Critical Thinking and Logical Argument

By Duplass, James A.; Ziedler, Dana L. | Social Education, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Critical Thinking and Logical Argument


Duplass, James A., Ziedler, Dana L., Social Education


Critical thinking and logical argument are as crucial to a democratic nation today as they were to the Founding Fathers in 1700s. An analysis of the construction of arguments can be found in any university logic class and appears in various forms in the social sciences based on the work of Stuart Chase. Chase's writing and the publications of the Institute of Propaganda Analysis were an early attempt in the last century to prepare citizens to detect fallacious arguments in public policy issues. (1) While much attention has been paid by educators to critical thinking skills, little attention in social studies education has been given to logical and fallacious arguments that are an essential part of critical thinking.

Social studies classrooms offer opportunities for students to gather and evaluate evidence, analyze and critique other people's assertions, and speak or write in support of or in opposition to an opinion. The social studies teacher may act as an instructor, moderator, questioner, and devil's advocate.

Students bring to the classroom opinions and information that they glean from the popular culture. Content material for a discussion about current issues is readily accessible to students in the form of newspapers, weekly magazines, and television documentaries and newscasts. Students may feel like experts already, or they may feel overwhelmed by the available information on a topic. Either way, the teacher can help students select sources and then evaluate information through discussions with others who are also seeking accurate information and reliable sources.

Barry Beyer offers one of the dearest conceptualizations of critical thinking. Beyer's operations were derived from the literature of science, language arts, and social studies instruction and are presented here in order (roughly) from simple to complex: (2)

* distinguishing between verifiable facts and value statements;

* distinguishing relevant from irrelevant observations or reasons;

* determining the factual accuracy of a statement;

* determining the credibility of a source;

* identifying ambiguous statements;

* identifying unstated assumptions;

* detecting bias;

* identifying logical fallacies;

* recognizing logical inconsistencies in a line of reasoning;

* determining the overall strength of an argument or conclusion.

Critical thinking operations are perhaps best exemplified in the area of argumentation. (3) When students are engaged in making assertions, supporting and defending those claims through a well-developed line of reasoning, and judging the efficiency of counter arguments during discussions of social issues, they will be making use of the operations identified above. Failure to use these operations during discourse results in fallacious reasoning and flawed construction of ideas and opinions.

Common Fallacies

While fallacies contained in arguments have always been of concern to philosophers, social studies educators might do more to recognize and analyze the fallacious arguments of their students, making such errors an occasion for discussion. A few of the more-frequently encountered fallacies follow.

Ad hominem

Attacking a person's character rather that the accuracy of his or her statements constitutes an ad hominem argument (argument to the man). Specifically, one commits this fallacy by either: (a) criticizing some personal aspect of the speaker unrelated to the topic, for example, how they look or where they grew up; or (b) pointing out some special circumstance or relationship that might exist between the speaker and the topic at hand, but which is not relevant to the validity of their statements. Examples: (a) "David's objection to the new standardized tests should be dismissed entirely, since he never knows what he is talking about. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Critical Thinking and Logical Argument
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.