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Please work your way through the lecture guide that appears below. During the final week of the course, your knowledge of this material will help you to complete the challenging “Critical Thinking Assignment.” So, carefully work your way through this. Best of wishes! --Prof. Hartog
Week #14: Critical Thinking Lecture Guide adapted from Moore/Parker by John Hartog

3 points will be awarded with the assumption that you have worked your way through this Lecture Guide in preparation for the Assignment.

A statement is ambiguous when it is subject to more than one interpretation, and which interpretation is the correct one is not clear. Example: “How Therapy Can Help Torture Victims” [a headline in a newspaper].

There are three kinds of ambiguity: (1) semantic, example: “I am a huge Mustang fan.” (2) syntactic, example: “The two suspects fled the scene before the officer arrived in a white Ford.” (3) grouping, example: “College professors make millions of dollars a year.”

A statement is vague when it lacks sufficient precision to convey the information appropriate for its use(s). Vagueness is a matter of degree. Examples: (1) Jim is not feeling well. (2) Jim has flu-like symptoms. (3) Jim has an upset stomach and a fever. (4) Jim is nauseated and has a fever of more than 103.

In order to think critically, one must think clearly. Some definitions can enable clearer thinking. There are major three kinds of definitions: (1) definition by synonym, example: “‘Decaffeinated’ means without caffeine.” (2) definition by example, example: “The Cheyenne perfectly illustrate the sort of Native Americans that are plains Indians.” (3) analytical, example: “A nurse is a trained health-care professional [put into a class] who take care of patients/clients [differentiate from other members of the class].”

Rhetorical definitions are not intended to clarify meaning but to express or influence attitude, and they accomplish this through rhetorical (or emotive) force. Rhetoric, or rhetorical language, is language that is psychologically persuasive but does not have extra logical force.

Some obstacles to critical thinking:

(1) To reflexively suppose that all value judgments are subjective.

(2) To confuse arguments with explanations.

(3) To confuse an argument with persuasion.

(4) To confuse rhetorical or psychological force with logical force, and to think that a psychologically more persuasive argument must be a better argument logically.

A claim is a statement that is either true or false. We may decide that it is either true, false, or choose instead to suspend judgment regarding its veracity until we can gather additional information. Example: “That car costs $5,000 more than you have in the bank.”

A subjective expression (as opposed to a claim) is an expression which, by common agreement, is left up to the individual to apply as he or she thinks is appropriate. Example: “You shouldn’t buy that car since it’s so ugly.”

Subjectivism is the idea that any opinion is as good as the next one or that what is true is what you believe to be true. Example: “I believe in the tooth fairy, and so therefore she exists, no matter what you or anyone else may believe.” Another way to look at subjectivism is to see it as the idea that there can be no “claims” only “Subjective expressions” (see above).

Major Kinds of Claims:

(1) Analytical claims have the highest level of precision because they are predicated upon clearly defined definitions. Example: “A triangle is a three-sided shape.” Or, “2 + 2 = 4.”

(2) Internal claims refer to descriptions of internal states of affairs. Example: “My stomach is hurting me.” Health care professionals assume that internal claims are true unless strong (overwhelming) evidence points to the contrary.

(3) External claims refer to descriptions of external states of affairs. Example: “It is raining outside.” Problem: Is it raining right now? Anywhere right now?

(4a) Value judgments are claims that express an evaluation of something. Example: “Borrowing for cars and other things that depreciate over time is not prudent.”

(4b) Moral value judgments are claims that express a moral or ethical evaluation of something. Example: “Murder is wrong.”

An explanation is a claim or set of claims intended to make another claim, object, event, or state of affairs intelligible. Example: “Lucy is too short to ride the rollercoaster.”

An issue (or question) is what is raised when a claim is called into question. Often, one might use the phrase “whether or not” in connection with the naming of the issue. For example: “The issue is whether or not people have actually walked on the moon.”

An argument is a two part structure of claims, one part of which (the premise or premises) is given as the reason for thinking the other part (the conclusion) is true. Example: “No one will lend you money. You would need to borrow $5,000 to buy that car. Therefore, [ ] you cannot buy that car.”

