The problem of understanding linkages

There are many different words and phrases that appear in natural language to link claims together explicitly. There are also many ways of writing claims so they are clearly linked. But the linkages are not dependent on having the link words there in your writing. If you think, for example, that 'Australia should become a republic because this change will make Australia a more independent nation', then the linkage of this conclusion with this premise occurs because you think it is so (so long...

3 Environmental protection improves the quality of life for all Australians

44 SMART THINKING SKILLS FOR CRITICAL UNDERSTANDING & WRITING 5. All Australians want to improve their quality of life. In technical terms, these extra' premises explicitly state the necessary cross-linking between the claims' internal connections. More generally, the premises make clear implied information, which in the original argument would have had to be inferred by its audience for it to make sense. In other words, adding these premises moves the information they contain from the...

6If a country has no laws against individual religions and the people of

That country do not object to any religious practices, then freedom of religious expression exists in that country. As we can see here, the very fact that you could probably guess what was missing is a sign that the pattern of interconnections in premises and conclusions is important we are able, often, to see what is missing but should, always, make sure that it is written in explicitly when we are constructing these claim diagram structures. There are times when people make the mistake of...

CMilk drinking is not recommended for people who are lactoseintolerant

This property of a claim an internal connection between two or more ideas is fundamental. The internal connection underpins the external links between claims that are necessary in reasoning. While reasoning does not consist simply of one claim, it does occur when you take a number of claims and, by varying the pattern of interconnections, produce a 'link' from the first interconnection to the next. Here is a simple example (we will be doing much more on this concept in later chapters).

Capturing the essence of the text

The most likely explanation of students' failures to reference is that they do not think of themselves as writers. 14. We do not want students to fail to reference. There are ten paragraphs in the text. Here is what each of them does, as part of a narrative flow that expresses the underlying logical structure 1 Sets the scene by providing background information and grabbing the reader's attention by establishing that there is a problem that needs to be considered. 2 This paragraph provides...

Contents

Preface to First Edition Preface to Second Edition How to Use this Book 1 Smart Thinking What is smart thinking How do we study smart thinking Why do we need to 'think smart' 2 Claims The Key Elements of Reasoning Understanding language More about claims Claims and reasoning Review 3 Linking The Key Process in Reasoning Links between claims The analytical structure of reasoning Learning more about the analytical structure Review 4 Understanding the Links between Claims Dependent premises 5 More...

Information understood by where we find it

Let us begin with a little history lesson.1 J. C. R. Licklider was a leading US scientist in the 1950s and 1960s. One of the founders of the Internet, and a visionary, he was lead author of a report in the 1960s on the future of the library, and libraries of the future. The report's main argument first of all recognised the value of the printed page. It was a superlative medium for information display and processing 'small, light, movable, cuttable, clippable, pastable, replicable, disposable,...

Understanding the Links between Claims

Linking claims involves two distinct processes, as signalled by the + and I symbols used in analytical structure diagrams. The first process involves connections between premises and other premises the second between premises and a conclusion. We must explore these links in more detail in order to understand, first, the analysis that lies behind such connections and, second, how to represent them accurately in the analytical structure format. Of course, in practice, the process of...

Reasoning from generalisation

Reasoning from generalisation is another common form of argument or explanation. Yet it is very different from causation. If causation, at its simplest, seeks to show how one event leads to another, reasoning from generalisation shows how knowledge about a general class or category of events allows us to make a conclusion about a specific event that fits the general category. For example All children who have been fully immunised are protected against some common and life-threatening diseases,...

Effective use of dependent premises Dependent premises providing one reason

A reason for a conclusion is very unlikely to consist in a single claim. No matter how we might state it in short-hand, it is, analytically, a complex interaction of many ideas and implications. The reason must be broken down into a chain of more precise premises. For example, the claim that 'university education should be free for all Australians' might be supported by the reason that 'the economy benefits from a well-educated Australian population'. But is our analysis of the situation...

Example text

One of the problems that confronts teachers of first-year university units each semester is the need to ensure that students learn, quickly, the methods and skills of correct referencing. In some courses, students are very much left to fend for themselves, relying on, perhaps, the services of the university library, advice offered by individual staff members, or simply muddling through on the basis of critical feedback on their first assignments. The Department of Media and Information (DMI),...

Reasoning from specific cases

Where do these generalisations come from Do we just make them up No, in most cases they have been established via reasoning in this instance, from specific cases to a generalisation. The difference in reasoning from specific cases is that, although a general statement is involved, it is not used as a premise but as the conclusion. We routinely find such reasoning in, for example, opinion polls, statistical analyses, or any other surveys in which the reasoning supports conclusions that...

You should wash your car [c since your car is dirty [p

The same claim 'Your car is dirty' is used in two different ways first, as a conclusion being explained and, second, as a premise. The general rule, thus demonstrated, is that any claim can be either a conclusion or a premise depending on how it is linked with other claims and the context in which it is used. Conclusions and premises are very similar because both are claims. However, within reasoning, some claims serve a different purpose to other claims. The nature of premises and conclusions...

