Apply analytical reasoning to a variety of disciplines

PHL 1010, Critical Thinking 1

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit V Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

2. Explain the concept of intellectual standards for thinking.

4. Apply analytical reasoning to a variety of disciplines.

5. Develop strategies for self-assessment.

Reading Assignment Chapter 8: Discover How the Best Thinkers Learn Chapter 9: Redefine Grades as Levels of Thinking and Learning In order for the links below to function properly, you must first log into the myCSU Student Portal and access the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database within the CSU Online Library. You may also access the resource by visiting the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database and performing a search for the title and/or author. Franklin, B. (2005). Aim for personal perfection. In M. E. Williams (Ed.), Constructing a Life Philosophy.

Unit Lesson This lecture continues with the discussion of rhetorical devices. As with last week, we will focus on rhetorical devices that challenge our critical thinking. However, this does not mean rhetorical devices are necessarily bad or that arguments made using rhetorical devices are always wrong. We just need to be aware of when rhetorical devices are being used and apply our critical thinking skills to assess arguments on their rational merits. Downplayers A downplayer is a word that is inserted in a sentence that undermines something that is being discussed. Lets take a look at two sentences that mean the same thing in their deepest structure, but that have radically different connotations due to one word.

Brent got a B on his exam.

Brent only got a B on his exam. By inserting the word only, the person saying sentence two has downplayed Brents achievement. Most people would be happy, or at least satisfied, with a grade of B on an exam. However, the second sentence seems to diminish Brents accomplishment by indicating that a grade of B on the exam does not meet his or her expectations of Brent. You can think of downplayers as using scare quotes in verbal language. Lets look at some more examples.

Yeah, Ellen just got her degree,


Designing and Evaluating Your Own Learning




PHL 1010, Critical Thinking 2



In this case, the person seems to indicate that Ellens degree is not really a degree. The person is attempting to cast suspicion on Ellens accomplishment.

Friend #1: I hear that the teacher for critical thinking is great.

Friend #2: Oh yeah, hes a great teacher. It seems that Friend #2 does not think that the teacher for critical thinking performs very well and has cast doubt on the teachers abilities by downplaying the teachers pedagogy. Be on the lookout for the use of downplayers. Do not let anyone downplay accomplishments by using disingenuous words. Always remind yourself of the facts. If Brent got a B on a difficult organic chemistry exam, then one should give credit where credit is due and not try to discredit his accomplishment in a devious manner. Ridicule Ridicule occurs when someone tries to cast suspicion on another by making fun of the person or personally embarrassing the person in front of others. We are often told that this form of interaction is a high school phenomenon, but most of us realize that this form of interaction can occur at any time, and often in the most inappropriate contexts.

Employee to Boss: According to the research that our team put together, it seems that a marketing campaign targeted towards 18-35 year old women would be in the best interests of the company.

Boss: What do you know? You are just an intern.

Whenever a person tries to humiliate another person, usually while not responding at all to the situation at hand, this person is ridiculing another.

Natalia: I really think that all people in the U.S. should have free access to medical careI mean, this is one of the most advanced nations in the world, and we should be able to create a system that meets the needs of the populace.

Bert: That is ridiculous Communist propaganda.

Here Bert does not respond to Natalias claim. Instead, he brings up something totally irrelevant in order to connect Natalia to something that most people fear. Another example from our current political climate is the continual claims about Barak Obama being a socialist. These claims are pure attempts to ridicule without presenting any evidence. Yelling out that someone is a socialist is just a form of name-calling. It is easy to see why this method is so effective. It requires no grounding in factual evidence or argumentation, and usually, if people yell loud enough, they will drown out the dissenting opinion. All you need to do is examine the structure of the U.S. economic system, as well as literature on various concepts of socialism, and you will see that these statements are unfounded. Bullies exist on and off the grade-school playground, and dealing with them throughout life takes quick wit and sharp reflexes. There is no best way to deal with a ridiculer, and depending on your position in relation to the one who ridicules, you might just have to bite your lip and let your boss vent. However, at least in your heart you will know that this rhetorical technique is a favorite of those who do not think critically. Hyperbole Hyperbole is gross overstatement in order to reinforce a point. This rhetorical technique is common practice for both young and old. Children are highly adept at expressing their mood and current physiological situations using hyperbole. Here are some examples.




PHL 1010, Critical Thinking 3



Child to mother or father: Im starving! Person at work to another: Im so hungry I could eat a horse.

Hushed conversation at a baby shower: That kid is so ugly you would have to pay me to hold it.

