Critical Reflection

Critical Reflection: A Textbook for Critical Thinking

Malcolm Murray
Nebojsa Kujundzic
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 531
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  • Book Info
    Critical Reflection
    Book Description:

    In an era of information overload, our need to learn how to critically evaluate the growing flood of information has never been greater. Critical Reflection showcases the role of reason in a world saturated by media-enhanced persuasion and complex scientific and technological jargon. Drawing from the classic philosophical texts, this engaging textbook on the art of analyzing arguments is also relevant to today's undergraduates in its use of real-life examples and exercises drawn mainly from media and politics. Malcolm Murray and Nebojsa Kujundzic cover the standard subjects in a one-semester course on critical thinking, offering ways to analyze arguments in the following areas: * language use * acceptability conditions for truth * categorical and propositional logic * induction * causal claims * probability reasoning * analogical reasoning * an in-depth analysis of informal fallacies Critical Reflection further distinguishes itself with in-depth answers to chapter exercises that are incorporated directly into the authors' detailed discussions. This is an ideal textbook to help professors foster autonomous thinking among their students.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8358-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Malcolm Murray and Nebojsa Kujundzic
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    M.M and N.K
  5. Part One Argument Structure
    • 1 Overview
      (pp. 3-15)

      Philosophy is concerned primarily with concepts. What is truth? Is what we perceive an accurate account of reality or is reality something beyond perceptions? When can we legitimately say we “know” something? How can we convince ourselves that we’re not merely brains in a vat? What is the moral thing to do? Is there a universal moral principle? What reason, if any, do we have to be moral, if we can prosper without being moral? What justification, if any, is there for political force? Are there any good arguments for the existence of God?

      These are all fun questions, and...

    • 2 Argument Components
      (pp. 16-41)

      We have seen in chapter 1 that an argument is a group of sentences that offers reasons in support of a claim. These reasons are calledpremises.The claim they back is called theconclusion. Asimple argumenthas one conclusion supported by one or more premises, while anextended argumenthas a main conclusion supported by premises, some of which are conclusions of subsidiary arguments.

      It is important that we are able to identify the conclusion and the premises which lead up to it within any argument. Consider, for example, the following argument:

      Since anything affecting only parties to...

    • 3 Mapping an Argument
      (pp. 42-70)

      So far, we’ve learned to distinguish arguments from non-arguments, propositions from sentences, and premises from conclusions. We will now pay attention to the relation of the various premises to each other and to the conclusion. By doing so, we will learn how to recognize thestructureof an argument.

      Understanding the structure, orform,of an argument will help us to understand the argument. Better understanding the argument structure also helps to inform uswherewe should challenge it should that be our desire. Why this is the case will become more apparent as we progress. For now, the following...

  6. Part Two Meaning
    • 4 Language Use
      (pp. 73-106)

      In part I, we learned the basic structure of argumentation. In part II, we shall explore in more depth the question of meaning. Language use can clarify ideas, but it can also obscure them. For critical reflection, we need to become better acquainted with the wily ways of language.

      In this chapter, we will talk about the importance of using words precisely. In particular, we will address the problems associated with euphemisms and doublespeak, vagueness, and ambiguity. In the following chapter, we will discuss definitions.

      Euphemismsare expressions that substitute mild and indirect ways of speaking for those that are...

    • 5 Definitions
      (pp. 107-142)

      Definitions play an important role in critical reflection. Let us briefly examine two common ethical debates, one on pornography and the other on abortion.

      We generally agree that art is not something that should be censored. But if we entertain the position that pornography should be censored, then we might feel impelled to claim that pornography is not art.

      One argument for censoring pornography is that it depicts immoral sexual activity. Permissible sexual activity is limited to marriage. Sex in general is taboo, off limits, restricted within firm and clear boundaries. Engaging in sexual activity outside marriage is immoral, especially...

  7. Part Three Truth
    • 6 Acceptability Conditions
      (pp. 145-176)

      Generally speaking, critical thinkers want to believe propositions that are true rather than those that are false. We say “generally speaking” because there may be exceptions to this rule. If a placebo works only as long as we’re deluded into thinking it has medicinal properties, perhaps it is better to falsely believe that the placebo has medicinal properties. Likewise in sports. It is often reported that confidence in one’s abilities (within limits) must precede the ability itself.

      But even for the general case, the adage “believe true beliefs, not false beliefs” cannot get us far. Consider the distinction between “a...

