Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Let’s recap Logical and Critical Thinking

Summing up logical and critical thinking.
So we’ve covered a lot of ground. We hope we’ve given you some tools that will be useful no matter what you do. We’re all called upon to use our logical and critical thinking skills all the time. But it turns out that we’re actually surprisingly bad at it. No matter how clever we are or what we do, we’re all rather easily fooled or led into error. We’ve shown you some of the common obstacles to good logical and critical thinking. Some of those obstacles arise because of fairly deep seated psychological propensities. Those ones like the common reasoning heuristics of biases might be pretty hard to counteract on our own.
We might need to make use of external checks of the kind we see in science or in more everyday practises such as talking to one another and checking our assumptions and judgements. Others, the common fallacies, look a bit more straightforward. Common reasoning errors, like attacking the person rather then their argument or trying to distract people with red herrings, are a bit closer to the surface. We should be able to watch out for those for ourselves. And we’ve shown you some basic logical moves, starting with how to take arguments as we encounter them in the wild and put them in what we call standard form. We then talked about how to evaluate arguments.
That led us to draw the important distinction between deductive and non-deductive arguments. Deductive arguments are good when they are sound. That’s when they are valid and have true premises. And non-deductive arguments are good when they are strong and have true premises. We then say that they are cogent. Remember the importance of the principle of charity, where that’s about making sure that we are responding to the actual argument of our opponent, not a straw version. And then we turned to some applications.
In science, we looked at the scientific method and theories, and inference to the best explanation and an inference to any old explanation, and the important distinction between verification and falsification, and that allowed us to notice that it’s important to avoid affirming the consequent. We also looked at the distinction between science and pseudoscience, and the importance of making sure we weren’t influencing the things we were meant to be merely observing. Our discussion of law introduced us to reasoning by analogy to the idea of the burden of proof and how it might be allocated, and to circumstances in which an appeal to authority might not be fallacious after all.
Those three features of legal reasoning allowed us to see how good logical and critical thinking played out in the law and also introduced some new ideas and issues. And in the week on morality, we saw the need to avoid arguing directly from facts to moral conclusions. We raised some of the challenges to the idea that morality might be relative to places or periods or individuals. And we saw in the interview with Glen Pettigrove that moral reasoning might also face the common obstacles to good logical and critical thinking. And then we applied what we’d learned by looking at a pretty wild argument from the wild.
We stressed that the tools and skills we’ve shown you won’t do you any good unless you’re committed to using them. You’ve got to come to arguments and decisions about whether or not to adopt beliefs with an open mind. Prepare to test the arguments and follow the good ones where they lead. And those tools go rusty pretty quickly if we don’t use them. An important part of being a good logical and critical thinker is having the tools and using them regularly. So, so long. We hope this has been useful and interesting. And now I’m going to get this stupid t-shirt off once and for all.

We’ve finally come to the end of our journey. We hope that the skills you learnt in this course will be useful to you, and will help you become a better person.

You can check your progress on the course so far.

Please take the time to fill in FutureLearn’s post-course survey.

This article is from the free online

Logical and Critical Thinking

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education