Deductive arguments are arguments whose conclusions never say more than their premises.

Inductive arguments are arguments whose conclusions always say more than their premises.

Deductive arguments are either valid or invalid.

A valid deductive argument is an argument wherein if the premises are true, then the conclusion is necessarily true (because the argument has been phrased according to the accepted rules of logic).

Valid deductive arguments are either sound our unsound.

One of the most common forms of the valid (deductive) argument is the syllogism. A syllogism is a deductive argument with two premises (one is the major premise, and the other is the minor premise).

Examples of syllogisms:

(1) All people are mortal, the professor is a person, therefore, the professor is mortal (sound because it is both valid and true).

(2) No ducks fly, “Waddles” is a duck, therefore “Waddles” does not fly (valid, but untrue in the major premise and so unsound even though valid).

(3) Some elephants weigh more than 2,000 lbs., [all] elephants are mammals, therefore some mammals weight more than 2,000 lbs. (sound).

In order for a deductive argument to be sound, it must be both valid and true.

An unsound (deductive) argument is either valid but untrue, invalid even though true, or invalid and not true.

Inductive arguments are either strong or weak, and this is a matter of degree.

A strong (inductive) argument is an argument wherein if the premises are true, then the conclusion has a high probability of also being true. Strong (inductive) arguments have a sufficiently large sampling size, etc.

Credibility is the quality, capability, or power to elicit belief. Claims lack credibility to the extent that they conflict with our own observations, experiences, or other background information. Claims also lack credibility if they come from sources that lack credibility. The more extraordinary a claim seems, the less plausible it seems. This means that the claim does not fit well with our own observations, experiences, or other background information. The more extraordinary a claim seems to be, the more skeptical or suspicious we should be. Background information is the body of justified beliefs that consists of facts we learn from our own direct observations and facts we learn from others that we consider credible. Doubts about sources generally fall into one of two categories: (1) Doubts about the knowledge or expertise, and (2) doubts about the source’s veracity, objectivity, and/or accuracy. Knowledge or expertise can reasonably be determined by analyzing a person’s (1) education, (2) experience, (3) accomplishments and position, and (4) professional awards and reputation. Claims made by experts, those with a special knowledge in a specific area, are reasonably reliable, but their claims must pertain to their areas of expertise, and their claims should not normally conflict with those of other experts in the same area. Even major newspapers, national magazines, and network news shows should be viewed with some skepticism because (1) advertising, (2) subscriptions, (3) editorial influences, and (4) press releases tend to have a powerful influence on the news. Even more skepticism is appropriate for internet and talk radio.

For the following, discuss which source you’d trust more, and give at least one reason why.

1. Discuss whose opinion on the foreign policy of the current administration is more credible. a. A former U.S. president of the same political party as the current president b. A former U.S. president not of the same political party as the current president

2. Discuss whose opinion on the foreign policy of the current administration is more credible. a. A Ph.D. in political science whose speciality is U.S. foreign policy b. The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

3. Discuss whose opinion on the condition of the tires on your car is more credible. a. A salesperson at Goodyear b. A mechanic at a garage certified by the American Automobile Association

4. Issue: A proposal for legislation regarding automobile insurance rates is on the ballot. Discuss whose opinion on the benefits for consumers is more credible. a. A spokesperson for the insurance industry b. Ralph Nader

5. Is the pitcher tiring? Discuss whose opinion is the more credible. a. A minor league pitching coach b. Reggie Jackson

6. Can you get a manzanita tree to grow in Pennsylvania? a. A Pennsylvania (where manzanita doesn’t grow naturally) nursery worker b. A California (where manzanita does grow naturally) nursery worker

7. What percentage of American high school students have smoked marijuana? a. USA Today b. Americans for Legalized Marijuana

8. How many homicides involve the use of a stolen firearm? a. A Democratic U.S. senator b. A Republican U.S. senator

9. Which of two current movies you would be more apt to like? a. One recommended by a movie critic whose opinions you enjoy listening to b. One recommended by a friend

10. What is the best weight-lifting regimen to follow? a. Arnold Schwarzenegger b. Roseanne

Rhetorical devices are used to influence beliefs or attitudes through the associations, connotations, and implications of words, sentences, or more extended passages. Rhetorical devices include slanters and fallacies. While rhetorical devices may be used to enhance the persuasive force of arguments, they do not in and of themselves add to the logical force of arguments.

