Presentation on theme: "To Be Critical In common usage, to be critical is generally assumed to mean “to find fault with” or “to dislike.” Within an analytical context, to be critical."— Presentation transcript:
To Be Critical In common usage, to be critical is generally assumed to mean “to find fault with” or “to dislike.” Within an analytical context, to be critical means either to find fault or to praise to a similar extent. Critical = Evaluation or Judgement To be critical is essential in thinking and writing, particularly at the university level.
The Essence of Critical Thinking Critical thinking is the effective use of cognitive skills and strategies to engage systematically in purposeful evaluation and judgement in the process of making a rational decision. Critical thinking involves: analyzing the form and content of evidence in order to reach a conclusion and to communicate it clearly and accurately strategizing to determine how to persuade others, and whether to be persuaded by others evaluating the thinking process to determine the reasoning that went into the conclusion engaging in questioning or inquiry in order to understand, evaluate, or resolve viewpoints or problems
A Critical Thinker asks pertinent questions, reflecting a sense of intellectual curiosity or skepticism assesses statements rather than merely accepting them at face value is interested in solving problems and thus examines them closely endeavours to be well-informed reserves judgment until all facts have been gathered and considered listens carefully to others and is able to give feedback is open-minded and mindful of alternatives is able to reject information that is incorrect or irrelevant or to adjust opinions when new facts are found is able to admit to a lack of understanding or information is able to define clearly a set of criteria for analyzing ideas judges the credibility of sources fairly and intelligently looks for evidence to support arguments is able to identify and to judge the quality of an argument, including the acceptability of its premises and conclusions can effectively develop and defend a reasonable position cautiously draws conclusions when warranted
Asking the "Right" Questions to Find the "Right" Answers The importance of asking critical questions in the process of critical thinking suggests that the search for truth or the "right" answer is elusive and sometimes illusory. Some issues, questions, or concerns appear easier to resolve or to respond to than others. Some answers, over time or within a certain context, are deemed to be more accurate, appropriate, useful, or moral than others. Other issues or questions will seemingly never be resolved. The search for right answers or, more realistically, better answers requires the courage and objectivity to set aside beliefs and opinions, however cherished they may be. Critical thinkers must be willing to consider other answers as fairly and devotedly as their own. Critical thinkers must learn to accept that questions are often more important than answers because they are a rational means to an end.
7 Key Questions to Find Better Answers What are the issues or questions being debated? What are the various conclusions or perspectives to consider? What is the nature and quality of the supporting evidence? What are the rival or alternative viewpoints? What are the fallacies in reasoning, if any? What are the value conflicts and assumptions underlying the arguments? What reasonable conclusions are possible?
The Essence of Argument Critical thinking and inquiry form the basis for an informed argument, often the primary goal of academic writing. In common usage, "argument" tends to denote a dispute or disagreement. In critical writing, "arguments" are statements made in the attempt to convince or persuade people who hold a different view, and/or people who have not yet made up their minds, about which view is more acceptable. An interesting or engaging argument requires two or more strong “opponents,” equally capable of persuading the audience (champion vs contender). Critical thinking means having respect for and knowledge of both sides of an argument.
Definition of Argument An argument is a connected series of statements or propositions, some of which are intended to provide support, justification, or evidence for the validity or soundness of another statement or proposition. Arguments consist of one or more premises and a conclusion. The premises are those statements that are taken to provide the support or evidence; the conclusion is that which the premises allegedly support (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Argument = Premises + Conclusion Argument can define the entire composition in which case several premises or supporting points lead to a particular conclusion. Or a composition may include more than one argument – an argument within an argument – each containing premises leading to sub- conclusions, which together support a final conclusion.
The Qualities of an Effective Argument An effective argument will have, at the very least: a thesis that declares the writer's position or point of view on the topic / issue / problem being considered; a set of clearly defined premises that illustrate the argument's line of reasoning; evidence that validates the argument's premises; an acknowledgment of the opposition that concedes or refutes other points of view; a conclusion that convinces the reader that the argument has been soundly and persuasively made. The absence of any of these five qualities progressively weakens or invalidates the argument; in other words, arguments may have various degrees of strength depending upon their qualities and structure.
