Bringing It All Together Narrative and Structure

In this final chapter, I provide a fully worked example of a substantial written argument, which I have cast and commented upon, so as to demonstrate the way in which the main form in which we encounter reasoning the narrative flow is perhaps better understood as an expression of an underlying process of linking premises and conclusions. This longer example also demonstrates in more detail how you might end up writing something based on an analytical structure, pointing out the subtleties of...

Causal reasoning

Reasoning from cause is very common and we are all familiar with it, if only in a common-sense way. If someone asks you 'Why did you buy this book ', you might reply 'because it was reasonably cheap and looked interesting' alternatively you might say 'because someone recommended that I buy it' or even 'because it was a compulsory textbook for my studies'. In all cases, you have stated what event or fact caused you to buy this book. Hence, in a causal relationship between claims, the premise or...

Chapter Exercise

Asking questions (of ourselves and others). Your questions are designed to tell you what you do not already know and guide you in what to find out but they also draw out hidden aspects of a problem and, because questions are like claims (see chapter 2), they provide possible conclusions for your argument. You will find that questions are essential to good reasoning, and in chapter 9 we focus on the questions you need to ask. Seek out information. Smart thinking requires information. It also...

Claims supported by reasoning

Looking back to the last example, what should we do about claims 4 and 5, for which no clear foundation is offered Well, rather than allow their foundations to remain implicit, we can argue for claims 4 and 5 in precisely the same way as we are arguing for claim 1, thus developing a complex argument structure. We could, for example, add the following claims to our argument, not to support claim 1 directly but to show why claim 5 was acceptable. 6. Capitalist economies are structured in a way...

Claims whose truthfulness is not in question

An example of a claim that we might expect to use self-evidently is 'The earth orbits the sun. But, if we are to be sure that the claims in our arguments and explanations are well founded in the context of their audience, we cannot simply assume that they are self-evident. For example, a group of young children would, probably, need to be convinced that the earth orbited the sun since, just on the basis of their observation, the sun goes around the earth. But, we can assume, a group of adults...

Contents

Preface to First Edition i ' 1 Smart Thinking 1 What is smart thinking 1 How do we study smart thinking 5 Why do we need to 'think smart' 7 2 Claims The Key Elements of Reasoning 9 Understanding language 10 More about claims 14 Claims and reasoning 18 Review 22 3 Linking The Key Process in Reasoning 25 Links between claims 26 The analytical structure of reasoning 28 Learning more about the analytical structure 31 Review 37 4 Understanding the Links between Claims 39 Dependent premises 39 5 More...

Context analysing the external dimensions of reasoning

Throughout this book, we have seen how context is all-important in determining many of our judgments about effective reasoning. When planning and creating (and then presenting) an argument or explanation, the particular context in which this reasoning occurs must be actively considered. The nature of context a mass of implied or assumed knowledge and expectations makes it impossible for us to develop precise guidelines for its consideration. Instead, we must explore the three-way relationship...

Controlling the key properties of claims

Because a claim makes an internal connection between two ideas, we need to make sure that this connection is expressed as we want it to be. Again, by writing carefully, we also improve our 'analysis' of the issues. Look at the following claims a. Many colonial Australian settlers took part in military-style operations against indigenous Australians throughout the nineteenth century, in different parts of the country. b. The violent conflict between white settlers and indigenous Australians was...

Covering scope and certainty

We also know that claims always imply or state their scope and certainty and attention to this point will permit us to avoid one of the great errors in reasoning the sweeping generalisation. Often people will make a conclusion that is far too general, or definitive for the reasons they are presenting to support it. An example would be 'Australia has a good education system with strong programs to teach literacy, and thus all Australians know how to read and write.' It is true that Australia has...

Effective use of dependent premises Dependent premises providing one reason

A reason for a conclusion is very unlikely to consist in a single claim. No matter how we might state it in short-hand, it is, analytically, a complex interaction of many ideas and implications. The reason must be broken down into a chain of more precise premises. For example, the claim that 'university education should be free for all Australians' might be supported by the reason that 'the economy benefits from a well-educated Australian population'. But is our analysis of the situation...

