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Essay about Critical Thinking: Reasoning and Inference

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Truth is the object of thinking. Some truths are obvious; others are difficult to acquire. Some judgments we make are simple; some judgments are complicated. Some arguments, whether made by us or others, may be straightforward and easily understood; other arguments may be complex and consist of a series of smaller arguments, each needing to be critically examined and evaluated.

Almost every object of knowledge has a branch of knowledge which studies it. Planets, stars, and galaxies are studied by astronomy. Chemistry studies the structure, composition, and properties of material substances and the transformations they undergo. The origin, evolution, and development of human society is the object studied by sociology. Economics, biology, geography, and grammar all have objects of knowledge which they investigate, describe, and try to explain.

Critical thinking involves a knowledge of the science of logic, including the skills of logical analysis, correct reasoning, and understanding statistical methods. Critical thinking, however, involves more than just an understanding of logical procedures. A good critical thinker must also understand the sources of knowledge, the nature of knowledge, and the nature of truth. But first, what is the science of logic?

The object of knowledge involved in the science of logic is "thinking," but it is "thinking" approached in a special way. Generally speaking, logic is that branch of knowledge which reflects upon the nature of "thinking" itself. But this may confuse logic with other branches of knowledge which also have the nature of "thinking" as a part of their specific object of investigation. We need a more detailed and accurate definition to eliminate any confusion.

Logic doesn't just deal with "thinking" in general. Logic deals with "correct thinking." Training in logic should enable us to develop the skills necessary to think correctly, that is, logically. A very simple definition would be: Logic is the subject which teaches you the rules for correct and proper reasoning. For those of you who want a more complete and "sophisticated" definition of logic, you can define it this way: Logic is the science of those principles, laws, and methods, which the mind of man in its thinking must follow for the accurate and secure attainment of truth. Take your...


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...;proof" does not designate the same thing as the word "evidence," and proof is what we are more concerned with in the science of logic. Logic may be said to be concerned with the question of the adequacy or probative value of different kinds of evidence. Traditionally, however, logic has devoted itself mainly to the study of what constitutes proof, that is, complete or conclusive evidence. Proof is essentially a process, an act of testing to determine the validity of an argument which will hopefully support the truth of a proposition presented as a conclusion.

"Proof" is not a simple matter, particularly in situations where evidence has to be weighed in favor of one conclusion or the other. In deductive logic, the matter of proof is fairly straightforward and rules have been made to help us determine the validity of a deductive argument. In inductive logic and processes using scientific method, the situation is not as clear and decisive. Here we enter the world of probability, partial evidence, probable inference, and the problem of the weight of evidence. It is here, also, where arguments become controversial and, to some people at least, most exciting.



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