Monthly Archives: January 2012

SOPA, PIPA and the Slippery Slope

It’s not often that someone offering a bad argument to support their position on an issue actually names the logical fallacy undermining the soundness of their reasoning in their statement of the argument itself. But we were treated to that today!

Whatever your own feelings about the draft legislation of SOPA/PIPA, here is a great example of how not to argue against today’s (1/18/2012) Wikipedia “blackout”:

My main concern is that it puts the organization in the role of advocacy, and that’s a slippery slope,” said editor Robert Lawton, a Michigan computer consultant who would prefer that the encyclopedia stick to being a neutral repository of knowledge. “Before we know it, we’re blacked out because we want to save the whales.” [Link]

The problem with… Continue reading

“Intellectual Battle” – Why We Love the Adversarial Paradigm of Argumentation

Expressions like “intellectual battle,” “culture war,” “winning an argument,” or “attacking faulty reasoning” employ adversarial metaphors suggestive of something rather removed from Raphael’s depiction of philosophical dialog in his famous painting, School of Athens (shown cropped in the banner of this blog). Surrounded by a collection of other intellectuals of the period, the two men at the center of that work — Plato and Aristotle –– are shown having a discussion. This is the leitmotif of what Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins dubbed “The Great Conversation.” This is a conversation about the “great ideas” that have shaped the intellectual history of the West over the last 2,500 years.

The Great Conversation is an example of the “dialectical paradigm” of argumentation. This paradigm makes certain assumptions about the ability… Continue reading

From Critical Thinking to Integrative Rationality

Having taught undergraduate courses at Canadian and American universities covering the subject matter of “critical thinking,” I recognize that a generally accepted definition of the concept has not (yet) emerged. Various well-respected authors (and not only philosophers) have taken a stab at it, and everyone brings their own particular perspective to the task. So we are in the position of having many nuanced descriptions of what is essential to critical thinking, without there being agreement on the sort of very short list of differentia that would satisfy a definition maven. It is not the case that any of these characterizations is false; we can find truth in any of them. In very general terms, however, there is a shared sense in which uncritical thinking is a concern: thinking… Continue reading

The Effective Thinking Blog

I considered starting a blog several years ago, but deferred the effort until I had a clear idea of what would make my voice unique in the “blogosphere.” It is important to me to not simply echo or underscore the claims made by others, but to contribute original well-written content. To help you decide whether this blog is for you, here are a few points about what to expect:

  • Originality. There are already a number of good blogs concerned at least obliquely with critical thinking. These are often written from specific philosophical or scientific standpoints — atheism, Darwinism, Objectivism, and so on. So while I may from time to time join those conversations, readers will (I hope!) enjoy Effective Thinking for other reasons. This will definitely not be yet… Continue reading