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Social Sciences and Humanities
SSH 105
Klaas Kraay

George Nico Critical Thinking (Notes) 9/7/12 What is critical thinking? - It is about evaluating and formulating beliefs (opinions, judgments, viewpoints) - Critical thinking is not about what causes these beliefs o Sociology or psychology might study that - It’s about figuring out which beliefs are worth having o A belief is worth having provided it’s most likely true o A belief is most likely true if there are good reasons to accept it. A definition: - “Critical thinking is the systematic evaluation or formulation of beliefs (or statements) by rational standard.” o It’s systematic because it involves distinct procedures and technical methods (not just gut feeling). o It’s used to evaluate existing beliefs and to formulate new ones. o It evaluates beliefs in terms of how well they are support by reasons Why should we think critically? - Because we really do care about the truth; about getting things right. o We want our own beliefs to be well supported. o We want to be able to understand why we don’t hold different beliefs. - Because who we are is in large part determined by our actions and choices, and our actions and choices are, in turn, determined by our beliefs. o If you haven’t chosen your beliefs, are they really yours? o If they’re not yours, then whose are they? Some Key Terms and Concepts: - Statement (Claim) o An assertion that something is or is not the case no matter whether it is true or not. o “It is raining” - Premise o A premise is a statement offered in support of a conclusion - Conclusion o A conclusion is a statement that is held to be supported by a premise or premises George Nico Critical Thinking (Notes) o Premise: All whales are mammals. o Premise: Moby Dick is a whale. o Conclusion: Moby Dick is a mammal. - Argument o An argument a set of statements one of which (the conclusion) is taken to be supported by the remaining statements (the premises) o An argument is a group o
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