Critical Thinking Basics

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Another fallacy that's popular these days is the tu quoque (you too) fallacy, which is sometimes called whataboutism: (Your party has politicians who lie, therefore it's OK if ours do).

As with cognitive biases, there are multitudes of logical fallacies lying in wait for us, ready to make us less reasonable than we should be.

There's a claim ("smoked meat is bad for you") as well as a reason, or premise, supporting it ("there have been studies"). But in ordinary language, premises often come after the conclusion, or may even be unstated.

In more formal logical, you usually see the premises stated before the conclusion, as below: Premise: All ostriches are birds. For example, if I say, "Fred is a bird, because he's an ostrich", I've put the premise after the conclusion, and left out the premise "All ostriches are birds", because it's assumed that most people know that.

And that requires that people be able to think clearly and logically.

Good debate and good thinking are closely related, because in both cases, conclusions need to be based on logic and evidence.

In other words, an argument is a claim combined with some reasons for accepting the claim.

If I say, "I think smoked meat is bad for you, because studies show it's carcinogenic", I've made an argument.

Someone who knows all the principles of reasoning, but can't be bothered to use them--or worse, uses them in dishonest ways--isn't a good critical thinker.

Similarly, someone who knows the rules of logic, but doesn't have any skill in applying them (Glaser's third trait), isn't a good critical thinker either.


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