  8. Part Four Logic
    • 7 Categorical Logic: Translation
      (pp. 179-200)

      Recall from chapter 1 that our task in assessing an argument is to look at three things: meaning, truth, and logic. In part 2, we examined the issue of meaning. We want to understand what is being offered. In our own arguments, we want to state our case in ways our intended audience can understand. In part 3, we examined the concept of truth. The reasons we provide to support our conclusion must themselves be acceptable to our audience. In assessing others’ arguments, we need to be sure the premises they offer are acceptable to us. Arguments that have understandable...

    • 8 Categorical Logic: Validity
      (pp. 201-229)

      An argument is valid if after diagramming the first two categorical propositions, the conclusionis already sufficiently diagrammed. Otherwise the argument is invalid.

      In the tax-is-theft argument, we can see that the conclusion “All X are T” isalreadysufficiently illustrated in our Venn diagram after drawing in the first two premises. That is, if wewereto draw in the conclusion, we would cross out everything in X that is outside of T. This is already done for us by having previously drawn in the premises. Therefore, the argument is valid. The Venn diagram methodvisually showsthat if...

    • 9 Propositional Logic: Translation
      (pp. 230-263)

      There are two common kinds of mistakes about logic. One is to assume that validity is asufficientcondition for accepting an argument. It is not. We may have a perfectly valid argument that deserves rejection. Validity concerns therelationsbetween propositions only, and says nothing at all about whether the propositions are true, or acceptable. That is why we may have a valid argument with false or unacceptable premises. To determine validity we ask,if the premises were true, would the conclusion necessarily follow?This condition can be met by false propositions as well as true propositions. When we...

    • 10 Propositional Logic: Validity
      (pp. 264-304)

      There is a quicker and simpler method for determining validity than using truth tables, and that’s the use oflogical forms. There are four logical forms that will concern us. A logical form is the structure, or shape of an argument. Any argument, whatever it is about, as long as it takes the shape of one of these forms, will always be valid. The four forms aremodus ponens,modus tollens,hypothetical syllogism, anddisjunctive syllogism.

      An approximate translation formodus ponensisAffirming the Antecedent. The antecedent, recall, is what occurs on the left of the horseshoe in a...

  9. Part Five Induction
    • 11 Causation and Probability
      (pp. 307-339)

      Adeductiveargument asserts that the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. If it does, we call the argumentvalid; if not,invalid. A deductive argument is either valid or invalid; there is no other option. The method of assessment we employ in testing validity is logic – eitherpropositional(chapters 9 and 10) orcategorical(chapters 7 and 8).

      Aninductiveargument, on the other hand, asserts that there is (merely) a good chance that the conclusion follows from the premises. Typically this is on the basis of generalizing from a sample to claims about members of a group outside...

    • 12 Science
      (pp. 340-364)

      Science is the discipline best suited to test causal claims. It has developed the experimental method, which promises rigour and predictive results unparalleled in human history. Clearly, the scientific method begins with a general question, “What CausesY?” From this, we form an hypothesis: “XcausesY.” We need to test the hypothesis. IfXcausesY, then in the presence ofX,Ywill occur,andin the absence ofX,Ywill not occur. If either of these conditions is not met, we must reject our hypothesis thatXcausesY.

      IfXis pornography, andYis...

    • 13 Arguments by Analogy
      (pp. 365-394)

      Analogy is the linking one thing with another by noting similarities. If often takes the form of simile or metaphor. Consider some of Shakespeare’s metaphors, for example. “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” (King Lear, I, iv, 310). “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for dawes to peck at” (Othello, I, i, 64). Or the haunting metaphor in Ezra Pound’s “In A Station of the Metro”:

      The apparition of these faces in a crowd;

      Petals on a wet, black bough.

      Analogy helps liven boring prose and conversation. It can better...

  10. Part Six Fallacies
    • 14 Fallacies
      (pp. 397-448)

      Despite wide variety of content, argument structure itself is fairly limited. For this reason we can begin to see problematic argument forms more readily. This chapter will offer a catalogue of problematic argument forms, calledfallacies. Fallacies are common ways in which our reasoning patterns go astray.

      Our focus in this chapter will be oninformal fallacies, as opposed toformal fallacies.Formal fallaciesare violations of logic. We have already been introduced (10.5) to affirming the consequent, denying the antecedent, and the disjunctive fallacy. Whether an argument is valid or invalid concerns merely thelogicof the argument, and...

  11. Appendices
    • Appendix One Answers to Selected Questions
      (pp. 451-500)
    • Appendix Two A Bad Essay: “Vegetarianism and Moral Duty”
      (pp. 501-503)
    • Appendix Three Hints for Writing Philosophy Papers
      (pp. 504-506)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 507-510)
  13. Index
    (pp. 511-516)