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Chapter 7. The Standards for Thinking > Using Intellectual Standards to Assess ...

Using Intellectual Standards to Assess Your Thinking: Brief Guidelines

As we have emphasized, all reasoning involves eight elements, each of which has a range of possible mistakes. Here we summarize some of the main “checkpoints” you should use in reasoning (See also Tables 7.27.9).

  1. All reasoning has a purpose.

    • Take time to state your purpose clearly.

    • Choose significant and realistic purposes.

    • Distinguish your purpose from related purposes.

    • Make sure your purpose is fair in context (that it doesn't involve violating the rights of others).

    • Check periodically to be sure you are still focused on your purpose and haven't wandered from your target.

  2. All reasoning is an attempt to figure out something, to settle some question, solve some problem.

    • Take time to clearly and precisely state the question at issue.

    • Express the question in several ways to clarify its meaning and scope.

    • Break the question into sub-questions (when you can).

    • Identify the type of question you are dealing with (historical, economic, biological, etc.) and whether the question has one right answer, is a matter of mere opinion, or requires reasoning from more than one point of view.

    • Think through the complexities of the question (think deeply through the question).

  3. All reasoning is based on assumptions.

    • Clearly identify your assumptions and determine whether they are justifiable.

    • Consider how your assumptions are shaping your point of view.

  4. All reasoning is done from some point of view.

    • Clearly identify your point of view.

    • Seek other relevant points of view and identify their strengths as well as weaknesses.

    • Strive to be fair-minded in evaluating all points of view.

  5. All reasoning is based on data, information, and evidence.

    • Restrict your claims to those supported by the data you have.

    • Search for information that opposes your position as well as information that supports it.

    • Make sure that all information used is clear, accurate, and relevant to the question at issue.

    • Make sure you have gathered sufficient information.

    • Make sure, especially, that you have considered all significant information relevant to the issue.

  6. All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, concepts and ideas.

    • Clearly identify key concepts.

    • Consider alternative concepts or alternative definitions for concepts.

    • Make sure you are using concepts with care and precision.

    • Use concepts justifiably (not distorting their established meanings).

  7. All reasoning contains inferences or interpretations by which we draw conclusions and give meaning to data.

    • Infer only what the evidence implies.

    • Check inferences for their consistency with each other.

    • Identify assumptions that lead you to your inferences.

    • Make sure your inferences logically follow from the information.

  8. All reasoning leads somewhere or has implications and consequences.

    • Trace the logical implications and consequences that follow from your reasoning.

    • Search for negative as well as positive implications.

    • Consider all possible significant consequences.



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