3Australia permits freedom of religious expression

Let us consider another example I know that Australia has no laws that forbid any religion, and that, by and large, the people who live in Australia let others practise their religions peacefully, even if they do not agree with them. These in fact are the reasons why I had assumed it was obvious that Australia permits freedom of religious expression'. But we should not assume our readers know this, or that we are in fact right we better write in those ideas to make sure the logic is correct....

Justifying all aspects of the conclusion

As we know, claims are complex statements that tie together all sorts of information about ideas, scope, certainty, values, and so on. As a result, any reasoning to support or explain a claim (the conclusion) must attend to each aspect of that claim. For example, if we wanted to explain why 'Most people do not understand that late capitalism will never sustain unemployment levels lower than 5 per cent', then there are many aspects of the claim that need explanation. At the very least, our...

A few Australians think global terrorism threatens this country

The claims are very similar, except in their reporting of the number of Australians who believe global terrorism threatens their country. The scope, in each case, is determined by the different value of all', 'some', and 'few'. Scope is not just about numbers. It can also be seen in claims about, for example, a geographic area ('Most of Western Australia is uninhabited') or time ('For much of its history, Australia was not populated by white people'). Certainty is another characteristic of all...

Exercise

For each of the following, indicate an appropriate authority to whom you might refer if required to establish the foundation of these claims. Remember, you are not reasoning here but are referring to some source of reasoning about the claim b. Television was introduced to Australia in 1956. d. We should legalise marijuana. e. The two main political parties are the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Labor Party. f. A broken leg requires immediate medical treatment. Let us at this...

Links between claims Evidence of the linking process

We can directly 'see' claims in natural language, but linking, the process of reasoning, can only be inferred, indirectly.1 In any argument or explanation in natural language we can find the evidence of this linking process in the words or phrases that show or signal how one claim relates to another. We have already come across these words. Remember these examples Your car is dirty c because you drove through some mud p . You should wash your car c since your car is dirty p . The words...

Summary

This book has concentrated on the analytical structure format, primarily as a way of learning about reasoning, but also with an eye to its practical application as a tool for helping you plan the creation and presentation of arguments and explanations. Yet it would be wrong to think that the format is, of itself, something essential to reasoning. It is not. This format along with the idea of analytical questions is one way of representing the thought processes that we must go through to be...

The Key Elements of Reasoning

This chapter begins our in-depth exploration of how to use reasoning more effectively in order to make us smart thinkers. As suggested in chapter 1, learning to use reasoning better requires that we be more aware of what we are already doing. We need to learn some basic terms and concepts with which to talk and think about reasoning. The aim of this chapter is to improve our awareness of how we are actually doing reasoning. The focus in this chapter is on claims. In the next chapter we look at...

Using independent premises

While, obviously, these three reasons are broadly concerned with the same issue, in this argument they are offered independently no one claim needs any of the others for the argument to make sense. I could, quite legitimately, find out that claim 3 is wrong and yet still be convinced by claims 2 and 4 to accept claim 1. In a dependent chain, if one of the three claims were to 'fall out' in this way, then the entire reason expressed by that chain would be invalidated. Now compare the previous...

Descriptive and value claims

Some claims assert that things are, or have been, a certain way and some claims make judgments about the way things should or should not be. These are respectively called descriptive claims and value claims. For example, 'This book is printed on white paper' describes the type of paper, whereas 'We should use less paper to save trees' expresses a value judgment ('it is good to save trees'). But, to complicate matters many, and perhaps even all, claims have some implicit value judgment. Often we...

The world is flat

The first statement is not a claim we cannot ask 'Is it true or false to say Is the world round or flat '. But it is possible to ask 'Is it true or false to say The world is round '. Similarly we can ask 'Is it true or false to say The world is flat '. Hence the second and third statements are both claims, even though one is true and one is false. Claims are about the possibility of truth or falsehood, not about whether a claim really is true or not.

The key analytical questions

Context analysing the external dimensions of reasoning Throughout this book, we have seen how context is all-important in determining many of our judgments about effective reasoning. When planning and creating (and then presenting) an argument or explanation, the particular context in which this reasoning occurs must be actively considered. The nature of context a mass of implied or assumed knowledge and expectations makes it impossible for us to develop precise guidelines for its...

Justifying actions When first introduced I thought subscribing to pay television was not a good idea because

So, smart thinking is about reasoning, which is about the use and communication of knowledge. Researching, reading, analysing, testing, checking, planning, and writing all depend on understanding those interrelationships. Once you understand that knowledge consists of innumerable interrelations between small 'bits' of information, then you will be able to find, shape, and use knowledge for yourself. But reasoning is also about people the authors and audiences of arguments, explanations, and so...

