## Pursuing Truth: A Guide to Critical Thinking

Chapter 2 arguments.

The fundamental tool of the critical thinker is the argument. For a good example of what we are not talking about, consider a bit from a famous sketch by Monty Python’s Flying Circus : 3

## 2.1 Identifying Arguments

People often use “argument” to refer to a dispute or quarrel between people. In critical thinking, an argument is defined as

A set of statements, one of which is the conclusion and the others are the premises.

There are three important things to remember here:

• Arguments contain statements.
• They have a conclusion.
• They have at least one premise

Arguments contain statements, or declarative sentences. Statements, unlike questions or commands, have a truth value. Statements assert that the world is a particular way; questions do not. For example, if someone asked you what you did after dinner yesterday evening, you wouldn’t accuse them of lying. When the world is the way that the statement says that it is, we say that the statement is true. If the statement is not true, it is false.

One of the statements in the argument is called the conclusion. The conclusion is the statement that is intended to be proved. Consider the following argument:

Calculus II will be no harder than Calculus I. Susan did well in Calculus I. So, Susan should do well in Calculus II.

Here the conclusion is that Susan should do well in Calculus II. The other two sentences are premises. Premises are the reasons offered for believing that the conclusion is true.

## 2.1.1 Standard Form

Now, to make the argument easier to evaluate, we will put it into what is called “standard form.” To put an argument in standard form, write each premise on a separate, numbered line. Draw a line underneath the last premise, the write the conclusion underneath the line.

• Calculus II will be no harder than Calculus I.
• Susan did well in Calculus I.
• Susan should do well in Calculus II.

Now that we have the argument in standard form, we can talk about premise 1, premise 2, and all clearly be referring to the same thing.

## 2.1.2 Indicator Words

Unfortunately, when people present arguments, they rarely put them in standard form. So, we have to decide which statement is intended to be the conclusion, and which are the premises. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the conclusion comes at the end. The conclusion is often at the beginning of the passage, but could even be in the middle. A better way to identify premises and conclusions is to look for indicator words. Indicator words are words that signal that statement following the indicator is a premise or conclusion. The example above used a common indicator word for a conclusion, ‘so.’ The other common conclusion indicator, as you can probably guess, is ‘therefore.’ This table lists the indicator words you might encounter.

Therefore Since
So Because
Thus For
Hence Is implied by
Consequently For the reason that
Implies that
It follows that

Each argument will likely use only one indicator word or phrase. When the conlusion is at the end, it will generally be preceded by a conclusion indicator. Everything else, then, is a premise. When the conclusion comes at the beginning, the next sentence will usually be introduced by a premise indicator. All of the following sentences will also be premises.

For example, here’s our previous argument rewritten to use a premise indicator:

Susan should do well in Calculus II, because Calculus II will be no harder than Calculus I, and Susan did well in Calculus I.

Sometimes, an argument will contain no indicator words at all. In that case, the best thing to do is to determine which of the premises would logically follow from the others. If there is one, then it is the conclusion. Here is an example:

Spot is a mammal. All dogs are mammals, and Spot is a dog.

The first sentence logically follows from the others, so it is the conclusion. When using this method, we are forced to assume that the person giving the argument is rational and logical, which might not be true.

## 2.1.3 Non-Arguments

One thing that complicates our task of identifying arguments is that there are many passages that, although they look like arguments, are not arguments. The most common types are:

• Explanations
• Mere asssertions
• Conditional statements
• Loosely connected statements

Explanations can be tricky, because they often use one of our indicator words. Consider this passage:

Abraham Lincoln died because he was shot.

If this were an argument, then the conclusion would be that Abraham Lincoln died, since the other statement is introduced by a premise indicator. If this is an argument, though, it’s a strange one. Do you really think that someone would be trying to prove that Abraham Lincoln died? Surely everyone knows that he is dead. On the other hand, there might be people who don’t know how he died. This passage does not attempt to prove that something is true, but instead attempts to explain why it is true. To determine if a passage is an explanation or an argument, first find the statement that looks like the conclusion. Next, ask yourself if everyone likely already believes that statement to be true. If the answer to that question is yes, then the passage is an explanation.

Mere assertions are obviously not arguments. If a professor tells you simply that you will not get an A in her course this semester, she has not given you an argument. This is because she hasn’t given you any reasons to believe that the statement is true. If there are no premises, then there is no argument.

Conditional statements are sentences that have the form “If…, then….” A conditional statement asserts that if something is true, then something else would be true also. For example, imagine you are told, “If you have the winning lottery ticket, then you will win ten million dollars.” What is being claimed to be true, that you have the winning lottery ticket, or that you will win ten million dollars? Neither. The only thing claimed is the entire conditional. Conditionals can be premises, and they can be conclusions. They can be parts of arguments, but that cannot, on their own, be arguments themselves.

Finally, consider this passage:

I woke up this morning, then took a shower and got dressed. After breakfast, I worked on chapter 2 of the critical thinking text. I then took a break and drank some more coffee….

This might be a description of my day, but it’s not an argument. There’s nothing in the passage that plays the role of a premise or a conclusion. The passage doesn’t attempt to prove anything. Remember that arguments need a conclusion, there must be something that is the statement to be proved. Lacking that, it simply isn’t an argument, no matter how much it looks like one.

## 2.2 Evaluating Arguments

The first step in evaluating an argument is to determine what kind of argument it is. We initially categorize arguments as either deductive or inductive, defined roughly in terms of their goals. In deductive arguments, the truth of the premises is intended to absolutely establish the truth of the conclusion. For inductive arguments, the truth of the premises is only intended to establish the probable truth of the conclusion. We’ll focus on deductive arguments first, then examine inductive arguments in later chapters.

Once we have established that an argument is deductive, we then ask if it is valid. To say that an argument is valid is to claim that there is a very special logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion, such that if the premises are true, then the conclusion must also be true. Another way to state this is

An argument is valid if and only if it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.

An argument is invalid if and only if it is not valid.

Note that claiming that an argument is valid is not the same as claiming that it has a true conclusion, nor is it to claim that the argument has true premises. Claiming that an argument is valid is claiming nothing more that the premises, if they were true , would be enough to make the conclusion true. For example, is the following argument valid or not?

• If pigs fly, then an increase in the minimum wage will be approved next term.
• An increase in the minimum wage will be approved next term.

The argument is indeed valid. If the two premises were true, then the conclusion would have to be true also. What about this argument?

• All dogs are mammals
• Spot is a mammal.
• Spot is a dog.

In this case, both of the premises are true and the conclusion is true. The question to ask, though, is whether the premises absolutely guarantee that the conclusion is true. The answer here is no. The two premises could be true and the conclusion false if Spot were a cat, whale, etc.

Neither of these arguments are good. The second fails because it is invalid. The two premises don’t prove that the conclusion is true. The first argument is valid, however. So, the premises would prove that the conclusion is true, if those premises were themselves true. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, I guess, considering what would be dropping from the sky) pigs don’t fly.

These examples give us two important ways that deductive arguments can fail. The can fail because they are invalid, or because they have at least one false premise. Of course, these are not mutually exclusive, an argument can be both invalid and have a false premise.

If the argument is valid, and has all true premises, then it is a sound argument. Sound arguments always have true conclusions.

A deductively valid argument with all true premises.

Inductive arguments are never valid, since the premises only establish the probable truth of the conclusion. So, we evaluate inductive arguments according to their strength. A strong inductive argument is one in which the truth of the premises really do make the conclusion probably true. An argument is weak if the truth of the premises fail to establish the probable truth of the conclusion.

There is a significant difference between valid/invalid and strong/weak. If an argument is not valid, then it is invalid. The two categories are mutually exclusive and exhaustive. There can be no such thing as an argument being more valid than another valid argument. Validity is all or nothing. Inductive strength, however, is on a continuum. A strong inductive argument can be made stronger with the addition of another premise. More evidence can raise the probability of the conclusion. A valid argument cannot be made more valid with an additional premise. Why not? If the argument is valid, then the premises were enough to absolutely guarantee the truth of the conclusion. Adding another premise won’t give any more guarantee of truth than was already there. If it could, then the guarantee wasn’t absolute before, and the original argument wasn’t valid in the first place.

## 2.3 Counterexamples

One way to prove an argument to be invalid is to use a counterexample. A counterexample is a consistent story in which the premises are true and the conclusion false. Consider the argument above:

By pointing out that Spot could have been a cat, I have told a story in which the premises are true, but the conclusion is false.

Here’s another one:

• If it is raining, then the sidewalks are wet.
• The sidewalks are wet.
• It is raining.

The sprinklers might have been on. If so, then the sidewalks would be wet, even if it weren’t raining.

Counterexamples can be very useful for demonstrating invalidity. Keep in mind, though, that validity can never be proved with the counterexample method. If the argument is valid, then it will be impossible to give a counterexample to it. If you can’t come up with a counterexample, however, that does not prove the argument to be valid. It may only mean that you’re not creative enough.

• An argument is a set of statements; one is the conclusion, the rest are premises.
• The conclusion is the statement that the argument is trying to prove.
• The premises are the reasons offered for believing the conclusion to be true.
• Explanations, conditional sentences, and mere assertions are not arguments.
• Deductive reasoning attempts to absolutely guarantee the truth of the conclusion.
• Inductive reasoning attempts to show that the conclusion is probably true.
• In a valid argument, it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.
• In an invalid argument, it is possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.
• A sound argument is valid and has all true premises.
• An inductively strong argument is one in which the truth of the premises makes the the truth of the conclusion probable.
• An inductively weak argument is one in which the truth of the premises do not make the conclusion probably true.
• A counterexample is a consistent story in which the premises of an argument are true and the conclusion is false. Counterexamples can be used to prove that arguments are deductively invalid.

( Cleese and Chapman 1980 ) . ↩︎

## Critical thinking arguments for beginners

Critical thinking is one of the most valuable sets of life skills you can ever have and it’s never too late to learn them. People who can think critically are better at problem solving of all kinds, whether at school or work, in ordinary daily life, and even in crises. You can practice critical thinking by working through typical arguments from premises to conclusions.

You need no special qualifications to become a strong critical thinker, and can’t pick it up simply from reading books about critical thinking. The only way to hone critical thinking skills is to practice critical thinking.

## What is critical thinking?

Let’s first illustrate the answer to this question by taking a look at how we can think critically about potential misinformation online.

Your friend is a supporter of another party and expresses outrage at the alleged law-breaking, election influencing, and reduced chances for her own party candidate. Many other friends pile in with sympathetic and equally outraged comments, or new allegations.

Let’s say that your initial suspicions after asking yourself these questions are enough that you do a quick web search for the story.

Your search reveals that credible sources have already uncovered the photo as having been manipulated and spread by an online political group. It was originally a local news story about a crashed postal truck in another country five years earlier and has no relationship whatsoever to the current election in your country…

To apply critical thinking in real life, you also need to possess the right attitude to problem solving, as well as the critical thinking skills themselves.

## What are critical thinking arguments?

Let’s now look at some of the basic building blocks underpinning critical thinking arguments for beginners.

## Deductive reasoning

Deductive reasoning attempts to absolutely guarantee a conclusion’s truth through logic. If a deductive argument’s premises are true, it should be impossible for its conclusion to be false. For example:

## Inductive reasoning

Do note that in either case, straight assertions, explanations or conditional sentences are not arguments.

## How do I assess a critical thinking argument?

If an argument is said to be ‘valid’, it means that it is impossible for the conclusion to be false if the premises are true. If an argument is ‘invalid’, it is possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.

When an argument is inductively strong, the truth of the premises makes the the truth of the conclusion probable. In contrast, in an inductively ‘weak’ argument, the truth of the premises do not make the truth of the conclusion probable.

## Counterexamples

All of these fundamentals can be applied both to simple practice arguments and then to more complex problems of the type you might encounter in real life.

## How can I practice critical thinking arguments for beginners?

Now that you have the basic tools and concepts for putting together a critical thinking argument, you can look  out for real life examples to practice with.

## News stories

Social media, corporate statements.

Evaluate claims made by big corporations in public statements and annual reports alongside their actions and impacts. For example, if a major oil company claims that it is working to combat climate change, how strong, valid and sound are their arguments?

## Conclusion…

Whatever your starting point, we hope this article has set you on the road to becoming a critical thinker, and that these developing skills might open new doors at school, at work or in other areas of life. The world needs more critical thinking at all levels and your contribution might one day be valuable.

## You may also like

Best critical thinking podcasts, mind mapping for critical thinking: boost analytical skills effortlessly, critical thinking under pressure, 5 critical thinking exercises for a healthy and alert brain, download this free ebook.

## Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking

(10 reviews)

Matthew Van Cleave, Lansing Community College

Publisher: Matthew J. Van Cleave

Language: English

## Formats Available

Conditions of use.

Reviewed by "yusef" Alexander Hayes, Professor, North Shore Community College on 6/9/21

Formal and informal reasoning, argument structure, and fallacies are covered comprehensively, meeting the author's goal of both depth and succinctness. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

Formal and informal reasoning, argument structure, and fallacies are covered comprehensively, meeting the author's goal of both depth and succinctness.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

The book is accurate.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

While many modern examples are used, and they are helpful, they are not necessarily needed. The usefulness of logical principles and skills have proved themselves, and this text presents them clearly with many examples.

Clarity rating: 5

It is obvious that the author cares about their subject, audience, and students. The text is comprehensible and interesting.

Consistency rating: 5

The format is easy to understand and is consistent in framing.

Modularity rating: 5

This text would be easy to adapt.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The organization is excellent, my one suggestion would be a concluding chapter.

Interface rating: 5

I accessed the PDF version and it would be easy to work with.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

The writing is excellent.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

This is not an offensive text.

Reviewed by Susan Rottmann, Part-time Lecturer, University of Southern Maine on 3/2/21

I reviewed this book for a course titled "Creative and Critical Inquiry into Modern Life." It won't meet all my needs for that course, but I haven't yet found a book that would. I wanted to review this one because it states in the preface that it... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

I reviewed this book for a course titled "Creative and Critical Inquiry into Modern Life." It won't meet all my needs for that course, but I haven't yet found a book that would. I wanted to review this one because it states in the preface that it fits better for a general critical thinking course than for a true logic course. I'm not sure that I'd agree. I have been using Browne and Keeley's "Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking," and I think that book is a better introduction to critical thinking for non-philosophy majors. However, the latter is not open source so I will figure out how to get by without it in the future. Overall, the book seems comprehensive if the subject is logic. The index is on the short-side, but fine. However, one issue for me is that there are no page numbers on the table of contents, which is pretty annoying if you want to locate particular sections.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

I didn't find any errors. In general the book uses great examples. However, they are very much based in the American context, not for an international student audience. Some effort to broaden the chosen examples would make the book more widely applicable.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

I think the book will remain relevant because of the nature of the material that it addresses, however there will be a need to modify the examples in future editions and as the social and political context changes.

Clarity rating: 3

The text is lucid, but I think it would be difficult for introductory-level students who are not philosophy majors. For example, in Browne and Keeley's "Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking," the sub-headings are very accessible, such as "Experts cannot rescue us, despite what they say" or "wishful thinking: perhaps the biggest single speed bump on the road to critical thinking." By contrast, Van Cleave's "Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking" has more subheadings like this: "Using your own paraphrases of premises and conclusions to reconstruct arguments in standard form" or "Propositional logic and the four basic truth functional connectives." If students are prepared very well for the subject, it would work fine, but for students who are newly being introduced to critical thinking, it is rather technical.

It seems to be very consistent in terms of its terminology and framework.

Modularity rating: 4

The book is divided into 4 chapters, each having many sub-chapters. In that sense, it is readily divisible and modular. However, as noted above, there are no page numbers on the table of contents, which would make assigning certain parts rather frustrating. Also, I'm not sure why the book is only four chapter and has so many subheadings (for instance 17 in Chapter 2) and a length of 242 pages. Wouldn't it make more sense to break up the book into shorter chapters? I think this would make it easier to read and to assign in specific blocks to students.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

The organization of the book is fine overall, although I think adding page numbers to the table of contents and breaking it up into more separate chapters would help it to be more easily navigable.

Interface rating: 4

The book is very simply presented. In my opinion it is actually too simple. There are few boxes or diagrams that highlight and explain important points.

The text seems fine grammatically. I didn't notice any errors.

The book is written with an American audience in mind, but I did not notice culturally insensitive or offensive parts.

