Tag Archives: critical-thinking

How to Disagree

To aid the understanding and construction of quality arguments, Paul Graham has created a “disagreement hierarchy”: a study on how (and how not) to disagree.

We can use this classification system to ensure that when we respond to a person’s reasoning, we respond to it in a way that is constructive for the conversation (by avoiding responses low in the hierarchy—DH0, DH1, etc.).

  • DH0 Name-calling.
  • DH1 Ad Hominem.
  • DH2 Responding to Tone.
  • DH3 Contradiction.
  • DH4 Counterargument.
  • DH5 Refutation.
  • DH6 Refuting the Central Point.

It’s a simplification of a complex area, useful as a reference. Graham suggests the following benefit, among others:

The most obvious advantage of classifying the forms of disagreement is that it will help people to evaluate what they read. In particular, it will help them to see through intellectually dishonest arguments.

via @zambonini

Why We Make Lists

One of the current exhibitions being held in the Musée du Louvre, Paris has been curated by author and consistent top intellectual, Umberto Eco. The Infinity of Lists, as the exhibition is called, looks at the human fascination with lists and how they have progressed cultures.

What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.

But why do we feel this need to comprehend and face infinity?

We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.

Suggesting that Google is “a tragedy” for the young as they lack (or, more correctly, they are not taught) basic information literacy, Eco notes his obvious dislike of rote learning.

Culture isn’t knowing when Napoleon died. Culture means knowing how I can find out in two minutes. Of course, nowadays I can find this kind of information on the Internet in no time.

This interview with Der Spiegel ends with a quote I must try to remember:

If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you’re an idiot.

The Importance of Information Literacy

The future of the Internet as a credible source of information is under threat due to the proliferation of spam and inaccurate information online, suggests Howard Rheingold, proposing that the most efficient way to counter this worrying trend is for “a great many people [to] learn the basics of online crap detection and begin applying their critical faculties en masse and very soon”.

To start, Rheingold offers what could be called a comprehensive introduction to online crap detection (critical thinking). I was won over by the introduction:

The answer to almost any question is available within seconds, courtesy of the invention that has altered how we discover knowledge – the search engine. Materializing answers from the air turns out to be the easy part – the part a machine can do. The real difficulty kicks in when you click down into your search results. At that point, it’s up to you to sort the accurate bits from the misinfo, disinfo, spam, scams, urban legends, and hoaxes. “Crap detection,” as Hemingway called it half a century ago, is more important than ever before, now that the automation of crapcasting has generated its own word: “spamming.”

Suggesting that “Who is the author?” is the root question, the article continues with links to essays and tools to aid in education and online researching before offering this on how important the issue is:

To me, the issue of information literacy could be even more important than the health or education of some individuals. Fundamental aspects of democracy, economic production, the discovery and use of knowledge might be at stake. Some of the biggest problems facing the world today seem to be far beyond the ability of any individual or community, or even the whole human race, to tackle. But the noise death of the Internet is something we can take on and win.

via @finiteattention, @bfchirpy

Lying for Education

“Now I know some of you have already heard of me, but for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar, let me explain how I teach. Between today until the class right before finals, it is my intention to work into each of my lectures … one lie. Your job, as students, among other things, is to try and catch me in the Lie of the Day.” And thus began our ten-week course.

A novel – and seemingly powerful – way to teach your students critical thinking and analysis, from Overcoming Bias.

via kottke