The weakness of independent premises

Independent premises are easier to generate, because we can quickly think of a reason for our conclusion and then jump to expressing it as a single claim. But the resulting independent premises are not strong. They reflect either a lack of insight into the complexity of (most) problems or a failure to recognise that our audience may not be as clever as us at grasping these complexities implicitly. Indeed, there are no genuinely independent premises. What we tend to think of initially as being a...

Claims supported by reasoning

Hence, all of the next chapter, which discusses in detail the effective construction of links between claims, is applicable to subsidiary arguments, such as the one involving claims 5, 6, 7, and 8, as well as to main arguments, such as that involving claims 2, 4, 5, and 1. For each of the following, write a brief argument (in analytical structure format) that establishes the acceptability of these claims. In each case, remember that the claims you use in support of the following...

CAll human life is worth protecting and capital punishment involves taking a human life Hence we should oppose capital

In a dependent chain, we sometimes need to include a premise that provides a definition. Definitions tell the audience the meaning of a particular word or phrase found in the other premises and or conclusion. Definitions are only meaningful in concert with the other claims in the argument or explanation (the ones that actually use the term being defined by the definition). There is little value in simply giving a definition for its own sake it must be linked in with other premises that depend...

Controlling the key properties of claims

Because a claim makes an internal connection between two ideas, we need to make sure that this connection is expressed as we want it to be. Again, by writing carefully, we also improve our 'analysis' of the issues. Look at the following claims a. Many colonial Australian settlers took part in military-style operations against indigenous Australians throughout the nineteenth century, in different parts of the country. b. The violent conflict between white settlers and indigenous Australians was...

Gday

None of these statements expresses a view about the way the world is or should be, and hence they are not claims. The first asks for information (a question)-,1 the second demands that a person do something (an order)-, and the third is an exclamation. Note how we do not say 'g'day' to claim that 'this day is a good day'. We say 'g'day' as a greeting, as a ritual use of language to begin a conversation. Similarly, orders and questions are ways of initiating or concluding communication. A few...

Premises that provide a definition

Definitions are often crucial in reasoning. While many words that we use are 'obvious' in their meaning, others are more complex. Sometimes we want to use words that have a 'common-sense' meaning that is different from the meaning we want to convey in our own argument or explanation (like 'claim' in chapter 2). Good definitions ensure that the other premises relying on a definition can be understood by our audiences when, without the definition, there would be a risk of the premises being...

Relations of similarity and difference

We might, for example, discover that there has been a 100 per cent increase in Internet use in Australia in the past two years. We can immediately begin to think about the following was this increase the same, or more or less in previous years Have there been similar rises in other countries recently Again, in a more complex example, we read that Australia was one of the countries that most quickly (in terms of time and number of users) adopted video recorders and mobile phones when they were...

Preface to First Edition

The study and teaching of critical thinking (also known as informal logic) is relatively rare in Australia. There is little to guide the keen student or teacher in the development of skills for analysis and reasoning in everyday work and study The orientation of most of the available books on this subject is more traditionally logical, and this orientation further complicates the process of teaching and learning applied critical thinking skills, since it tends to remove the use of reasoning and...

Review exercise

There is no review exercise for this chapter move on to chapter 2. Also, there is no need to do a concept check now. When you have finished the book, however, return to this chapter and revise it. I am sure you will read it with a very different perspective. 1 From Bad Religion, Stranger than Fiction (compact disc), Dragnet, 1994, MATTCD003. 2 Developed from Josina M. Makau, Reasoning and Communication Thinking Critically about Arguments, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA, 1990. 3 Stephen Toulmin, Richard...

Strength of support

It is very important to think about the strength of the support that we can give our claims. There are two distinct issues involved. First of all, we must have good evidence. A well-founded claim, by virtue of the fact that it is well founded, will have a number of good premises, which should be provided to assist our audience in accepting and understanding it. But a more significant issue in communicating our reasoning is to decide which of the supporting claims that we know about should be...

Thinking about values

I argued above that Australia is a good country in which to live', a claim that is obviously making a value judgment. Let us assume, for a moment, that my initial thought as to why this claim is true was Australia permits freedom of religious expression. The mistake here of just having one premise is compounded by the fact that this premise does not make an explicit value judgment and thus suggests something is very wrong with my thinking. Returning to the example above, we can see that part of...

5The people who live in Australia let others practise their religions peacefully even if they do not agree with those

But once again, I can see there is something missing, because of internal connections. The conclusion has, as its predicate, 'freedom of religious expression'. But this term in the argument is not mentioned in either of the two premises, 4 and 5. Hence, I have not yet represented accurately what I am thinking. I should add a claim which will function as a framing premise, and incidentally is an example of the value of the super-claim that has the if then form 'If a country has no laws against...