Slanters are linguistic devices used to affect opinions, attitudes, or behavior without argumentation. Slanters rely heavily on the suggestive power of words and phrases to convey and evoke favorable or unfavorable images.

· Argument by force, pity, guilt (“guilt trip”), or envy = Using a threat of force, appealing to someone’s pity, making someone feel guilty, or arousing feelings of envy in order to persuade.

· Apple polishing = using flattery to persuade.

· Downplayer = an expression used to diminish the importance of a claim.

· Dysphemism = a word or phrase used to produce a negative attitude about something or to diminish the positive associations something might otherwise have.

· Euphemism = an agreeable or inoffensive expression that is substituted for an expression that may offend or is unpleasant.

· Hyperbole = exaggeration for emotive effect or emphasis.

· Innuendo = a negative insinuation, a subtle deprecation.

· Loaded question = a question that rests on one or more unwarranted assumptions.

· Outrage = an attempt to provoke anger with the use of inflammatory language.

· Proof surrogate = an expression that suggests the existence of evidence or authority for a claim without actually saying that there is such evidence or authority.

· Rhetorical analogy, definition, or explanation = an analogy, definition, or explanation designed to evoke positive or negative emotional associations with the topic being discussed.

· Ridicule = words intended to evoke contempt.

· Sarcasm = mocking or ironic statement intended to insult.

· Scare tactic = sharing a frightening scenario in order to scare someone into accepting or rejecting a claim when the scenario does not necessarily follow.

· Stereotypes = an oversimplified generalization about the members of a class.

· Weaseler = an expression used to protect a claim from criticism by weakening it

Fallacies are arguments in which the reasons advanced for a claim fail to warrant acceptance of that claim.

· Ad hominem = thinking that the other person’s defects, circumstances, or inconsistencies refute the other person’s claim.

· Begging the question = assuming as true the claim that is at issue and doing this as if you were giving an argument.

· False dilemma = thinking that one must accept either “X” or “Y” when in fact there is at least one other option.

· Genetic fallacy = thinking that the origin or history of a belief refutes it.

· Group think (nationalism, common practice, tradition) = allowing one’s identification with a group to cloud one’s reasoning and deliberation while arriving at a conclusion on a particular issue.

· Line drawing fallacy = requiring that a precise line be drawn on a scale or continuum when in fact no such line can be drawn (occurring when a vague concept is treated as a precise one).

· Misplacing burden of proof = requiring the wrong side of an issue (i.e., the most implausible one) to make its case.

· Peer pressure = accepting or rejecting a claim because one is threatened by being rejected by one’s friends or relatives.

· Perfectionist fallacy = arguing that something should be done perfectly or not at all, when in fact doing the thing, though not perfectly, would be the best option.

· Poisoning the well = encouraging others to dismiss what the other person will say by citing the other person’s defects, circumstances, or inconsistencies (a preemptive ad hominem).

· Rationalization = using a false pretext in order to satisfy one’s desires or interests.

· Red herring (smokescreen) = an irrelevant topic introduced into a deliberation in order to divert attention away from the original issue.

· Slippery slope (camel’s nose under the tent) = refusing to take the first step in a progression on the unwarranted grounds that doing so will make the remaining steps inevitable, or insisting on taking the remainder of the steps simply because the first one was taken.

· Straw man = offering a distorted version of a claim in order more easily to refute it.

· Subjectivism = the idea that one’s own personal opinion on any issue is as good as anyone’s else’s, or the belief that what is true is what one believes is true.

· Two wrongs make a right = using one wrong action as a justification for committing another wrong action.

· Wishful thinking = accepting a claim because one wants it to be true, or rejecting a claim because one does not want it to be true.

Do your best to determine the slanter or fallacy present in each of the following 60 sentences:

1. Not everyone thinks that [former] Senator Jesse Helms is the least admired American public figure (as some opinion polls show). Even now, one or two southern Republicans lust after a Helms endorsement.