Persuasive Strength of an Argument Persuasion rests on the rhetorical skills of the writer – the art of wielding the rational, emotional, and stylistic tools of language in a skillful and conscious effort to convince. An argument can be rhetorically effective in the sense that it succeeds in persuading those to whom it is presented of the truth of its conclusion. An argument can be rationally compelling in the sense that it is built upon premises that are known or appear to be true and that follow logically to a conclusion that reasonable people are willing to accept. Rhetorically effective arguments could fail to be rationally compelling, while rational arguments could fail to be rhetorically effective. Which kind of argument is more effective depends on the burden of proof required, which also distinguishes between informal and formal arguments.
Informal Argument asserts a claim based on relatively little supporting evidence – priority is on the statement more than on support of the argument primary purpose is merely to assert or to point out, usually to instigate discussion among individuals holding different opinions or to provoke a confrontation between those who disagree significantly with each other tends to be featured on radio and television talk-shows, in popular magazines, or in the editorial pages of newspapers seldom end in a consensus of opinion or a reasonable conclusion the ends justify the means
Formal Argument clearly states the claim or position that it argues and presents a well-developed chain of evidence leading to a reasonable conclusion supporting the claim the chain of evidence itself may include a wide variety of elements ranging from personal experience to statistical data and expert testimony academic essays are expected to be developed and presented within a formal context the process of argumentation is as important, if not more so, than the results of the argument – fairness, objectivity, logic, clarity, comprehensiveness, coherence, and authoritativeness matter as much as content the means justify the ends
Qualities of Academic Argument The claim must be arguable: A disagreement on a number of legitimate points of view must exist regarding the claim. If everyone in the audience agrees, an argument cannot exist. The reasoning must be rational: An argument must be based on fact not emotion. The claim must be meticulously considered, the evidence thoroughly researched and carefully selected, and the audience correctly assessed. The perspective must be fair and objective: An argument must accurately and reasonably represent the opposing viewpoints; if the opposition is really weak, then perhaps the point is not worth arguing. A strong argument is bolstered by a worthy opponent. The logic must be cohesive: A claim must be argued linearly, step-by-step, with appropriate transitions revealing the logic that ties one point to the next. If a minor point does not add to the main point, it does not belong. Credit must be given where credit is due: All outside sources must be documented (parenthetical citations and a bibliography or work cited section), using a reference format approved by the academic discipline into which the argument falls.
Argumentation in the JFK Assassination Controversy Who assassinated President John F. Kennedy? This question or issue is considered resolved by some and unresolved by others. Those who consider the question to be resolved rely on the official investigation of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, published in 1964 as The Warren Commission Report (1964), which concluded essentially that Lee Harvey Oswald alone shot and killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor John Connally of Texas. This conclusion is known as the “lone gun” theory. Those who consider the question to be unresolved have challenged the findings and conclusions of The Warren Commission Report by contending either that Oswald was part of a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy or that forces other than Oswald conspired to plan, execute, and coverup a plot to murder the chief executive officer of the United States. This conclusion is known as the “conspiracy” theory.
Warren Commission Argument The first chapter of The Warren Commission Report culminates a succinct "narrative of events" by reaching twelve conclusions that together represent the "official" position or argument. The first conclusion, for example, illustrates essential qualities of an argument: 1. The shots which killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired from the sixth floor window at the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository. This determination [conclusion] is based upon the following [premises]:
Premises of Warren Commission Conclusion #1 (a) Witnesses at the scene of the assassination saw a rifle being fired from the sixth-floor window of the Depository Building, and some witnesses saw a rifle in the window immediately after the shots were fired. (b) The nearly whole bullet found on Governor Connally's stretcher at Parkland Memorial Hospital and the two bullet fragments found in the front seat of the Presidential limousine were fired from the 6.5-millimeter Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found on the sixth floor of the Depository Building to the exclusion of all other weapons. (c) The three used cartridge cases found near the window on the sixth floor at the southeast corner of the building were fired from the same rifle which fired the above-described bullet and fragments, to the exclusion of all other weapons. (d) The windshield in the Presidential limousine was struck by a bullet fragment on the inside surface of the glass, but was not penetrated. (e) The nature of the bullet wounds suffered by President Kennedy and Governor Connally and the location of the car at the time of the shots establish that the bullets were fired from above and behind the Presidential limousine, striking the President and the Governor as follows: (1) President Kennedy was first struck by a bullet which entered at the back of his neck and exited through the lower front portion of his neck, causing a wound which would not necessarily have been lethal. The President was struck a second time by a bullet which entered the right-rear portion of his head, causing a massive and fatal wound. (2) Governor Connally was struck by a bullet which entered on the right side of his back and traveled downward through the right side of his chest, exiting below his right nipple. This bullet then passed through his right wrist and entered his left thigh where it caused a superficial wound. (f) There is no credible evidence that the shots were fired from the Triple Underpass, ahead of the motorcade, or from any other location.