Exercise

In the following complex argument, identify how the wording of the claims helps you to see the logic of the five arrows which represent the movement from premise to conclusion. 1. Ian should be jailed for between three and six months for assaulting Michael. 2. Ian threatened to attack Michael. 3. By law, threatening to attack someone is known as 'assault'. 5. A recent survey of 200 assault victims found that, for over 150 of them, the assault adversely affected their lives for between three and...

Five possible outcomes

Finding information effectively is, in large measure, a matter of understanding how that information or knowledge is to be used in your own arguments and explanations. Often we simply want some basic descriptive information to serve as claims in our reasoning without wanting to provide extensive supporting arguments. For instance, we read, in relation to our nationalistic advertisements investigation, that Crocodile Dundee was one of the most popular films ever screened in Australia. We can...

Further reading on knowledge and philosophy

Doyal, Len and Harris, Ken, Empiricism, Explanation and Rationality in the Social Sciences, Roudedge and Kegan Paul, London, 1986. A very comprehensive treatment of the topic. The authors' main argument is that naive empiricism (that is, the belief that facts are facts and we find them) is wrong because all 'facts' are interpretive claims based in political and or social circumstances. Gaarder, Jostein, Sophie's World A Novel about the History of Philosophy, Phoenix House, London, 1995. A story...

Further reading on writing and communicating

Hay, Iain, Bochner, Diane, and Dungey, Carol, Making the Grade, OUP, Melbourne, 2002. Wide-ranging and up-to-date advice on study skills, including assistance with writing and communicating. Murphy, Eamon, You Can Write A Do-it-Yourself Manual, Longman, Melbourne, Excellent advice on writing and the use of plans still useful twenty years after publication because of its clear tone and style. Summers, Jane and Brett Smith (eds), Communication Skills Handbook How to Succeed in Written and Oral...

General questions

How can I think through complex ideas so that I have a good understanding of them Ask questions, do not be satisfied with easy answers, and do not make assumptions about what things mean. (See pp 83-6, 105-7, 124-8.) What do I need to do to be convincing in my reports, essays, and presentations Make sure you have a good analytical structure and have a strong argument or explanation. (See pp 81-6, 121-8.) How do I make my reasoning easy to follow for people reading or listening to my arguments...

Guide to Important Skills

Use the following questions and answers as an index to specific advice in Smart Thinking on the key skills of reasoning. They are designed to help you 'get back into' the book after you have read it thoroughly for the first time they also provide a basic summary of what Smart Thinking can do to 'smarten up' your own thinking. These questions provide a connection between the skills discussed in this book and the most common concerns that people have when faced with the task of writing an essay...

How to Use this Book

To get the most out of this book, you will need to read it carefully chapter by chapter. The book builds sequentially, so that many of the ideas and concepts introduced in earlier chapters underpin more complex discussion of related issues in subsequent chapters. Also, as you go, you should do the exercises in each chapter. Do not check the answers until you have completed all of a particular exercise and are satisfied with them. When you turn to the Answers, Discussion, and Further Advice, you...

Info

The last sentence could either contain two claims and an implied claim or three claims. Since the phrase starting 'using ' is what I use to infer the existence of the implied claim, I think it is best cast as three claims as indicated. Obviously the phrase 'using ' is not, in its current form, a complete claim. I would suggest that what it is really saying is 'if referencing is a service to readers, then readers will only be able to benefit from this service by going to other texts via the...

Justifying all aspects of the conclusion

As we know, claims are complex statements that tie together all sorts of information about ideas, scope, certainty, values, and so on. As a result, any reasoning to support or explain a claim (the conclusion) must attend to each aspect of that claim. For example, if we wanted to explain why 'Most people do not understand that late capitalism will never sustain unemployment levels lower than 5 per cent', then there are many aspects of the claim that need explanation. At the very least, our...

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ANSWERS, DISCUSSION, AND FURTHER ADVICE 157 It would be incorrect to diagram their relationship thus Claims 2 and 3 are related and, indeed, are dependent on one another (see chapter 4). It is wrong to use the -1 symbol for any form of relationship between claims other than for the logical relationship 'because therefore'. Instead the + symbol should have been used to join claims 2 and 3 on the same line. Other incorrect uses of the diagram tend to reflect a misunderstanding of the fact that,...

