Critical Thinking #3: “C.T. Skills For Dummies”, (Review)

(Critical Thinking Skills for Dummies, by Martin Cohen)

This is the third publication we come to regarding critical thinking. It is one of the “For Dummies” books, appropriately called, “Critical Thinking Skills”. Great for anyone looking to expand their thought process. Here are some highlights.

An interesting claim the author makes is that critical isn’t about putting arguments and debates into formal language, but rather to look at issues in the real world, and offer practical solutions. This is different from both the Reed article and the Johnson/Blair book , which did focus on debate. Further, this book promotes the idea that critical thinking is about developing and refining skills, rather than focusing on specific facts.

This book does put more of a “what can we do about” emphasis than the other 2 publications. Applying the skill of critical thinking is a nice approach to take.

There is a section on Nazi propaganda. The short version is that appealing to emotion, rather than to factual and logical premises can lead people to very destructive results. Of course this was not to endorse the ideology, but to show how emotional reasoning can undermine truth and reality.

Spotting and debunking fallacies is a theme throughout the book. Examples are given of information that often cannot lead to the supposed conclusions. Here, dogs, children and toys are used to simplify the examples.

Arguments often contain much irrelevant, or contradictory information, so being able to dissect this makes for a much more coherent conclusion and response.

The book starts off more generally, but goes deeper and deeper into critical thinking. Rather than bombarding with information, it focuses on deconstructing then reconstructing ideas. It also uses puzzles to showcase mental blocks and assumptions that people often make.

A chapter describes hierarchies of Knowledge (triangles or pyramids).
One is: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation
Another is: Remembering; Understanding; Applying; Analysing; Evaluating; Creating

There is a brief section on challenging scientific evidence on a number of grounds: (I) Is the evidence adequate? (II) Does the evidence prove the conclusion? (III) Causation or just correlation? (IV) Conflicts of interest from the people presenting it.

A Brief Outline of the Book
Chapter 1: Entering the CT world
Chapter 2: Peering into the mind
Chapter 3: Planting ideas in your head
Chapter 4: Assessing your skills
Chapter 5: Reasoning by analogy
Chapter 6: Circular reasoning
Chapter 7: Using drawings
Chapter 8: Knowledge Hierarchies
Chapter 9: Getting to the heart of the matter
Chapter 10: Critical writing skills
Chapter 11: Speaking and writing critically
Chapter 12: Logic of real arguments
Chapter 13: Behaving rationally
Chapter 14: Persuasion and rhetoric
Chapter 15: Evidence to justify opinion

The book does point out some techniques used which are meant to circumvent logical thinking, such as: (a) Everyone else is doing it; (b) Be like your hero; (c) Trust me; (d) Weasel words; (e) Flattery; (f) Warm and fuzzy

Note: A more expanded version of that list can be found on John T. Reed’s website. These are some of the many intellectually dishonest debate tactics that are used in the absence of arguing fact or logic.

As with the previous 2 articles, critical thinking is an essential part in laws and policies. This features not only in how they are drafted, but how they are applied, and at times challenged. Knowing the reasoning behind laws and policies will help form stronger arguments both for and against them.

Related Publications
CLICK HERE, for Critical Thinking #1, Honest v.s. Dishonest Debate Tactics by John T. Reed.

CLICK HERE, for Critical Thinking #2, Logical Self Defense, by Johnson & Blair

Any of these works: the Cohen book, the Johnston/Blair book, or the Reed website are well worth reading. The books are tedious, but rewarding reads. The website is a pretty quick skim. Rather than focusing on facts, their goal is to help the reader be more critical in the information they consume. Despite their different approaches, they promote similar goals.

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