as opposed to this being a conclusion ( a leads to b ), it is often the starting point of research, which then biases the methodology and its outcomes. For example, in an effort not to single out any particular group, let’s say I’m studying some topic from a Zuggist perspective (I made-up the word/group "Zug"). Considering the fact that I side with Zuggists—I might even be a Zug myself—the chances of me reporting something that is biased in favour of Zugs is more likely than not. To me, that’s not good research.

Again, I’m not saying that all research from a critical theory approach is like this, but, unfortunately, a noticeable amount of it is. Sure, every field has its barriers and "crises" from time to time: Psychology has been battling a replicability crisis in recent years. However, at least psychology (for the most part) recognises the importance of replicability and other research mechanisms associated with good methodology. I have concerns about that with respect to critical theory.

All in all, critical theory doesn’t mean much to me, but, for now, like my fellow academic said in the introduction, "I don’t have much time for that kind of thing." So, why bother talking about it here? This page is focused on critical thinking and good decision-making . These are the outcomes in which I and readers of this blog are interested, alongside learning more about how we can enhance them. It’s difficult enough conceptualising and describing critical thinking without having something similarly named adding further confusion. I’m not putting blame on anyone for the manner in which they coined the term "critical theory"; however, I think it important that people from all walks of life know the differences between them, because those differences are many and important.

Lloyd, M., & Bahr, N. (2010). Thinking critically about critical thinking in higher education. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 4, 2, 1–16.

Marcuse, Herbert. "Philosophy and Critical Theory," in Negations: Essays in Critical Theory , with translations from the German by Jeremy J. Shapiro (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), pp. 134–158.

Tyson, L. (2023). Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide . Taylor & Francis.

Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone, Ireland.

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Philosophy Concentration

Related content, related resources.

  • BMS Degree Requirements

An area of concentration in Philosophy provides you will the transferable skills that you can use in many fields.

The focus is on rational and critical thinking, problem solving, ethics, logic, and the history of philosophical thoughts, ideas, and cultures.

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* Must include at least 12 hours of upper level credit completed at UNO

A minimum of 120 hours are required for the Bachelor of Multidisciplinary Studies degree.

Degree Requirements

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Career Options

Students with an area of concentration in Philosophy may find careers in:

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Opinion The trouble with schools is too much math

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

I know only two people who can readily recite the quadratic formula. My wife is one. She’s always been a whiz at school, but, as a choir teacher, she has absolutely no use for the equation (other than as an occasional party trick). The other person is my brother, who works with electron-beam technology as a mechanical engineer. He’s in the minority of people who actually use advanced math daily.

what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

For most of us, the formula was one of many alphabet soup combinations crammed into our heads in high school long enough to pass a math test, then promptly forgotten. I’m queasy all over again just thinking about it. As a functioning adult in society, I have no use for imaginary numbers or the Pythagorean theorem. I’ve never needed to determine the height of a flagpole by measuring its shadow and the angle of the sun.

Only 22 percent of the nation’s workers use any math more advanced than fractions, and they typically occupy technical or skilled positions. That means more than three-fourths of the population spends painful years in school futzing with numbers when they could be learning something more useful.

I’m talking about applied logic. This branch of philosophy grows from the same mental tree as algebra and geometry but lacks the distracting foliage of numbers and formulas. Call it the art of thinking clearly. We need this urgently in this era of disinformation, in which politicians and media personalities play on our emotions and fears.

Logic teaches us how to trace a claim back to its underlying premises and to test each link in a chain of thought for unsupported assumptions or fallacies. People trained in logic are better able to spot the deceptions and misdirection that politicians so often employ. They also have a better appreciation for different points of view because they understand the thought processes that produce multiple legitimate conclusions concerning the same set of facts. They are comfortable with spirited dialogue about what’s best for our society.

I once asked my pre-calculus teacher whether I would ever use the information she taught in real life. Her answer was surprisingly frank: I probably wouldn’t. The reason to take the class was to score well on the advanced placement test, which would give me a leg up on the math requirements in college. In other words, numbers for the sake of numbers.

Math advocates claim to be teaching complex problem solving, mental discipline and a better understanding of our world. Logic teaches the same things more directly. Geometry can’t teach me when an argument is manipulating my emotions, but logic can. Calculus doesn’t help me solve moral dilemmas, but philosophy does.

Admittedly, all students need to master the basic math of everyday life so they can manage money, compare prices, find the center of a wall to hang a picture and so on. And some students, like my brother, will fall in love with math. That’s a good thing, because they will use it to make bridges safe, to predict the weather, to land spacecraft on the moon and Mars — you get the idea.

