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Автор: Spock   
02.03.2010 18:47
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Cognitive science - Formal Reasoning & Truth-Detection -The Basics
Logic and Rational Thinking
Linguistic and Semantic Issues
Critically Thinking and Reading
Answers to Questions and Exercices
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Why Rational Thinking Is Logical, Captain

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.”

(Philip K Dick)


Logic has been defined as “the study of the rules of correct thinking”. It concentrates on the principles that guide rational thought and discussion. Logic plays a key role in critical thinking, invention, discovery, creativity, strategy, planning, judgment and decision making. If there is going to be any rational discussion of different ideas, concepts or positions, the discussion must use the rules of logic. While logic will not specify what the contents of statements are, it will tell you how to arrange the statements themselves in a logical fashion to best apprehend the truth.



Communication and Behavior are Based on Assumptions

“Insufficient facts always invite danger.”

(Spock, ‘Space Seed’)


Abstract questions arise out of concrete reality in everyday life. For example, the heated debate about climate change can only be answered by addressing important abstract questions. What are the acceptable limits of individual freedom with regard to pollution or resource-wasting in a sensible culture? Are there ever justifications for forcing people to behave in a certain way for their own good? In other words, this debate is not just about drawing conclusions from climate change data but depends on (and creates) fundamental overall assumptions.

The analysis of reasons and arguments is an important part of rational thinking. Reasoning skills are applicable in any area where arguments exist and are also useful when you are being creative or planning, since it’s helpful to see the reasons for what you are planning to do or intend to create. They can also give you insight about the intent or intentions of others and (very importantly) protect you from coercion or being deceived or lied to. For this reason a basic understanding of critical thinking is extremely valuable whatever subject you apply it to, from playing baseball to building a space station.



The Difference Between a Row and an Argument

“All things being equal, Mr. Scott, I would agree with you. All things, however, are not equal.”

(Spock, ‘The Undiscovered Country’)


This is the first thing you have to learn. Arguments are very different from rows, but most people say “we had an argument” when in fact they had a row. In a row, each participant’s aim is to prove each other wrong. In an argument, each participant’s aim is to assist in discovering the truth. When the truth is found, everybody wins.

The most fundamental concept in logic is that of argument. The logical concept of an argument is: a set of statements, one of which is the conclusion, the others are premises, and the premises support the conclusion. In other words, it is a statement or assertion, along with the evidence that supports it. An argument must have at least one premise and one conclusion.

Argumentation is the interdisciplinary study of how humans should, can, and do seek conclusions through logical reasoning, that is, claims based, soundly or not, on premises.

An argument must provide reasons, information or evidence in support of a conclusion. It’s probably easiest to demonstrate this with some examples:

Here is an assertion: “Free will doesn’t exist”

This is the sort of statement you might hear in ordinary conversation, but why should anyone believe it? It is simply a statement of one person’s belief; it is possibly a prejudice (‘pre-judgement’ -a view the speaker has arrived at without bothering to consider reasons or evidence for or against it).

The obvious action/reaction to this statement in a row is for those with opposing beliefs to say “Bullshit,” at which point the row claims its first casualty.

The obvious interactive response is: “Why do you believe that free will doesn’t exist?” As soon as the speaker provides some reasons in support of the view, it ceases to be a mere assertion and becomes part of an argument (although not necessarily a good one). By asking questions we are trying to get closer to exactly what the speaker means when they say these words; we are trying to get closer to the truth. Your prime responsibility in all rational thought is to seek the truth.

Our speaker might back up their assertion in this way: “Because if free will did exist, then nobody would ever have to do anything they didn’t want to do.”

This statement alone does not lead to the conclusion “Free will doesn’t exist”. But if you are intelligent it is fairly obvious that the speaker assumes you realize that most people actually DO have to do things they don’t want to do against their will. This assumption is unstated; it is ‘implicit’ in the speaker’s association of thought and they assume that it is obvious; that ‘everybody knows that’.

If we make their ‘train of thought’ explicit, we get:

  1. (Spoken premise) If free will did exist, then nobody would ever have to do anything they didn’t want to do

  2. (Unspoken premise) Some people do have to do things they don’t want to do

  3. (Spoken conclusion) So free will doesn’t exist


1 and 2 are the premises from which the conclusion (3) is supposed to follow. Premises are the building blocks of arguments.



IF/THEN Thinking

“You'd make a splendid computer, Mr Spock.”

“That is very kind of you, Captain”.

(Kirk & Spock, ‘The Return of the Archons’)


A computer solves a problem by assuming all the input data is true and accurate and proceeding from there. So let us assume ‘for the sake of argument’ that it is true that if free will did exist, then nobody would ever have to do anything they didn’t want to do, AND that some people do in fact have to do such things.

Does it then follow that free will doesn’t exist?

Logically it does follow: IF these two premises are true, THEN the conclusion (that free will doesn’t exist) MUST be true.

Of course, reading this as an intelligent person, you realize that I personally am not saying ‘free will doesn’t exist’. I am merely saying that IF the two premises are true, THEN the conclusion that there is no free will must be true. We may well believe that the first premise (“If free will did exist, then nobody would ever have to do anything they didn’t want to do”) is probably false. There may be an explanation of why free will exists despite the fact that people sometimes have to do things they don’t want to do. But what we are doing here is separating the content of the argument from its structure or form, because we need to understand the underlying structure of ALL arguments regardless of subject.

So, when analyzing the structure of an argument we first put aside (temporarily) the question of whether or not the assumptions or premises are true; we think like a computer and concentrate on the question of whether or not the conclusion could really follow from the data (premises) given IF this data were factual.

Notice that in the spoken conversation, the conclusion “free will doesn’t exist” was the first rather than the last thing said! We expect a ‘conclusion’ to come at the end, but in ordinary interaction conclusions are often given before (or without) the reasons behind them, which remain unspoken premises or assumptions. Assuming mutual understanding of these ‘hidden agendas’ is the cause behind much human misunderstanding, but the skills of rational thinking can unearth them.


“Tactical strategy” (IF/ THEN thinking in real life)

Imagine you are the tactical officer on the bridge of a starship. There are three ships nearby detected on your screen and you have the following information: The Minbari starship is aiming at the Centauri starship, but the Centauri starship is aiming at the Narn starship. The Minbari starship has armed her weapons but the Narn starship has not.

Your Captain turns to you and says, “Is an armed ship aiming at an unarmed ship?”

Do you answer ‘Yes’?   ‘No’?  or   ‘Cannot be determined’?

Answer is at end of tutorial.



Обновлено 02.08.2013 13:40