Elements of Reasoning Activities. Think For Yourself (3-1): P ractice in Making Our Point of View Explicit.
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What follows is a list of possible “objects” of our thinking. Choose from this list possible ones to think about. Then identify how you would look at each (from your point of view). For example, you might decide that “When I look at people, I see a struggle to find happiness,” or “When I look at the future, I see myself as a lawyer taking cases that protect the environment,” or “When I look at the health care system, I see a system that does not provide adequately for the poor.” Once you write your sentence, see if you can further characterize how what you said explains your point of view.
life, men, women, human conflict, school, teaching, learning, mathematics, the past, peer groups, politics, power, art, television, computers, the news, human sexuality, marriage, life in America, religion, income tax, lifelong learning, the future, the future of teaching, my economic future, education in the future, my future, my future, the problems we face as a nation, the problems we face as a species, mass transportation, the environment, drug usage, science, human values, women having abortions, people without health insurance, our health care system, modern life-style, new age ideas, welfare, welfare recipients, the police, elections, the modern American city, vegetarians, liberals, conservatives, radicals.Now complete the following, given the objects you have chosen to look at:When I look at___________I see (from my point of view) _____________________
In order to begin to see how intimately interconnected thinking is to purpose, do the following activity. First, make a list of five fundamental goals you have. Then comment on how your thinking is shaped by those goals. In other words, fill in the blanks: “One of my purposes is _____. I can achieve this purpose best by ______.” Second, identify five things that you think a lot about. Then comment on how those things are tied to your fundamental purposes. For example, if you spend a considerable amount of time thinking about persons with whom you would like to explore a relationship, one of your purposes is probably to find a meaningful relationship. Or again, if you spend a lot of time thinking about your future, one of your purposes is probably to figure out how you can prepare yourself so as to succeed.
To the extent that you have a sound command of the English language, you should be able to state the essential differences between related but distinguishably different realities that are marked by words or expressions in our language. To the extent that you can, you are conceptualizing the ideas labeled with these words in keeping with educated use. In this activity, we want to test your ability to do this.
Focusing on one course you teach, write out the most fundamental, the most significant concept in the course. Then make a list of ways in which this idea is used in life, a list of ways this idea can help us reason better about issues or situations. Then make a list of important questions that thinkers within the field of study might ask. Write out your answer.
Select an important conclusion that you have reasoned to, for example, your decision to get married or to choose a particular profession. Identify the circumstances in which you made that decision, some of the inferences you made in the process (e.g., about the likely costs and advantages). State the likely implications of your decision, the consequences it has had, and will have, in your life, the information you took into account in making the decision, the way you expressed the question to yourself, the way you looked at your life and your future (while reasoning through the question). See if you can grasp the interrelationship of all of these elements in your thinking. Don't be surprised if you find this to be a difficult task.
Inert information is information you have superficially “learned,” but have not really worked into your thinking in a meaningful way. And because you haven’t given deep meaning to it, you can’t use it in reasoning through problems and issues. Review what you were taught in school or college. Seek for what you may have repeated often on command (to see if it may qualify for what we are calling “inert information.”) Review, for example, the “pledge of allegiance to the flag,” slogans within subject fields, memorized bits and pieces of content, and sayings you have often heard (but never really made sense of).
Activated ignorance means acting on beliefs that are not true, but that we believe are true. Make a list of beliefs you have held in your lifetime that you have come to realize are not only false, but also harmful. For example, you probably picked up some activated ignorance from your peer group as you were growing up. Think of things you learned “the hard way.” See how many candidates you can locate for “activated ignorance.” Test each one with this criterion: “At one time I thought this was true. Now I know it is false.”
Philosopher Rene Descartes came to confidently believe that animals have no feelings but are simply robotic machines.
Nazi idea that Germans were the master race and Jews were an inferior race.
IQ is the best determinant of success in life.
Activated knowledge means acting on ideas and information that are true, significant and deeply understood. Because they are deeply understood, they naturally lead to reasonable decisions and behavior. Review what you were taught in school or at home. Seek for the knowledge you actively brought into your thinking so well that you were able to build further knowledge on it.