Overall, this book is not for my course, but I think it could work well in a philosophy course.

Reviewed by Daniel Lee, Assistant Professor of Economics and Leadership, Sweet Briar College on 11/11/19

This textbook is not particularly comprehensive (4 chapters long), but I view that as a benefit. In fact, I recommend it for use outside of traditional logic classes, but rather interdisciplinary classes that evaluate argument read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

This textbook is not particularly comprehensive (4 chapters long), but I view that as a benefit. In fact, I recommend it for use outside of traditional logic classes, but rather interdisciplinary classes that evaluate argument

To the best of my ability, I regard this content as accurate, error-free, and unbiased

The book is broadly relevant and up-to-date, with a few stray temporal references (sydney olympics, particular presidencies). I don't view these time-dated examples as problematic as the logical underpinnings are still there and easily assessed

Clarity rating: 4

My only pushback on clarity is I didn't find the distinction between argument and explanation particularly helpful/useful/easy to follow. However, this experience may have been unique to my class.

To the best of my ability, I regard this content as internally consistent

I found this text quite modular, and was easily able to integrate other texts into my lessons and disregard certain chapters or sub-sections

The book had a logical and consistent structure, but to the extent that there are only 4 chapters, there isn't much scope for alternative approaches here

No problems with the book's interface

The text is grammatically sound

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

Perhaps the text could have been more universal in its approach. While I didn't find the book insensitive per-se, logic can be tricky here because the point is to evaluate meaningful (non-trivial) arguments, but any argument with that sense of gravity can also be traumatic to students (abortion, death penalty, etc)

Reviewed by Lisa N. Thomas-Smith, Graduate Part-time Instructor, CU Boulder on 7/1/19

The text covers all the relevant technical aspects of introductory logic and critical thinking, and covers them well. A separate glossary would be quite helpful to students. However, the terms are clearly and thoroughly explained within the text,... read more

The text covers all the relevant technical aspects of introductory logic and critical thinking, and covers them well. A separate glossary would be quite helpful to students. However, the terms are clearly and thoroughly explained within the text, and the index is very thorough.

The content is excellent. The text is thorough and accurate with no errors that I could discern. The terminology and exercises cover the material nicely and without bias.

The text should easily stand the test of time. The exercises are excellent and would be very helpful for students to internalize correct critical thinking practices. Because of the logical arrangement of the text and the many sub-sections, additional material should be very easy to add.

The text is extremely clearly and simply written. I anticipate that a diligent student could learn all of the material in the text with little additional instruction. The examples are relevant and easy to follow.

The text did not confuse terms or use inconsistent terminology, which is very important in a logic text. The discipline often uses multiple terms for the same concept, but this text avoids that trap nicely.

The text is fairly easily divisible. Since there are only four chapters, those chapters include large blocks of information. However, the chapters themselves are very well delineated and could be easily broken up so that parts could be left out or covered in a different order from the text.

The flow of the text is excellent. All of the information is handled solidly in an order that allows the student to build on the information previously covered.

The PDF Table of Contents does not include links or page numbers which would be very helpful for navigation. Other than that, the text was very easy to navigate. All the images, charts, and graphs were very clear

I found no grammatical errors in the text.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

The text including examples and exercises did not seem to be offensive or insensitive in any specific way. However, the examples included references to black and white people, but few others. Also, the text is very American specific with many examples from and for an American audience. More diversity, especially in the examples, would be appropriate and appreciated.

Reviewed by Leslie Aarons, Associate Professor of Philosophy, CUNY LaGuardia Community College on 5/16/19

This is an excellent introductory (first-year) Logic and Critical Thinking textbook. The book covers the important elementary information, clearly discussing such things as the purpose and basic structure of an argument; the difference between an... read more

This is an excellent introductory (first-year) Logic and Critical Thinking textbook. The book covers the important elementary information, clearly discussing such things as the purpose and basic structure of an argument; the difference between an argument and an explanation; validity; soundness; and the distinctions between an inductive and a deductive argument in accessible terms in the first chapter. It also does a good job introducing and discussing informal fallacies (Chapter 4). The incorporation of opportunities to evaluate real-world arguments is also very effective. Chapter 2 also covers a number of formal methods of evaluating arguments, such as Venn Diagrams and Propositional logic and the four basic truth functional connectives, but to my mind, it is much more thorough in its treatment of Informal Logic and Critical Thinking skills, than it is of formal logic. I also appreciated that Van Cleave’s book includes exercises with answers and an index, but there is no glossary; which I personally do not find detracts from the book's comprehensiveness.

Overall, Van Cleave's book is error-free and unbiased. The language used is accessible and engaging. There were no glaring inaccuracies that I was able to detect.

Van Cleave's Textbook uses relevant, contemporary content that will stand the test of time, at least for the next few years. Although some examples use certain subjects like former President Obama, it does so in a useful manner that inspires the use of critical thinking skills. There are an abundance of examples that inspire students to look at issues from many different political viewpoints, challenging students to practice evaluating arguments, and identifying fallacies. Many of these exercises encourage students to critique issues, and recognize their own inherent reader-biases and challenge their own beliefs--hallmarks of critical thinking.

As mentioned previously, the author has an accessible style that makes the content relatively easy to read and engaging. He also does a suitable job explaining jargon/technical language that is introduced in the textbook.

Van Cleave uses terminology consistently and the chapters flow well. The textbook orients the reader by offering effective introductions to new material, step-by-step explanations of the material, as well as offering clear summaries of each lesson.

This textbook's modularity is really quite good. Its language and structure are not overly convoluted or too-lengthy, making it convenient for individual instructors to adapt the materials to suit their methodological preferences.

The topics in the textbook are presented in a logical and clear fashion. The structure of the chapters are such that it is not necessary to have to follow the chapters in their sequential order, and coverage of material can be adapted to individual instructor's preferences.

The textbook is free of any problematic interface issues. Topics, sections and specific content are accessible and easy to navigate. Overall it is user-friendly.

I did not find any significant grammatical issues with the textbook.

The textbook is not culturally insensitive, making use of a diversity of inclusive examples. Materials are especially effective for first-year critical thinking/logic students.

I intend to adopt Van Cleave's textbook for a Critical Thinking class I am teaching at the Community College level. I believe that it will help me facilitate student-learning, and will be a good resource to build additional classroom activities from the materials it provides.

Reviewed by Jennie Harrop, Chair, Department of Professional Studies, George Fox University on 3/27/18

While the book is admirably comprehensive, its extensive details within a few short chapters may feel overwhelming to students. The author tackles an impressive breadth of concepts in Chapter 1, 2, 3, and 4, which leads to 50-plus-page chapters... read more

While the book is admirably comprehensive, its extensive details within a few short chapters may feel overwhelming to students. The author tackles an impressive breadth of concepts in Chapter 1, 2, 3, and 4, which leads to 50-plus-page chapters that are dense with statistical analyses and critical vocabulary. These topics are likely better broached in manageable snippets rather than hefty single chapters.

The ideas addressed in Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking are accurate but at times notably political. While politics are effectively used to exemplify key concepts, some students may be distracted by distinct political leanings.

The terms and definitions included are relevant, but the examples are specific to the current political, cultural, and social climates, which could make the materials seem dated in a few years without intentional and consistent updates.

While the reasoning is accurate, the author tends to complicate rather than simplify -- perhaps in an effort to cover a spectrum of related concepts. Beginning readers are likely to be overwhelmed and under-encouraged by his approach.

Consistency rating: 3

The four chapters are somewhat consistent in their play of definition, explanation, and example, but the structure of each chapter varies according to the concepts covered. In the third chapter, for example, key ideas are divided into sub-topics numbering from 3.1 to 3.10. In the fourth chapter, the sub-divisions are further divided into sub-sections numbered 4.1.1-4.1.5, 4.2.1-4.2.2, and 4.3.1 to 4.3.6. Readers who are working quickly to master new concepts may find themselves mired in similarly numbered subheadings, longing for a grounded concepts on which to hinge other key principles.

Modularity rating: 3

The book's four chapters make it mostly self-referential. The author would do well to beak this text down into additional subsections, easing readers' accessibility.

The content of the book flows logically and well, but the information needs to be better sub-divided within each larger chapter, easing the student experience.

The book's interface is effective, allowing readers to move from one section to the next with a single click. Additional sub-sections would ease this interplay even further.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

Some minor errors throughout.

For the most part, the book is culturally neutral, avoiding direct cultural references in an effort to remain relevant.

Reviewed by Yoichi Ishida, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Ohio University on 2/1/18

This textbook covers enough topics for a first-year course on logic and critical thinking. Chapter 1 covers the basics as in any standard textbook in this area. Chapter 2 covers propositional logic and categorical logic. In propositional logic,... read more

This textbook covers enough topics for a first-year course on logic and critical thinking. Chapter 1 covers the basics as in any standard textbook in this area. Chapter 2 covers propositional logic and categorical logic. In propositional logic, this textbook does not cover suppositional arguments, such as conditional proof and reductio ad absurdum. But other standard argument forms are covered. Chapter 3 covers inductive logic, and here this textbook introduces probability and its relationship with cognitive biases, which are rarely discussed in other textbooks. Chapter 4 introduces common informal fallacies. The answers to all the exercises are given at the end. However, the last set of exercises is in Chapter 3, Section 5. There are no exercises in the rest of the chapter. Chapter 4 has no exercises either. There is index, but no glossary.

The textbook is accurate.

The content of this textbook will not become obsolete soon.

The textbook is written clearly.

The textbook is internally consistent.

The textbook is fairly modular. For example, Chapter 3, together with a few sections from Chapter 1, can be used as a short introduction to inductive logic.

The textbook is well-organized.

There are no interface issues.

I did not find any grammatical errors.

This textbook is relevant to a first semester logic or critical thinking course.

Reviewed by Payal Doctor, Associate Professro, LaGuardia Community College on 2/1/18

This text is a beginner textbook for arguments and propositional logic. It covers the basics of identifying arguments, building arguments, and using basic logic to construct propositions and arguments. It is quite comprehensive for a beginner... read more

This text is a beginner textbook for arguments and propositional logic. It covers the basics of identifying arguments, building arguments, and using basic logic to construct propositions and arguments. It is quite comprehensive for a beginner book, but seems to be a good text for a course that needs a foundation for arguments. There are exercises on creating truth tables and proofs, so it could work as a logic primer in short sessions or with the addition of other course content.

The books is accurate in the information it presents. It does not contain errors and is unbiased. It covers the essential vocabulary clearly and givens ample examples and exercises to ensure the student understands the concepts

The content of the book is up to date and can be easily updated. Some examples are very current for analyzing the argument structure in a speech, but for this sort of text understandable examples are important and the author uses good examples.

The book is clear and easy to read. In particular, this is a good text for community college students who often have difficulty with reading comprehension. The language is straightforward and concepts are well explained.

The book is consistent in terminology, formatting, and examples. It flows well from one topic to the next, but it is also possible to jump around the text without loosing the voice of the text.

The books is broken down into sub units that make it easy to assign short blocks of content at a time. Later in the text, it does refer to a few concepts that appear early in that text, but these are all basic concepts that must be used to create a clear and understandable text. No sections are too long and each section stays on topic and relates the topic to those that have come before when necessary.

The flow of the text is logical and clear. It begins with the basic building blocks of arguments, and practice identifying more and more complex arguments is offered. Each chapter builds up from the previous chapter in introducing propositional logic, truth tables, and logical arguments. A select number of fallacies are presented at the end of the text, but these are related to topics that were presented before, so it makes sense to have these last.

The text is free if interface issues. I used the PDF and it worked fine on various devices without loosing formatting.

1. The book contains no grammatical errors.

The text is culturally sensitive, but examples used are a bit odd and may be objectionable to some students. For instance, President Obama's speech on Syria is used to evaluate an extended argument. This is an excellent example and it is explained well, but some who disagree with Obama's policies may have trouble moving beyond their own politics. However, other examples look at issues from all political viewpoints and ask students to evaluate the argument, fallacy, etc. and work towards looking past their own beliefs. Overall this book does use a variety of examples that most students can understand and evaluate.

My favorite part of this book is that it seems to be written for community college students. My students have trouble understanding readings in the New York Times, so it is nice to see a logic and critical thinking text use real language that students can understand and follow without the constant need of a dictionary.

Reviewed by Rebecca Owen, Adjunct Professor, Writing, Chemeketa Community College on 6/20/17

This textbook is quite thorough--there are conversational explanations of argument structure and logic. I think students will be happy with the conversational style this author employs. Also, there are many examples and exercises using current... read more

This textbook is quite thorough--there are conversational explanations of argument structure and logic. I think students will be happy with the conversational style this author employs. Also, there are many examples and exercises using current events, funny scenarios, or other interesting ways to evaluate argument structure and validity. The third section, which deals with logical fallacies, is very clear and comprehensive. My only critique of the material included in the book is that the middle section may be a bit dense and math-oriented for learners who appreciate the more informal, informative style of the first and third section. Also, the book ends rather abruptly--it moves from a description of a logical fallacy to the answers for the exercises earlier in the text.

The content is very reader-friendly, and the author writes with authority and clarity throughout the text. There are a few surface-level typos (Starbuck's instead of Starbucks, etc.). None of these small errors detract from the quality of the content, though.

One thing I really liked about this text was the author's wide variety of examples. To demonstrate different facets of logic, he used examples from current media, movies, literature, and many other concepts that students would recognize from their daily lives. The exercises in this text also included these types of pop-culture references, and I think students will enjoy the familiarity--as well as being able to see the logical structures behind these types of references. I don't think the text will need to be updated to reflect new instances and occurrences; the author did a fine job at picking examples that are relatively timeless. As far as the subject matter itself, I don't think it will become obsolete any time soon.

The author writes in a very conversational, easy-to-read manner. The examples used are quite helpful. The third section on logical fallacies is quite easy to read, follow, and understand. A student in an argument writing class could benefit from this section of the book. The middle section is less clear, though. A student learning about the basics of logic might have a hard time digesting all of the information contained in chapter two. This material might be better in two separate chapters. I think the author loses the balance of a conversational, helpful tone and focuses too heavily on equations.

Consistency rating: 4

Terminology in this book is quite consistent--the key words are highlighted in bold. Chapters 1 and 3 follow a similar organizational pattern, but chapter 2 is where the material becomes more dense and equation-heavy. I also would have liked a closing passage--something to indicate to the reader that we've reached the end of the chapter as well as the book.

I liked the overall structure of this book. If I'm teaching an argumentative writing class, I could easily point the students to the chapters where they can identify and practice identifying fallacies, for instance. The opening chapter is clear in defining the necessary terms, and it gives the students an understanding of the toolbox available to them in assessing and evaluating arguments. Even though I found the middle section to be dense, smaller portions could be assigned.

The author does a fine job connecting each defined term to the next. He provides examples of how each defined term works in a sentence or in an argument, and then he provides practice activities for students to try. The answers for each question are listed in the final pages of the book. The middle section feels like the heaviest part of the whole book--it would take the longest time for a student to digest if assigned the whole chapter. Even though this middle section is a bit heavy, it does fit the overall structure and flow of the book. New material builds on previous chapters and sub-chapters. It ends abruptly--I didn't realize that it had ended, and all of a sudden I found myself in the answer section for those earlier exercises.

The simple layout is quite helpful! There is nothing distracting, image-wise, in this text. The table of contents is clearly arranged, and each topic is easy to find.

Tiny edits could be made (Starbuck's/Starbucks, for one). Otherwise, it is free of distracting grammatical errors.

This text is quite culturally relevant. For instance, there is one example that mentions the rumors of Barack Obama's birthplace as somewhere other than the United States. This example is used to explain how to analyze an argument for validity. The more "sensational" examples (like the Obama one above) are helpful in showing argument structure, and they can also help students see how rumors like this might gain traction--as well as help to show students how to debunk them with their newfound understanding of argument and logic.

The writing style is excellent for the subject matter, especially in the third section explaining logical fallacies. Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this text!

Reviewed by Laurel Panser, Instructor, Riverland Community College on 6/20/17

This is a review of Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, an open source book version 1.4 by Matthew Van Cleave. The comparison book used was Patrick J. Hurley’s A Concise Introduction to Logic 12th Edition published by Cengage as well as... read more

This is a review of Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, an open source book version 1.4 by Matthew Van Cleave. The comparison book used was Patrick J. Hurley’s A Concise Introduction to Logic 12th Edition published by Cengage as well as the 13th edition with the same title. Lori Watson is the second author on the 13th edition.

