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Every day we are bombarded with messages apparently telling us what to do or not to do, what to believe or not to believe: Why should I vote for Mrs Bloggs, or eat this particular breakfast cereal?
Why should I believe that meat is 4 introducing arguments murder, or that the economy is in danger? If, on the other hand, we are given only state-of-the-art marketing techniques — for example, images of good-looking people happily eating Wheetybites with bright red strawberries out of fashionable crockery — then, although an attempt has been made to persuade us to buy Wheetybites, it would not appear that any attempt has been made to provide good reasons for doing so.
To attempt to persuade by giving good reasons is to give an argument. We encounter many different types of attempts to persuade. Critical thinkers should primarily be interested in arguments and whether they succeed in providing us with good reasons for acting or believing.
But we also need to consider non-argumentative attempts to persuade, as we need to be able to distinguish these from arguments.
This is not always straightforward, particularly as many attempts to persuade involve a mixture of various argumentative and non-argumentative techniques to get us to accept a point of view or take a certain course of action. The sort of argument we have in mind occurs frequently in ordinary, everyday situations.
It is by no means restricted to the works of Plato, Descartes and other scholars famous for the arguments they put forward. You and your friends or family give each other reasons for believing something or doing something all the time — why we should expect our friend to be late for dinner, why we should walk rather than wait for the bus, and so on.
Often they use images or combine images with language; most advertising, for instance, involves a combination of images and text or speech aimed to persuade us by nonargumentative means to buy stuff.
Although the persuasive power of images is an interesting issue, here we are interested only in attempts to persuade that use written or spoken language. But images can also occur in argumentative attempts to persuade.
In this sort of case, we can think of the image as implicitly stating a premise, in the sense to be described below p. The same thing occurs in a more elevated form at university and college. Throughout your time as a student you will hear lecturers and other students arguing for a point of view, and in set readings you will encounter attempts to persuade you of various claims about all manner of issues.
Well, it may often be easier in the short run, but it might lead to a life dominated by bad decisions and discontentment. For example, in a court trial the jury is instructed to convict an alleged murderer if the prosecution has proved their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Penguin,p. In fact in any situation in which we have to make decisions, be they about our lives or the lives of others, there is no substitute for the ability to think logically and to detect errors in the thinking of others. Others are attempts to persuade by means of rhetorical devices.
In Chapter 2 we discuss the most common of these devices in detail. Rhetoric Any verbal or written attempt to persuade someone to believe, desire or do something that does not attempt to give good reasons for the belief, desire or action, but attempts to motivate that belief, desire or action solely through the power of the words used.
The crucial thing to understand here is that an attempt to persuade by argument is an attempt to provide you with reasons for believing a claim, desiring something or doing something.
Arguments appeal to your critical faculties, your reason. In fact they are closer to argument; for they work by announcing to the introducing arguments 7 recipient that they have a good reason to act as suggested. Although threats and bribes may be immoral and may motivate partly by appeal to our fears and desires, among other feelings, they do motivate through force of reason and for that reason do not count as rhetoric.
Rhetorical techniques can be manipulative and coercive; their use should generally be avoided by those who aspire to think critically and to persuade by reason.
That is not to say that rhetoric is always undesirable. Often it is used to great effect for good causes.
Obama uses some remarkably effective rhetoric for a good cause, as he had done throughout his campaign, and he might well be admired as a talented rhetorician. But his speech does not amount to an attempt to persuade by argument: America, we have come so far.
We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do.Write your critical thinking is offering our use from the website as you learn more enter the companion website!
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bell hooks on the Web. Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color A good, concise biography and some useful links and reference material.
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ROUTLEDGE CRITICAL THINKERS essential guides for literary studies Series Editor: Robert Eaglestone, Royal Holloway, University of London Routledge Critical Thinkers is a series of accessible introductions to key ﬁgures in contemporary critical thought.