Casting

The process by which we recover an analytical structure from a written argument is called 'casting'.3 1 will work through an example, step by step, and then provide some practice examples. We will use the following natural argument a very simple one that I have constructed to help demonstrate this process. Let's consider the facts. Chemical factories are very dangerous to live nearby and one has been built near your house. You'd be crazy to put yourself in danger, no That's why you should move...

2Countries that permit freedom of religious expression are good places to live

My knowledge that independent premises are a sign that another, dependent premise is needed cues me to think 'what is missing here '. The answer comes from the fact that claims 1 and 2 both share the same predicate (good places to live) but have a different subjects Australia (1) and Countries that permit freedom of religious expression (2). While it might seem obvious, the problem here is that you cannot move from claim 2 to claim 1 logically without providing an additional claim in which the...

Deduction

In deductive reasoning, your conclusion states with certainty a relationship between two or more premises. It has to be certain, because it simply makes explicit a relationship that is already there (but not directly obvious) in the combination of the claims that are serving as premises. You will remember this aspect from the discussion of claims in chapters 2 to 4. Let us look at an example I am under 18 people under 18 in Australia cannot vote. Therefore I cannot vote. There are three key...

Categorical and propositional logic

Now we will look at the two common forms of deductive reasoning. For a long time, logic was primarily thought to consist in the formation of definitive relationships (such as the deductive examples above), normally expressed in the form Humans are mammals. All mammals breathe air. Therefore humans breathe air. Such reasoning is called categorical precisely because it is not about actual events so much as the ideal categories by which we can define and discriminate the innumerable things in the...

How to Use this Book

To get the most out of this book, you will need to read it carefully chapter by chapter. The book builds sequentially, so that many of the ideas and concepts introduced in earlier chapters underpin more complex discussion of related issues in subsequent chapters. Also, as you go, you should do the exercises in each chapter. Do not check the answers until you have completed all of a particular exercise and are satisfied with them. When you turn to the Answers, Discussion, and Further Advice, you...

Must do c

By adding these two claims together, the internal connection between the Internet and more information (a-b) is combined with the connection between more information and more work (b c) to establish the conclusion's claim that the Internet leads to more work (a c). The significance of these two premises working together is clear most people would assume that the likely conclusion to a claim that 'The Internet has greatly increased the amount of information readily available to researchers' is...

Learning more about the analytical structure The analytical structure behind narrative flow

The primary purpose of the analytical structure format is to assist you in planning your own writing. However it is very useful to look at other people's reasoning as a way of learning about it. We can recover this analytical structure by, first, finding the claims being made and, second, grasping the connections between them (some signals of which can be found in the traces of reasoning represented by any linking words or phrases). Before moving on to look at how we can use the analytical...

Information as it relates to how we are using it

As well as classifying information in relation to the topic we are investigating, we can also think about four types of information in terms of how we will use that information in our own reasoning. This typology of information answers the question 'How does this information relate to what I am trying to do in my argument or explanation '. These four types do not 'coincide' in any way with the five classes just discussed. We can find information of any type in any of the classes just discussed...

Induction

In an inductive argument, unlike deduction, if the premises are true, then the conclusion is only probably true and how big a chance that it is true depends on the weight of evidence presented in the premises. The conclusion, then, in an inductive argument is not guaranteed by the premises, but only supported by them. Often, the difference expresses itself in the way that an inductive conclusion does not state an implicit relationship but goes beyond the premises to make a new claim altogether....

More about claims Connections within claims

A claim provides an internal connection between at least two ideas. For example, the claim that 'Australia should become a republic' provides an internal connection between, roughly speaking, 'Australia and 'republic'. Similarly, 'Australia should not become a republic' also makes this connection, although the meaning of that claim is completely different. The technical, grammatical names for the two components within a claim are the 'subject' and the 'predicate' of the statement. Roughly...

More on conclusions

So, when we reason, we first of all have to decide which is the claim we are trying to argue for or explain. This claim is the conclusion. It is not a summary, but a new statement altogether, which may be linked to the premises but goes beyond them to give some further information, the 'truth' of which becomes clearer because of the premises given. The conclusion is a claim in its own right, and not merely a restatement of the claims already made as premises. The selection of a conclusion is...

Information classified by the topic under investigation

As well as looking for information prompted by how it relates to other information, we can also consider that there are, broadly, five classes of information involved in reasoning.2 Each is defined in relation to the particular topic we are investigating, and to each other. These classes can be understood as an answer to the question 'how does this information relate to the information involved in my specific topic of investigation '. They are 1 information directly relating to the specific...

Relations of specific and general

We might read in an article about two successful e-commerce ventures in Australia (call them x.com.au and y.com.au). Immediately we need to think are these two specific examples unusual, representative, evidence of a trend We are seeing if there is a relationship between the specific claim 'x and y are successful e-commerce businesses' and a more general claim that 'there are many successful e-commerce businesses in Australia'. We need to read additional articles books to find out if there are...