Subarguments and Subpremises Warren Commission conclusion #1 is intended to be supported by premises (a) - (f). In this context, it demonstrates some important qualities of a complex argument. Generally speaking, both premises and conclusions represent claims that can be either true or false. Indeed, truth and fallacy are often in the eyes of the beholder. Proponents of an argument may believe that they are offering premises to support the truth of their conclusion or they may intend to do so, but the real question is whether the argument is valid or invalid, sound or unsound, strong or weak, cogent or uncogent. The premise of a conclusion may itself be an argument. In other words, the premise may be a subargument or an argument within an argument. That complexity is clearly exhibited in Warren Commission conclusion #1, notably at the point which premise (e) in effect becomes a subconclusion supported by subpremises (1) and (2). Indeed, all of the premises of conclusion #1 are debatable, and thus represent conclusions to be evaluated in their own right. Upon closer analysis, it will become more apparent that each of the twelve conclusions of the Warren Commission Report are based on arguable premises, the evaluation of which is complicated by numerous subarguments with subconclusions and subpremises. Argumentation is not a mere matter of distinguishing conclusions from premises, the line between which is often blurred by perception and perspective. Herein lies the complex challenge of argumentation and persuasion.
Critical Analysis of Premise (a) of Conclusion 1 1(a) Witnesses at the scene of the assassination saw a rifle being fired from the sixth-floor window of the Depository Building, and some witnesses saw a rifle in the window immediately after the shots were fired. Ostensibly, the Warren Commission is presenting this premise as a fact to support its first argument. But in reality, it is a claim (subargument) requiring support that the Commission appears to offer.
Sub-premises to support sub-conclusion 1(a) Howard Brennan, a 45-year-old piper fitter, testified to seeing a shooter in the sixth-floor window from a clear vantage point 120 feet away (63-64). Amos Lee Euins, a 15-year-old testified to seeing and hearing four shots fired from the window in question (64). Dallas Times Herald photographer, Robert H. Jackson, and newsreel cameraman, Malcolm O. Couch, testified to seeing part of a rifle protruding from the window in question immediately after the shots were fired (65). The wife of Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell testified to seeing a "projection" from the window in question at the time of the first shot (65). James N. Crawford, Deputy District Clerk for Dallas County, saw "movement" in the window in question at the time of the shots (66).
Criticism #1 Why is Howard Brennan's testimony on this particular issue deemed credible, whereas the Warren Commission rejects some of his testimony on other matters? Brennan swore that the man he saw at the window was "standing up," while photographs of the window within seconds of the shooting showed it open only one foot from the bottom, so that a standing shooter would have had to fire through the glass or shoot the rifle at knee height. The WC conceded that he was mistaken in this regard and that "most probably [Oswald] was either sitting or kneeling" (143-44). The WC credited Brennan, the only eyewitness who claimed to have seen Oswald fire the shots, with providing police (10-15 minutes after the shooting) with a description that included the height, weight, age, and physical build of a gunman about 120 feet away, sitting or kneeling behind a concrete ledge and a double thickness of glass (uncleaned). The WC also failed to investigate Brennan's testimony that he gave his description of the gunman to Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels, about ten minutes after the final shot. Sorrels accompanied the mortally wounded President to the hospital and returned to the crime scene minutes later, according to the WC. Sorrels also testified that, while he was riding in the motorcade, he had a clear view of the sixth floor window of the TSBD and saw no one there. The WC, therefore, chose to ignore the testimony of a professionally-trained observer, which exculpated Oswald, and instead chose to believe Brennan, who wore corrective eyeglasses and whose testimony contained many contradictions. The credibility of Brennan as the "star" witness of the Warren Commission's has been seriously challenged by both "lone gun" and "conspiracy" supporters. He eventually admitted that he lied to the police.