Competing with Hurley is difficult with respect to comprehensiveness. For example, Van Cleave’s book is comprehensive to the extent that it probably covers at least two-thirds or more of what is dealt with in most introductory, one-semester logic courses. Van Cleave’s chapter 1 provides an overview of argumentation including discerning non-arguments from arguments, premises versus conclusions, deductive from inductive arguments, validity, soundness and more. Much of Van Cleave’s chapter 1 parallel’s Hurley’s chapter 1. Hurley’s chapter 3 regarding informal fallacies is comprehensive while Van Cleave’s chapter 4 on this topic is less extensive. Categorical propositions are a topic in Van Cleave’s chapter 2; Hurley’s chapters 4 and 5 provide more instruction on this, however. Propositional logic is another topic in Van Cleave’s chapter 2; Hurley’s chapters 6 and 7 provide more information on this, though. Van Cleave did discuss messy issues of language meaning briefly in his chapter 1; that is the topic of Hurley’s chapter 2.

Van Cleave’s book includes exercises with answers and an index. A glossary was not included.

Reviews of open source textbooks typically include criteria besides comprehensiveness. These include comments on accuracy of the information, whether the book will become obsolete soon, jargon-free clarity to the extent that is possible, organization, navigation ease, freedom from grammar errors and cultural relevance; Van Cleave’s book is fine in all of these areas. Further criteria for open source books includes modularity and consistency of terminology. Modularity is defined as including blocks of learning material that are easy to assign to students. Hurley’s book has a greater degree of modularity than Van Cleave’s textbook. The prose Van Cleave used is consistent.

Van Cleave’s book will not become obsolete soon.

Van Cleave’s book has accessible prose.

Van Cleave used terminology consistently.

Van Cleave’s book has a reasonable degree of modularity.

Van Cleave’s book is organized. The structure and flow of his book is fine.

Problems with navigation are not present.

Grammar problems were not present.

Van Cleave’s book is culturally relevant.

Van Cleave’s book is appropriate for some first semester logic courses.

Chapter 1: Reconstructing and analyzing arguments

• 1.1 What is an argument?
• 1.2 Identifying arguments
• 1.3 Arguments vs. explanations
• 1.4 More complex argument structures
• 1.5 Using your own paraphrases of premises and conclusions to reconstruct arguments in standard form
• 1.6 Validity
• 1.7 Soundness
• 1.8 Deductive vs. inductive arguments
• 1.9 Arguments with missing premises
• 1.10 Assuring, guarding, and discounting
• 1.11 Evaluative language
• 1.12 Evaluating a real-life argument

Chapter 2: Formal methods of evaluating arguments

• 2.1 What is a formal method of evaluation and why do we need them?
• 2.2 Propositional logic and the four basic truth functional connectives
• 2.3 Negation and disjunction
• 2.4 Using parentheses to translate complex sentences
• 2.5 “Not both” and “neither nor”
• 2.6 The truth table test of validity
• 2.7 Conditionals
• 2.8 “Unless”
• 2.9 Material equivalence
• 2.10 Tautologies, contradictions, and contingent statements
• 2.11 Proofs and the 8 valid forms of inference
• 2.12 How to construct proofs
• 2.13 Short review of propositional logic
• 2.14 Categorical logic
• 2.15 The Venn test of validity for immediate categorical inferences
• 2.16 Universal statements and existential commitment
• 2.17 Venn validity for categorical syllogisms

Chapter 3: Evaluating inductive arguments and probabilistic and statistical fallacies

• 3.1 Inductive arguments and statistical generalizations
• 3.2 Inference to the best explanation and the seven explanatory virtues
• 3.3 Analogical arguments
• 3.4 Causal arguments
• 3.5 Probability
• 3.6 The conjunction fallacy
• 3.7 The base rate fallacy
• 3.8 The small numbers fallacy
• 3.9 Regression to the mean fallacy
• 3.10 Gambler's fallacy

Chapter 4: Informal fallacies

• 4.1 Formal vs. informal fallacies
• 4.1.1 Composition fallacy
• 4.1.2 Division fallacy
• 4.1.3 Begging the question fallacy
• 4.1.4 False dichotomy
• 4.1.5 Equivocation
• 4.2 Slippery slope fallacies
• 4.2.1 Conceptual slippery slope
• 4.2.2 Causal slippery slope
• 4.3 Fallacies of relevance
• 4.3.2 Straw man
• 4.3.3 Tu quoque
• 4.3.4 Genetic
• 4.3.5 Appeal to consequences
• 4.3.6 Appeal to authority

## Ancillary Material

This is an introductory textbook in logic and critical thinking. The goal of the textbook is to provide the reader with a set of tools and skills that will enable them to identify and evaluate arguments. The book is intended for an introductory course that covers both formal and informal logic. As such, it is not a formal logic textbook, but is closer to what one would find marketed as a “critical thinking textbook.”

Matthew Van Cleave ,   PhD, Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, 2007.  VAP at Concordia College (Moorhead), 2008-2012.  Assistant Professor at Lansing Community College, 2012-2016. Professor at Lansing Community College, 2016-

## 2 Logic and the Study of Arguments

If we want to study how we ought to reason (normative) we should start by looking at the primary way that we do reason (descriptive): through the use of arguments. In order to develop a theory of good reasoning, we will start with an account of what an argument is and then proceed to talk about what constitutes a “good” argument.

## I. Arguments

• Arguments are a set of statements (premises and conclusion).
• The premises provide evidence, reasons, and grounds for the conclusion.
• The conclusion is what is being argued for.
• An argument attempts to draw some logical connection between the premises and the conclusion.
• And in doing so, the argument expresses an inference: a process of reasoning from the truth of the premises to the truth of the conclusion.

Example : The world will end on August 6, 2045. I know this because my dad told me so and my dad is smart.

In this instance, the conclusion is the first sentence (“The world will end…”); the premises (however dubious) are revealed in the second sentence (“I know this because…”).

## II. Statements

Conclusions and premises are articulated in the form of statements . Statements are sentences that can be determined to possess or lack truth. Some examples of true-or-false statements can be found below. (Notice that while some statements are categorically true or false, others may or may not be true depending on when they are made or who is making them.)

Examples of sentences that are statements:

• It is below 40°F outside.
• Oklahoma is north of Texas.
• The Denver Broncos will make it to the Super Bowl.
• Russell Westbrook is the best point guard in the league.
• I like broccoli.
• I shouldn’t eat French fries.
• Time travel is possible.
• If time travel is possible, then you can be your own father or mother.

However, there are many sentences that cannot so easily be determined to be true or false. For this reason, these sentences identified below are not considered statements.

• Questions: “What time is it?”
• Requests: “Please clean the kitchen.”
• Proposals: “Let’s go to the museum tomorrow.”

Question: Why are arguments only made up of statements?

First, we only believe statements . It doesn’t make sense to talk about believing questions, commands, requests or proposals. Contrast sentences on the left that are not statements with sentences on the right that are statements:

 Non-statements Statements What time is it? Do your homework. The time is 11:00 a.m. My teacher wants me to do my homework.

It would be non-sensical to say that we believe the non-statements (e.g. “I believe what time is it?”). But it makes perfect sense to say that we believe the statements (e.g. “I believe the time is 11 a.m.”). If conclusions are the statements being argued for, then they are also ideas we are being persuaded to believe. Therefore, only statements can be conclusions.

Second, only statements can provide reasons to believe.

• Q: Why should I believe that it is 11:00 a.m.? A: Because the clock says it is 11a.m.
• Q: Why should I believe that we are going to the museum tomorrow? A: Because today we are making plans to go.

Sentences that cannot be true or false cannot provide reasons to believe. So, if premises are meant to provide reasons to believe, then only statements can be premises.

## III. Representing Arguments

As we concern ourselves with arguments, we will want to represent our arguments in some way, indicating which statements are the premises and which statement is the conclusion. We shall represent arguments in two ways. For both ways, we will number the premises.

In order to identify the conclusion, we will either label the conclusion with a (c) or (conclusion). Or we will mark the conclusion with the ∴ symbol

Example Argument:

There will be a war in the next year. I know this because there has been a massive buildup in weapons. And every time there is a massive buildup in weapons, there is a war. My guru said the world will end on August 6, 2045.

• There has been a massive buildup in weapons.
• Every time there has been a massive buildup in weapons, there is a war.

(c) There will be a war in the next year.

∴ There will be a war in the next year.

Of course, arguments do not come labeled as such. And so we must be able to look at a passage and identify whether the passage contains an argument and if it does, we should also be identify which statements are the premises and which statement is the conclusion. This is harder than you might think!

There is no argument here. There is no statement being argued for. There are no statements being used as reasons to believe. This is simply a report of information.

The following are also not arguments:

Warnings: No lifeguard on duty. Be careful.

Associated claims: Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to the dark side.

When you have an argument, the passage will express some process of reasoning. There will be statements presented that serve to help the speaker building a case for the conclusion.

## IV. How to L ook for A rguments [1]

How do we identify arguments in real life? There are no easy, mechanical rules, and we usually have to rely on the context in order to determine which are the premises and the conclusions. But sometimes the job can be made easier by the presence of certain premise or conclusion indicators. For example, if a person makes a statement, and then adds “this is because …,” then it is quite likely that the first statement is presented as a conclusion, supported by the statements that come afterward. Other words in English that might be used to indicate the premises to follow include:

• firstly, secondly, …
• for, as, after all
• assuming that, in view of the fact that
• follows from, as shown / indicated by
• may be inferred / deduced / derived from

Of course whether such words are used to indicate premises or not depends on the context. For example, “since” has a very different function in a statement like “I have been here since noon,” unlike “X is an even number since X is divisible by 4.” In the first instance (“since noon”) “since” means “from.” In the second instance, “since” means “because.”

Conclusions, on the other hand, are often preceded by words like:

• therefore, so, it follows that
• hence, consequently
• suggests / proves / demonstrates that
• entails, implies

Here are some examples of passages that do not contain arguments.

1. When people sweat a lot they tend to drink more water. [Just a single statement, not enough to make an argument.]

2. Once upon a time there was a prince and a princess. They lived happily together and one day they decided to have a baby. But the baby grew up to be a nasty and cruel person and they regret it very much. [A chronological description of facts composed of statements but no premise or conclusion.]

3. Can you come to the meeting tomorrow? [A question that does not contain an argument.]

Do these passages contain arguments? If so, what are their conclusions?

• Cutting the interest rate will have no effect on the stock market this time around, as people have been expecting a rate cut all along. This factor has already been reflected in the market.
• So it is raining heavily and this building might collapse. But I don’t really care.
• Virgin would then dominate the rail system. Is that something the government should worry about? Not necessarily. The industry is regulated, and one powerful company might at least offer a more coherent schedule of services than the present arrangement has produced. The reason the industry was broken up into more than 100 companies at privatization was not operational, but political: the Conservative government thought it would thus be harder to renationalize (The Economist 12/16/2000).
• Bill will pay the ransom. After all, he loves his wife and children and would do everything to save them.
• All of Russia’s problems of human rights and democracy come back to three things: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. None works as well as it should. Parliament passes laws in a hurry, and has neither the ability nor the will to call high officials to account. State officials abuse human rights (either on their own, or on orders from on high) and work with remarkable slowness and disorganization. The courts almost completely fail in their role as the ultimate safeguard of freedom and order (The Economist 11/25/2000).
• Most mornings, Park Chang Woo arrives at a train station in central Seoul, South Korea’s capital. But he is not commuter. He is unemployed and goes there to kill time. Around him, dozens of jobless people pass their days drinking soju, a local version of vodka. For the moment, middle-aged Mr. Park would rather read a newspaper. He used to be a bricklayer for a small construction company in Pusan, a southern port city. But three years ago the country’s financial crisis cost him that job, so he came to Seoul, leaving his wife and two children behind. Still looking for work, he has little hope of going home any time soon (The Economist 11/25/2000).
• For a long time, astronomers suspected that Europa, one of Jupiter’s many moons, might harbour a watery ocean beneath its ice-covered surface. They were right. Now the technique used earlier this year to demonstrate the existence of the Europan ocean has been employed to detect an ocean on another Jovian satellite, Ganymede, according to work announced at the recent American Geo-physical Union meeting in San Francisco (The Economist 12/16/2000).
• There are no hard numbers, but the evidence from Asia’s expatriate community is unequivocal. Three years after its handover from Britain to China, Hong Kong is unlearning English. The city’s gweilos (Cantonese for “ghost men”) must go to ever greater lengths to catch the oldest taxi driver available to maximize their chances of comprehension. Hotel managers are complaining that they can no longer find enough English-speakers to act as receptionists. Departing tourists, polled at the airport, voice growing frustration at not being understood (The Economist 1/20/2001).

## V. Evaluating Arguments

Q: What does it mean for an argument to be good? What are the different ways in which arguments can be good? Good arguments:

• Are persuasive.
• Have premises that provide good evidence for the conclusion.
• Contain premises that are true.
• Reach a true conclusion.
• Provide the audience good reasons for accepting the conclusion.

The focus of logic is primarily about one type of goodness: The logical relationship between premises and conclusion.

An argument is good in this sense if the premises provide good evidence for the conclusion. But what does it mean for premises to provide good evidence? We need some new concepts to capture this idea of premises providing good logical support. In order to do so, we will first need to distinguish between two types of argument.

## VI. Two Types of Arguments

The two main types of arguments are called deductive and inductive arguments. We differentiate them in terms of the type of support that the premises are meant to provide for the conclusion.

Deductive Arguments are arguments in which the premises are meant to provide conclusive logical support for the conclusion.

1. All humans are mortal

2. Socrates is a human.

∴ Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

1. No student in this class will fail.

2. Mary is a student in this class.

∴ Therefore, Mary will not fail.

1. A intersects lines B and C.

2. Lines A and B form a 90-degree angle

3. Lines A and C form a 90-degree angle.

∴ B and C are parallel lines.

Inductive arguments are, by their very nature, risky arguments.

Arguments in which premises provide probable support for the conclusion.

Statistical Examples:

1. Ten percent of all customers in this restaurant order soda.

2. John is a customer.

∴ John will not order Soda..

1. Some students work on campus.

2. Bill is a student.

∴ Bill works on campus.

1. Vegas has the Carolina Panthers as a six-point favorite for the super bowl.

∴ Carolina will win the Super Bowl.

## VII. Good Deductive Arguments

The First Type of Goodness: Premises play their function – they provide conclusive logical support.

Deductive and inductive arguments have different aims. Deductive argument attempt to provide conclusive support or reasons; inductive argument attempt to provide probable reasons or support. So we must evaluate these two types of arguments.

Deductive arguments attempt to be valid.

To put validity in another way: if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true.

It is very important to note that validity has nothing to do with whether or not the premises are, in fact, true and whether or not the conclusion is in fact true; it merely has to do with a certain conditional claim. If the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true.

Q: What does this mean?

• The validity of an argument does not depend upon the actual world. Rather, it depends upon the world described by the premises.
• First, consider the world described by the premises. In this world, is it logically possible for the conclusion to be false? That is, can you even imagine a world in which the conclusion is false?

Reflection Questions:

• If you cannot, then why not?
• If you can, then provide an example of a valid argument.

You should convince yourself that validity is not just about the actual truth or falsity of the premises and conclusion. Rather, validity only has to do with a certain logical relationship between the truth of the premise and the truth of the conclusion. So the only possible combination that is ruled out by a valid argument is a set of true premises and false conclusion.

Let’s go back to example #1. Here are the premises:

1. All humans are mortal.

If both of these premises are true, then every human that we find must be a mortal. And this means, that it must be the case that if Socrates is a human, that Socrates is mortal.

• Can you have an invalid argument with a true premise?
• Can you have an invalid argument with true premises and a true conclusion?

The s econd type of goodness for deductive arguments: The premises provide us the right reasons to accept the conclusion.

Soundness V ersus V alidity:

Our original argument is a sound one:

∴ Socrates is mortal.

Question: Can a sound argument have a false conclusion?

## VIII. From Deductive Arguments to Inductive Arguments

Question: What happens if we mix around the premises and conclusion?

2. Socrates is mortal.

∴ Socrates is a human.

1. Socrates is mortal

∴ All humans are mortal.

Are these valid deductive arguments?

NO, but they are common inductive arguments.