Statements that are claims

Our central focus for the moment is on a particular type of statement the claim. Here are two examples of claims Prior to the war on Iraq in 2003, more Australians opposed the war than supported it. John Howard, Australian Prime Minister in 2003, determined that Australian military forces should be deployed to participate in the war on Iraq. Although these statements differ in what they say, each is a claim. More precisely, they claim to represent truly something 'real' about the world. We...

The opposite of letting innumerable individual decisions about demand and supply determine market interactions

The first case is a definition by example. Such definitions are useful only where the audience will understand the connection between the general definition and specific situation in the example. In the second case, the definition becomes clear via a comparison to a similar situation these definitions are very useful where the intended audience does not know enough about the topic to be given an example but can, through an appropriate comparison, draw upon their knowledge of other topics. The...

Thinkers with attitude

Remember, smart thinking always has a social dimension we humans are doing the reasoning. As a result, one of the key ingredients of successful thinking and analysis, and of the effective use of reasoning, is our own attitude. For most (if not all) of us, our knowledge will usually consist of both the basic information or 'facts' we know, as well as a framework or structure of broader ideas with which we interpret these facts. Many of us are quite capable of assimilating and 'knowing' the...

There is virtually no chance that Australia will suffer a major terrorist attack in the next decade

In each case, the claims are saying something about Australia and terrorism they differ only in their explicit statement of the probability that the substance of the claim will come true. Understanding how to include proper indications of scope and certainty in the claims you write, or to recognise them in other people's work, is crucial to being an effective reasoner. Remember, scope and certainty are tied in with the idea that claims are asserting the truth of something. If you limit or...

Using claims as conclusions and premises

We know that reasoning is, put simply, giving reasons for one's views. We reason, therefore, by linking claims together to form a text in which most of the linked claims provide a reason or reasons for accepting another claim, or the linked claims explain why another claim can be made. For example, if I said 'Australia should become a republic', it would only be natural for you to ask 'why ', which would prompt me to give you a reason that 'Australia's economic relationship with Asia would be...

Your own assumptions and biases and the role of society in forming those biases which will need to be considered and

To think smart, you must use reasoning. Reasoning is the basis of much of our thinking. It is often described simply as the process of thinking through and communicating our reasons for holding certain views or conclusions. Reasoning is, however, better defined as a process of understanding and exploring the relationships between the many events, objects, and ideas in our world. None of these individual 'items' can be meaningful in and of itself. An item can only be understood in relation to...

1 Australia is a multicultural society

In the first example it is being used as the conclusion (and thus will come below claims 2 4 in the diagram). In the second example, claim 1 is functioning as a premise and, thus, goes with the other premises above claim 5. Because of the common claim, we can combine the two simple examples to produce a more complex structure, whose relationship would be easily diagrammed. Because the first layer of the diagram does not lead directly to the conclusion, but instead to...

3If something is vital to the future wellbeing of the nation then it should be properly funded by the government

Although the substance of the argument has changed, claim 3 remains the same. This situation prompts us to ask what task claim 3 is performing in each of these arguments. Through the cross-linking of ideas within each claim, claim 3 is showing why it is that the specific premise stated should give rise to the particular conclusion. In effect, claim 3 answers the implicit question 'why does the first premise lead me to the conclusion '. We can call claims that function like claim 3 ' framing...

5Fitting appropriate antipollution devices will not cause dramatic social and economic upheavals in the way people live

Can you see how the two forms (narrative flow and analytic structure) say roughly the same thing In the narrative flow, the linking phrase 'My reasoning for this view is as follows' signals that the following claims are premises for the conclusion before them. In the diagram, this connection is indicated by the arrow symbol > l connecting claims 2-5 with claim 1. In such a diagram we always put the conclusion-claim at the bottom (no matter what number we give it). We do this because,...

Causal reasoning

Reasoning from cause is very common and we are all familiar with it, if only in a common-sense way. If someone asks you 'Why did you buy this book ', you might reply 'because it was reasonably cheap and looked interesting' alternatively you might say 'because someone recommended that I buy it' or even 'because it was a compulsory textbook for my studies'. In all cases, you have stated what event or fact caused you to buy this book. Hence, in a causal relationship between claims, the premise or...

Claims whose truthfulness is not in question

An example of a claim that we might expect to use self-evidently is 'The earth orbits the sun. But, if we are to be sure that the claims in our arguments and explanations are well founded in the context of their audience, we cannot simply assume that they are self-evident. For example, a group of young children would, probably, need to be convinced that the earth orbited the sun since, just on the basis of their observation, the sun goes around the earth. But, we can assume, a group of adults...

Complex analytical structures

A simple argument or explanation is one in which one 'layer' of claims (the premises) links to another claim (the conclusion). In a simple argument the premises are on one level and the conclusion on a second. There may be more than one arrow in the diagram for a simple argument, but each arrow marks out a separate reason that is directly connected to the conclusion. A complex argument or explanation (such as that in exercise 3.3), on the other hand, has an analytical structure with more than...

