Critical Thinking: Key terms

Key terms and definitions for AS Critical Thinking

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Unit 1: What is an argument?


One view point only (a CONCLUSION) and evidence to back this up (REASONS)

Can also include an INTERMEDIATE CONCLUSION - a conclusion drawn from 1 or 2 reasons on the way to the main one

Must be an attempt to persuade

If there is no persuasion, the passage is simply an EXPLANATION

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Unit 2: The structure of arguments

Joined reasons: Work together to come to a conclusion

Independant reasons: Work separately to come to a conclusion

Counter-argument/Counter-assertion: Where the author states the opposite point of view before explaining why she doesn't accept it

Hypothetical reasoning: 'if...then' reasoning. The author's conclusion is dependant on the truth of his hypothesis

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Unit 3: Different standards for evaluating argumen

Deductive reasoning: The conclusion must be true if the reasons are true, since the conclusion follows with certainty

Inductive reasoning: the conclusion can follow only with a degree of certainty

Syllogisms: Has two premises (reasons) that work together to lead to a conclusion

Is the evidence VALID: The evidence may be ADEQUATE but not deductively VALID. An argument must be LOGICAL

FALSE DILEMMA: When there are more than just the two options presented to us

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Unit 4: Ethical arguments


Concerns the greater good/bad of other people -Whether something is morally right or wrong. An ethical argument has MORAL DISCUSSIONS about what ought to be done.

UTILITARIAN view: For the greater good - i.e Kill one and save the rest!

DILEMMA: A difficult choice that has to be made

RELATIVISM: Conceptions of truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them

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Unit 5: Analogies


Used to back up reasons and make them stronger

They are comparisons

Are they useful analogies?


The use of EQUIVOCAL LANGUAGE = ambiguous language

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Unit 6: Assumptions

ASSUMPTION: Something that the author does not say, although it is something the author relies on to make his argument

It is a statement that is not backed up with evidence

STATED ASSUMPTION: Written down but not been backed up by evidence

UNSTATED ASSUMPTION: Not written down but author assumes that we make that connection

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Unit 7: Alternative explanations

CORRELATION: two things together, in parallel

CAUSATION: a cause, something that happens. Just because two things are found together (correlation) it does not automatically mean that one thing caused the other.

CUM HOC fallacy: 'Lisa is holding a rock. There are no tigers around. Therefore, Lisa's rock must somehow be responsible for the absence of tigers.

POST HOC fallacy: require a chronological component: i.e A happened then B happened. Therefore A must have caused B. Example of post hoc: 'The Mayor introduced the Bear Patrol. There have been no bear sightings for several weeks. Therefore, the introduction of the bear patrol must have caused the bears to stay away.'

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Unit 8: Irrelevant Appeals

IRRELEVANT APPEAL TO POPULARITY: Lots of people do it so I can as well

IRRELEVANT APPEAL TO PITY: Use pity instead of reasons to back up your arguement, a 'sob story', persuade people by using pity

IRRELEVANT APPEAL TO AUTHORITY: You believe someone because they are famous or superior to you

IRRELEVANT APPEAL TO FEAR: Makes you scared to force you to do something

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Unit 9: Generalisations


Making general statements about something. This can make a weak argument.


SWEEPING GENERALISATION: Applying the generalisation to everyone

HASTY GENERALISATION: Applying the generalisation to one person or one example

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Unit 10: More fallacies

AD HOMINEM: Insult or attack someone to get your point across. You should persuade with reasoning not attacks.

TU QUOQUE: 'you too' - what you are doing is ok because other people are doing it, or because the person criticising you is being hypocritical.

STRAW MAN: Distorting another persons argument in a ridiculed way in order to knock it down more easily. Exaggerating the situation and putting it out of context.

SLIPPERY SLOPE: Exaggerating. One reason leading to another in big gaps. Once you start you can't stop - has to go to the extreme. No justification between the situations - too extreme.

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Unit 11: Yet more fallacies

BEGGING THE QUESTION: Circular reasoning - the argument goes nowhere. Argument doesn't really prove anything.


NECESSARY CONDITION: All the factors needed. What you need

SUFFICIENT CONDITION: Just having the necessary is not everything. Needs everything and more. Example: Lottery: 'You have to be in it to win it' Necessary = having a ticket but that does not mean you will win Sufficient = having the right numbers to win

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Unit 11: Yet more fallacies

AD HOC: Explains one inconvenient truth and then discards it.

Example: 'Fishing is OK because fish feel no pain' / 'It has been shown that fish do feel pain' / 'Yes, but they don't feel pain like humans do' - this last line the ad hoc

EQUIVOCATION: Ambiguity, double meaning e.g 'The sign said 'fine for parking here', and since it was fine I parked there'

ARGUMENT FROM IGNORANCE: 'He must be guilty because he hasn't been able to prove that he isn't'

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