2. From a letter to the editor: “In Sacramento, money talks, which is why our politicians kowtow to the local developers. So much for voting for honest people whose primary concern should be people, not money.” —Sacramento Bee

3. Perhaps the “religious leaders” who testified at the state board of education’s public hearing on textbooks think they speak for all Christians, but they do not.

4. The United States will not have an effective antiterrorist force until the army and the air force quit bickering about equipment and responsibilities.

5. Maybe it’s possible, after all, to sympathize with the Internal Revenue Service. The woes that have piled up in its Philadelphia office make the IRS look almost human.

6. We clearly can’t trust the television networks, not when they’ve just spent two days interviewing young children on their feelings about the recent shootings at the elementary school. This attempt to wring every drop of human interest from the tragedy is either frighteningly cynical or criminally thoughtless regarding the damage that can be done both to the children interviewed and to children who see the interviews.

7. The antigun people think that just as soon as guns are outlawed, crime will disappear, and we’ll all live together as one big, happy family.

8. “Sam Goldwyn once said that an oral agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. We wonder what he would have said about the Pennzoil-Texaco case.” —The Worcester, Mass., Evening Gazette

9. “Would you want to appoint my opponent as president of your company?” —The late Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, speaking to a group of Philippine businessmen about his 1986 election opponent, Corazon Aquino

10. “Early in the third phase of the Vietnam War the U.S. command recognized that the term ‘search and destroy’ had unfortunately become associated with ‘aimless searches in the jungle and the destruction of property.’ In April 1968 General Westmoreland therefore directed that the use of the term be discontinued. Operations thereafter were defined and discussed in basic military terms which described the type of operation, for example, reconnaissance in force.” —Lieutenant General John H. Hay, Jr., Vietnam Studies

11. Robert may be a pretty good gardener, all right, but you’ll notice he lost nearly everything to the bugs this year.

12. “The Soviet regime [once] promulgated a law providing fines for motorists who alter their lights or grills or otherwise make their cars distinguishable. A regime that makes it a crime to personalize a car is apt to make it a crime to transmit a cultural heritage.” —George Will

13. “to chico’s wholesalers and retailers of pornography: do you honestly believe that pornography has no effect on the behavior of people?” —From an ad in the Chico Enterprise-Record

14. Rodney Dangerfield? Yeah, he’s about as funny as a terminal illness.

15. “Within the context of total ignorance, you are absolutely correct.” —Caption in a National Review cartoon

16. Handguns are made only for the purpose of killing people.

17. “If we stop the shuttle program now, there are seven astronauts who will have died for nothing.” —An unidentified U.S. congressman, after the space shuttle disaster of January 1986

18. It is, of course, conceivable that the Qaddafi regime has nothing to do with terrorist attacks on Israeli airports, but . . .

19. If the governor is so dedicated to civil rights, why is it that the black citizens of this state are worse off now than when he took office?

20. Chewing tobacco is not only messy, but also unhealthy (just check the latest statistics).

21. Once you’ve made our Day Planner a part of your business life, there’s a good chance you’ll never miss or be late for another appointment.

22. “. . . despite the idealist yearnings in the body politic that this [the baby boom] generation supposedly epitomizes, the darker side of the lust for power is still present. Just witness the saga of the collapse of the once-promising career of Mayor Roger Hedgecock [former mayor of San Diego].” —Larry Remer and Gregory Dennis

23. “If it ain’t country, it ain’t music.” —Bumper sticker

24. Professor Jones, who normally confines his remarks to his own subject, ventured out on a high-wire to comment on the commission’s findings.

25. I simply won’t go into those cowboy bars; they’re full of guys who disguise their insecurities with cowboy boots and hats.

26. “Can [former Representative Jack] Kemp or anyone believe that $27 million in ‘humanitarian’ aid would replace all that South Africa has done [to support Angolan rebels]?” —Anthony Lewis, New York Times

27. “Notre Dame people like to point out that, unlike other [college football] powerhouses, their players must face tough admissions standards, shoulder the regular course load and forget about being red-shirted to gain additional playing years. And, of course, it’s a lot more fun to point out those things if your guys are out there stomping on 24-year-old golf-course management majors every Saturday, the way they used to.” —Newsweek

28. “Trivial pursuit” is the name of a game played by the California Supreme Court, which will seek any nit-picking excuse preventing murderers from receiving justice.