Hyperbole is an entertaining rhetorical device, and humans have a lot of fun playing around with meanings and expressing themselves through it. However, it is always good to remind ourselves of the facts in a situation where someone is using hyperbole to influence others negatively or in such a way that the person believes that the hyperbole actually expresses what you are going through. Proof Surrogate A proof surrogate is the use of language that implies that there is proof for a claim that you are making without actually giving examples of the proof. Proof surrogates are proof imposters. Skilled manipulators know how to use specific sentence introductions in order to make it sound like their positions are the most rational and scientifically proven positions on the issues. Perhaps you have heard some of the following:

Everyone knows that

Experts say that

Some would say that

Scientists have proven that You can fill in the blank with anything after the proof surrogate, because the proof surrogate has already done its work. It often conveys to the uncritical audience that the statement that follows it is commonly accepted and proven fact. Students use this technique in many of their papers or in class discussions. The one that tends to emerge the most is the scientists have proven that or did you hear about that study where So long as we do not know the scientists, the study, the outcomes of the experiment, and whether the experiment is repeatable, we should not fall into the trap of believing without evidence. Many times, it is not the case that everyone knows that This form of reasoning is dangerous. There were a lot of things that everyone knew in the history of our country that we now realize were hateful, dangerous, and ignorant. Pointing out that there is another justified opinion is the first step in allowing others to recognize a proof surrogate when it occurs. You can go further by asking the person to prove that everyone knows that is the case. It is usually difficult for surrogate users to provide the evidence that they indicate is so prevalent. The It Is What It Is Device It has become popular in modern parlance for people to claim that something is what it is. This is usually followed by the statement you know? In full form it looks like this:

It is what it isyou know? This statement has grown from occasional use to full blown overuse in all aspects of life. If you analyze this statement for meaning, it is a tautology. It says basically the same things as A = A or an apple is an apple. However, there is a deeper meaning to the statement that comes through when people use it. What people really mean by the statement is that the occurrence is something that is uncontrollable. One is unable to control the outcome of a situation and he or she claims that the situation, is what it is. There also appears to be a coping mechanism that is contained within the statement. Usually those who use the statement are indicating that whatever It is, it is something that they should not be complaining about, and that they need to learn to synthesize in their lives. It could be that they found out that a loved one has cancer or that their lover has decided to leave them. Upon venting their frustrations and fears, people tend to follow up their descriptions with the it is what it is device. They seem to be saying, I cannot do anything about it. Therefore, I need to learn how to deal with it. When the philosopher or deep critical thinker hears someone use such a statement, it can be quite frustrating. There is perhaps no more general statement in the English language than to say that things are what they are. The concept of being is widely regarded as the most abstract of all concepts, and it is uniquely united to the verb to be (I am, you are, she is, we are, you are, they are). Analysis of the concept of being itself has a long history that ranges from Aristotle to Heidegger and everyone that Heidegger has influenced up until our




PHL 1010, Critical Thinking 4



present day. In all instances, being has remained one of the most slippery concepts. If you wonder what that means, try to think of a definition of being or what it means to say, I am or it is. The philosopher David Hume claimed that there was no direct correlation between what he called the IS and the OUGHT. What Hume is saying here is that there is no relationship between the way that things are and the way that they ought to be. For many throughout the history of humanity, it has been thought that if something was happening a specific way that this was the way that it ought to be. For example, movement into new nations was thought to be ordained by God, and when the invaders realized their plans, they then claimed that this was Gods will (the way something ought to be). On a different note, many people throughout America justified racist laws and attitudes by claiming, well that is just the way it IS around here. In the realm of ethics, Hume claims that just because something is the way it is, this does not mean that this is the way it ought to be ethically. It seems that those who ascribe to the, it is what it is mode of thinking are submitting to the idea that this is the way that things ought to be. Just because something is the way it is does not mean that we should merely accept it. Of course, when used to describe the loss of a loved one or something that lies totally outside the control of the human, then the statement means something like, I need to learn how to cope with this and deal with this. However, when the term is used to describe something that lies in the control of the human, or which results due to the decisions of the human, then you should not submit to the fatalistic idea that you must learn how to deal with this. When we refer to things that are in our power we must be much more detailed with what we say. If we allow ourselves to rest in generalizations, then we will not be able to bring the details of our situations to our minds. Using general terms to describe our situations will not allow us to see with the insight necessary to understand what is actually going on in our lives and the steps that we can take to change those situations. Rather than claiming life is what it is. The critical thinker expresses him or herself in detailed propositions that represent the details of existence. In this way, the thinker is able to recognize those things that you can change and not settle for the idea that the way things are is the way they ought to be. Why not state details of our realities rather than get lost in the ambiguity of it is what it is thinking?

Suggested Reading Read Benjamin Franklins Aim for Personal Perfection in the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database from the CSU Online Library. As you read the article, write down various questions that come to mind, especially after reading Chapter 8, How the Best Thinkers Learn. What topics in the article would you agree with the author about? What topics do you share disagreement on? Franklin, B. (2005). Aim for personal perfection. In M. E. Williams (Ed.), Constructing a Life Philosophy.

San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.. Retrieved from Opposing Viewpoints in Context database.

Learning Activities (Non-Graded) To gain further knowledge of the material, including key terms, please view this HTML presentation. This will summarize and reinforce the information from these chapters in your textbook.

Click here to access the lesson presentation for Unit V. Non-Graded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit them. If you have questions contact your instructor for further guidance and information.


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