Other examples :

Suppose that there are two opaque glass jars with different color marbles in them.

1. All the marbles in jar #1 are blue.

2. This marble is blue.

∴ This marble came from jar #1.

1. This marble came from jar #2.

2. This marble is red.

∴ All the marbles in jar #2 are red.

While this is a very risky argument, what if we drew 100 marbles from jar #2 and found that they were all red? Would this affect the second argument’s validity?

## IX. Inductive Arguments:

The aim of an inductive argument is different from the aim of deductive argument because the type of reasons we are trying to provide are different. Therefore, the function of the premises is different in deductive and inductive arguments. And again, we can split up goodness into two types when considering inductive arguments:

• The premises provide the right logical support.
• The premises provide the right type of reason.

Logical S upport:

Remember that for inductive arguments, the premises are intended to provide probable support for the conclusion. Thus, we shall begin by discussing a fairly rough, coarse-grained way of talking about probable support by introducing the notions of strong and weak inductive arguments.

A strong inductive argument:

• The vast majority of Europeans speak at least two languages.
• Sam is a European.

∴ Sam speaks two languages.

Weak inductive argument:

• This quarter is a fair coin.

∴ Therefore, the next coin flip will land heads.

• At least one dog in this town has rabies.
• Fido is a dog that lives in this town.

∴ Fido has rabies.

The R ight T ype of R easons. As we noted above, the right type of reasons are true statements. So what happens when we get an inductive argument that is good in the first sense (right type of logical support) and good in the second sense (the right type of reasons)? Corresponding to the notion of soundness for deductive arguments, we call inductive arguments that are good in both senses cogent arguments.

• With which of the following types of premises and conclusions can you have a strong inductive argument?
• With which of the following types of premises and conclusions can you have a cogent inductive argument?
 True True True False False True False False

## X. Steps for Evaluating Arguments:

• Read a passage and assess whether or not it contains an argument.
• If it does contain an argument, then identify the conclusion and premises.
• If yes, then assess it for soundness.
• If not, then treat it as an inductive argument (step 3).
• If the inductive argument is strong, then is it cogent?

## XI. Evaluating Real – World Arguments

An important part of evaluating arguments is not to represent the arguments of others in a deliberately weak way.

For example, suppose that I state the following:

All humans are mortal, so Socrates is mortal.

Is this valid? Not as it stands. But clearly, I believe that Socrates is a human being. Or I thought that was assumed in the conversation. That premise was clearly an implicit one.

So one of the things we can do in the evaluation of argument is to take an argument as it is stated, and represent it in a way such that it is a valid deductive argument or a strong inductive one. In doing so, we are making explicit what one would have to assume to provide a good argument (in the sense that the premises provide good – conclusive or probable – reason to accept the conclusion).

The teacher’s policy on extra credit was unfair because Sally was the only person to have a chance at receiving extra credit.

• Sally was the only person to have a chance at receiving extra credit.
• The teacher’s policy on extra credit is fair only if everyone gets a chance to receive extra credit.

Therefore, the teacher’s policy on extra credit was unfair.

Valid argument

Sally didn’t train very hard so she didn’t win the race.

• Sally didn’t train very hard.
• If you don’t train hard, you won’t win the race.

Therefore, Sally didn’t win the race.

Strong (not valid):

• If you won the race, you trained hard.
• Those who don’t train hard are likely not to win.

Therefore, Sally didn’t win.

Ordinary workers receive worker’s compensation benefits if they suffer an on-the-job injury. However, universities have no obligations to pay similar compensation to student athletes if they are hurt while playing sports. So, universities are not doing what they should.

• Ordinary workers receive worker’s compensation benefits if they suffer an on-the-job injury that prevents them working.
• Student athletes are just like ordinary workers except that their job is to play sports.
• So if student athletes are injured while playing sports, they should also be provided worker’s compensation benefits.
• Universities have no obligations to provide injured student athletes compensation.

Therefore, universities are not doing what they should.

Deductively valid argument

If Obama couldn’t implement a single-payer healthcare system in his first term as president, then the next president will not be able to implement a single-payer healthcare system.

• Obama couldn’t implement a single-payer healthcare system.
• In Obama’s first term as president, both the House and Senate were under Democratic control.
• The next president will either be dealing with the Republican-controlled house and senate or at best, a split legislature.
• Obama’s first term as president will be much easier than the next president’s term in terms of passing legislation.

Therefore, the next president will not be able to implement a single-payer healthcare system.

Strong inductive argument

Sam is weaker than John. Sam is slower than John. So Sam’s time on the obstacle will be slower than John’s.

• Sam is weaker than John.
• Sam is slower than John.
• A person’s strength and speed inversely correlate with their time on the obstacle course.

Therefore, Sam’s time will be slower than John’s.

## XII. Diagramming Arguments

All the arguments we’ve dealt with – except for the last two – have been fairly simple in that the premises always provided direct support for the conclusion. But in many arguments, such as the last one, there are often arguments within arguments.

Obama example :

• The next president will either be dealing with the Republican controlled house and senate or at best, a split legislature.

∴ The next president will not be able to implement a single-payer healthcare system.

It’s clear that premises #2 and #3 are used in support of #4. And #1 in combination with #4 provides support for the conclusion.

When we diagram arguments, the aim is to represent the logical relationships between premises and conclusion. More specifically, we want to identify what each premise supports and how.

This represents that 2+3 together provide support for 4

This represents that 4+1 together provide support for 5

When we say that 2+3 together or 4+1 together support some statement, we mean that the logical support of these statements are dependent upon each other. Without the other, these statements would not provide evidence for the conclusion. In order to identify when statements are dependent upon one another, we simply underline the set that are logically dependent upon one another for their evidential support. Every argument has a single conclusion, which the premises support; therefore, every argument diagram should point to the conclusion (c).

Sam Example:

• Sam is less flexible than John.
• A person’s strength and flexibility inversely correlate with their time on the obstacle course.

∴ Therefore, Sam’s time will be slower than John’s.

In some cases, different sets of premises provide evidence for the conclusion independently of one another. In the argument above, there are two logically independent arguments for the conclusion that Sam’s time will be slower than John’s. That Sam is weaker than John and that being weaker correlates with a slower time provide evidence for the conclusion that Sam will be slower than John. Completely independent of this argument is the fact that Sam is less flexible and that being less flexible corresponds with a slower time. The diagram above represent these logical relations by showing that #1 and #3 dependently provide support for #4. Independent of that argument, #2 and #3 also dependently provide support for #4. Therefore, there are two logically independent sets of premises that provide support for the conclusion.

Try diagramming the following argument for yourself. The structure of the argument has been provided below:

• All humans are mortal
• Socrates is human
• So Socrates is mortal.
• If you feed a mortal person poison, he will die.

∴ Therefore, Socrates has been fed poison, so he will die.

• This section is taken from http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/ and is in use under creative commons license. Some modifications have been made to the original content. ↵

## [A01] What is an argument?

Module: Argument analysis

• A02. The standard format
• A03. Validity
• A04. Soundness
• A05. Valid patterns
• A06. Validity and relevance
• A07. Hidden Assumptions
• A08. Inductive Reasoning
• A09. Good Arguments
• A10. Argument mapping
• A11. Analogical Arguments
• A12. More valid patterns
• A13. Arguing with other people

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A crucial part of critical thinking is to identify, construct, and evaluate arguments .

In everyday life, people often use "argument" to mean a quarrel between people. But in logic and critical thinking, an argument is a list of statements, one of which is the conclusion and the others are the premises or assumptions of the argument.

To give an argument is to provide a set of premises as reasons for accepting the conclusion. To give an argument is not necessarily to attack or criticize someone. Arguments can also be used to support other people's viewpoints.

Here is an example of an argument:

If you want to find a good job, you should work hard. You do want to find a good job. So you should work hard.

The first two sentences here are the premises of the argument, and the last sentence is the conclusion. To give this argument is to offer the premises as reasons for accepting the conclusion.

A few points to note:

• Dogmatic people tend to make assertions without giving reasons. When they are criticized they often fail to give arguments to defend their own opinions.
• To improve our critical thinking skills, we should develop the habit of giving good arguments to support our opinions.
• To defend an opinion, think about whether you can give more than one argument to support it. Also, think about potential objections to your opinion, e.g. arguments against your opinion. A good thinker will consider the arguments on both sides of an issue.

See if you can give arguments to support some of your beliefs.

• For example, do you think the economy is going to improve or worsen in the next six months? Why or why not? What arguments can you give to support your position?
• Or think about something different, do you think computers can have emotions? Again, what arguments can you give to support your viewpoint? Make sure that your arguments are composed of statements.

## §1. How to look for arguments

How do we identify arguments in real life? There are no easy mechanical rules, and we usually have to rely on the context in order to determine which are the premises and the conclusions. But sometimes the job can be made easier by the presence of certain premise or conclusion indicators. For example, if a person makes a statement, and then adds "this is because ...", then it is quite likely that the first statement is presented as a conclusion, supported by the statements that come afterwards. Other words in English that might be used to indicate the premises to follow include :

• firstly, secondly, ...
• for, as, after all,
• assuming that, in view of the fact that
• follows from, as shown / indicated by
• may be inferred / deduced / derived from

Of course whether such words are used to indicate premises or not depends on the context. For example, "since" has a very different function in a statement like "I have been here since noon", unlike "X is an even number since X is divisible by 4".

Conclusions, on the other hand, are often preceded by words like:

• therefore, so, it follows that
• hence, consequently
• suggests / proves / demonstrates that
• entails, implies

When people sweat a lot they tend to drink more water. [Just a single statement, not enough to make an argument.]

Once upon a time there was a prince and a princess. They lived happily together and one day they decided to have a baby. But the baby grew up to be a nasty and cruel person and they regret it very much. [A chronological description of facts composed of statements but no premise or conclusion.]

Can you come to the meeting tomorrow? [A question that does not contain an argument.]

Do these passages contain arguments? If so, what are their conclusions?

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## 8 Arguments and Critical Thinking

J. anthony blair, introduction [1].

This chapter discusses two different conceptions of argument, and then discusses the role of arguments in critical thinking. It is followed by a chapter in which David Hitchcock carefully analyses one common concept of an argument.

## 1. Two meanings of ‘argument’

The word ‘argument’ is used in a great many ways. Any thorough understanding of arguments requires understanding ‘argument’ in each of its senses or uses. These may be divided into two large groupings: arguments had or engaged in , and arguments made or used . I begin with the former.

## 1.1 A n ‘a rgument’ as something two parties have with each othe r, something they get into, the kind of ‘argument’ one has in mind in de scribing two people as “arguing all the time ”

For many people outside academia or the practice of law, an argument is a quarrel . It is usually a verbal quarrel, but it doesn’t have to use words. If dishes are flying or people are glaring at each other in angry silence, it can still be an argument. What makes a quarrel an argument is that it involves a communication between two or more parties (however dysfunctional the communication may be) in which the parties disagree and in which that disagreement and reasons, actual or alleged, motivating it are expressed—usually in words or other communicative gestures.

Quarrels are emotional. The participants experience and express emotions, although that feature is not exclusive to arguments that are quarrels. People can and do argue emotionally, and (or) when inspired by strong emotions, when they are not quarrelling. Heated arguments are not necessarily quarrels; but quarrels tend to be heated.

What makes quarrels emotional in some cases is that at least one party experiences the disagreement as representing some sort of personal attack, and so experiences his or her ego or sense of self-worth as being threatened. Fear is a reaction to a perceived threat, and anger is a way of coping with fear and also with embarrassment and shame. In other cases, the argument about the ostensible disagreement is a reminder of or a pretext for airing another, deeper grievance. Jealousy and resentment fuel quarrels. Traces of ego-involvement often surface even in what are supposed to be more civilized argumentative exchanges, such as scholarly disputes. Quarrels tend not to be efficient ways of resolving the disagreements that gives rise to them because the subject of a disagreement changes as the emotional attacks escalate or because the quarrel was often not really about that ostensible disagreement in the first place.

In teaching that ‘argument’ has different senses, it is misleading to leave the impression (as many textbooks do) that quarrels are the only species of argument of this genus. In fact they are just one instance of a large class of arguments in this sense of extended, expressed, disagreements between or among two or more parties.

A dispute is an argument in this sense that need not be a quarrel. It is a disagreement between usually two parties about the legality, or morality, or the propriety on some other basis, of a particular act or policy. It can be engaged in a civil way by the disputants or their proxies (e.g., their spokespersons or their lawyers). Sometimes only the disputing parties settle their difference; sometimes a third party such as a mediator, arbitrator or judge is called in to impose a settlement.

A debate is another argument of this general kind. Debates are more or less formalized or regimented verbal exchanges between parties who might disagree, but in any case who take up opposing sides on an issue. Procedural rules that govern turn-taking, time available for each turn, and topics that may be addressed are agreed to when political opponents debate one another. Strict and precise rules of order govern who may speak, who must be addressed, sometimes time limits for interventions, in parliamentary or congressional debates in political decision-making bodies, or in formal intercollegiate competitive debates. Usually the “opponent” directly addressed in the debate is not the party that each speaker is trying to influence, so although the expressed goal is to “win” the debate, winning does not entail getting the opponent to concede. Instead, it calls for convincing an on-looking party or audience—the judge of the debate or the jury in a courtroom or the television audience or the press or the electorate as a whole—of the superior merits of one’s case for the opinion being argued for in the debate.

To be distinguished from a debate and a dispute by such factors as scale is a controversy . Think of such issues as the abortion controversy, the climate change controversy, the same-sex marriage controversy, the LGBT rights controversy, the animal rights controversy. The participants are many—often millions. The issues are complex and there are many disputes about details involved, including sometimes even formal debates between representatives of different sides. Typically there is a range of positions, and there might be several different sides each with positions that vary one from another. A controversy typically occurs over an extended period of time, often years and sometime decades long. But an entire controversy can be called an argument, as in, “the argument over climate change.” Controversies tend to be unregulated, unlike debates but like quarrels, although they need not be particularly angry even when they are emotional. Like quarrels, and unlike debates, the conditions under which controversies occur, including any constraints on them, are shaped by the participants.

Somewhere among quarrels, debates and controversies lie the theoretical arguments that theorists in academic disciplines engage in, in academic journals and scholarly monographs. In such arguments theorists take positions, sometimes siding with others and sometimes standing alone, and they argue back and forth about which theoretical position is the correct one. In a related type of argument, just two people argue back and forth about what is the correct position on some issue (including meta-level arguments about what is the correct way to frame the issue in the first place).

The stakes don’t have to be theories and the participants don’t have to be academics. Friends argue about which team will win the championship, where the best fishing spot is located, or what titles to select for the book club. Family members argue about how to spend their income, what school to send the children to, or whether a child is old enough to go on a date without a chaperone. Co-workers argue about the best way to do a job, whether to change service providers, whether to introduce a new product line, and so on. These arguments are usually amicable, whether or not they settle the question in dispute.

All of these kinds of “argument” in this sense of the term—quarrels, friendly disputes, arguments at work, professional arguments about theoretical positions, formal or informal debates, and various kinds of controversy—share several features.

• They involve communications between or among two or more people. Something initiates the communication, and either something ends it or there are ways for participants to join and to exit the conversation. They entail turn-taking (less or more regimented), each side addressing the other side and in turn construing and assessing what the other has to say in reply and formulating and communicating a response to the replies of the other side. And, obviously, they involve the expression, usually verbal, of theses and of reasons for them or against alternatives and criticisms.
• They have a telos or aim, although there seems to be no single end in mind for all of them or even for each of them. In a quarrel the goal might be to have one’s point of view prevail, to get one’s way, but it might instead (or in addition) be to humiliate the other person or to save one’s own self-respect. Some quarrels—think of the ongoing bickering between some long-married spouses—seem to be a way for two people to communicate, merely to acknowledge one another. In a debate, each side seeks to “win,” which can mean different things in different contexts ( cf. a collegiate debate vs. a debate between candidates in an election vs. a parliamentary debate). Some arguments seemed designed to convince the other to give up his position or accept the interlocutor’s position, or to get the other to act in some way or to adopt some policy. Some have the more modest goal of getting a new issue recognized for future deliberation and debate. Still others are clearly aimed not at changing anyone’s mind but at reinforcing or entrenching a point of view already held (as is usually the case with religious sermons or with political speeches to the party faithful). Some are intended to establish or to demonstrate the truth or reasonableness of some position or recommendation and (perhaps) also to get others to “see” that the truth has been established. Some seem designed to maintain disagreement, as when representatives of competing political parties argue with one another.
• All these various kinds of argument are more or less extended, both in the sense that they occur over time, sometimes long stretches of time, and also in the sense that they typically involved many steps: extensive and complex support for a point of view and critique of its alternatives.
• In nearly every case, the participants give reasons for the claims they make and they expect the other participants in the argument to give reasons for their claims. This is even a feature of quarrels, at least at the outset, although such arguments can deteriorate into name-calling and worse. (Notice that even the “yes you did; no I didn’t;…; did; didn’t” sequence of the Monty Python “Having an argument” skit breaks down and a reason is sought.)