29. “Any person who thinks that Libya is not involved in terrorism has the same kind of mentality as people who think that Hitler was not involved in persecuting Jews.” —Robert Oakley, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Counterterrorism, in an interview on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered

30. “Although you were not selected to receive the award, I congratulate you for your achievements at California State University, Chico.” —Excerpt from a letter written by a university president and sent to an unsuccessful contender for a campus award.

31. “Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels . . . justified the attack on thousands of Jews as a step toward removing an ‘infection’ contaminating Germany. ‘It is impossible that, in a National Socialist state, which is anti-Jewish in its outlook, those streets should continue to be occupied by Jewish shops.’ ” —Reuters report in the Sacramento Bee

32. Voting is the method for obtaining legal power to coerce others. —From a commentary on a grocery bag urging citizens not to vote and thus not to encourage the majority to take away the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the minority.

33. “To those who say that the analogy of Hitler is extremist and inflammatory in reference to abortion, I would contend that the comparison is legitimate. . . . The Supreme Court, by refusing to acknowledge their personhood, has relegated the entire class of unborn children to a subhuman legal status without protection under the law—the same accorded Jews under the Third Reich.” —Jerry Nims, writing in the Moral Majority’s Liberty Report

34. “Who is to blame for this lackluster political campaign?” —Television network anchor

35. To study the epidemiology of deaths involving firearms kept in the home, we reviewed all the gunshot deaths that occurred in King County, Washington (population 1,270,000), from 1978 through 1983. . . . A total of 743 firearm-related deaths occurred during this six-year period, 398 of which (54%) occurred in the residence where the firearm was kept. Only 2 of these 398 deaths (.5%) involved an intruder shot during attempted entry. Seven persons (1.8%) were killed in self-defense. For every case of self-protection homicide involving a firearm kept in the home, there were 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides. . . . Handguns were used in 70.5% of these deaths.

36. “People in Hegins, Pennsylvania, hold an annual pigeon shoot in order to control the pigeon population and to raise money for the town. This year, the pigeon shoot was disrupted by animal rights activists who tried to release the pigeons from their cages. I can’t help but think these animal rights activists are the same people who believe in controlling the human population through the use of abortion. Yet, they recoil at a similar means of controlling pigeons. What rank hypocrisy.” —Rush Limbaugh

37. “Listen, Higgins. I need your vote in the next department election or I may not get elected chair. Remember, if I do get elected, it will be me who decides what hours your classes meet next year.”

38. “It really gripes me to see Bill Clinton talking about how cigarette smoking is a big contributor to public health costs. You want to know how much you can trust him on that subject? Well, even he himself admits to smoking cigars!”

39. “The administration’s proposal to declare hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land as ‘roadless areas’ is a huge mistake, and I’m against it. The whole point of the proposal—and it will succeed if the President gets his way—is to lock the American people out of those areas.”

40. “The San Jose Mercury News made some explosive and unsubstantiated charges in articles earlier this year suggesting the Central Intelligence Agency helped start the crack epidemic in the United States. The CIA has often behaved scandalously over the years, but no one, including the Mercury News, has produced credible evidence the CIA organized or took part in drug dealing by the Contras or that the rebels flooded Los Angeles with drugs to finance their war against the Sandinistas.” —New York Times

41. “I don’t believe we ought to believe the so-called ‘admissions’ of the Liggett and Myers Company. I think the only reason they’re now agreeing with tobacco critics about the addictive powers of nicotine and the nicotine-level manipulation by the company is to get themselves off the hook and avoid bigger trouble, even if it means getting the other tobacco companies into bigger trouble.”

42. “Of course the Task Force on Crime is going to conclude that crime is on the way up. If they conclude it’s on the way down, they’d have to disband the task force, wouldn’t they?”

