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Every Argument is Equal

The tools, techniques and distinctions we've offered you during the course won't be any good to you if you don't get them out of your tool bag.
So here we are in the final week. To bring everything together, we’ll revisit an argument we saw earlier, and we’ll look at critical and uncritical ways of evaluating it. And we’re going to see the argument presented more or less as we come across these things in everyday life. We’re interested in a whether the arguers manage to avoid the common obstacles– the good logical and critical thinking– we’ve talked about during the course. Are they using suspect reasoning heuristics? Do they fallaciously appeal to authority, offer a faulty analogy, or commit any of the other fallacies described in the “Learning to spot fallacies” document you got back at the beginning of the course?
Of course we’re concerned to see whether they are being good logical and critical thinkers. But more specifically, we’re concerned to see whether you’ve picked up the skills we’ve been trying to teach during the course. We’ve looked at many specific obstacles to good logical and critical thinking. Many of those obstacles prevent us from assessing arguments or reasons for belief on their merits. To seeing what’s good or bad about the arguments or reasons themselves. And one common reason for failing to see what’s good or bad about an argument or reason itself, is because we come to the argument with our minds already made up. We don’t come to the argument or decision about whether to adopt a belief with an open mind.
Coming to an argument or decision with an open mind means being prepared to evaluate and respond to the argument, or the reasons we’re given themselves– to follow the arguments or reasons where they lead. And sometimes that can be difficult or uncomfortable. We may feel strongly about an issue. But if we’re being good logical and critical thinkers, we have to be able to put our feeling aside and assess the issue. The point is that the tools and techniques and distinctions we’ve offered you during the course won’t be any good to you if you don’t get them out of your tool bag and use them.

It’s time to get your hands dirty and apply the logical and critical thinking skills you’ve acquired to a case-study on veganism.

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Logical and Critical Thinking

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