The kinds of argument listed so far are all versions of having an argument (see Daniel J. O’Keefe, 1977, 1982). Some might think that this is not the sense of ‘argument’ that is pertinent to critical thinking instruction, but such arguments are the habitat of the kinds of argument that critical thinkers need to be able to identify, analyze and evaluate.

## 1.2 An argument a s something a person makes (or constructs, invents, borrows) consisting of purported reasons alleged to suggest, or support or prove a point and that is used for some purpose such as to persuade someone of some claim, to justify someone in maintaining the position claimed, or to test a claim .

When people have arguments—when they engage in one or another of the activities of arguing described above—one of the things they routinely do is present or allege or offer reasons in support of the claims that they advance, defend, challenge, dispute, question, or consider. That is, in having “arguments,” we typically make and use “arguments.” The latter obviously have to be arguments in different sense from the former. They are often called “reason-claim” complexes. If arguments that someone has had constitute a type of communication or communicative activity, arguments that someone has made or used are actual or potential contributions to such activities. Reason-claim complexes are typically made and used when engaged in an argument in the first sense, trying to convince someone of your point of view during a disagreement or dispute with them. Here is a list of some of the many definitions found in textbooks of ‘argument’ in this second sense.

“… here [the word ‘argument’] … is used in the … logical sense of giving reasons for or against some claim.” Understanding Arguments, Robert Fogelin and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, 6th ed., p. 1. “Thus an argument is a discourse that contains at least two statements, one of which is asserted to be a reason for the other.” Monroe Beardsley, Practical Logic, p. 9. “An argument is a set of claims a person puts forward in an attempt to show that some further claim is rationally acceptable.” Trudy Govier. A Practical Study of Arguments, 5th ed., p. 3. An argument is “a set of clams some of which are presented as reasons for accepting some further claim.” Alec Fisher, Critical Thinking, An Introduction, p. 235. Argument: “A conclusion about an issue that is supported by reasons.” Sherry Diestler, Becoming a Critical Thinker, 4th ed., p. 403. “ Argument: An attempt to support a conclusion by giving reasons for it.” Robert Ennis, Critical Thinking, p. 396. “Argument – A form of thinking in which certain statements (reasons) are offered in support of another statement (conclusion).” John Chaffee, Thinking Critically, p. 415 “When we use the word argument in this book we mean a message which attempts to establish a statement as true or worthy of belief on the basis of other statements.” James B. Freeman, Thinking Logically, p. 20 “Argument. A sequence of propositions intended to establish the truth of one of the propositions.” Richard Feldman, Reason and Argument, p. 447. “Arguments consist of conclusions and reasons for them, called ‘premises’.” Wayne Grennan, Argument Evaluation, p. 5. Argument: “A set of claims, one of which, the conclusion is supported by [i.e., is supposed to provide a reason for] one or more of the other claims. Reason in the Balance, Sharon Bailin & Mark Battersby, p. 41.

These are not all compatible, and most of them define ‘argument’ using other terms—‘reasons’, ‘claims’, ‘propositions’, ‘statements’, ‘premises’ and ‘conclusions’—that are in no less need of definition than it is. In the next chapter, David Hitchcock offers a careful analysis of this concept of an argument.

Some define argument in this second sense as a kind of communication; others conceive it as a kind of set of propositions that can serve communicative functions, but others as well (such as inquiry). Either way, the communicative character, or function, of arguments has been the subject of much of the research in the past several decades. Most recently what some have called “multi-modal” argument has attracted attention, focusing on the various ways arguments can be communicated, especially visually or in a mix of verbal and visual modes of communication. Some have contended that smells and sounds can play roles in argument communication as well. This area of research interest would seem to have relevance for the analysis of arguments on the web.

## 1.3 Argumentation

‘Argumentation’ is another slippery term. It is used in several different senses.

Sometimes it is used to mean the communicative activity in which arguments are exchanged: “During their argumentation they took turns advancing their own arguments and criticizing one another’s arguments.” Sometimes ‘argumentation’ denotes the body of arguments used in an argumentative exchange: “The evening’s argumentation was of high quality.” And occasionally you will find it used to refer to the reasons or premises supporting a conclusion, as in: “The argumentation provided weak support for the thesis.” ‘Argumentation theory’ is the term often used to denote theory about the nature of arguments and their uses, including their uses in communications involving exchanges of arguments.

## 2 The relation between critical thinking and argument

2 .1 arguments are both tools of critical thinking and objects of critical thinking.

In … [one] sense, thought denotes belief resting upon some basis, that is, real or supposed knowledge going beyond what is directly present. … Some beliefs are accepted when their grounds have not themselves been considered …. … such thoughts may mean a supposition accepted without reference to its real grounds. These may be adequate, they may not; but their value with reference to the support they afford the belief has not been considered. Such thoughts grow up unconsciously and without reference to the attainment of correct belief. They are picked up—we know not how. From obscure sources and by unnoticed channels they insinuate themselves into acceptance and become unconsciously a part of our mental furniture. Tradition, instruction, imitation—all of which depend upon authority in some form, or appeal to our advantage, or fall in with strong passions—are responsible for them. Such thoughts are prejudices, that is, prejudgments, not judgments proper that rest upon a survey of evidence. (John Dewey, How We Think , pp. 4-5, emphasis added.)

People—all of us—routinely adopt beliefs and attitudes that are prejudices in Dewey’s sense of being prejudgments, “not judgments proper that rest upon a survey of evidence.” One goal of critical thinking education is to provide our students with the means to be able, when it really matters, to “properly survey” the grounds for beliefs and attitudes.

Arguments supply one such means. The grounds for beliefs and attitudes are often expressed, or expressible, as arguments for them. And the “proper survey” of these arguments is to test them by subjecting them to the critical scrutiny of counter-arguments.

Arguments also come into play when the issue is not what to believe about a contentious issue, but in order just to understand the competing positions. Not only are we not entitled to reject a claim to our belief if we cannot counter the arguments that support it; we are not in possession of an understanding of that claim if we cannot formulate the arguments that support it to the satisfaction of its proponents.

Furthermore, arguments can be used to investigate a candidate for belief by those trying “to make up their own minds” about it. The investigator tries to find and express the most compelling arguments for and against the candidate. Which arguments count as “most compelling” are the ones that survive vigorous attempts, using arguments, to refute or undermine them. These survivors are then compared against one another, the pros weighed against the cons. More arguments come into play in assessing the attributed weights.

In these ways, a facility with arguments serves a critical thinker well. Such a facility includes skill in recognizing, interpreting and evaluating arguments, as well as in formulating them. That includes skill in laying out complex arguments, in recognizing argument strengths and weaknesses, and in making a case for one’s critique. It includes the ability to distinguish the more relevant evidence from the less, and to discriminate between minor, fixable flaws and major, serious problems, in arguments. Thus the critical thinker is at once adept at using arguments in various ways and at the same time sensitive in judging arguments’ merits, applying the appropriate criteria.

Moreover, arguments in the sense of “reasons-claim” complexes surround us in our daily lives. Our “familiars”, as Gilbert (2014) has dubbed them—our family members, the friends we see regularly, shopkeepers and others whose services we patronize daily, our co-workers—engage us constantly in argumentative discussions in which they invoke arguments to try to get us to do things, to agree, to judge, to believe. The public sphere—the worlds of politics, commerce, entertainment, leisure activities, social media (see Jackson’s chapter)—is another domain in which arguments can be found, although (arguably) mere assertion predominates there. In the various roles we play as we go through life—child, parent, spouse or partner, student, worker, patient, subordinate or supervisor, citizen (voter, jurist, community member), observer or participant, etc.—we are invited with arguments to agree or disagree, approve or disapprove, seek or avoid. We see others arguing with one another and are invited to judge the merits of the cases they make. Some of these arguments are cogent and their conclusions merit our assent, but others are not and we should not be influenced by them. Yet others are suggestive and deserve further thought.

We can simply ignore many of these arguments, but others confront us and force us to decide whether or not to accept them. Often it is unclear whether someone has argued or done something else: just vented, perhaps, or explained rather than argued, or merely expressed an opinion without arguing for it, or was confused. So we initially might have to decide whether there is an argument that we need to deal with. When it is an argument, often in order to make up our minds about it we need first to get clear about exactly what the argument consists of. So even before we evaluate this argument we have to identify and analyze it. (These operations are discussed in Chapter 12.)

In the end we have to decide for ourselves whether the argument makes its case or falls short. Does the conclusion really follow from the premises? Is there enough evidence to justify the conclusion? Is it the right kind of evidence? Are there well-known objections or arguments against the conclusion that haven’t been acknowledged and need to be answered satisfactorily? Can they be answered? And are the premises themselves believable or otherwise acceptable? Are there other arguments, as good or better, that support the claim?

Critical thinking can (and should!) come into all of these decisions we need to make in the identification, the analysis and the assessment of arguments.

## 2 .2  Critical thinking about things other than arguments

Many critical thinking textbooks focus exclusively on the analysis and evaluation of arguments. While the centrality of arguments to the art of critical thinking is unquestionable, a strong case can be made that critical thinking has other objectives in addition to appreciating arguments. In their analysis of the concept of critical thinking, Fisher and Scriven suggest the following definition:

Critical thinking is skilled and active interpretation and evaluation of o b servations and communications , information and argumentation. (1997, p. 21, emphasis added)

We agree with the gist of this claim, but notice what Fisher and Scriven propose as the objects to which critical thinking applies. Not just argumentation, but as well observations, communications and information. About observations, they note that:

What one sees (hears, etc.) are usually things and happenings, and one often has to interpret what one sees, sometimes calling on critical thinking skills to do so, most obviously in cases where the context involves weak lighting, strong emotions, possible drug effects, or putatively magical or parapsychological phenomena. Only after the application of critical thinking—and sometimes not even then—does one know what one “really saw”. … When the filter of critical thinking has been applied to the observations, and only then, one can start reasoning towards further conclusions using these observations as premises. ( Ibid ., p, 37)

An example is the recent large number of convictions in the U.S.A. that originally relied on eyewitness testimony but that have been overturned on the basis of DNA evidence. [2] ,  [3]

The DNA evidence proved that the accused was not the culprit, so the moral certainty of the eyewitness had to have been mistaken. The observation of the eyewitness was flawed. He or she did not think critically about whether the conditions need ed to make a reliable o b servation were present (e.g., were strong emotions like fear involved? was the lighting good? has he or she ordinarily a good memory for faces? was there time to observe carefully? were there distractions present?). Neither, probably, did the lawyers on either side, or else they immorally suppressed what should have been their doubts. As a consequence, innocent people languished in jail for years and guilty parties went free.

Communications are another object for critical thought. When in reply to Harry’s question, “How are you doing?” Morgan says, in a clipped and dull voice and a strained expression on her face, “I’m fine”, Harry needs to be aware that “How are you doing?” often functions as equivalent to a simple greeting, like “Hi” and so the response “Fine” could similarly be functioning as a polite return of the greeting, like “Hi back to you”, and not as an accurate report of the speaker’s condition. Harry needs to notice and interpret other aspects of Morgan’s communication—her lethargic tone of voice and her anxious facial expression—and to recognize the incompatibility between those signals and the interpretation of her response as an accurate depiction of Morgan’s state of well-being. He needs to employ critical interpretive skills to realize that Morgan has communicated that she is not fine at all, but for some reason isn’t offering to talk about it.

If President Trump did in fact say to his then F.B.I. director James Comey, about the F.B.I. investigation of former National Security Advisor Michaell Flynn “I hope you can let this go”, was it legitimate for Comey to interpret the President’s comment as a directive? And was Comey’s response, which was simply to ignore President Trump’s alleged comment, an appropriate response? What was going on? It takes critical thinking to try to sort out these issues. Taking the President’s alleged comment literally, it just expresses his attitude towards the FBI investigation of Flynn. But communications from the President in a tête-à-tête in the White House with the Director of the FBI are not occasions for just sharing attitudes. This was not an occasion on which they could step out of their political roles and chat person-to-person. The President can legitimately be presumed to be communicating his wishes as to what his FBI Director should do, and such expressions of wishes are, in this context, to be normally understood as directives. On the other hand, for the President to direct that an ongoing investigation by the FBI be stopped, or that it come up with a pre-determined finding, is illegal: it’s obstruction of justice. So Comey seemed faced with at least two possible interpretations of what he took the President to be saying: either an out-of-place expression of his attitude towards the outcome of the Flynn investigation or an illegal directive. Which was the President’s intention? However, there are other possibilities.

Was President Trump a political tyro whose lack of political experience might have left him ignorant of the fact that the FBI Director has to keep investigations free of political interference? Or might Trump have thought that the Presidency conveys the authority to influence the outcome of criminal investigations? Or might President Trump have been testing Mr. Comey to see if he could be manipulated? And Mr. Comey could have responded differently. He could have said, “I wish we could let this go too, Mr. President, but there are questions about General Flynn’s conduct that have to be investigated, and as you know, we cannot interfere with an ongoing FBI investigation”. Such a response would have forced the President to take back what he allegedly said, withdrawing any suggestion that his comment was a directive, or else to make it plain that he was indeed directing Comey to obstruct justice. In the event, apparently Mr. Comey did not take this way out, which would at once have displayed loyalty to the President (by protecting him from explicitly obstructing justice) and also have affirmed the independence of the FBI from interference from the White House. Perhaps he thought that the President clearly had directed him to obstruct justice, and judged that giving him an opportunity explicitly to withdraw that directive amounted to overlooking that illegal act, which would be a violation of his responsibilities as Director of the FBI. If so, however, simply not responding to the President’s comment, the path Comey apparently chose, also amounted to turning a blind eye to what he judged to be President Trump’s illegal directive.

As these two examples illustrate, the interpretation of communications, and the appropriate response to them can require critical thinking: recognizing different functions of communication, and being sensitive to the implications of different contexts of communication; being sensitive to the roles communicators occupy and to the rights, obligations, and limits attached to such roles.

As Fisher and Scriven acknowledge, “defining information is itself a difficult task.” They make a useful start by distinguishing information from raw data (“the numbers or bare descriptions obtained from measurements or observations”, op . cit., p. 41). No critical thinking is required for the latter; just the pains necessary to record raw data accurately, In many cases, though, the interpretation of raw data, the meaning or significance that they are said to have, can require critical thinking.

One might go beyond Fisher and Scriven’s list of other things besides arguments to which critical thinking can be applied. A thoughtful appreciation of novels or movies, plays or poetry, paintings or sculptures requires skilled interpretation, imagining alternatives, thoughtful selection of appropriate criteria of evaluation and then the selection and application of appropriate standards, and more. A good interior designer must consider the effects and interactions of space and light and color and fabrics and furniture design, and coordinate these with clients’ lifestyles, habits and preferences. Advanced practical skills in various sciences come into play. A coach of a sports team must think about each individual team member’s skills and deficiencies, personality and life situation; about plays and strategies, opponents’ skills sets; approaches to games; and much more. Conventional approaches need to be reviewed as to their applicability to the current situation. Alternative possibilities need to be creatively imagined and critically assessed. And all of this is time-sensitive, sometimes calling for split-second decisions. The thinking involved in carrying out the tasks of composing a review of some work of literature or art or of coaching a sports team can be routine and conventional, or it can be imaginative, invoking different perspectives and challenging standard criteria.

The list could go on. The present point is that, while argument is central to critical thinking, critical thinking about and using arguments is not all there is to critical thinking. [4]

Bailin, Sharon & Battersby, Mark. (2010). Reason in the Balance , An I n quiry Approach to Critical Thinking , 1 st ed. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Beardsley, Monroe C. (1950). Practical L ogic . Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Chaffee, John. 1985. Thinking Critically . Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Dewey, John. (1910, 1991). How We Think . Lexington, MAD.C. Heath; Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.

