Thursday, June 14, 2012

Good thinking piece

Here's a good piece on critical thinking: here.

17 comments:

threefourthree said...

you are only skimming the word surface !! playing with WORDS the vibrative key -note of this particular PI. in the sky !of this septenary galatic-universe Now !!in your erudition .tell me when is the (1)not -not one???when is one -all why must Muslims visit MECCA ??

Stephen Law said...

Indeed.

Anonymous said...

kungfurichard?

“It could be called ‘How to think, not what to think’.”
Theoretically we are all on the same side and in search of the same thing, truth. Which cannot but increase in strength the more it is tested. A disinclination to test a “truth”, suggests an absence of confidence or an existing knowledge that it is fatally flawed.

3. “Mild unless you consider yourself an expert”.
Yet never confuse expertise with infallibility.

“Especially beware certainty.”
Positive: Mistaken, at the top of one’s voice. (devil's dictionary)


4. “Demand evidence”
In the absence of evidence, ask the proponent what they used in their evaluation. With the assurance that you are willing to be convinced, and a concern that the floor may be about to open up beneath them.

11. Resist blanking mode, when confronted with a contradiction to the personal rendition. The presence of a paradox highlights an incomplete understanding of reality. Since in the presence of a complete understanding of reality, no paradox can exist.

Martin said...
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Martin said...
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Martin said...

[Sorry for the previous deletions, it's late and I made so many errors.]

Allow me to demonstrate my critical thinking skills by expressing my annoyance with these pretty bland modernist recommendations

"1.Always be able to change your mind.
On anything."


Okay, so long as I can change my mind on that. But if I can change my mind on that, then it means that potentially, there are things I shouldn't be able to change my mind on.

"2. Seek out criticism and counterarguments to your views.
Subject your beliefs to vicious and relentless attack.
Be curious how you might be wrong - there may be something you haven’t thought of".


Should I seek our counterarguments to this principle? How much time should I invest doing that?

Heh, obviously I agree that it can be good to challenge your views. But I think that you can't actually live your life if you're also persistently challenging the ideas that give your life coherent sense and ground your identity. (Which will take us on to a later point). As a matter of find I do find myself able to persistently do that and it is more a neurosis that wreaks havok in any part of my life I actually care about. An occassional challenge is healthy? Developing a character that seeks it out everywhere is not.

"3.Strength of opinion should be proportional to your investigation and understanding of its criticisms, counterarguments and alternatives."

I agree in some domains but I also think the human mind also has reasoning forms which deal with narrative coherence and does not admit of degrees of confidence and that these forms have legitimate use.

"4. Doubt everything. Challenge. Criticise.
Question what you are told. Ask ‘why?’ Demand evidence."


Why the hell should I do that? What's your evidence for it? ;)

"5. Go to the primary source.
To avoid second-hand distortions. Use language precisely."


Okay.

"6. Beware being emotionally infused with and attached to an idea."

On my view of selfhood, (basically, Charles Taylor's) one cannot really have a stable identity without being anchored to certain values. Values relate to (or simply are) ideas. You thus cannot help being emotionally attached to certain ideas. It is a normal and constitutive feature of being a human self.

"7. Beware knee-jerk reactions and opinion formations.
Be thorough, hesitant and deliberative.
Analyse soberly with thought and reason over gut feeling."


Pending on what is meant by "gut feeling" I agree. I would disagree if it referred to a blanket fear of intuitions across the board.

"8. Beware logical fallacies*.
Particularly the trinity of appeal to tradition, authority and popularity."


Aye.

"9. Beware cognitive biases*.
Particularly reasoning under uncertainty, groupthink and in-group/out-group tribalism.
The hardest test is resistance to conformity with the prevailing opinion in one’s own in-group."


I'm not sold on the idea that all identified cognitive "biases" are really bad, but yes some do appear worthy off avoidance.

"10.Details matter.
Appreciate context, complexity and nuance."


Yes.

Anonymous said...

Martin said...

"1.Always be able to change your mind.
On anything."

Okay, so long as I can change my mind on that. But if I can change my mind on that, then it means that potentially, there are things I shouldn't be able to change my mind on.”
IMHO Possibly. But where there’s flexibility, there’s hope.


“2. Seek out criticism and counterarguments to your views.
Subject your beliefs to vicious and relentless attack.
Be curious how you might be wrong - there may be something you haven’t thought of".

Should I seek our counterarguments to this principle? How much time should I invest doing that?”
Until you can’t find any more, or else expire. Whichever comes first.



"4. Doubt everything. Challenge. Criticise.
Question what you are told. Ask ‘why?’ Demand evidence."

Why the hell should I do that? What's your evidence for it? “
Human fallibility?