The ability to think through the implications of a decision you are faced with or a problem you are trying to solve is an important intellectual skill. In this activity, think of a problem you need to find a solution to or a decision you need to make. Complete these statements:
1. The problem or decision I am facing is…2. Some potential solutions to the problem or
decisions I might make are…3. For each of these “solutions” or
“decisions,” some implications which would
logically follow from my acting upon the
solution or decision are…
Think of an important problem in your life. This can be a problem in a personal relationship, at your place of work, in your family, etc. Now state your purpose in the situation clearly and precisely. In other words, what exactly are you trying to accomplish? Is your purpose fair, or justifiable? Is it realistic? Explain to a partner.
Go back to the important problem you focused on in the previous "Think for Yourself." Now state the problem you are trying to address. Then state the question that emerges from that problem. State your question clearly and precisely. What complexities, if any, are inherent in the problem? Is there more than one question that you need to address to effectively reason through the problem? Explain to a partner.
Continue with the problem you focused on in the previous activity. Now state the point(s) of view which is/are relevant to the issue at hand. State each point of view clearly and precisely. Make sure that you are considering all relevant points of view (that you are thinking broadly), and that you are representing each point of view accurately (even if it means expressing sympathetically a view that you do not personally hold).
Continue with the problem you have been working on. Now state the information you are using in your thinking. This could be data, facts, or experiences that, in conjunction with your assumptions, lead you to conclusions. It could come from your experience, from word of mouth, from research, from the media, or from other sources. State the information clearly. How could you determine whether the information is accurate and relevant to the question at issue?
Continue with the problem you have been working on. Now state the most important concepts you are using to guide your reasoning. For example, if you are concerned with how you can keep in physical shape while also dedicating enough time to work and family, your key concepts might be: physical fitness, family, and career. (You can usually find the key concepts you are using in your reasoning by looking at your question and purpose.) Elaborate each of these concepts so that you understand exactly how you are using them. In other words state your concepts clearly and precisely.
Continue with the problem you have been focused on. Now state the most important assumptions you are making in your reasoning. In other words, what are you taking for granted (that might be questioned)? For example, again, if you are concerned with how you can keep in physical shape while also dedicating enough time to work and family, your main assumptions might be: 1) that your career is/is not more important than your family2) that you know enough about physical fitness to do appropriate exercises3) that you must dedicate a definite amount of time at work, while also setting aside time for family and physical fitness, &4) that you have enough time to do all of the above well.(State your assumptions clearly and precisely. Make sure they are justifiable in the context of the issue.)
Continue with problem you have been working on. Now state the most important implication of potential decisions you might make. In other words, fill in these blanks: If I decide to do ________, then __________ is likely to follow. If I decide to do this other thing, ______________, then __________ is likely to follow. In this activity, then, you are focused on the logical implications and potential consequences of each potential decision. Make sure you emphasize the significant implications of each decision.
Continue with the problem you have been working on. Now state the inferences, or conclusions, you might come to (about the information you have) in “solving” your problem. You may have already stated these in the activity you just completed on "implications." Once you have thought through the potential conclusions you might come to in reasoning through the question at issue, state a possible final conclusion. Be clear and precise in stating each potential conclusion. Make sure your inferences are logical, based on the information and concepts you are using.
For each of the eight categories on pp. 3-4 in the concepts and tools miniature guide, transform each “checkpoint” into a question, or set of questions. In other words, figure out one or more question that is implied by the checkpoint. When you have completed your list, and you are actively using the questions you formulated, you will have powerful tools for thinking. Under the first category, All reasoning has a PURPOSE, for example, the first checkpoint is “Take time to state your purpose clearly.” Two questions implied by this checkpoint are “What exactly is my purpose?” and “Am I clear about my purpose?”
Using the template on p. 30 in the Analytic Thinking Guide, write out in detail the logic of a course you are now teaching. Use textbooks, encyclopedias, etc. as references. You might refer to the logic of science, history, and sociology (p. 31-33). But your logic should have as much detail as possible.