Making a real connection

There are times when people make the mistake of circular reasoning, that is, they provide a premise or premises that are, effectively, the same as the conclusion. A very obvious example is 'I have failed my exams because I have failed my exams'. No one is foolish enough to actually use such an example. However, we can use different words to say the same thing. Hence, sometimes, people argue in ways that are circular because they present as their conclusion a claim that is the same, logically,...

More Effective Reasoning I Better Claims

We have not yet discussed the question of how to reason more effectively. The analytical structure format allows us to see more clearly what we are doing and, thus, gives some basis for improvement. But of itself, the format is not really much help we must also know how to make our reasoning strong and effective while planning and revising our work. This chapter and the next discuss the ways in which we can avoid errors in reasoning, both initially, in developing our ideas, and then when...

Planning and Creating Your Reasoning

Although, in practice, reasoning, knowledge, research, and analysis are all inextricably bound together, it is also true that, from time to time, we divide our reasoning tasks up in a way that allows us to sit down and prepare an analytical text containing arguments and explanations. What we have learnt about reasoning so far makes us much more effective in such preparation, and this chapter briefly discusses two ways in which we can go about it. However, always remember that the key to good...

Preface to First Edition

The study and teaching of critical thinking (also known as informal logic) is relatively rare in Australia. There is little to guide the keen student or teacher in the development of skills for analysis and reasoning in everyday work and study The orientation of most of the available books on this subject is more traditionally logical, and this orientation further complicates the process of teaching and learning applied critical thinking skills, since it tends to remove the use of reasoning and...

Preface to Second Edition

I have been fortunate enough to find that I was right to assume that a practical book on critical thinking skills set in the context of communication would be both popular and necessary. I continue to be involved in teaching critical thinking in the unit Applied Reasoning, which is now a part of some courses of study through Open Learning Australia (REAl 1 visit http www.ola.edu.au), and is being revived on campus at Curtin University. I have also realised that, in writing Smart Thinking, I...

Reasoning and analysis Reasoning and knowledge

What any one individual knows about the world is extremely limited. People tend to be experts in certain small areas and ignorant in many others their detailed knowledge is often applicable only in limited situations. It could not be otherwise in modern society, considering the quantities of available information and consequent demands for specialisation. You do not need to be a walking storehouse of information about everything, since there are many places to look if you need to fill in gaps...

Reasoning from analogy

An analogy is a special form of reasoning, which has some similarities with reasoning from specific cases. Reasoning by analogy involves drawing an equally specific conclusion from specific premises via a comparison of like aspects. Good analogies avoid comparisons between items that have too many dissimilarities. For example Imagine a friend gave you a guinea pig to look after but forgot to tell you anything about what to feed it. You might say to yourself, 'I have a guinea pig and do not know...

Reasoning from specific cases

Where do these generalisations come from Do we just make them up No, in most cases they have been established via reasoning in this instance, from specific cases to a generalisation. The difference in reasoning from specific cases is that, although a general statement is involved, it is not used as a premise but as the conclusion. We routinely find such reasoning in, for example, opinion polls, statistical analyses, or any other surveys in which the reasoning supports conclusions that...

Reasoning from terms

The final type of reasoning is less common but equally important. Some claims, as we have seen, establish the definition of a particular word or phrase. Often we need to give reasons for our definitions, either because there is some widespread doubt about them or because we are trying to establish a particular meaning in a given context. Here is an example In a true democracy, all power rests with the people constitutionally speaking, in a monarchy some power theoretically resides with the...

Relations of cause and effect

We hear from friends that many new members of a virtual community to which they belong report initially high levels of enthusiasm, followed by a rapid decline in interest and a return to the activities that previously they pursued. We have also read, in a book on virtual communities, that this effect can be seen in many online communities. We also read, in yet another book on communities in general, that it is not the physical area nor the communication between members that makes a community'...