Claims that include claims

One example of the importance of grasping this process of internal connection is provided by a special kind of claim in which an entire claim serves as one element of another claim. We find two main uses of this kind of claim-formation. First, there are claims such as 'George W. Bush said that Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator'. In this claim, what is being asserted is that George W. Bush has said those words, and not that Hussein was such a person. The claim 'Saddam Hussein was an evil...

Deductive and inductive reasoning A common error

The difference between deduction and induction is one of the more vexed issues in contemporary logic. Exactly how (and why) we distinguish between them is subject both to erroneous views and legitimate disagreements. First, let me dispose of a common error, one that has probably been taught to you (or you have read) at some stage. It is often claimed that deduction is a form of reasoning from general rules to specific premises and that induction is the reverse, that is, reasoning from specific...

Info

This paragraph contains repetition and the main analytical point being made does not start until claim 22. However, to be thorough, I have also demonstrated how the first part of the paragraph contains a 'side argument' (of sorts) (see below). Here are two interesting features of the paragraph i. This claim is the general rule that is being applied to make the link from 22 to 24. Therefore this claim is the framing premise and the type of reasoning in the whole 22, 23, and 24 ensemble is...

Information as it relates to other information

While each topic or subject on which we might conduct research will throw up its own specific relations between individual pieces of information, there are some broadly applicable general 'possibilities' of relation that can assist you in reading critically, that is, reading in a way that makes it possible to argue and explain. We have already encountered the basis for these general possibilities in chapter 7, when looking at the various ways in which we can reason. Using as my broad example...

How do we study smart thinking Thinking about thinking

Reasoning is something we already do all of us have learnt, in one way or another, to think and to reason, to make connections and see relationships between various events and attitudes in our world. So, being a smart thinker is not about becoming a different sort of person, but about improving skills that you already have. The way to achieve this goal (and the main emphasis within this book) is to become explicitly aware of the analytical processes involved in reasoning. If you do, then you...

Many Australians favour making the nation a republic However it is unclear just how many Australians there are in

How do we identify the claims In the first sentence, there is just one claim. In the second sentence, though, there are two claims. The first is 'it is unclear just how many Australians there are in favour of this' (note the use of 'this' to mean 'making the nation a republic') the second is 'until we know and are sure that a very large majority of Australians want a republic, we should not move too quickly to implement this change'. Note how tricky the process of identifying claims can be. In...

Preface to Second Edition

I have been fortunate enough to find that I was right to assume that a practical book on critical thinking skills set in the context of communication would be both popular and necessary. I continue to be involved in teaching critical thinking in the unit Applied Reasoning, which is now a part of some courses of study through Open Learning Australia (REAl 1 visit http www.ola.edu.au), and is being revived on campus at Curtin University. I have also realised that, in writing Smart Thinking, I...

More Effective Reasoning I Better Claims

We have not yet discussed the question of how to reason more effectively. The analytical structure format allows us to see more clearly what we are doing and, thus, gives some basis for improvement. But of itself, the format is not really much help we must also know how to make our reasoning strong and effective while planning and revising our work. This chapter and the next discuss the ways in which we can avoid errors in reasoning, both initially, in developing our ideas, and then when...

More on premises

While a basic outline of the different types of conclusions is relatively straightforward, there is no similar, straightforward approach for different types of premises. Virtually any claim you can think of can serve as a premise. Even claims that we might normally think of as conclusions can be premises. All that premises have to do is to be able to provide support for the conclusion (either in explaining it or arguing for it). Thus, premises tend in most cases to be initially more acceptable...

Relevance What is relevance

Here is a simple example of relevance and irrelevance concerning the conclusion 'Smith is physically unhealthy' a. Smith has pains in his chest he coughs a lot and is short of breath walking up stairs. Clearly Smith is physically unhealthy. b. Smith wears green trousers and a pink hat and has no shirt on. Clearly Smith is physically unhealthy. In argument a, the relevance of the premises is clear they all report physical symptoms that are routinely recognised as evidence of poor health. In the...

Reasoning from terms

The final type of reasoning is less common but equally important. Some claims, as we have seen, establish the definition of a particular word or phrase. Often we need to give reasons for our definitions, either because there is some widespread doubt about them or because we are trying to establish a particular meaning in a given context. Here is an example In a true democracy, all power rests with the people constitutionally speaking, in a monarchy some power theoretically resides with the...

Reasoning

Reasoning represents one of the great advances that human beings have made in their ability to understand and make sense of the world. It has been described as a 'complex weave of abilities that help you get someone else's point, explain a complicated idea, generate reasons for your viewpoints, evaluate the reasons given by others, decide what information to accept or reject, see the pros as well as the cons and so forth'.3 Yet it is also the case that reasoning does not come naturally but must...