43. “The police asked the neighbors on both sides of the Owens’s home whether they’d ever seen either of them do any drugs. They all agreed they hadn’t, so it’s a pretty safe bet they aren’t really drug users.”

44. “The problem isn’t really with banning assault weapons; heck, I personally think it’s stupid to want to own an assault weapon. The problem is that, once the government realizes that an assault weapons ban is not resulting in fewer gunshot victims, it will turn to semi-automatic weapons and require registration of them. But, of course, that won’t reduce the number of victims either. We might finally get to a point where there are no more gunshot victims, but it’ll only be after all guns have been banned and the ones out there now have all turned to rust.”

45. When several people in Harvey’s department get new computers, he is annoyed because he is not among them. “I’ll tell you what,” Harvey says to his wife, “if they want to rip me off by not getting a new computer for me, I’ll just rip them off for extra office supplies. They’ve got a lot of stuff at work we could use around here, and they’ll have no way of knowing that it’s gone. Turnabout’s fair play.”

46. A famous Englishwoman, no fan of Winston Churchill’s, is said to have once remarked to him, “Sir, if I were your wife, I would put poison in your drink!” According to the story, Churchill is supposed to have replied, “Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it!”

47. “Look, the governor’s office is supposed to list chemicals that are suspected to be poisonous, but let’s not put them on the list officially until we know for sure that they’re harmful. Otherwise, we just cause a lot of unnecessary trouble for the people who make and use the chemicals.”

48. Disgruntled faculty member to a colleague: “It is clear to me what I’m up against with that class. Their idea of a successful course is one in which they get a passing grade by putting in the absolutely minimal amount of time and effort. If they can get the grade without learning anything, so much the better.”

49. “Richard Nixon once said, ‘Tip O’Neill’s the most ruthless speaker in history.’ Being called ‘ruthless’ by Nixon is like Ross Perot criticizing your haircut.”

—Sandy Grady, Knight-Ridder Newspapers

50. “When [Nidal] Ayyad [convicted of conspiring to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993] complained that ‘human rights advocates’ had not monitored his treatment during months of detention, [U.S. District Judge Kevin T.] Duffy interjected: ‘Did human rights organizations monitor the people whom you killed?’”

—Robert L. Jackson, in the Los Angeles Times

51. You saw what the former governor of Illinois did: He declared a moratorium on executions in the state. It was a good thing, too, because it turns out that a large number of the inmates on death row had to be turned loose because DNA evidence proved them innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt. It’s about time we got serious about the fact that we’ve been convicting innocent people and sentencing them to death.

52. No, I do NOT believe that a murderer ought to be allowed to live. No way! Murderers have forfeited the right to live because anyone who murders another person has lost that right.

53. No, I do NOT believe that a murderer has a right to live, and here’s why. The criminal justice system in this country has gotten completely out of control, what with rapists, murderers, you name it—all getting off scot-free. It’s got to change!

54. No, I don’t believe we ought to reinstate the death penalty in this state. Doing it isn’t going to prevent all crime, and you know it.

55. No, I don’t think I believe in “three strikes and you’re out” for convicted felons. Next thing it will be two strikes, then one strike. Then we’ll be sticking people in jail for life for misdemeanors. It’s not good policy.

56. You show me when a fetus wasn’t a person, just show me! Tell me exactly when it is. When the baby is born? Well, why not just a day before that? Or the day before that? Or the day before that? Where you gonna draw the line? You gotta say life begins with conception.

57. You show me when an embryo becomes a human person, just show me! Tell me exactly when it is. When it’s just an egg, the size of a pin head? When it divides once? Twice? Three times? When? Where you gonna draw the line? An embryo is not a person, and that’s that.

58. All this talk about secondhand smoke causing cancer, I just don’t get it. How does it happen? WHEN does it happen? The first time you take a breath in a smoky room? The second time? The third? You can never pin it down exactly.

59. Those four officers who killed the innocent man in New York by mistake should be found not guilty of any crime. None of them had ever been in any kind of trouble before, and, tragically, this kind of thing is just going to happen when we have aggressive police work.

60. Is the president guilty of sexual harassment, as the Republicans are yelping? Hey, give me a break! What’s important is jobs, health care, welfare reform.

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