Diestler, Sherry. (2005). Becoming a Critical Thinker , 4 th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Ennis, Robert H. (1996). Critical Thinking . Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Feldman, Richard. (1993). Reason and Argument , 2 nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Fisher, Alex.(2001). Critical Thinking, An Introduction . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fisher, Alec & Scriven, Michael. (1997). Critical Thinking, Its Definition and Assessment . Point

Reyes, CA: EdgePress; Norwich, UK: Center for Research in Critical Thinking.

Fogelin, Robert & Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. (2001). Understanding A r guments , An Introduction to Informal Logic , 6 th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Freeman, James B. (1988.) Thinking Logically , Basic Concepts of Reaso n ing . Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Grennan, Wayne . (1984). Argument Evaluation . Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Govier, Trudy. (2001). A Practical Study of Argument , 5 th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

O’Keefe, Daniel J. (1977). Two concepts of argument. Journal of the Amer i can Forensic Association , 13 , 121-128.

O‘Keefe, Daniel J. (1982). The concepts of argument and arguing. In J. R. Cox & C. A. Willard (Eds.), Advances in Argumentation Theory and R e search , pp. 3-23. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

• © J. Anthony Blair ↵
• According to the Innocence Project, “Eyewitness misidentification is the greatest contributing factor to wrongful convictions proven by DNA testing, playing a role in more than 70% of convictions [in the U.S.A.] overturned through DNA testing nationwide.” (https://www.innocenceproject.org/causes/eyewitness-misidentification/, viewed August 2017). ↵
• I owe the general organization and many of the specific ideas of this chapter to a series of lectures by Jean Goodwin at the Summer Institute on Argumentation sponsored by the Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric at the University of Windsor. ↵

## An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity: Think More, Think Better by

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IDENTIFYING ARGUMENTS

8.1 WHAT IS AN ARGUMENT?

In ordinary usage, an argument is often taken to be a somewhat heated dispute between people. But in logic and critical thinking, an argument is a list of statements, one of which is the conclusion and the others are the premises or assumptions of the argument. An example:

It is raining.

So you should bring an umbrella.

In this argument, the first statement is the premise and the second one the conclusion. The premises of an argument are offered as reasons for accepting the conclusion. It is therefore irrational to accept an argument as a good one and yet refuse to accept the conclusion. Giving reasons is a central part of critical thinking. It is not the same as simply expressing an opinion. If you say “that dress looks nice,” you are only expressing an opinion. But if you say “that dress looks nice because the design is very elegant,” then it would be an argument indeed. Dogmatic people tend to make assertions without giving arguments. When they cannot defend themselves, they often resort to responses such as “this is a matter of opinion,” “this is just what you think,” or “I have the right to believe whatever I want.”

The ability to construct, identify, and evaluate arguments is a crucial part of critical thinking. Giving good arguments helps us convince other people, and improve our presentation and debating skills. More important, using arguments to support our beliefs with reasons is likely to help us discover the ...

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## Critical Thinking: Defining an Argument, Premises, and Conclusions

Defining an Argument Argument: vas is das? For most of us when we hear the word ‘argument’ we think of something we’d rather avoid.  As it is commonly understood, an argument involves some sort of unpleasant confrontation (well, maybe not always unpleasant–it can feel pretty good when you win!).  While this is one notion of ‘argument,’ it’s (generally)  not  what the term refers to in philosophy. In philosophy what we mean by  argument  is “ a set  of reasons offered in support of a claim.”  An argument, in this narrower sense, also generally implies some sort of  structure .  For now we’ll ignore the more particular structural aspects and focus on the two primary elements that make up an argument: premises and conclusions. Lets talk about conclusions first because their definition is pretty simple.   A conclusion  is the final assertion that is supported with evidence and reasons.  What’s important is the relationship between premises and conclusions.   The premises  are independent reasons and evidence that support the conclusion.  In an argument, the conclusion should follow from the premises. Lets consider a simple example: Reason (1):  Everyone thought Miley Cyrus’ performance was a travesty.  Reason (2):   Some people thought her performance was offensive. Conclusion:   Therefore, some people thought her performance was both a travesty and offensive. Notice that so long as we accept reason 1 and reason 2 as true, then we  must  also accept the conclusion.  This is what we mean by “the conclusion ‘follows’ from the premises.” Lets examine premises a little more closely.   A premise  is any  reason  or  evidence  that supports the conclusion of the argument.    In the context of arguments we can use ‘reasons’, ‘evidence’, and ‘premises’ interchangeably.   For example, if my conclusion is that dogs are better pets than cats, I might offer the following reasons: (P1) dogs are generally more affectionate than cats and (P2) dogs are more responsive to their owners’ commands than cats. From my two premises, I infer my conclusion that (C) dogs are better pets than cats.

B: Gun control is a bad idea because if you make gun ownership a crime, then only criminals will have guns.

Philosopher, judoka, coach, traveller, hiker, dancer, and dog-lover. View all posts by philosophami

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• What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

## What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

Published on May 30, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment .

To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources .

• Identify credible sources
• Evaluate and respond to arguments
• Assess alternative viewpoints
• Test hypotheses against relevant criteria

Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about critical thinking.

Critical thinking is important for making judgments about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasizes a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.

Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.

• Is free from research bias
• Provides evidence to support its research findings
• Considers alternative viewpoints

Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.

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Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.

However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyze the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.

You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.

However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.

You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words “sponsored content” appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.

There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.

However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

• Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
• What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarize it?
• When did they say this? Is the source current?
• Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it peer-reviewed ?
• Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
• How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?

Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:

• Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
• Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
• Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

• ChatGPT vs human editor
• ChatGPT citations
• Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
• Using ChatGPT for your studies
• What is ChatGPT?
• Chicago style
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Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

Critical thinking skills include the ability to:

You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

• Who is the author? Are they an expert?
• How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

• The information should be up to date and current.
• The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
• The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
• For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.

Being information literate means that you:

• Know how to find credible sources
• Use relevant sources to inform your research
• Understand what constitutes plagiarism
• Know how to cite your sources correctly

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search, interpret, and recall information in a way that aligns with our pre-existing values, opinions, or beliefs. It refers to the ability to recollect information best when it amplifies what we already believe. Relatedly, we tend to forget information that contradicts our opinions.

Although selective recall is a component of confirmation bias, it should not be confused with recall bias.

On the other hand, recall bias refers to the differences in the ability between study participants to recall past events when self-reporting is used. This difference in accuracy or completeness of recollection is not related to beliefs or opinions. Rather, recall bias relates to other factors, such as the length of the recall period, age, and the characteristics of the disease under investigation.

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Step 5: Structuring Arguments

## Critical Thinking: Step 5: Structuring Arguments

• Steps 1 & 2: Reflection and Analysis
• Step 3: Acquisition of Information
• Step 4: Creativity
• Step 6: Decision Making
• Steps 7 & 8: Commitment and Debate
• In the Classroom
• In the Workplace

## Argument Activity

Rank the following arguments from 1-5 (5 being the best) as “reason” for taking an umbrella to school.

• March is usually a rainy month, and this is the first day of March. It will probably rain today.
• I listened to three weather forecasters last night and they, all predicted rain for this afternoon. It will probably rain today.
• Last week, one of the television weather forecasters said rain was a possibility for today. It will probably rain today, and I’m going to be carrying some books that I don’t want to get wet.
• The weather predictions on station WETT have always been accurate, and last night they said the rain will be heavy most of today. It will probably rain.

## Structuring an Argument

The tabs in this box are laid out in the order of which you should consider structuring your arguments. Click through each tab to view the step in structuring an argument, as well as good and bad examples of that step.

Clearly state your main point in the form of an assertion. This should be an arguable point - NOT a fact.  Good Example : All shopping centers should be smoke free.

Bad Example : Smoking causes cancer.

Offer insight into the main idea of the argument by providing background information.

Good Example : Most shopping malls are enclosed, and when one person smokes inside, it can affect the health of those around them.

Bad example (This does not support the main idea) : Shopping malls have stores in them, and some of those stores sell tobacco.

It is up to you (not your reader or conversation partner) to provide specific information to prove the main points of your argument.

Good Example : According to the Centers for Disease Control (2014), "cigarette smoking kills more than 480,00 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke."

Bad Example : Lots of people smoke and then subsequently die from lung cancer.

In your own words, clearly and thoroughly offer evidence and support for your argument.

Good Example : Children of smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke at home. Doctors suggest that there is an increased risk for them to contract lung cancer despite having never smoked.

Bad Example : As a child of a smoker, I was exposed to secondhand smoke at home. My doctor says that I have an increased risk to get lung cancer, even though I have never smoked a cigarette in my life.

Any argument must take into account the opposing points of view. Acknowledge the existence of differing views and have a clear counter-point to that perception.

Good Example : While many believe they should be free to smoke wherever they choose, statistics show that smoking puts otherwise healthy people at risk for disease. As an alternative to being able to smoke wherever they desire, smokers should be provided with a smoking area outside of the enclosed mall environment.

Bad Example : Statistics show that smoking puts otherwise healthy people at risk for cancer. All malls should be smoke and alcohol free.

Without using the exact phrasing, clearly restate and summarize your thesis/argument.

Good Example : To provide the healthiest environment for everyone, all enclosed shopping centers should be smoke free with designated smoking areas.

Bad Example : Smoking causes cancer and all shopping centers should be smoke free.

## Critical Thinking Videos

• Critical Thinking: Part 1
• Critical Thinking: Part 2

TechNyou. (2011, December 11). Critical thinking part 1: A valuable argument  [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/iSZ3BUru59A

TechNyou. (2011, December 11). Critical thinking part 2: Broken logic [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/VRZk62QNOsM

• << Previous: Step 4: Creativity
• Next: Step 6: Decision Making >>
• Last Updated: Apr 24, 2024 8:30 AM
• URL: https://guides.rasmussen.edu/criticalthinking
• Autocomplete

## What is a Good Argument?

•   Welcome and Overview (2:10)
•   PDF Ebook - Basic Concepts in Logic and Argumentation
•   Quiz Question Discussion
•   1. What is an Argument? (4:17)
•   Quiz: What is an Argument?
•   2. What is a Claim? (4:25)
•   Quiz: What is a Claim?
•   3. What is a Good Argument (I)? (3:58)
•   Quiz: What is a Good Argument (I)?
•   4. Identifying Premises and Conclusions (5:34)
•   Quiz: Identifying Premises and Conclusions
•   Discuss the Quiz Questions in This Section
•   1. The Truth Condition (6:29)
•   Quiz: The Truth Condition
•   2. The Logic Condition (5:49)
•   Quiz: The Logic Condition
•   3. Valid versus Invalid Arguments (5:29)
•   Quiz: Valid vs Invalid Arguments
•   4. Strong versus Weak Arguments (6:38)
•   Quiz: Strong vs Weak Arguments
•   5. What is a Good Argument (II)? (1:57)
•   Quiz: What is a Good Argument (II)?
•   1. Deductive Arguments and Valid Reasoning (2:18)
•   Quiz: Deductive Arguments and Valid Reasoning
•   2. Inductive Arguments and Strong Reasoning (1:41)
•   Quiz: Inductive Arguments and Strong Reasoning
•   3. Inductive Arguments and Scientific Reasoning (9:41)
•   Quiz: Inductive Arguments and Scientific Reasoning
•   Congratulations!
•   What's Next?

## 3. Valid versus Invalid Arguments

3. valid vs invalid arguments.

An argument has to satisfy the Logic Condition in order for it to qualify as a good argument. But there are two importantly different ways in which an argument can satisfy the Logic Condition.

One way is if the argument is valid . Another way is if the argument is strong .

"Validity" and "strength" are technical terms that logicians and philosophers use to describe the logical "glue" that binds premises and conclusions together. Valid arguments have the strongest logical glue possible.

In this lecture we're going to talk about "validity" and the difference between "valid" versus "invalid" arguments. In the next lecture we'll talk about "strength" and the difference between "strong" versus "weak" arguments.

Together, these two concepts, validity and strength, will help us to specify precisely what it means for an argument to satisfy the Logic Condition.

## Valid vs Invalid

We've seen valid arguments before. Recall the Tom Cruise argument:

1. All actors are robots. 2. Tom Cruise is an actor. Therefore, Tom Cruise is a robot.

This is an example of a valid argument.

Here's the standard definition of a valid argument :

An argument is VALID if it has the following hypothetical or conditional property:

IF all the premises are true, then the conclusion CANNOT be false.

In this case we know that in fact the first premise is false (not all actors are robots) but the argument is still valid because IF the premises were true it would be IMPOSSIBLE for the conclusion to be false.

In other words, in a hypothetical world where all actors are robots, and Tom Cruise also happens to be an actor, then it's logically impossible for Tom Cruise NOT to be a robot.

THAT is the distinctive property of this argument that we're pointing to when we call it “valid” — that it's logically impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false. Or to put it another way, the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion.

These are all different ways of saying the same thing. Validity is the strongest possible logical glue you can have between premises and conclusion.

Here's an example of an INVALID argument:

1. All actors are robots. 2. Tom Cruise is a robot. Therefore, Tom Cruise is an actor.

The first premise is the same, "All actors are robots". But the second premise is different. Instead of assuming that Tom Cruise is an actor, we're assuming that Tom Cruise is a robot.

Now, if these premises are both true, does it follow that Tom Cruise HAS to be an actor? No, it does not follow . It would follow if we said that ONLY actors are robots, but the first premise doesn't say that.

All we can assume is that in this hypothetical world, anyone in the acting profession is a robot, but robots might be doing lots of different jobs besides acting. They might be mechanics or teachers or politicians or whatever. So in this hypothetical world the fact that Tom Cruise is a robot doesn't guarantee that he's also an actor.

And THAT is what makes this an invalid argument.

An argument is INVALID just in case it's NOT VALID .

What this means is that even if all the premises are true, it's still possible for the conclusion to be false. The truth of the premises doesn't guarantee the truth of the conclusion.

That's ALL it means to call an argument "invalid".

In particular, it doesn't imply that the argument is bad . As we'll see in the next lecture, invalid arguments can still be good arguments . Even if they don't guarantee the conclusion they can still give us good reasons to believe the conclusion, so they can still satisfy the Logic Condition.

## A Cautionary Note About the Terminology

We're using the terms "valid" and "invalid" in a very specific technical sense that is commonly used in logic and philosophy but not so common outside of these fields.

As we all know in ordinary language the word "valid" is used in a bunch of different ways. Like when we say "that contract is valid", meaning something like the contract is “legally legitimate” or that it's “executed with proper legal authority”.

Or when we say "You make a valid point", we mean that the point is “relevant” or “appropriate”, or it has some justification behind it.

These are perfectly acceptable uses of the term "valid". But I just want to emphasize that this isn't how we're using the term in logic when we're doing argument analysis . It's important to keep the various meanings of "valid" and "invalid" distinct so there's no confusion.

Note for example that when we use the terms valid and invalid in logic we're talking about properties of whole arguments, not of individual claims.

If we're using the terms in the way we've defined them in this tutorial then it makes NO SENSE to say that an individual premise or claim is valid or invalid .

Validity is a property that describes the logical relationship between premises and conclusions. It's a feature of arguments taken as a whole. Still, it's very common for students who are new to logic to confuse the various senses of valid and invalid, and make the mistake of describing a premise as invalid when what they mean is simply that it's false or dubious.

So that's just a cautionary note about the terminology. If you keep the logical definition clear in your mind then you shouldn't have a problem.

To analyze an argument is to do an “active listening” step. The point is to make sure you understand what the argument actually is before turning to the evaluative question: is it a good argument?

Standard argument form is a graphical method for displaying arguments, making plain the purpose of a statement by its placement. Premises are separated, numbered, and placed above a line, and the conclusion is placed below the line. The act of inference is represented with three dots (or the word “so”) placed next to the conclusion.

_______________________________________________

Some cases are straightforward. Here is a passage, followed by the analysis into standard form.

I have a dental cleaning scheduled for June fourth. Wow, since today is the third, I guess that means the appointment is for tomorrow.

Issue: Is my dental cleaning tomorrow?

1) My dental cleaning is scheduled for the fourth.

2) Today is the third.

SO: my dental cleaning is tomorrow.

The explicit indicator word is “since.” The premise follows that indicator. The conclusion is in the clause following the comma.

If we straightened the sentence, it would read:

The appointment is for tomorrow since today is the third.