It’s reasonable to suggest that public schools all provide a standardized core curriculum. But what makes up a fundamental education? America has not thought through this question in a national conversation since the 1983 release of “ A Nation At Risk .” The product of a presidential commission on education, this report warned of declining achievement in the country’s schools and diagnosed “the urgent need for improvement.” Among its recommendations were a minimum of three years of math for all high school graduates.

Since that time, the digital revolution has placed massive computational power in the palm of every student’s hand. Should the need for a cube root arise in someone’ life, Siri is available 24/7 to provide the answer. That same revolution has given us a crisis of conspiracy theories and a polluted public discourse. What’s at risk now is our ability to reason together as citizens. Skills such as these might not be able to solve for X, but they could go a long way in the pursuit of happiness and the health of America. You can’t punch those things into a calculator.

The need to solve problems is eternal, but many of life’s weightiest problems don’t boil down to numbers. Prioritizing higher-level numeracy over other forms of logical reasoning is not turning us into a nation of engineers and physicists. It’s letting us become a nation that can’t think straight.

America’s Founders knew it would take educated citizens for this democratic republic to succeed. But nowhere did they mention the quadratic formula.

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what is logic and critical thinking in philosophy

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  3. INTRODUCING PHILOSOPHY

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  4. Logic and Critical Thinking by Elaine Greenwood

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  1. LOGIC & CRITICAL THINKING

  2. Making Philosophical Arguments

  3. Logic&Critical Thinking Vlog#1 Interview #nocopyrightmusic

  4. The LOGICAL Explanation Of Why Critical Thinking Is So Important

  5. You Objectively Matter: A Logical Breakdown

  6. argument

COMMENTS

  1. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal.

  2. Critical Thinking

    Critical Thinking is the process of using and assessing reasons to evaluate statements, assumptions, and arguments in ordinary situations. The goal of this process is to help us have good beliefs, where "good" means that our beliefs meet certain goals of thought, such as truth, usefulness, or rationality.

  3. 5a: What is Logic?

    Well, it's a method of expression and analysis of the logical form of statements, groups of statements, and inferences. Expression: Logic is a language in which we can express logical relations between basic elements—we can express or represent logical structures. We do this by abstracting away from the English or ordinary language sentence ...

  4. Logic, Critical Thinking, and Philosophy

    Logic, Critical Thinking, and Philosophy Submitted by admin on Sat, 08/31/2013 - 05:27 "I DON'T AGREE WITH HIS LOGIC". In this sentence, the word 'Logic' is used to refer to someone's argument or reasoning. It exemplifies one of the various ways the term 'Logic' is defined.

  5. 1: Introduction to Critical Thinking, Reasoning, and Logic

    1: Introduction to Critical Thinking, Reasoning, and Logic. Page ID. 29580. Noah Levin. Golden West College via NGE Far Press. 1.1: Prelude to Chapter. 1.2: Introduction and Thought Experiments- The Trolley Problem. 1.3: Truth and Its Role in Argumentation - Certainty, Probability, and Monty Hall. Only certain sorts of sentences can be used in ...

  6. Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking

    This is an introductory textbook in logic and critical thinking. The goal of the textbook is to provide the reader with a set of tools and skills that will enable them to identify and evaluate arguments. The book is intended for an introductory course that covers both formal and informal logic. As such, it is not a formal logic textbook, but is closer to what one would find marketed as a ...

  7. [L01] What is logic?

    Logic is the former discipline, and it tells us how we ought to reason if we want to reason correctly. Whether people actually follow these rules of correct reasoning is an empirical matter, something that is not the concern of logic. The psychology of reasoning, on the other hand, is an empirical science. It tells us about the actual reasoning ...

  8. What is Logic?

    Logic is the discipline that aims to distinguish good reasoning from bad. Good reasoning is not necessarily effective reasoning. In fact, as we shall see in a subsequent chapter on logical fallacies, bad reasoning is pervasive and often extremely effective—in the sense that people are often persuaded by it.

  9. Critical thinking introduction (video)

    1. Logic is the study of arguments. Critical thinking is application of logic. 2. Without critical thinking we would not survive for long. Even if we do, life would be empty 3. TV ads and newspapers are full of it 4. Critical thinking is clear and logical thinking. 5. If a thing is supported by sound/cogent arguments, we should believe it.

