Course Learning Outcomes for Unit V Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
2. Explain the concept of intellectual standards for thinking.
4. Apply analytical reasoning to a variety of disciplines.
5. Develop strategies for self-assessment.
Reading Assignment Chapter 8: Discover How the Best Thinkers Learn Chapter 9: Redefine Grades as Levels of Thinking and Learning In order for the links below to function properly, you must first log into the myCSU Student Portal and access the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database within the CSU Online Library. You may also access the resource by visiting the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database and performing a search for the title and/or author. Franklin, B. (2005). Aim for personal perfection. In M. E. Williams (Ed.), Constructing a Life Philosophy.
Unit Lesson This lecture continues with the discussion of rhetorical devices. As with last week, we will focus on rhetorical devices that challenge our critical thinking. However, this does not mean rhetorical devices are necessarily bad or that arguments made using rhetorical devices are always wrong. We just need to be aware of when rhetorical devices are being used and apply our critical thinking skills to assess arguments on their rational merits. Downplayers A downplayer is a word that is inserted in a sentence that undermines something that is being discussed. Let’s take a look at two sentences that mean the same thing in their deepest structure, but that have radically different connotations due to one word.
“Brent got a B on his exam.”
“Brent only got a B on his exam.” By inserting the word “only,” the person saying sentence two has downplayed Brent’s achievement. Most people would be happy, or at least satisfied, with a grade of B on an exam. However, the second sentence seems to diminish Brent’s accomplishment by indicating that a grade of B on the exam does not meet his or her expectations of Brent. You can think of downplayers as using scare quotes “” in verbal language. Let’s look at some more examples.
“Yeah, Ellen just got her ‘degree’,”
UNIT V STUDY GUIDE
Designing and Evaluating Your Own Learning
PHL 1010, Critical Thinking 2
UNIT x STUDY GUIDE
In this case, the person seems to indicate that Ellen’s degree is not really a degree. The person is attempting to cast suspicion on Ellen’s accomplishment.
Friend #1: “I hear that the teacher for critical thinking is great.”
Friend #2: “Oh yeah, he’s a great ‘teacher’.” It seems that Friend #2 does not think that the teacher for critical thinking performs very well and has cast doubt on the teacher’s abilities by downplaying the teacher’s pedagogy. Be on the lookout for the use of downplayers. Do not let anyone downplay accomplishments by using disingenuous words. Always remind yourself of the facts. If Brent got a B on a difficult organic chemistry exam, then one should give credit where credit is due and not try to discredit his accomplishment in a devious manner. Ridicule Ridicule occurs when someone tries to cast suspicion on another by making fun of the person or personally embarrassing the person in front of others. We are often told that this form of interaction is a high school phenomenon, but most of us realize that this form of interaction can occur at any time, and often in the most inappropriate contexts.
Employee to Boss: “According to the research that our team put together, it seems that a marketing campaign targeted towards 18-35 year old women would be in the best interests of the company.”
Boss: “What do you know? You are just an intern.”
Whenever a person tries to humiliate another person, usually while not responding at all to the situation at hand, this person is ridiculing another.
Natalia: “I really think that all people in the U.S. should have free access to medical care…I mean, this is one of the most advanced nations in the world, and we should be able to create a system that meets the needs of the populace.”
Bert: “That is ridiculous Communist propaganda.”
Here Bert does not respond to Natalia’s claim. Instead, he brings up something totally irrelevant in order to connect Natalia to something that most people fear. Another example from our current political climate is the continual claims about Barak Obama being a socialist. These claims are pure attempts to ridicule without presenting any evidence. Yelling out that someone is a socialist is just a form of name-calling. It is easy to see why this method is so effective. It requires no grounding in factual evidence or argumentation, and usually, if people yell loud enough, they will drown out the dissenting opinion. All you need to do is examine the structure of the U.S. economic system, as well as literature on various concepts of socialism, and you will see that these statements are unfounded. Bullies exist on and off the grade-school playground, and dealing with them throughout life takes quick wit and sharp reflexes. There is no best way to deal with a ridiculer, and depending on your position in relation to the one who ridicules, you might just have to bite your lip and let your boss vent. However, at least in your heart you will know that this rhetorical technique is a favorite of those who do not think critically. Hyperbole Hyperbole is gross overstatement in order to reinforce a point. This rhetorical technique is common practice for both young and old. Children are highly adept at expressing their mood and current physiological situations using hyperbole. Here are some examples.
PHL 1010, Critical Thinking 3
UNIT x STUDY GUIDE
Child to mother or father: “I’m starving!” Person at work to another: “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
Hushed conversation at a baby shower: “That kid is so ugly you would have to pay me to hold it.”
Hyperbole is an entertaining rhetorical device, and humans have a lot of fun playing around with meanings and expressing themselves through it. However, it is always good to remind ourselves of the facts in a situation where someone is using hyperbole to influence others negatively or in such a way that the person believes that the hyperbole actually expresses what you are going through. Proof Surrogate A proof surrogate is the use of language that implies that there is proof for a claim that you are making without actually giving examples of the proof. Proof surrogates are proof imposters. Skilled manipulators know how to use specific sentence introductions in order to make it sound like their positions are the most rational and scientifically proven positions on the issues. Perhaps you have heard some of the following:
“Everyone knows that…”
“Experts say that…”
“Some would say that…”
“Scientists have proven that…” You can fill in the blank with anything after the proof surrogate, because the proof surrogate has already done its work. It often conveys to the uncritical audience that the statement that follows it is commonly accepted and proven fact. Students use this technique in many of their papers or in class discussions. The one that tends to emerge the most is the “scientists have proven that…” or “did you hear about that study where…” So long as we do not know the scientists, the study, the outcomes of the experiment, and whether the experiment is repeatable, we should not fall into the trap of believing without evidence. Many times, it is not the case that “everyone knows that…” This form of reasoning is dangerous. There were a lot of things that “everyone knew” in the history of our country that we now realize were hateful, dangerous, and ignorant. Pointing out that there is another justified opinion is the first step in allowing others to recognize a proof surrogate when it occurs. You can go further by asking the person to prove that “everyone knows that…” is the case. It is usually difficult for surrogate users to provide the evidence that they indicate is so prevalent. The “It Is What It Is” Device It has become popular in modern parlance for people to claim that something “is what it is.” This is usually followed by the statement “you know?” In full form it looks like this:
“It is what it is…you know?” This statement has grown from occasional use to full blown overuse in all aspects of life. If you analyze this statement for meaning, it is a tautology. It says basically the same things as “A = A” or “an apple is an apple.” However, there is a deeper meaning to the statement that comes through when people use it. What people really mean by the statement is that the occurrence is something that is uncontrollable. One is unable to control the outcome of a situation and he or she claims that the situation, “is what it is.” There also appears to be a coping mechanism that is contained within the statement. Usually those who use the statement are indicating that whatever “It” is, it is something that they should not be complaining about, and that they need to learn to synthesize in their lives. It could be that they found out that a loved one has cancer or that their lover has decided to leave them. Upon venting their frustrations and fears, people tend to follow up their descriptions with the “it is what it is” device. They seem to be saying, “I cannot do anything about it. Therefore, I need to learn how to deal with it.” When the philosopher or deep critical thinker hears someone use such a statement, it can be quite frustrating. There is perhaps no more general statement in the English language than to say that things “are what they are.” The concept of “being” is widely regarded as the most abstract of all concepts, and it is uniquely united to the verb “to be” (I am, you are, she is, we are, you are, they are). Analysis of the concept of being itself has a long history that ranges from Aristotle to Heidegger and everyone that Heidegger has influenced up until our