Criticism #2 Why does the Commission accept Euins' testimony about seeing a gunmen in the window but rejects his testimony about hearing four shots? He told the Commission that, unlike Brennan, he could not distinguish the skin colour of the man at the window. Why did the Commission not question him about the known and contradictory fact that he also told a reporter immediately after the shooting that he had seen a "colored" man firing from the window in question?
Criticism #3 Why did no one rush to the sixth floor window immediately after the shooting? Why was there a surge of people toward the "grassy knoll" and the railroad yard to the west (in front of the presidential limousine) when the shots were fired, while little attention was given to the TSBD? Why did most of the employees of the TSBD return to work within minutes after the shooting? Why did the police initially ignore eyewitness reports of a rifle in the sixth floor window? Why did the police not send a search party directly to the sixth floor window to capture the sniper? Why did the police not focus attention on the TSBD until forty-two minutes after the shooting when the "sniper's nest" was discovered in a floor-by-floor search? Why did the police not seal off the building until sixty-five minutes after the shooting? Why did the Warren Commission ignore all of these questions?
Criticism #4 Why did the Warren Commission completely ignore the testimony of James Worrell Jr. that he had seen the barrel of a rifle protruding from the window and that he had heard a total of four shots? Why did the Commission simply reject as untrustworthy the testimony of eighteen-year-old Arnold Rowland, who observed, minutes before the shooting, a man holding a rifle in the southwest corner window at the opposite end of the TSBD and another man described as an elderly "Negro" in the southeast corner window (the alleged sniper's location)? Rowland's wife testified that she looked up at the TSBD "more than once" and "saw no person looking out any window on the sixth floor" (251), thereby rebutting not only her husband, which the Commission pointed out, but also Brennan, which the Commission did not note. Why did the Commission not ask Carolyn Walther, watching the motorcade from Houston Street (like Brennan) to testify, as she did to the FBI immediately after the shooting, that she saw two men, one of whom was holding a gun, in the fourth or fifth floor window of the southeast corner of the TSBD?
Criticism #5 Why did the Warren Commission choose to ignore the testimony of other witnesses who reported equally suspicious evidence of shots from other locations in Dealey Plaza? Of seventy-five witnesses who reported hearing shots, thirty-nine believed that at least one came from the vicinity of the grassy knoll located to the right and front of the presidential limousine. These witnesses included: Police Chief Jesse Curry, motorcycle escort Patrolman Bobby Hargis, Patrolman J.M. Smith (standing in front of the TSBD), Deputy Sheriff Seymour Weitzman, and Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels. Weitzman and Smith further testified that they confronted men who identified themselves as "Secret Service" agents behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll immediately after the shooting. Why did the Commission fail to consider the fact, which it conceded, that no Secret Service "stayed at the scene of the shooting…. Sorrels was the first Secret Service agent to return to the scene of the assassination, approximately minutes after the shots were fired" (52)? Weitzman and Smith also smelled gunpowder in the area. Why did the Commission fail to follow up on the gunpowder smell evidence?
Criticism #6 Why did the Warren Commission ignore the deductive logic surrounding frame 313 of the Zapruder film? The Zapruder film has emerged as the single most important piece of evidence in the JFK assassination controversy. The WC conclusions regarding the source of the fatal head shot defies the logic revealed in the Zapruder film (to be analyzed next week).
Critical Conclusion By citing only the testimony of those witnesses who tended to support the lone-gun theory and to reject testimony that contradicted it, the Warren Commission provided a misleading and inaccurate analysis. In other words, the Warren Commission did not reasonably and thoroughly consider other possible conclusions. Just as the first premise of the first conclusion raises significant unanswered or unconsidered questions that cast doubt on the cogence of the argument, so does similar critical analysis of the other five premises suggest that the first conclusion represents a strong but uncogent argument. Indeed, the cogence of all twelve of the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report suffers under such critically objective analysis or evaluation, thereby weakening the whole structure of the argument.