This follows a classic pattern:

(Conclusion) since (premise.)

Note: in the analysis, the words “I guess” were left out. These words signal a thinking process is happening, and can also signal how much conviction the thinker has in their own thinking. “I guess” signals a lack of confidence. If the passage had said, “that means my appointment must be tomorrow,” a higher degree of confidence would be signaled. In general, these confidence-signaling words and phrases are not themselves part of the argument.

Here is another example:

If we want to increase defense spending, we would have to either cut domestic programs or raise taxes. You know when conservatives are in control, they aren’t going to raise taxes. So, the increase in defense spending means a cut to domestic programs, for sure.

Issue: Will increased defense spending mean a cut to domestic programs?

1) To increase defense spending requires cutting domestic spending or increasing taxes.

2) Conservatives are in control.

3) Taxes won’t be increased when conservatives are in control.

SO: an increase in defense spending means a cut to domestic programs.

This analysis is more complicated, but the first step is spotting the indicator word “so.” This gives us a clue that the last sentence is the conclusion. We then articulate the issue by putting the conclusion in the form of a question. The statements preceding the conclusion indicator are premises.

We could treat this passage as listing only two premises since the premises are presented in two separate sentences. But for purposes of evaluation, it is better to list more instead of fewer premises. It allows a greater chance for finding common ground among people coming to an issue from different points of view.

Note: the phrase “for sure” in the original passage signals the thinker has a high degree of confidence in their thinking. It was left out when putting the argument into standard form.

Standard Form Examples

Most people don’t like to be lied to. So, if you lie to someone, and they find out, they are probably not going to like it.

Issue: How do people react to be being lied to?

1) Most people don’t like to be lied to

SO: if you lie to someone, they are not going to like it.

I am working full time and going to school full time, so you know I don’t get enough sleep!

Issue: Do I get enough sleep?

1) I am working full time

2) I am going to school full time

SO: I don’t get enough sleep.

## 25 Critical Thinking Examples

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information and make reasoned decisions. It involves suspended judgment, open-mindedness, and clarity of thought.

It involves considering different viewpoints and weighing evidence carefully. It is essential for solving complex problems and making good decisions.

People who think critically are able to see the world in a more nuanced way and understand the interconnectedness of things. They are also better able to adapt to change and handle uncertainty.

In today’s fast-paced world, the ability to think critically is more important than ever and necessary for students and employees alike.

## Critical Thinking Examples

1. identifying strengths and weaknesses.

Critical thinkers don’t just take things at face value. They stand back and contemplate the potential strengths and weaknesses of something and then make a decision after contemplation.

This helps you to avoid excessive bias and identify possible problems ahead of time.

For example, a boxer about to get in the ring will likely need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent. He might learn that his opponent’s left hook is very strong, but his opponent also gets tired after the third round. With this knowledge, he can go into the bout with strong defenses in the first three rounds before going on the offense.

Here, the boxer’s critical thinking skills will help him win his match.

## 2. Creating a Hypothesis based on Limited Data

When scientists set out to test a new theory, they first need to develop a hypothesis. This is an educated guess about how things work, based on what is already known.

Once a hypothesis has been developed, experiments can be designed to test it.

However, sometimes scientists may find themselves working with limited data. In such cases, they may need to make some assumptions in order to form a hypothesis.

For example, if they are studying a phenomenon that occurs infrequently, they may need to extrapolate from the data they do have in order to form a hypothesis.

Here, the scientist is engaged in critical thinking: they use the limited data to come up with a tentative judgment.

## 3. Moderating a Debate

A debate moderator needs to have strong critical thinking skills. They need to use objective evaluations, analysis, and critique to keep the discussion on track and ensure that all sides are heard fairly.

This means being able to identify when a point has been made sufficiently, or when someone is beginning to veer off topic and being able to direct the conversation accordingly.

Similarly, they need to be able to assess each argument objectively and consider its merits, rather than getting caught up in the emotion of the debate. If someone is using an unfair point or one that is not factual, the moderator needs to be switched on and identify this.

By remaining calm and impartial, the moderator can help to ensure that a debate is productive and respectful.

A judge or adjudicator needs to weigh the evidence and make a determination based on the facts.

This requires the adjudicator to be able to try to see both sides of an argument. They need the ability to see past personal biases and to critically evaluate the credibility of all sides.

In addition, judges and adjudicators must be able to think quickly and make sound decisions in the face of complex issues.

For example, if you were to be adjudicating the above debate, you need to hear both sides of the argument and then decide who won. It’s your job to evaluate, see strengths and weaknesses in arguments, and come to a conclusion.

Teachers need critical thinking skills when grading essays so that they can effectively assess the quality of the writing. By critically analyzing the essay, teachers can identify any errors or weaknesses in the argument.

Furthermore, they can also determine whether the essay meets the required standards for the assignment. Even a very well-written essay may deserve a lower grade if the essay doesn’t directly answer the essay question.

A teacher needs to be able to read an essay and understand not only what the student is trying to say, but also how well they are making their argument. Are they using evidence effectively? Are they drawing valid conclusions? A teacher needs to be able to evaluate an essay holistically in order to give a fair grade.

In order to properly evaluate an essay, teachers need to be able to think critically about the writing. Only then can they provide an accurate assessment of the work.

Active reading is a skill that requires the reader to be engaged with the text in order to fully understand it. This means not only being able to read the words on the page, but also being able to interpret the meaning behind them.

In order to do this, active readers need to have good critical thinking skills.

They need to be able to ask questions about the text and look for evidence to support their answers. Additionally, active readers need to be able to make connections between the text and their own experiences.

## 7. Deciding Whether or Not to Believe Something

When trying to determine whether or not to believe something, you’re engaging in critical thinking.

For example, you might need to consider the source of the information. If the information comes from a reliable source, such as a reputable news organization or a trusted friend, then it is more likely to be accurate.

However, if the source is less reliable, such as an anonymous website or a person with a known bias, then the information should be viewed with more skepticism.

In addition, it is important to consider the evidence that is being presented. If the evidence is well-supported and logically presented, then it is more likely to be true. However, if the evidence is weak or relies on fallacious reasoning, then the claim is less likely to be true.

## 8. Determining the Best Solution to a Situation

Determining the best solution to a problem generally requires you to critique the different options. There are often many different factors to consider, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

However, there are some general guidelines that can help to make the process a little easier.

For example, if you have a few possible solutions to the problem, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each one. Consider both the short-term and long-term effects of each option before making a decision.

Furthermore, it is important to be aware of your own biases. Be sure to consider all of the options objectively, without letting your personal preferences get in the way.

## 9. Giving Formative Feedback

Formative feedback is feedback that you give to someone part-way through a learning experience. To do this, you need to think critically.

For example, one thing you need to do is see where the student’s strengths and weaknesses like. Perhaps the student is doing extremely well at a task, so your feedback might be that they should try to extend themselves by adding more complexity to the task.

Or, perhaps the student is struggling, so you suggest to them that they approach the learning experience from a different angle.

## 10. Giving Summative Feedback

Summative feedback occurs at the end of a learning scenario. For example, the written feedback at the end of an essay or on a report card is summative.

When providing summative feedback, it is important to take a step back and consider the situation from multiple perspectives. What are areas for improvement and where exactly might the student have missed some key points? How could the student have done better?

Asking yourself these questions is all part of the process of giving feedback, and they can all be considered examples of critical thinking. You’re literally critiquing the student’s work and identifying opportunities for improvement.

## 11. Evaluating Evidence

When evaluating evidence, critical thinkers take a step back and look at the bigger picture. They consider all of the available information and weigh it up. They look at logical flaws, the reliability of the evidence, and its validity.

This process allows them to arrive at a conclusion that is based on sound reasoning, rather than emotion or personal bias.

For example, when a social scientist looks at the evidence from his study, he needs to evaluate whether the data was corrupted and ensure the methodology was sound in order to determine if the evidence is valuable or not.

## 12. Media Literacy

Media literacy seems to be in short supply these days. Too many people take information off the internet or television and just assume it is true.

A person with media literacy, however, will not just trust what they see and read. Instead, they look at the data and weigh up the evidence. They will see if there was a sound study to back up claims. They will see if there is bias in the media source and whether it’s just following an ideological line.

Furthermore, they will make sure they seek out trustworthy media sources. These are not just media sources you like or that confirm your own point of view. They need to be sources that do their own research, find solid data, and don’t pursue one blind agenda.

Asking your own questions is an important part of critical thinking. When you ask questions, you are forcing yourself to think more deeply about the information you are considering.

This helps you to better understand the issue and to come up with your own conclusions.

So, often at schools, we give students a list of questions to ask about something in order to dig deeper into it. For example, in a book review lesson, the teacher might give a list of questions to ask about the book’s characters and plot.

## 14. Conducting Rigorous Research

Research is a process of inquiry that encompasses the gathering of data, interpretation of findings, and communication of results. The researcher needs to engage in critical thinking throughout the process, but most importantly, when designing their methodology.

Research can be done through a variety of methods, such as experiments, surveys, interviews, and observations. Each method has strengths and weaknesses.

Once the data has been collected, it must be analyzed and interpreted. This is often done through statistical methods or qualitative analysis.

Research is an essential tool for discovering new knowledge and for solving problems, but researchers need to think critically about how valid and reliable their data truly is.

## 15. Examining your own Beliefs and Prejudices

It’s important to examine your own beliefs and prejudices in order to ensure that they are fair and accurate. People who don’t examine their own beliefs have not truly critically examined their lives.

One way to do this is to take the time to consider why you believe what you do. What experiences have you had that have led you to this belief? Are there other ways to interpret these experiences? It’s also important to be aware of the potential for confirmation bias , which is when we seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs, while ignoring information that contradicts them.

This can lead us to hold onto inaccurate or unfair beliefs even when presented with evidence to the contrary.

To avoid this, it’s important to seek out diverse perspectives, and to be open-minded when considering new information. By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your beliefs are fair and accurate.

## 16. Looking at a Situation from Multiple Perspectives

One of the most important critical thinking skills that you can learn in life is how to look at a situation from multiple perspectives.

Being able to see things from different angles can help you to understand complex issues, spot potential problems, and find creative solutions. It can also help you to build better relationships, as you will be able to see where others are coming from and find common ground.

There are a few simple techniques that you can use to develop this skill.

First, try to imagine how someone else would feel in the same situation.

Second, put yourself in their shoes and try to see things from their point of view.

Finally, ask yourself what other factors may be influencing their perspective. By taking the time to view things from multiple angles, you will be better prepared to deal with whatever life throws your way.

## 17. Considering Implications before Taking Action

When faced with a difficult decision, it is important to consider the implications of each possible action before settling on a course of action.

This is because the consequences of our actions can be far-reaching and often unforeseen.

For example, a seemingly small decision like whether to attend a party or not might have much larger implications. If we decide to go to the party, we might miss an important deadline at work.

However, if we stay home, we might miss out on an opportunity to meet new people and make valuable connections.

In either case, our choice can have a significant impact on our lives.

Fortunately, critical thinking can help people to make well-informed decisions that could have a positive impact on their lives.

For example, you might have to weight up the pros and cons of attending the party and identify potential downsides, like whether you might be in a car with an impaired driver, and whether the party is really worth losing your job.

Having weighed up the potential outcomes, you can make a more rational and informed decision.

## 18. Reflective Practice

Reflecting on your actions is an important part of critical thinking. When you take the time to reflect, you are able to step back and examine your choices and their consequences more objectively.

This allows you to learn from your mistakes and make better decisions in the future.

In order to reflect effectively, it is important to be honest with yourself and open to learning new things. You must also be willing to question your own beliefs and assumptions. By taking these steps, you can develop the critical thinking skills that are essential for making sound decisions next time.

## 19. Problem-Solving

Problem-solving requires the ability to think critically in order to accurately assess a situation and determine the best course of action.

This means being able to identify the root cause of a problem , as well as any potential obstacles that may stand in the way of a solution. It also involves breaking down a problem into smaller, more manageable pieces in order to more easily find a workable solution.

In addition, critical thinking skills also require the ability to think creatively in order to come up with original solutions to these problems.

Go Deeper: Problem-Solving Examples

## 20. Brainstorming New Solutions

When brainstorming new solutions , critical thinking skills are essential in order to generate fresh ideas and identify potential issues.

For example, the ability to identify the problems with the last solution you tried is important in order to come up with better solutions this time. Similarly, analytical thinking is necessary in order to evaluate the feasibility of each idea. Furthermore, it is also necessary to consider different perspectives and adapt to changing circumstances.

By utilizing all of these critical thinking skills, it will be possible to develop innovative solutions that are both practical and effective.

## 21. Reserving Judgment

A key part of critical thinking is reserving judgment. This means that we should not rush to conclusions, but instead take the time to consider all the evidence before making up our minds.

By reserving judgment, we can avoid making premature decisions that we might later regret. We can also avoid falling victim to confirmation bias, which is the tendency to only pay attention to information that supports our existing beliefs.

Instead, by keeping an open mind and considering all the evidence, we can make better decisions and reach more accurate conclusions.

## 22. Identifying Deceit

Critical thinking is an important skill to have in any situation, but it is especially important when trying to identify deceit.

There are a few key things to look for when using critical thinking to identify deceit.

First, pay attention to the person’s body language. Second, listen closely to what the person is saying and look for any inconsistencies. Finally, try to get a sense of the person’s motive – why would they want to deceive you?

Each of these questions helps you to not just take things at their face value. Instead, you’re critiquing the situation and coming to a conclusion using all of your intellect and senses, rather than just believing what you’re told.

People with critical thinking skills are more open-minded because they are willing to consider different points of view and evidence.

They also realize that their own beliefs may be wrong and are willing to change their minds if new information is presented.

Similarly, people who are not critical thinkers tend to be close-minded because they fail to critique themselves and challenge their own mindset. This can lead to conflicts, as closed-minded people are not willing to budge on their beliefs even when presented with contradictory evidence.

Critical thinkers, on the other hand, are able to have more productive conversations as they are willing to listen to others and consider different viewpoints. Ultimately, being open-minded and willing to change one’s mind is a sign of intelligence and maturity.

## 24. Accounting for Bias

We all have biases, based on our individual experiences, perspectives, and beliefs. These can lead us to see the world in a certain way and to interpret information in a way that supports our existing views.

However, if we want to truly understand an issue, it is important to try to put aside our personal biases and look at the evidence objectively.

This is where critical thinking skills come in.

By using critical thinking, we can examine the evidence dispassionately and assess different arguments without letting our own prejudices get in the way. Start by looking at weaknesses and logical flaws in your own thinking.

In this way, you can start to get a more accurate picture of an issue and make more informed decisions.

## 25. Basing your Beliefs on Logic and Reasoning

In order to lead a successful and fulfilling life, it is important to base your beliefs on logic and reasoning.

This does not mean that you should never believe in something without evidence, but it does mean that you should be thoughtful and intentional about the things that you choose to believe.

One way to ensure that your beliefs are based on logic and reasoning is to seek out reliable sources of information. Another method is to use thought games to follow all your thoughts to their logical conclusions.

By basing your beliefs on logic and reasoning, you will be more likely to make sound decisions, and less likely to be swayed by emotions or misinformation.

Critical thinking is an important skill for anyone who wants to be successful in the modern world. It allows us to evaluate information and make reasoned decisions, rather than simply accepting things at face value.

Thus, employers often want to employ people with strong critical thinking skills. These employees will be able to solve problems by themselves and identify ways to improve the workplace. They will be able to push back against bad decisions and use their own minds to make good decisions.

Furthermore, critical thinking skills are important for students. This is because they need to be able to evaluate information and think through problems with a critical mindset in order to learn and improve.

• Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd-2/ 25 Number Games for Kids (Free and Easy)
• Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd-2/ 25 Word Games for Kids (Free and Easy)
• Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd-2/ 25 Outdoor Games for Kids
• Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd-2/ 50 Incentives to Give to Students

## Improving Critical Thinking Through Argument Mapping

Dual-coding, gestalt grouping, and hierarchical organization..