Relations of cause and effect

We hear from friends that many new members of a virtual community to which they belong report initially high levels of enthusiasm, followed by a rapid decline in interest and a return to the activities that previously they pursued. We have also read, in a book on virtual communities, that this effect can be seen in many online communities. We also read, in yet another book on communities in general, that it is not the physical area nor the communication between members that makes a community'...

Smart

SKILLS FOR CRITICAL UNDERSTANDING AND WRITING Second Edition 253 Normanby Road, South Melbourne, Victoria 3205, Australia Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Auckland Bangkok Buenos Aires Cape Town Chennai Dar es Salaam Delhi Hong Kong Istanbul Karachi Kolkata Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Mumbai Nairobi OXFORD is a trade mark of...

The link from premises to conclusion

In chapter 2, we identified a number of properties of claims that help us not only to determine what a claim is, but also then to write them properly. We have already seen how, in forming groups of dependent premises, what makes these groups work are the similarities and differences in the way we can form claims with these internal connections. We will in this section continue to look at this property of claims, as well as return to a consideration of questions of scope and certainty, and also...

Wellfounded claims The problem of true claims

A claim, whether it is a conclusion or a premise, has one essential property that it claims to be a true statement (either actual or possible what is or what ought to be). Hence, while claims must first be well formed, so that we can express this state of affairs precisely, claims must also be well founded, so that their truth is not too easily called into question. If I were to say, 'This book will totally change your life ', you would probably not accept this claim, because as it stands, this...

Understanding language A basic look at language

Every time we argue or explain something, we use language regardless of whether we are thinking to ourselves or communicating with others. As children, we learn to use language so naturally' that we tend to take its use for granted. In fact, there are many subtleties and complexities in language. Knowing something about these can help our reasoning by giving us more conscious control over the material (language) with which we are reasoning. There are four distinct 'levels' of language-use that...

What is smart thinking

There are many words associated with what is, loosely, termed 'thinking'. We are often told to 'think about the issues', to 'analyse in more depth', to 'use reasoning', or to 'be rational'. Sometimes (perhaps with reference to computers, or to the legendary Star Trek character Mr Sp ck) we are told to 'be logical'. Often students are told that they must think 'critically' if they are to succeed. When people write essays or reports, they are usually advised to make sure that they have a good...

Using the analytical structure for planning

Communication involves much more than just reasoning, and that is why we do not usually communicate via diagrams and lists of claims. But, that said, when we want to express our arguments and explanations clearly and effectively, we need to think carefully about the analytical structure that lies behind the narrative expression of reasoning. It is hard to recover this structure precisely from what you read because authors themselves are often not in control of their reasoning. It is also tricky...

Why do we need to think smart

Basically, unless we are smart thinkers, we cannot understand the world as well as we should we cannot solve problems effectively and consistently we cannot be successful in the areas of our life that concern information. Knowledge is the 'stuff' of everyday life in the early twenty-first century. We are always being asked to find it out, develop it, communicate it, and think about it. Smart thinking improves the ways in which we can work with knowledge and information. First of all, smart...

Using the analytical structure for planning Different sorts of plans

Usually, when we are told to plan our arguments and explanations, we are given advice about how to create a good narrative flow or sequence. For example, many excellent books on writing discuss the need to plan written work so that we move from the introduction through each of the main points to the conclusion. For each stage of the work, these books give advice about what is required to make the resulting essay or report readable and effective. These books also refer to the idea of...

You should eat this fruit because you are hungry

Obviously, this list makes only a few simple connections between the two particular pieces of fruit that we are considering it also makes a few connections between the orange and the apple and other pieces of fruit generally, and the latter connections relate fruit to people. If we did not make these connections, then every time we ate an orange, for example, it would be a new experience. We would not be able to rely on past experience or on our experiences with other things nor would we be...

Wellformed claims Writing clear claims

Smart thinking requires, first of all, that our claims be well formed. Before we even think about how the links between claims might develop and before we even consider whether or not our claims are acceptable we need to write or speak clear claims. While this task is similar to all clear writing or speaking, it is not exactly the same. Some of the rules of narrative exposition (such as not repeating words too frequently, the proper use of clauses within sentences, and so on) do not apply at...

Bringing It All Together Narrative and Structure

In this final chapter, I provide a fully worked example of a substantial written argument, which I have cast and commented upon, so as to demonstrate the way in which the main form in which we encounter reasoning the narrative flow is perhaps better understood as an expression of an underlying process of linking premises and conclusions. This longer example also demonstrates in more detail how you might end up writing something based on an analytical structure, pointing out the subtleties of...

Planning and Creating Your Reasoning

Although, in practice, reasoning, knowledge, research, and analysis are all inextricably bound together, it is also true that, from time to time, we divide our reasoning tasks up in a way that allows us to sit down and prepare an analytical text containing arguments and explanations. What we have learnt about reasoning so far makes us much more effective in such preparation, and this chapter briefly discusses two ways in which we can go about it. However, always remember that the key to good...