Relations of similarity and difference

We might, for example, discover that there has been a 100 per cent increase in Internet use in Australia in the past two years. We can immediately begin to think about the following was this increase the same, or more or less in previous years Have there been similar rises in other countries recently Again, in a more complex example, we read that Australia was one of the countries that most quickly (in terms of time and number of users) adopted video recorders and mobile phones when they were...

Relations of specific and general

We might read in an article about two successful e-commerce ventures in Australia (call them x.com.au and y.com.au). Immediately we need to think are these two specific examples unusual, representative, evidence of a trend We are seeing if there is a relationship between the specific claim 'x and y are successful e-commerce businesses' and a more general claim that 'there are many successful e-commerce businesses in Australia'. We need to read additional articles books to find out if there are...

Relevance What is relevance

Here is a simple example of relevance and irrelevance concerning the conclusion 'Smith is physically unhealthy' a. Smith has pains in his chest he coughs a lot and is short of breath walking up stairs. Clearly Smith is physically unhealthy. b. Smith wears green trousers and a pink hat and has no shirt on. Clearly Smith is physically unhealthy. In argument a, the relevance of the premises is clear they all report physical symptoms that are routinely recognised as evidence of poor health. In the...

Research Reasoning and Analysis

Advice on research usually covers 'physical' issues such as finding books, conducting experiments, and searching computer databases. Such advice does not, however, address the key point that, since knowledge and reasoning are intimately connected, then searching for knowledge is a part of reasoning. The common thread between research and reasoning is that they both involve analysis the thinking through of the connections between claims (or information). If we cannot consciously control our...

Review exercise

Answer briefly the following questions, giving, where possible, an example in your answer that is different from those used in this book a. Why are well-formed claims essential b. What is the role of connotations in thinking about well-formed claims c. What is the difference between claiming 'X happened' and 'Jones has argued that X happened' d. What roles do scope and certainty play in well-formed claims e. Which claims are least likely to be 'self-evident' f. What is the similarity between...

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176 GLOSSARY OF KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTS burden of proof In any situation involving reasoning, we can discuss the degree of support needed for a conclusion to be acceptable in terms of the 'burden of proof on the person presenting the argument or explanation. Burdens of proof are usually implied and contextual. (See chapter 6.) Casting is a process of looking at someone else's argument or explanation, in the narrative form, and then recovering from that form, an analytical structure which is done...

Specific questions

By comparing items and drawing conclusions based on their similarities. (See pp 99-100.) How do I avoid making assumptions in my essays, presentations, and reports Do not take the truth of a claim or its relationship with other claims for granted stop and think about what your audiences expect you to do and what they already know. (See pp 7, 11-12, 73-4, 122-7.) How can I begin to understand the audiences of my arguments and explanations Regard your audiences as having certain expectations...

Text the internal dimensions of reasoning

Chapter 3 introduced the idea of a particular planning method, which revolves around the use of the analytical structure format. Here, as a reminder, are the five steps involved in this method 1 Decide what your conclusion will be. Write this claim out carefully, expressing exactly what you mean. Number it '1'. 2 Then think about the reasons that you are giving for this conclusion. These reasons must be written as proper claims, this time serving as premises that either explain how that...

The analytical structure format as a plan for writing

The analytical structure format is different from (and, for purposes of smart thinking, much better than) a mind-map or narrative plan. The ideas that underpin it are used as the basis of the analytical questions that will guide every stage of thinking, researching, and writing. The actual written-on-paper format, with its list of claims and diagram, is then used, after initial research but before we think about the narrative sequence. It can either guide further research or guide the actual...

The value of referencing

One of the problems that confronts teachers of first-year university units each semester is the need to ensure that students learn, quickly, the methods and skills of correct referencing. In some courses, students are very much left to fend for themselves, relying on, perhaps, the services of the university library, advice offered by individual staff members, or simply muddling through on the basis of critical feedback on their first assignments. The Department of Media and Information (DMI),...

