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Glossary: Guide to Critical Thinking Terms and Concepts

Glossary: Guide to Critical Thinking Terms and Concepts

accurate:

Free from errors, mistakes, or distortion. Correct connotes little more than absence of error; accurate implies a positive exercise of one to obtain conformity with fact or truth; exact stresses perfect conformity to fact, truth, or some standard; precise suggests minute accuracy of detail. Accuracy is an important goal in critical thinking, though it is almost always a matter of degree. It is also important to recognize that making mistakes is an essential part of learning.

See also [perfections of thought]


ambiguous:

A sentence, concept, or thought having two or more possible meanings. Sensitivity to ambiguity and vagueness in writing and speech is essential to good thinking. A continual effort to be clear and precise in language usage is fundamental to skilled thinking. Ambiguity is a problem more of sentences than of individual words. Many sentences are clearly intended one way; any other construal is obviously absurd and not meant. For example, the phrase “make me a sandwich” is never seriously intended to request metamorphic change. For an example of a problematic ambiguity, consider the statement, “Welfare is corrupt.” Among the possible meanings of this sentence are the following: 1) Those who administer welfare programs take bribes to administer welfare policy unfairly; 2) welfare policies are written in such a way that much of the money goes to people who don't deserve it rather than to those who do; 3) a government that gives money to people who haven't earned it corrupts both the giver and the recipient. If two people are arguing about whether or not welfare is corrupt, but interpret the claim differently, they can make little or no progress; they aren't arguing about the same point. Evidence and considerations relevant to one interpretation may be irrelevant to others. Therefore, before taking a position on an issue or arguing a point, it is essential to be clear about the issue at hand.

See also [clarify]



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