Critical Thinking Notes / Examples

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Critical thinking revision
Unit F504: Critical Reasoning
In addition to identifying elements of reasoning encountered in previous Units you should also be able to recognise,
identify and describe:
Assumptions: something that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof
Valid arguments: a reasonable or cogent argument
Syllogisms: a form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.
Sustained suppositional reasoning: exploring on or more imaginary scenarios in order to think more clearly
about a situation and solve a problem or decide upon a course of action.
Sustained counter-argument: an argument or set of reasons put forward to oppose an idea or theory
developed in another argument.
Sections of text that are not part of the argument, but have other functions such as scene setting (identifying
the topic of the argument), clarification, repetition, rhetorical statements or questions, etc.

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1 Analysis of the Street Porter passage:
a This is scene setting. It provides the background evidence for the writer's contention
that there is an overweight problem that must be tackled.
b This is an analogy. It serves as a reason for the conclusion `Bring back rationing' by
showing that, in the past, rationing made people thinner, so by implication the same
could happen again.…read more

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Now we've got more money and allegedly a higher standard of living' (R1), `but no
sense of when to stop eating' (R2), acting as joint reasons.
Obesity is a problem just for the poor because they can afford only fattening foods --
anticipated counter-argument.
`And don't tell me it's about poverty' -- response to anticipated counter-argument.
`If a third of the nation's 11-year-olds are overweight before they start secondary school,
it's a disease that affects all classes and income levels.…read more

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1 Here is a suggested response covering many of the points that could be made,
though it is unlikely that many candidates would be able to write so much in the time
Street-Porter's article makes use of emotional appeals, but nevertheless she sometimes
backs up her points with convincing evidence. `Whopping' is a loaded word, designed
to shock the reader.…read more

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Street-Porter makes an assumption that somewhat weakens her argument. She
assumes that because as many as a third of 11-year-olds are overweight, this must
affect `all incomes and classes', but this is not necessarily the case. If the problem is
concentrated in the bottom third of the population with respect to income, then an
alternative solution to the one proposed could be to subsidise healthier food and tax
`evil' processed foods, accompanied by a health education campaign.…read more

Page 8

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Gard moves on to acknowledge the counter-argument (`While there are some that say
we are about to see life expectancies nose dive'), creating the impression of objectivity,
before referring to what appears to be his own view, supported by `the majority of
demographic opinion'. Thus he shows that his view is corroborated by most experts.…read more

Page 9

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Overall this is more convincing than Street-Porter's argument. Gard supports his points
more logically, without any of the sweeping generalisations and confusion about possible
solutions to overweight that undermine Street-Porter's. There are points where more
evidence would help to support his case, but the greater willingness to acknowledge other
viewpoints and complexities makes his argument generally more balanced and therefore
more credible.…read more

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Writing your own argument
(Don't forget to question phrases in the question!!!)
An argument supporting the conclusion that giving the public free choice of lifestyle
is harmful:
It has become fashionable to criticise the `nanny state', arguing that it is unnecessary
to tell members of the public how to live their lives, but this view is misguided.…read more


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