Thinking

SKILLS FOR CRITICAL UNDERSTANDING AND WRITING Second Edition 253 Normanby Road, South Melbourne, Victoria 3205, Australia Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Auckland Bangkok Buenos Aires Cape Town Chennai Dar es Salaam Delhi Hong Kong Istanbul Karachi Kolkata Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Mumbai Nairobi OXFORD is a trade mark of...

Thinking about values

I argued above that Australia is a good country in which to live', a claim that is obviously making a value judgment. Let us assume, for a moment, that my initial thought as to why this claim is true was Australia permits freedom of religious expression. The mistake here of just having one premise is compounded by the fact that this premise does not make an explicit value judgment and thus suggests something is very wrong with my thinking. Returning to the example above, we can see that part of...

Wellfounded claims The problem of true claims

A claim, whether it is a conclusion or a premise, has one essential property that it claims to be a true statement (either actual or possible what is or what ought to be). Hence, while claims must first be well formed, so that we can express this state of affairs precisely, claims must also be well founded, so that their truth is not too easily called into question. If I were to say, 'This book will totally change your life ', you would probably not accept this claim, because as it stands, this...

What Kinds of Reasoning are There

We have now finished with our detailed look at the analytical structure approach. This chapter will consider, in a more general way, how to think about the types of reasoning we might use and encounter. I already noted, in chapter 2, that basically reasoning is either about relationships across time (cause and effect), or within the sets or groups into which we divide and classify objects at any given moment. But there are some other ways of thinking about reasoning that are worth exploring in...

More Effective Reasoning II Better Links

Writing well-formed and well-founded claims is only half the task of effective reasoning. The links between these claims must also be well made if our overall argument or explanation is to be strong. Looking carefully at the links between premises prevents us from making unconscious assumptions about how information is interrelated. We must also check the connections of our premises with their conclusion, making sure they are relevant and provide strong support. Otherwise our conclusion will...

The Key Elements of Reasoning

This chapter begins our in-depth exploration of how to use reasoning more effectively in order to make us smart thinkers. As suggested in chapter 1, learning to use reasoning better requires that we be more aware of what we are already doing. We need to learn some basic terms and concepts with which to talk and think about reasoning. The aim of this chapter is to improve our awareness of how we are actually doing reasoning. The focus in this chapter is on claims. In the next chapter we look at...

Glossary of Key Terms and Concepts

These 'key terms' summarise and draw together various points and concepts discussed in the text. Each includes a reference to the chapter in which they are first discussed many are generally applicable throughout the book. The conclusion is established by comparing similarities between like objects in the premises. The key questions to ask are about the similarities and differences between the known case and the case under discussion. (See chapter 7.) The process of thinking through the...

Wellformed claims Writing clear claims

Smart thinking requires, first of all, that our claims be well formed. Before we even think about how the links between claims might develop and before we even consider whether or not our claims are acceptable we need to write or speak clear claims. While this task is similar to all clear writing or speaking, it is not exactly the same. Some of the rules of narrative exposition such as not repeating words too frequently, the proper use of clauses within sentences, and so on do not apply at this...

Understanding the Links between Claims

Linking claims involves two distinct processes, as signalled by the and I symbols used in analytical structure diagrams. The first process involves connections between premises and other premises the second between premises and a conclusion. We must explore these links in more detail in order to understand, first, the analysis that lies behind such connections and, second, how to represent them accurately in the analytical structure format. Of course, in practice, the process of representation...

The Key Process in Reasoning

Claims are the basic material of reasoning, but they must be linked together if we are to argue and explain our points of view. We have already seen that claims that are linked to a conclusion by supporting it or explaining it are called premises. A conclusion, therefore, is a claim that is supported or explained. In this chapter we investigate this linking process in more detail. My principal goal, again, is to give you greater awareness of how you reason, in order to improve what you actually...

Smart Thinking

There is an inner logic, and we're taught to stay far from it It is simple and elegant, but it's cruel and antithetic And there's no effort to reveal it There are many words associated with what is, loosely, termed 'thinking'. We are often told to 'think about the issues', to 'analyse in more depth', to 'use reasoning', or to 'be rational'. Sometimes perhaps with reference to computers, or to the legendary Star Trek character Mr Sp ck we are told to 'be logical'. Often students are told that...