Research Reasoning and Analysis

Advice on research usually covers 'physical' issues such as finding books, conducting experiments, and searching computer databases. Such advice does not, however, address the key point that, since knowledge and reasoning are intimately connected, then searching for knowledge is a part of reasoning. The common thread between research and reasoning is that they both involve analysis the thinking through of the connections between claims (or information). If we cannot consciously control our...

What Kinds of Reasoning are There

We have now finished with our detailed look at the analytical structure approach. This chapter will consider, in a more general way, how to think about the types of reasoning we might use and encounter. I already noted, in chapter 2, that basically reasoning is either about relationships across time (cause and effect), or within the sets or groups into which we divide and classify objects at any given moment. But there are some other ways of thinking about reasoning that are worth exploring in...

More Effective Reasoning II Better Links

Writing well-formed and well-founded claims is only half the task of effective reasoning. The links between these claims must also be well made if our overall argument or explanation is to be strong. Looking carefully at the links between premises prevents us from making unconscious assumptions about how information is interrelated. We must also check the connections of our premises with their conclusion, making sure they are relevant and provide strong support. Otherwise our conclusion will...

The burden of proof

Even if all the premises are acceptable, and even if they are relevant, you nevertheless still may not be effective in your reasoning. Why Because, at base, you must always offer enough support for your audience to be convinced that the conclusion of your argument is acceptable or that the explanation of it is complete. Strength of support is, like relevance, very dependent upon the context in which we are reasoning, and we can never be certain that we have given enough support for our...

Covering scope and certainty

Often people will make a conclusion that is far too general, or definitive for the reasons they are presenting to support it. An example would be Australia has a good education system with strong programs to teach literacy, and thus all Australians know how to read and write.' It is true that Australia has a good education system with such programs but it is not true, consequentially, that all Australians know how to read and write. First, some Australians have...

Casting and notes on each paragraph

One of the problems that confronts teachers of first-year university units each semester is the need to ensure that students learn, quickly, the methods and skills of correct referencing.3 In some courses, students are very much left to fend for themselves, relying on, perhaps, the services of the university library, advice offered by individual staff members, or simply muddling through on the basis of critical feedback on their first assignments. 11 The Department of Media and Information...

The analytical structure of reasoning Representing the analytical structure

There two ways of understanding what we read and write. First, there is what I am calling the narrative flow, that is, words arranged into sentences, and then divided into paragraphs. Second, there is the analytical structure, which is expressed in a list of claims and a diagram or picture showing how they are related to one another. Imagine that we have been asked to give our views on the environment by stating one action that people should take to help improve the world's environment. The...

What the analytical structure format offers

The analytical structure format, then, is a much clearer way of showing the exact claims being made and the ways in which they relate to one another. This format, by representing the connections between claims through the standardised form of the diagram, avoids all of the vagaries of the English language that we have already seen, with its myriad ways of signalling what is the conclusion and what are the premises. By listing the claims as distinct entities, it also overcomes complex sentence...

The Key Process in Reasoning

Claims are the basic material of reasoning, but they must be linked together if we are to argue and explain our points of view. We have already seen that claims that are linked to a conclusion by supporting it or explaining it are called premises. A conclusion, therefore, is a claim that is supported or explained. In this chapter we investigate this linking process in more detail. My principal goal, again, is to give you greater awareness of how you reason, in order to improve what you actually...

Dependent premises Using a group of premises

A 'reason for a conclusion usually involves many complex ideas. It will probably require more than one premise to express all of these ideas. All such premises relating to a particular 'reason are dependent on one another and thus are shown, in the diagram, as being linked along the same line. Dependency involves one of the key qualities of claims that we looked at in chapter 2 that within a single claim there is an internal connection between two and, occasionally, more than two ideas. In the...

What does it mean

As we will see, questioning is the key analytical skill that enables us to develop complex knowledge about the world in the form of structures of related ideas, so as to communicate with other people. It is not the answers to these questions that matter, but the very fact that we ask them of ourselves, the willingness not to 'take things for granted' or to be satisfied with the 'obvious answer'. Indeed, a great failure of our society is that, by and large, we are people who believe that someone...

Claims as elements of reasoning

Effective thinking skills can be elusive. Reasoning has a structure and content that can be hard to control as an author and hard to discern as a reader when it is expressed in normal English so-called 'natural language' . We tend to assume that claims are indistinguishable from their particular forms of expression, and it may be hard to grasp just what claims do within reasoning unless we shake them loose from their normal modes of expression. Claims may be expressed in natural language....

Reasoning from analogy

An analogy is a special form of reasoning, which has some similarities with reasoning from specific cases. Reasoning by analogy involves drawing an equally specific conclusion from specific premises via a comparison of like aspects. Good analogies avoid comparisons between items that have too many dissimilarities. For example Imagine a friend gave you a guinea pig to look after but forgot to tell you anything about what to feed it. You might say to yourself, 'I have a guinea pig and do not know...