Monday, June 29, 2009

Critical Thinking by William Hughes

An excellent introduction to critical thinking, both because of the appropriate level of depth given to the diverse topics covered, but also because of the numerous self-tests available to increase encoding and learning of the material. In addition, I appreciated the quick overviews of the main different theories of meaning (reference, idea and as use) and truth (correspondence, coherence and pragmatic).

For many years now I have realized the importance of critical thinking because the complexity, diversity and amount of topics in this world are too large to know much about most of them (let alone any of them). Yet, with critical thinking, even if one is uninformed, they can still have the ability to analyze information and the various arguments being presented to assess their validity. One can read a book about one topic and try to extrapolate the lessons learned, but at least once in your life, you should read a book that gives you a general ability to examine nearly all statements in nearly any book.

Critical Thinking was also useful to me because Hughes stressed the importance of the principle of charity – it is not enough to dismiss poor arguments, for if you are truly interested in discovering the truth or the best argument you should endeavour to supplement or restate a poor argument to make it as good as you can to give the most justice to that perspective (even if you disagree). This is hard enough to do in principle let alone in practice, but I will try to incorporate that notion into my discussions.

Additionally, I was reminded that formal deductive reasoning requires more effort to encode the associated nomenclature. Meaning, I generally understand the logical fallacies regarding deducing certain improper conclusions, but when it gets to p, q, and if p then q and not p or not q and which one is ‘affirming the antecedent’ (valid) and which one is ‘affirming the consequent’ (invalid), it doesn’t stick so well.
I highly recommend this book or something like it.


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