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Social Sciences and Humanities
Course Code
SSH 105
David Hunter

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Robert Ennis one of the leading researchers on critical thinking
Critical Thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or what to do
Why is it reasonable? In that it demands that we have reasons and preferably good ones for the
decisions we do
Why is it Reflective? It’s reflective in the sense that it involves thinking about a problem at several
different levels or from several different angles all at once, including thinking about what the right
method is for answering or solving the problem
Why is it valuable? 2 Main reasons, thinking critically increase our chances of gaining knowledge and
knowledge is valuable. Second Thinking critically is essential to making up one’s own mind about what
to believe or do which is essential to being autonomous and being autonomous is valuable
Autonomous: Being able to Determine Oneself, to decide on one’s own what to believe or do, what sort
of life to lead. (This does not mean rejecting tradition. It means deciding for oneself, on the basis of
reasons, whether to accept tradition.)
Open Ended- a problem is open ended when it is not clear from the outset what would count as a
solution to it
Argument- is a series of statements some of which (the premises) are meant to provide logical support
for another (the conclusion) Or in other words. The conclusion is what the speaker wants you to accept
or believe
Critical Thinking is really aimed at Knowledge and it can help us attain it
Knowledge is justified true belief
Truth: a statement is true just in case it corresponds with the facts (Not a good definition since it cannot
be easily defined) there would be three different attitude of the word truth: Realism, Relativism,
Realism: A realist about some subject matter is one who thinks that there are truths in that area and
that what those truths are is independent of what anybody thinks they are.
Relativism: a relativist about some subject matter holds that i) there are truths about that area but (ii)
that what they are depends (in some way or other) on what we(or someone) take those truths to be.
Subjective relativist: one who thinks that the facts in that area are whatever any one individual takes
them to be. Someone might say: “it might be true for you but not for me”

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Social Relativist: Holds that the facts in that area are whatever the majority (or some weighted majority)
of the society or culture takes them to be. Some one might say “it is true for us, even if it is not true for
you or for them”
Nihilism: a nihilist about some subject matter holds that there are no truths at all about that subject
matter. On the nihilist point of view no facts to be right or wrong about, since there are no facts at all
Premise- A proposition that forms the basis of an argument or from which as conclusion is drawn. They
state the reasons or evidence for accepting the conclusion
Relativism and the argument from disagreement: it is sometimes thought that if there is a lot of
disagreement in some subject matter than relativism is the appropriate attitude to take to. THIS
REASONING IS VERY BAD SINCE- Realism can be the right attitude even when there is lots of
The argument from disagreement has an important logical property. It is valid, which means it is not
possible for those premises to be true and yet for the conclusion be false.
It is best to assume that realism is the proper attitude to take towards some subject matter, unless we
have really good reason to think otherwise
We will all assume that truth is independent of our beliefs
Knowledge: the traditional philosophical analysis of knowledge says that knowledge requires justified
true belief
Justification means that the belief is based on the right kind of evidence
Emotional: Believing something because it makes us feel good or comfortable, or helps us to fit in with
Pragmatic: Believing something because it is useful and is easier to get along with because questioning it
would be too difficult
Epistemic: Believing something because we have evidence that it is true
Critical thinking requires that we have good epistemic reason for our beliefs
Good epistemic Reasons would be Sufficient & Acceptable
Sufficient: To be justified, beliefs have to be based on enough of the right kind of evidence.
Acceptable: Reasons to believe something are acceptable when they are from a reliable or good source.

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Our epistemic reasons can conflict in 2 ways Overridden & Undermined
Overridden: Evidence that P is true is overridden when we have better evidence that P is not true
Undermined: evidence that P is undermined when we have good reason to thank that its source is
Belief: An attitude about how things are, what the facts are.
Freedom of belief: being able to form our beliefs free from outside interference and coercion is
fundamental to human fulfillment.
Prejudice: To prejudice someone or something is to form a judgement or belief about them before all or
enough of the facts are in, before one has enough evidence.
Flat world, Santa
Jon Jumping out of window, Earth is round 10k years ago
Global Warming
Mistakes to Avoid
Appeal to origins: it is a mistake to assume that a belief’s originating reason are epistemic
reasons too
Personalizing reason: it is a mistake to personalize reasons by treating them as if they belonged
to someone.
Appeal to relativism: it’s a mistake to assume that truth is relative. It is best to assume that
realism is true, since otherwise there is little point in thinking critically.
Appeal to Emotion: it is a mistake to base our beliefs only on our emotions. A belief is justified
only by epistemic reasons. How a belief makes us feel or whether it is useful has nothing to do
with whether it is true.
Privileging available evidence: It is a mistake to assume that the evidence we already have is
better than the evidence we might collect if we kept looking. We should be as thorough as we
can before we make our decisions
Appeal to tradition: it is a mistake to believe or do something simply because that belief or
practice is traditional. The fact that a belief is widely held or traditional is not evidence that it is
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