Posted November 9, 2018

As you may have figured out from the focus of my ongoing blog, my book and my previous research, critical thinking (CT) is my specialty area of research. However, perhaps something that I don’t mention enough within this blog is that CT wasn’t the primary focus of my Ph.D. research—rather, it was The Evaluation of Argument Mapping as a Learning Tool ; that is, argument mapping’s effects on a series of educational outcomes, including memory and CT. To clarify, an argument map is a visual representation of a logically structured network of reasoning, in which the argument is made unambiguous and explicit via a ‘box and arrow’ design, in which the boxes represent propositions (i.e. the central claim, reasons, objections, and rebuttals) and the ‘arrows’ among propositions indicate the inferential relationships linking the propositions together (Dwyer, 2011; van Gelder, 2002). As part of my Ph.D., three large-scale experimental studies were conducted with the main results indicating that argument mapping (AM) can significantly facilitate memory performance beyond that of more traditional study methods and that the provision of AM-infused CT training can significantly enhance CT performance (Dwyer, 2011). Given these observed benefits, I think it worthwhile to share a little bit about AM here and the rationale for why it works, especially for those who wish to enhance their own or even others’ CT.

Notably, though other forms of argument diagramming exist, such as concept mapping and mind-mapping , they differ substantially from AM based on the manner in which they are organized and the way in which each ‘proposition’ is presented. The problem with many concept mapping techniques is that they do not present an argument per se. Instead, they present a graphical structure that acts as a representation of a separate text, which might be used to diagram: the links among concepts, decision-making schemes, a set of plans or instructions, or at best, act as an argument overview – which does not represent the argument in full. Thus, because the text of the argument and the diagram may often be separate entities, concept mapping may become more cognitively demanding by adding the necessity of switching attention from text to diagram and vice versa (e.g. Chandler & Sweller, 1991; Pollock, Chandler & Sweller, 2002; Tindall-Ford, Chandler & Sweller, 1997). In addition, if the reader of a concept map is not familiar with the information from the text that the map is derived, then the map itself becomes meaningless. Neither sentences nor any inferential structures to facilitate comprehension are requisite. In this context, concept mapping strategies may not necessarily be useful pedagogical aids that are open to analysis by everyone.

Although AMs have been in existence for almost 200 years (Buckingham-Shum, 2003; see Whately, 1826), their construction was a slow, tedious task completed through pen and paper; and thus, not widely used as a learning tool, despite potential advantages over standard prose as a medium for presenting reasoning. With the advent of various user-friendly AM software programs, the time required to construct an AM has been substantially reduced. Perhaps as a result of the relatively recent advancements in AM software, little research has been conducted to test its effects on learning. However, the little research that has examined AM’s effects on CT has revealed beneficial effects (Alvarez-Ortiz, 2007; Butchart et al., 2009; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2011; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2012; van Gelder, 2001; van Gelder, Bissett & Cumming, 2004). The rationale for why AM has a beneficial effect on CT consists of reasoning pertaining to the former’s diagrammatic, dual-coding nature, Gestalt grouping principles and hierarchical organization.

First, unlike standard text, AMs represent arguments through dual modalities (visual-spatial/diagrammatic and verbal/propositional), thus facilitating the latent information processing capacity of individual learners. Dual-coding theory (Paivio, 1971; 1986), Mayer’s (1997) conceptualisation and empirical analysis of multimedia learning, as well as Sweller and colleagues’ research on cognitive load (Sweller, 2010) suggest that learning can be enhanced and cognitive load decreased by the presentation of information in a visual-verbal dual-modality, provided that both visual and verbal forms of representation are adequately integrated (i.e. to avoid attention-switching demands). Given that AM supports dual-coding of information in working memory via integration of text into a diagrammatic representation, cognitive resources previously devoted to translating prose-based arguments into a coherent, organised and integrated representation are ‘freed up’ and can be used to facilitate deeper encoding of arguments within AMs, which in turn facilitates later recall (e.g. Craik & Watkins, 1973), as well as subsequent, higher-order thinking processes, such as CT (Halpern, 2014; Maybery, Bain and Halford, 1986). Furthermore, previous research on using diagrammatic learning tools, like AM, has shown positive effects on learning outcomes (Berkowitz, 1986; Larkin & Simon, 1987; Oliver 2009; Robinson & Kiewra, 1995) and offers advantages over traditional text-based presentation of information because the indexing and structuring of information can potentially support essential computational processes necessary for CT.

Second, AMs utilize Gestalt grouping principles (e.g. similar color-coding and close proximity) that facilitate the organization of information in working memory and long-term memory , which in turn facilitates CT. For example, color can be used in an AM to distinguish evidence for a claim (i.e. green) from evidence against a claim (i.e. red); thus, all reasons are similarly color-coded, as are objections. More generally, a good AM is designed in such a way that if one proposition is evidence for another, the two will be appropriately juxtaposed and the link explained via a relational cue, such as because , but and however (van Gelder, 2001).

With respect to proximity, modern AM allows single propositions or entire branches of the argument to be removed or transferred from one location to another (and edited in the process) in order to facilitate reconstruction. The manner in which propositions and chains of reasoning can be manipulated within an AM may encourage deeper analysis and evaluation of the argument, as well as further refinements of its inferential structure. Similar propositions can be grouped together, which eases their assimilation and removes the need to switch attention as in text-based information (e.g. from one paragraph, or even one page, to another and back and forth). Such grouping also makes the search for specific, relevant information more efficient, which in turn supports perceptual inferences.

Finally, the third potential reason for why AM has a beneficial effect on CT is that AMs present information in a hierarchical manner, which also facilitates the organization of information for promoting CT. When arguing from a central claim, one may present any number of argument levels which need to be adequately represented for the argument to be properly conveyed. For example, an argument that provides a (1) support for a (2) support for a (3) support for a (4) claim has four levels in its hierarchical structure. More complex or ‘deeper’ arguments (e.g. with three or more argument levels beneath a central claim) are difficult to represent in text due to its linear nature; and yet it is essential that these complex argument structures are understood by a student if their goal is to analyze and evaluate the argument, to infer their own conclusions. The hierarchical nature of AM allows the reader to choose and follow a specific branch of the argument in which each individual proposition is integrated with other relevant propositions in terms of their inferential relationship.

Moreover, asking students to produce AMs can provide educators with valuable insights into a student’s ‘mental model of the argument in question’ (Butchart et al., 2009). Such information can be used to support teachers in offering feedback to students or scaffolding student learning from simple to complex levels of argument comprehension, analysis, and evaluation. Logically, as expertise in AM grows, so does the ability to present a well-structured argument, which allows for improvement in writing ability as well.

Alvarez-Ortiz, C. (2007). Does Philosophy Improve Critical Thinking Skills? Master’s Thesis. University of Melbourne, Australia.

Berkowitz, S.J. (1986). Effects of instruction in text organization on sixth-grade students’ memory for expository reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 21, 2, 161-178.

Buckingham-Shum, S.J. (2003). The roots of computer supported argument visualization. In P. A. Kirschner, S. Buckingham-Shum, & C. Carr (Eds.), Visualizing argumentation: Software tools for collaborative and educational sense-making, 3-24. London: Springer-Verlag.

Butchart, S., Bigelow, J., Oppy, G., Korb, K., & Gold, I. (2009). Improving critical thinking using web-based argument mapping exercises with automated feedback. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25, 2, 268-291.

Chandler, P., & J. Sweller, J. (1991). Evidence for cognitive load theory. Cognition and Instruction, 8, 4, 351-362.

Craik, F. I. M., & Watkins, M.J. (1973). The role of rehearsal in short-term memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 12, 6, 599-607.

Dwyer, C.P. (2011). The evaluation of argument mapping as a learning tool. Doctoral Thesis. National University of Ireland, Galway.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J., & Stewart, I. (2011). The promotion of critical thinking skills through argument mapping. In C.P. Horvart & J.M. Forte (Eds.), Critical Thinking, 97-122. Nova Science Publishers, New York.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J., & Stewart, I. (2012). An evaluation of argument mapping as a method of enhancing critical thinking performance in e-learning environments. Metacognition and Learning, 7, 219-244.

Halpern, D.F. (2014). Thought & knowledge: An introduction to critical thinking (5th Ed.). UK: Psychology Press.

Larkin, J., & Simon, H. (1987). Why a diagram is (sometimes) worth ten thousand words. Cognitive Science, 11, 65–99.

Maybery, M.T., Bain, J.D., & Halford, G.S. (1986). Information-processing demands of transitive inference. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 12, 4, 600-613.

Mayer, R.E. (1997). Multimedia learning: Are we asking the right questions? Educational Psychologist, 32, 1, 1-19.

Oliver, K. (2009). An investigation of concept mapping to improve the reading comprehension of science texts. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 18, 5, 402-414.

Paivio, A. (1971). Imagery and verbal processes. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.

Paivio, A. (1986). Mental representations: A dual-coding approach. New York: Oxford University Press.

Pollock, E., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (2002) Assimilating complex information. Learning & Instruction, 12, 61-86.

Robinson, D. H., & Kiewra, K. A. (1995). Visual argument: Graphic organizers are superior to outlines in improving learning from text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87, 3, 455–467.

Sweller, J. (2010). Cognitive load theory: Recent theoretical advances. In J.L. Plass, R. Moreno & R. Brünken (Eds.), Cognitive Load Theory, 29-47. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tindall-Ford, S., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (1997). When two sensory modes are better than one. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 3, 4, 257 -287.

van Gelder, T. J. (2001). How to improve critical thinking using educational technology. In G. Kennedy, M. Keppell, C. McNaught & T. Petrovic (Eds.), Meeting at the Crossroads: Proceedings of the 18th Annual Conference of the Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education, 539–548. Melbourne: Biomedical Multimedia Unit, University of Melbourne.

van Gelder, T.J. (2002). Argument mapping with Reason!Able. APA Newsletter:Philosophy & Computers, 2, 1, 85-90.

van Gelder, T.J. (2007). The rationale for RationaleTM. Law, Probability & Risk, 6, 23-42.

van Gelder, T.J., Bissett, M., & Cumming, G. (2004). Enhancing expertise in informalreasoning. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology 58, 142-52.

Whately, R. (1826). Elements of Logic. London: Fellowes.

Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone, Ireland.

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## Critical thinking definition

Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process, which is why it's often used in education and academics.

Some even may view it as a backbone of modern thought.

However, it's a skill, and skills must be trained and encouraged to be used at its full potential.

People turn up to various approaches in improving their critical thinking, like:

• Developing technical and problem-solving skills
• Engaging in more active listening
• Actively questioning their assumptions and beliefs
• Seeking out more diversity of thought
• Opening up their curiosity in an intellectual way etc.

## Is critical thinking useful in writing?

Critical thinking can help in planning your paper and making it more concise, but it's not obvious at first. We carefully pinpointed some the questions you should ask yourself when boosting critical thinking in writing:

• What information should be included?
• Which information resources should the author look to?
• What degree of technical knowledge should the report assume its audience has?
• What is the most effective way to show information?
• How should the report be organized?
• How should it be designed?
• What tone and level of language difficulty should the document have?

Usage of critical thinking comes down not only to the outline of your paper, it also begs the question: How can we use critical thinking solving problems in our writing's topic?

Let's say, you have a Powerpoint on how critical thinking can reduce poverty in the United States. You'll primarily have to define critical thinking for the viewers, as well as use a lot of critical thinking questions and synonyms to get them to be familiar with your methods and start the thinking process behind it.

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1. Chapter 2 Arguments

Chapter 2 Arguments. Chapter 2. Arguments. The fundamental tool of the critical thinker is the argument. For a good example of what we are not talking about, consider a bit from a famous sketch by Monty Python's Flying Circus: 3. Man: (Knock) Mr. Vibrating: Come in.

2. Critical thinking arguments for beginners

In critical thinking and logic, 'argument' has a particular meaning. It refers to a set of statements, consisting of one conclusion and one or more premises. The conclusion is the statement that the argument is intended to prove. The premises are the reasons offered for believing that the conclusion is true. A critical thinking argument ...

3. LOGOS: Critical Thinking, Arguments, and Fallacies

And threats to the system demand a defensive response. Critical thinking is short-circuited in authoritarian systems so that the conclusions are conserved instead of being open for revision. ... You can think of this type of argument as a faulty chain of events or domino effect type of argument. Example 6: If you don't study for your ...

4. Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking

This is an introductory textbook in logic and critical thinking. The goal of the textbook is to provide the reader with a set of tools and skills that will enable them to identify and evaluate arguments. The book is intended for an introductory course that covers both formal and informal logic. As such, it is not a formal logic textbook, but is closer to what one would find marketed as a ...

5. Logic and the Study of Arguments

2. Logic and the Study of Arguments. If we want to study how we ought to reason (normative) we should start by looking at the primary way that we do reason (descriptive): through the use of arguments. In order to develop a theory of good reasoning, we will start with an account of what an argument is and then proceed to talk about what ...

6. [A01] What is an argument?

A crucial part of critical thinking is to identify, construct, and evaluate arguments. In everyday life, people often use "argument" to mean a quarrel between people. But in logic and critical thinking, an argument is a list of statements, one of which is the conclusion and the others are the premises or assumptions of the argument.

7. Arguments and Critical Thinking

Sherry Diestler, Becoming a Critical Thinker, 4th ed., p. 403. " Argument: An attempt to support a conclusion by giving reasons for it.". Robert Ennis, Critical Thinking, p. 396. "Argument - A form of thinking in which certain statements (reasons) are offered in support of another statement (conclusion).".

8. Chapter 8: Identifying Arguments

But in logic and critical thinking, an argument is a list of statements, one of which is the conclusion and the others are the premises or assumptions of the argument. An example: It is raining. So you should bring an umbrella. In this argument, the first statement is the premise and the second one the conclusion.

9. Critical Thinking: Defining an Argument, Premises, and Conclusions

A conclusion is the final assertion that is supported with evidence and reasons. What's important is the relationship between premises and conclusions. The premises are independent reasons and evidence that support the conclusion. In an argument, the conclusion should follow from the premises.Lets consider a simple example:Reason (1 ...

10. Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking. Critical Thinking is the process of using and assessing reasons to evaluate statements, assumptions, and arguments in ordinary situations. The goal of this process is to help us have good beliefs, where "good" means that our beliefs meet certain goals of thought, such as truth, usefulness, or rationality. ... This example ...

11. 1.8: Patterns of Valid Arguments

Do you want to learn how to reason logically and critically? This webpage introduces you to some common patterns of valid arguments, such as modus ponens, modus tollens, and hypothetical syllogism. You will also find examples and exercises to test your understanding of these concepts. This webpage is part of a miniguide to critical thinking, a free online resource by Humanities LibreTexts.

12. Critical Thinking: What is an Argument?

In this lecture from his Critical Thinking college course, Professor Galindo discusses the anatomy of an argument. He explains claims, issues, conclusions, p...

13. What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources. Evaluate and respond to arguments.

14. 3. What is a Good Argument (I)?

I can see how people might initially get this impression, since so many of the introductory examples you see in logic and critical thinking texts are short two-premise arguments. For the purpose of introducing new logical concepts, the short two-premise argument forms are very useful. But you can have arguments with five, ten or a hundred premises.

15. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well. Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly ...

16. Critical Thinking: Step 5: Structuring Arguments

Proof. Evidence. Prepare. Summarize. Step 5: Structuring Arguments. The tabs in this box are laid out in the order of which you should consider structuring your arguments. Click through each tab to view the step in structuring an argument, as well as good and bad examples of that step. Clearly state your main point in the form of an assertion.

17. 3. Valid versus Invalid Arguments

3. Valid vs Invalid Arguments. An argument has to satisfy the Logic Condition in order for it to qualify as a good argument. But there are two importantly different ways in which an argument can satisfy the Logic Condition. One way is if the argument is valid. Another way is if the argument is strong. "Validity" and "strength" are technical ...

18. Standard Argument Form

Standard argument form is a graphical method for displaying arguments, making plain the purpose of a statement by its placement. Premises are separated, numbered, and placed above a line, and the conclusion is placed below the line. The act of inference is represented with three dots (or the word "so") placed next to the conclusion.

19. 25 Critical Thinking Examples (2024)

For example, if they are studying a phenomenon that occurs infrequently, they may need to extrapolate from the data they do have in order to form a hypothesis. Here, the scientist is engaged in critical thinking: they use the limited data to come up with a tentative judgment. 3. Moderating a Debate.

20. Improving Critical Thinking Through Argument Mapping

For example, an argument that provides a (1) support for a (2) support for a (3) support for a (4) claim has four levels in its hierarchical structure. ... Improving critical thinking using web ...

21. Using Critical Thinking in Essays and other Assignments

Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement. Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process ...