Critical Thinking

Discussion in 'Soap Box' started by protonaut, Oct 13, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. protonaut

    protonaut Well-Known Member

    One of the advantages of living in a free society is the opportunity to think for ourselves. Having the opportunity to do it is one thing, and having the ability to do it quite another.

    Everyone here should be continually striving to further develop the skills required to form intelligent opinions, make good decisions, and determine the best courses of action - as well as recognize when someone else's reasoning is faulty or manipulative.

    It is important to understand at the outset that thinking critically is not about attacking other people. In discussions, there will be situations where we'll need to question ideas, and critique arguments, though it should be done in a responsible manner that encourages positive development and learning. We're looking for faults on both sides of arguments, it should not be one sided. The goal is knowledge and understanding, not trying to "win" or "come out on top".

    We all need to get in the habit of thinking out our responses more clearly before rushing in to reply to anyone we disagree with.

    With that said, I highly encourage anyone here who is unfamiliar with critical thinking to read the .pdf I'm enclosing in the link below. It will greatly improve the conditions of 'Soap Box' if more people here begin to use logic effectively in their arguments. Nobody wants to waste time constantly correcting flaws in reasoning and language, deal with misleading arguments, false information, etc.. We should be studying subjects methodically - to learn and think of new ideas and solutions on issues, not fighting back and forth infinitely.

    If the environment of this forum continues to decline, there will be less and less people willing to participate, myself included. On the other hand, if the quality of our communication continues to improve, I believe it will greatly encourage more SF members to speak up and share their opinions, including many of the 'lurkers' who are usually too shy to post at all. I hope others will appreciate what I'm trying to do here for the forum, and I do hope it helps. Feel free to add any of your own related links that would help our community mature.

    Note: though much of this ebook is helpful, chapters 12-18 are the most important for the specific context of our forum, in my opinion.

    Critical Thinking Skills.pdf

    This book is much, much better - though I haven't found an ebook version available. Check your local library and search for "critical thinking" to find books that delve even further into language and human reasoning.
  2. protonaut

    protonaut Well-Known Member

    Who am I kidding? I can tell that most users here are more interested in being entertained by emotional rants. I guess I was hoping there were a few rational posters left on these boards who would defend the importance of logic. Those of you who actually are making an effort to be rational (you know who you are) - thanks for your effort, though I don't expect Soap Box to change much. The thing is, I can't force anyone to follow rules (this isn't a classroom, after all) I can only suggest something and hope others will see the value.

    At least I tried.

    Enjoy your rhetoric.

    I can't take this place seriously anymore.
  3. Nessarose

    Nessarose Well-Known Member

    I'm highly irrational. I try to form coherent and well-founded opinions, but I flipflop an embarrassing amount and am easily swayed...well, on some things. On other things I may be stubborn to the point of unhealthiness.

    Regardless, I agree that critical thinking is not only important but essential. Sometimes I can recognize when I'm not making sense, but most of the time people are telling me I am making zero sense.

    I am guilty of being overly emotional on this forum. I become illogical when I'm emotional. Generally, I try to avoid logical fallacies more than anything, but I must commit them an awful lot.

    Anyway, this is good to think about.
  4. Darken

    Darken Well-Known Member

    I'm not as educated as I could be but I try to be a critical thinker. I'd like to think I am.
  5. protonaut

    protonaut Well-Known Member

    Thanks, I appreciate the replies.

    Also, I see that indeed a number of people have downloaded or viewed the file.

    It's actually very simple to learn and understand. Most in high school or above will do fine.

    All humans are prone to mistakes, whether we realize them or not. I've caught myself trying to draw others into debate by appealing to emotion, even being triggered by the rhetoric of others. The biggest problem is that it's usually contagious. As soon as one person commits a fallacy, it often incites others to respond immaturely by instinct. Someone has to be the one to draw the line, to end it.

    Of course I've posted this topic as a reminder to all of us here, myself included, but particularly due to the extent of the fallacies found in many threads here - I don't think anyone well versed in logic and semantics can deny the problems.

    Nessa, It's good that you can admit to your own flaws. It's not easy for most people to analyze themselves, and it's even harder to change. Much respect for being honest and humble. That really is the most important step towards progression. When we get too confident, that's when we can become blind to rationality.

    Darken, education is important as a foundation, yet I think all of us who desire knowledge can continue to learn far more on our own, outside of school. Of course it takes a lot of practice to sort out the quality of information we find, especially on the internet. That's what critical thinking is most useful for, as a guide to filtering out the good information from the bad. We're all very lucky to have access to so much free information in our era, though with great power comes great responsibility.

    I like to think of Socrates' personality from the discussions in the early parts of Plato's Republic. He has a great curiosity, always seeking more information. He's hesitant to attach himself to any conclusions without examining many facts, and even then, he seems to emphasize that it's incomplete. He realizes the limitations of human reasoning, and is comfortable with his ignorance.

