Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide (2005) by Tracy Bowell

By Tracy Bowell

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And this proposition has a greater likelihood of being true. Cases that we use to challenge the truth of a generalising claim are known as counterexamples. (The process discussed here should not be confused with that 33 Why should we become critical thinkers? ) Quantifiers and generalisations It is a commonplace for people to say that you can never really generalise. However, this is certainly not true just as it stands. When someone says this they might be understood as claiming, ‘all generalisations are false’.

It is not the same as ambiguity, but it is often mistaken for it. For instance, when former US President Clinton famously said, ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman . ’ he was not (as alleged) hiding behind the ambiguity of the phrase ‘sexual relations’, but rather behind its vagueness. As we saw when considering lexical ambiguity, a word is ambiguous when it has two or more possible and different meanings – thus two or more separate extensions. The particular meanings might themselves be perfectly clear and precise.

By helping us to assess arguments more efficiently, this helps us in the pursuit of truth. But also, by becoming more articulate in our criticisms, we become less frustrated, and thereby less bad-tempered. This can help to smooth out our relationships with other people (whereas you might have thought that improving your skill at critical thinking would make you into a disagreeable quibbler). This frustration derives from two sources: First, confronted with an argument, we find it hard to hold the whole thing clearly before our 43 Logic: deductive validity mind’s eye, and find it hard to say exactly what the argument is.

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