Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking

By Diane F. Halpern | Go to book overview
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Perhaps you have seen the advertisement that appears in many magazines and goes something like this: "The World's Greatest Literature Is Now Available on Audio Cassette." Like most Californians, in fact, most other large-city-dwellers and many rural and suburban folks, too, I have a very long commute to work. Although I love to read, I also enjoy listening to good books on tape as I crawl through "rush" hour traffic with a million other grumpy commuters. So, it is not surprising that I continued to read the smaller print below this large headline. Someone had selected the "100 GREATEST BOOKS OF ALL TIME" and made them available for purchase on audio cassettes. "Sounds good," I thought. But wait, it wasn't the original books that had been recorded onto tape, but a highly abridged version of these books. In fact, every one of "THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS" was abridged so that actual listening time was less than 30 minutes per book! The advertisement ended by assuring readers / listeners that the audio company executives would never tell if we wanted to pretend that this fast-found wisdom reflected a doctorate in literature. In other words, after only 50 hours of fast-forward listening, I could fake a deep knowledge of fine literature.

I wondered who would purchase this microset of "literature for your listening pleasure." A few pages later in the same magazine, I found an advertisement for a series of "books" selected from the most important knowledge ever written on succeeding in business. Every one of these critically acclaimed (whatever that means) business books had been reduced to eight pages, for the "busy professional."

As I pondered this super-fast-track route to superficial knowledge, I began to look more closely at the other messages that bombard us everyday on billboards, television, and in our mailboxes.

I received an amazing offer in the mail. I "won" the right to purchase a beautiful "flawless CZ diamond simulant." Comparable items were priced at $3,559. The $19 purchase offer was certainly a substantial bargain.

With this bargain-of-a-lifetime still in my hand, I turned on the television.

Numerous celebrities were touting the many benefits of consulting with a psychic. In fact, television viewers were invited to phone their "own private psychic" for help with their personal and professional decisions. Apparently, many do. The psychic business must be booming because I also received an advertisement for a session with a private psychic over the Internet.

I know that most readers are thinking that these "silly" examples don't apply to them. Yet, statistics show that many of you start every day by consulting your horoscope, believe that bad (or good) things happen in threes, and can cite at least one instance in which you believe that you were psychic. At the same time that we are offered the thinnest veneer of knowledge, "genuine fake diamonds," and advice from


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Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking


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