Paul P. Mealing said...

Particularly reasoning under uncertainty, groupthink and in-group/out-group tribalism.
The hardest test is resistance to conformity with the prevailing opinion in one’s own in-group.


I think this is the most important point. People underestimate how significant 'conformity' is in human behaviour - it's what leads to the worst of atrocities.

Confirmation bias is universal. We all look for opinions and evidence that supports our own beliefs. It requires a conscientious effort to do the opposite.

Philosophy is about having your ideas challenged and challenging other people's ideas. You only think critically about an idea when you are confronted with counter-evidence or a good counter-argument.

I agree with the adage about self-examination leading to wisdom.

Regards, Paul.

jules said...

"Yet it is held to be the key skill that education develops."

Philosophy certainly does develop that skill, but there's some doubt as to whether other courses do. It may be a transferable skill, but in my experience most graduates are quite limited in applying it outside their chosen specialism.

A recent book by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa ‘Academically Unfit: Limited Learning on College Campuses’ has argued that over a third of America’s university students show no improvement in critical thinking or analytical reasoning after four years in college. Though there are disputes over the methods used to assess such thinking, the study does raise important issues as to whether critical thinking can emerge whilst doing a university course or whether there needs to be some explicit development of the skills and attributes.

http://www.ifthen.co.uk/2011/12/critical-thinking-and-us-universities/

jules said...

BTW Stephen, a bit off-topic, but I was at the "Limits of Science" debate in Hay, and I wondered whether you had a discussion with Rupert Sheldrake afterwards. I also heard his "The Science Delusion" talk and thought he raised some good points.

admin said...

@Martin

re: one cannot really have a stable identity without being anchored to certain values
limiting how much one challenges their worldview and the impact upon neuroticism/comfortable mental health is an interesting point.
could you elaborate on what you mean by 'stable identity' please?

re: one shouldnt have a blanket fear of intuitions across the board.
can you elaborate please?

re: not all cog biases bad?
example to illustrate please?

ShahHussainKCL said...

I thought I agreed with the article at first but the more I think about it the more I take issue with it. I find the commandment format somewhat... 'irksome'. Perhaps I can offer a procedural account instead...

Some issue may engage my interest either because I notice it independently or because someone else has suggested it to me, directly or indirectly. First, I wonder what I and others make of it and identify the main few popular perspectives and inquire after how well supported they each are. Of the most convincing few(er), I look to what difficulties there might be with the apparent support they have and, if necessary, try to come up with further perspectives which are at least as credible but do not suffer from the same difficulties. And then I look for more difficulties in this new batch of perspectives. Repeat and rinse.

Clearly I don't follow this as a literal procedure but I try to and I'm most impressed by thinkers who are able to do this successfully. Am I not just describing critical thinking in action?

Anonymous said...

ShahHussainKCL said...
I thought I agreed with the article at first but the more I think about it the more I take issue with it. I find the commandment format somewhat... 'irksome'
Whatever the format, the primary tenet remains: Question.

A radio programme this morning suggested that more science in government might improve decisions. Facts rather than gut-feelings. Unfortunately no one mentioned need for a philosophy input. To try and differentiate facts from “facts”.

Shah Hussain said...

*tl;dr alert*

To Anonymous (18 June),

But surely the commandment format is the least inviting to questioning. No?

Regardless, I concur regarding science AND philosophy input. I am a (reasonably competent) science graduate and yet I find it very alarming how many science graduates can be more sophisticated than me in the science and yet truly abysmal at the philosophical foundations of scientific inquiry. Even more alarming are the number of science graduates who seem to cling to the established theories of their own discipline as if they were doctrine and are also unable to subject matters outside that discipline to scientific scrutiny.

I feel very much that such science graduates, despite being smarter than me, have been robbed of a complete education. This is my motivation for being eager to back SL's advocacy for Philosophy in British Universities.

But I think I'd go further still than he: I would want to see a system where History & Philosophy of Science (taught by a collaboration of Philosophers and academics from the special science of your degree) be a core module for any course awarding a BSc certificate. I presently see that as the only way to ensure that science graduates are meaningfully prepared to think rather than people who have learnt scientific facts by rote but lack inquisitiveness.

IMHO, of course.

Shah.

Shah Hussain said...

erm... apologies my display name has changed. I merged my blogspot and google+ accounts earlier this afternoon.

Marcus Morgan said...

A profile of Socrates, or of Sherlock Holmes & Dr Watson as one entity.

kungfuhobbit said...

a couple of followups

http://www.kungfuhobbit.com/2012/07/indoctrinating-how-to-think.html

http://www.kungfuhobbit.com/2012/07/what-hell-is-critical-thinking.html