Unlike most texts in critical thinking, _Reason in the Balance_ focuses broadly on the practice of critical inquiry, the process of carefully examining an issue in order to come to a reasoned judgment. Although analysis and critique of individual arguments have an important role to play, this text goes beyond that dimension to emphasize the various aspects that go into the practice of inquiry, including identifying issues and relevant contexts, understanding competing cases, and making a comparative judgment._ Distinctive Features of (...) the Text:_ Emphasis on applying critical thinking to complex issues with competing arguments Inclusion of chapters on inquiry in specific contexts Attention to the dialogical aspects of inquiry, including sample dialogues Emphasis on the spirit of inquiry _The Second Edition Features:_ Updated examples and items of current interest New dialogues on vaccination, prostitution, and climate change New material on biases in reasoning, including emotional, psychological, social, and cognitive _The _Reason in the Balance_ Website includes:_ An Appendix on Logic Exercises Quizzes. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: The Nature of Critical Thinking Critical Thinking: Skills/Abilities and Dispositions Critical Thinking and the Problem of Generalizability The Relationship Between Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking “Critical Thinking” and Other Terms Referring to Thinking Critical Thinking and Education Critiques of Critical Thinking Conclusion.
This paper examines what constitute the virtues of argumentation or critical thinking and how these virtues might be developed. We argue first that the notion of virtue is more appropriate for characterizing this aspect than the notion of dispositions commonly employed by critical thinking theorists and, further, that it is more illuminating to speak of the virtues of inquiry rather than of argumentation. Our central argument is that learning to think critically is a matter of learning to participate knowledgeably and (...) competently in the practice of inquiry in its various forms and contexts. Acquiring the virtues of inquiry arises through getting on the inside of the practice and coming to appreciate the goods inherent in the practice. (shrink)
There has been considerable recent debate regarding the possible epistemic benefits versus the potential risks of adversariality in argumentation. Nonetheless, this debate has rarely found its way into work on critical thinking theory and instruction. This paper focuses on the implications of the adversariality debate for teaching critical thinking. Is there a way to incorporate the benefits of adversarial argumentation while mitigating the problems? Our response is an approach based on dialectical inquiry which focuses on a confrontation of opposing views (...) within a collaborative framework. (shrink)
We argue that the central goal of critical thinking is the making of reasoned judgments. Arriving at reasoned judgments in most cases is a dialectical process involving the comparative weighing of a variety of contending positions and arguments. Recognizing this dialectical dimension means that critical thinking pedagogy should focus on the kind of comparative evaluation which we make in actual contexts of disagreement and debate.
We argue that psychological research can enhance the identification of reasoning errors and the development of an appropriate pedagogy to instruct people in how to avoid these errors. In this paper we identify some of the findings of psychologists that help explain some common fallacies, give examples of fallacies identified in the research that have not been typically identified in philosophy, and explore ways in which this research can enhance critical thinking instruction.
Most current conceptions of critical thinking conceive of critical thinking in terms of abilities and dispositions. In this paper I describe a common type of problem students experience with critical thinking and argue that conceptualizations in terms of abilities and dispositions do not provide a way to understand this problem. I argue, further, that a useful way to think about the problem is in terms of epistemological understanding, and that this way of thinking about the issue can provide both pedagogical (...) and conceptual grounding to efforts to foster critical thinking. (shrink)
In this paper we discuss the relevance of considering context for critical thinking. We argue that critical thinking is best viewed in terms of ‘critical inquiry’ in which argumentation is seen as a way of arriving at reasoned judgments on complex issues. This is a dialectical process involving the comparative weighing of a variety of contending positions and arguments. Using the model which we have developed for teaching critical thinking as critical inquiry, we demonstrate the role played by the following (...) aspects of context: (1) knowledge of the dialectical context (the debate around an issue, both current and historical); (2) an understanding of the current state of practice and belief surrounding an issue; (3) an understanding of the intellectual, political, historical and social contexts in which an issue is embedded; (4) knowledge of the relevant disciplinary context; (5) information about the sources of an argument; (6) awareness of one’s own beliefs and biases. (shrink)
The dialectical approach to teaching critical thinking is centred on a comparative evaluation of contending arguments, so that generally the strength of an argument for a position can only be assessed in the context of this dialectic. The identification of fallacies, though important, plays only a preliminary role in the evaluation to individual arguments. Our approach to fallacy identification and analysis sees fallacies as argument patterns whose persuasive power is disproportionate to their probative value.
Rorty claims argument is inherently conservative and philosophical progress comes from "sparkling new ideas," not argument. This assumes an untenable opposition between the generation and the evaluation of ideas, with argument relegated to evaluation. New ideas that contribute to progress arise from critical reflection on problems posed by the tradition, and constrained by the criteria governing evaluation. Thinking directed toward the criticism and evaluation of ideas or products is not algorithmic; it has a generative, creative component. An overall assessment in (...) any complex circumstance requires constructing a new view from the questioning, weighing, rejecting, reconciling, and integrating of numerous divergent points of view. Thus, the process of argumentation can issue in new ideas. (shrink)
“How do I figure out what to believe?” In the face of competing views, conflicting claims, distrust of expertise, and disdain for facts, this question is both understandable and pertinent. The perennial educational task of helping people to evaluate claims and compare arguments in order to engage in reasoned discourse and make reasoned judgments takes on particular urgency in the contemporary context. An obvious venue for such an endeavor is a course in critical thinking, but the way critical thinking is (...) usually taught, with its focus on individual arguments, does not get us to that goal. The approach which we have developed focuses, instead, on inquiry, which has as its goal to provide students with the tools necessary for engaging in reasoned discourse and making reasoned judgments in real contexts. We describe this approach, argue for its advantages, and describe what a course would look like following an inquiry approach. (shrink)
In this paper we describe the approach to critical thinking pedagogy used in our new text, Reason in the Balance: An Inquiry Approach to Critical Thinking. In this text we concentrate on develop-ing students’ ability to analyze and assess competing arguments in a dialectical context. This approach shifts the emphasis from the more common and traditional approach of evaluating individual arguments and fallacy identification. Our focus is on teaching students to analyze and assess competing arguments sur-rounding an issue with the (...) goal of achieving a reasoned and justifiable judgment. (shrink)
After outlining arguments for the general epistemological presumption in favour of taking into consideration alternative perspectives from other cultures, the article details several examples in which such an examination yields epistemic benefits and challenges. First, our example of alternative conceptions of art demonstrates that a western conception of art as disinterested contemplation cannot be accepted as a general characterization in that it does not adequately characterize the practice of many traditional societies. Second, the case of aboriginal justice reveals assumptions embedded (...) in the North American criminal justice system regarding justice as fairness, and suggests an alternative based on restorative justice. The third example is from Traditional Chinese medicine. While alternative herbal remedies can be tested according to shared standards of health improvement, practices such as acupuncture are more epistemologically challenging in that they cannot readily be explained by current scientific theories. The final example deals with the failed attempts to replace the traditional Balinese agricultural methods with modern farming practices, and shows how the traditional methods yielded practical insights which were ignored by western experts because of their spiritual origins. Finally, the article attempts to extract some general considerations from the above examination. (shrink)
This paper explores the issue of the epistemological significance of taking into consideration alternative perspectives, particularly those from other cultures. We have a moral duty to respect the beliefs and practices of other cultures, but do we have an epistemological duty to take these beliefs and practices into consideration in our own deliberations? Are views that are held without exposure to alternatives from other cultures less credible than those that have undergone such exposure?