  10. Critical Thinking > History (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

    John Dewey (1910: 74, 82) introduced the term 'critical thinking' as the name of an educational goal, which he identified with a scientific attitude of mind. More commonly, he called the goal 'reflective thought', 'reflective thinking', 'reflection', or just 'thought' or 'thinking'. He describes his book as written for ...

  11. [C01] What is critical thinking?

    Some people believe that critical thinking hinders creativity because it requires following the rules of logic and rationality, but creativity might require breaking rules. This is a misconception. Critical thinking is quite compatible with thinking "out-of-the-box", challenging consensus and pursuing less popular approaches.

  12. Critical thinking

    critical thinking, in educational theory, mode of cognition using deliberative reasoning and impartial scrutiny of information to arrive at a possible solution to a problem.

  13. Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking 2e (van Cleave)

    Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking 2e (van Cleave) This is an introductory textbook in logic and critical thinking. The goal of the textbook is to provide the reader with a set of tools and skills that will enable them to identify and evaluate …

  14. Philosophy and Critical Thinking

    Philosophy and Critical Thinking: The Value of Asking the Deep Questions Although we've emphasized in this guide that critical thinking skills cannot be taught in isolation from subject matter, there is a great deal of critical thinking to be learned from a subject that studies thinking itself: namely, philosophy.

  15. Philosophy Behind Critical Thinking: A Concise Overview

    The philosophy behind critical thinking delves into the deeper understanding of what it means to think critically and to develop the ability to reason, analyze, and evaluate information in a structured and systematic manner.

  16. What Is Logic? What Is Critical Thinking?

    Logic is the science of how to evaluate arguments and reasoning. Critical thinking is a process of evaluation which uses logic to separate truth from falsehood, reasonable from unreasonable beliefs.

  17. Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking Specialization

    This specialization introduces general standards of good reasoning and offers tools to improve your critical thinking skills. These skills will help you determine when an argument is being given, what its crucial parts are, and what it assumes implicitly. You will also learn how to apply deductive and inductive standards for assessing arguments ...

  18. The Importance of Logic and Philosophy

    Philosophy is based on reasoning, and logic is the study of what makes a sound argument, and also of the kind of mistakes we can make in reasoning. So study logic and you will become a better philosopher and a clearer thinker generally." Logic is a way of thinking clearly and basing your reasoning on objective facts that you use in practicing ...

  19. PHIL 110: Logic and Critical Thinking

    PHIL 110: Logic and Critical Thinking Students will develop rational thinking skills through a combination of theory and practice. They will discuss good and bad thinking habits, learning to apply the former and to avoid the latter. This class includes an introduction to truth-tables and rules of inference in symbolic logic.

  20. The Importance of Logic and Critical Thinking

    "Critical thinking is a desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and hatred for every kind of...

  21. logic

    imvho failures in 'critical thinking' often come down to failure of reading comoprehension. take for example your two questions. in the first both one and three are true, dependent on whether 'or' means alternatively, or the logical operator 'or' -- meaning one or other has to be true for the sentence to be. liekwise, i would call the second question "testimonial evidence" -- but it raises ...

  22. 1.1: What is an Argument?

    This is an introductory textbook in logic and critical thinking. Both logic and critical thinking centrally involve the analysis and assessment of arguments. "Argument" is a word that has multiple distinct meanings, so it is important to be clear from the start about the sense of the word that is relevant to the study of logic.

  23. Critical Thinking and Logic

    [1] Questions of Logic in Critical Thinking Let's use a simple example of applying logic to a critical-thinking situation. In this hypothetical scenario, a man has a PhD in political science, and he works as a professor at a local college. His wife works at the college, too.

  24. The Relationship Between Critical Thinking and Critical Theory

    Critical thinking is many things, but one thing it is not is critical theory. Critical theory is an arts and humanities approach to identifying, critiquing, and challenging social dynamics and ...

  25. Philosophy Concentration

    An area of concentration in Philosophy provides you will the transferable skills that you can use in many fields. The focus is on rational and critical thinking, problem solving, ethics, logic, and the history of philosophical thoughts, ideas, and cultures. ... The focus is on rational and critical thinking, problem solving, ethics, logic, and ...

  26. Opinion

    Logic teaches the same things more directly. Geometry can't teach me when an argument is manipulating my emotions, but logic can. Calculus doesn't help me solve moral dilemmas, but philosophy ...

  27. 24/7 Stoic on Instagram: "Let Me Explain…

    0 likes, 0 comments - 247.stoic on February 11, 2024: "Let Me Explain… - - - 1. Logic and Reasoning: Stoics believe in using rationality to un..."