    Scientists are taught to question everything to some extent. Even when there is monumental evidence supporting a theory, a true scientist will remain open to the possibility that it's incorrect. Of course I'm not saying that we shouldn't support evidence, but that we should always consider new ideas, and put them to the test with logic. A good balance is necessary.

    Personally, I'd like to return to neutrality again on certain issues, for the purposes of exploration. It's easier said than done, especially with topics where one has developed a strong view over time. It's one thing to say one is neutral, and another thing to genuinely get into such a state of mind again. I'm actually not sure if it's possible for everyone to accomplish. I would guess it's the same reason why brain-washing works on some people and not others. There are probably genetic differences that can determine how prone people are to defining beliefs as absolutes, or remaining open-minded and having the ability to see things from a neutral perspective at will.

    I feel like it may be the right thing to do on heavily-split issues though. It's a bit like checking a completed math problem, I should come to the same conclusion again if I did everything right the first time. If on the other hand, I find errors in reasoning, or some new information that changes things - then I've learned something (if I examine things logically, which is not difficult with practice) That's what is important - learning. It's not important whether our original positions prove to be the most logical indefinitely, it only matters that we eventually find the views which are most logical (and in purely subjective situations - those which help to appropriately define us on our personal levels). A math question which lacks required data is impossible to solve, just as some philosophical questions will have no logical answer. I'm sure this is obvious to everyone, oh well.

    I'll throw out an example anyway - God - I take a neutral approach with religion - I'm Agnostic because I realize the existence of an all-powerful deity cannot be proven one way or the other. Another way to put it is that humans lack the resources (insufficient language and reasoning) to properly explain certain things. I'll admit that there are plenty of theories suggesting religions should probably be digested metaphorically rather than literally, but the important point here is that we can't provide concrete evidence disproving God. That's why I choose Agnosticism, out of respect for human logic and language. Some will say logic has no place in such discussions, that it is a matter of faith. I don't have that kind of faith, and I don't think I'm capable of it - even if my life depended on it, to be honest. Though I do my best to respect the religious views of others, and avoid debate on that topic.

    When thinking of an entirely different issue like smoking - It's safe to say that scientists have provided a great deal of evidence showing that smoking is harmful and decreases life expectancy. Determining whether smoking is bad is of course a completely different issue than determining whether it should be illegal or not. Approaching the issue, you could ask some questions to try to explore the reasons why one opposes legalization while another favors it. Breaking down arguments and reducing positions to base roots, philosophies, and definitive terms can often reveal important areas for the application of logic.

    Anyway, have some fun with this. Remember that all arguments consist of words, we're all using the same language to communicate. Words are nothing but a sentence of more words which define them. The better you understand linguistics, the easier it will be to notice obvious patterns, as well as common errors and fallacies. I get the impression that people who deeply understand language tend to become frighteningly aware of just how ignorant humans truly are - and well, at that point I would guess most tend to take things a bit less seriously. Having an ego seems pretty absurd at that point.
  6. Ziggy

    Ziggy Antiquitie's Friend

    I just think people need to answer the question that was asked...

    For example "Do you believe you will go to Hell when you die?"

    Now answers such as "God doesn't exist" or "You can't believe the bible" etc. don't really answer the question, you're addressing a different question such as "Is what the bible says about Hell correct?"

    However, if I say "I believe Manak the king of the Goblins will take me to Hell on a fiery chariot" then at least I'm answering the question, so whether it was critically thought out or not, it was a step in the right direction. And if you feel the need to attack me or my beliefs then at least try to make it relevant to the question, arguing over whether Manak is the goblin king or the fairy king is pretty pointless.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2007
  7. protonaut

    protonaut Well-Known Member

    Heh, we should add that one to the list too. The "off-topic" fallacy.

    Though I guess it's alright to go off on a tangent once in awhile, so long as the original question is addressed properly before doing so. Assuming it's at least a little related, otherwise it might be seen as a distraction.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2007
  8. Azul

    Azul Well-Known Member

    Who believes in the concept of "hell" is also in 99,9% of the cases a believer in "God". In fact the belief in "hell" springs from the belief in "God". Now if I answer I don't believe in God, it follows implicitly that I don't believe in hell. I may be going to the root of the concept of "hell", to show why I wouldn"t believe in "hell", if I don't belief in its cause then I can't possibly believe in its consequence.(It doesn't work the other way around. I can believe in God, but not in hell.)
    The two concepts are essentially entangled, so the question "is there an afterlife", when asked on this forum, does imply "do you believe in the judeo-christian God".
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 18, 2007
  9. Ziggy

    Ziggy Antiquitie's Friend

    You find references to Hell in Buddhism (which I hate to mention 'cos I'm going off at a tangent now).

    Anyway, I think what happens is a thread about Hell can easily become a debate about the existence of God. I might believe in God and not in Hell and thus want people to discuss Hell rather then trying to destroy my beliefs in the existence of God.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 18, 2007
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.