The Critical Thinker Academy
Summary: The Critical Thinker is dedicated to exploring what it means to think critically and independently about the issues that matter most to you. Join philosopher Kevin deLaplante as he explores the elements of critical thinking and answers listener questions about logic, argumentation, fallacies, the nature of scientific reasoning, the psychology of belief and persuasion, and a host of other topics. Note: iTunes also hosts a video version of this podcast.
This is Part 3 of our multi-part series on critical thinking about conspiracies. In this episode we follow up on the discussion of "default skepticism" that was introduced in episode 017, and examine what happens to the dialectic between the skeptic and the conspiracy theorist when claims about pervasive "mind control" are added to the equation. In this episode I also introduce Karl Popper's concept of "falsifiable" versus "unfalsifiable" theories, and discuss it's relevance to the debate.
In episode 017 of the Critical Thinker Podcast we continue our series on critical thinking about CONSPIRACIES. In the previous episode I introduced a view that I called "default skepticism" about conspiracy theories, which in a nutshell says that the grander the conspiracy, the less likely it is to be true. In this episode we look more closely at some of the main arguments that skeptics give for this position. What is it about conspiracy hypotheses that makes them implausible?
On this episode of The Critical Thinker Podcast we enter the fascinating world of CONSPIRACIES. I'd be happy to tell you all I know about the topic, but then I'd have to kill you.
In this episode I talk about a new approach to understanding confirmation bias that is getting some recent attention. It's known as the "argumentative theory of reason", and it claims that our ability to construct and evaluate arguments evolved in ancestral humans primarily for the sake of social persuasion and social collaboration, rather than for improving the quality of individual beliefs and decisions. In this episode I survey the theory and some of its implications for understanding who we are as critical thinkers. This episode covers quite a bit of ground, from evolutionary psychology to collaborative reasoning to biological functions and the Greek story of Odysseus and the Sirens!
In this episode I talk about the relevance of cognitive biases for understanding how science works. I argue that, once we understand how cognitive biases lead us into error, and how scientific methods are designed precisely to neutralize these errors, then we have a compelling argument for accepting the authority of science (especially on matters where there’s a consensus among the relevant experts in the scientific community). The discussion ranges widely, from seeing faces in tree trunks, to hearing hidden messages in Britney Spears songs, to the vaccine-autism debate!
In episode 013 of The Critical Thinker Podcast we explore philosophical and scientific issues surrounding causation, God and the Big Bang! This one is inspired by a viewer email question, a "mailbag" episode. Actually, this episode was produced over seven months ago but was never aired on the podcast. Why not? Well, at the time I thought it was too long and a bit too dense, and I was worried that it might turn some people off the podcast. But now I think I should just publish it and let you decide whether it's your cup of tea or not.
As critical thinkers, it's important to understand how we OUGHT to reason. This is what we learn when we study logic, argumentation and other normative theories of reasoning. But it's equally important to understand how we IN FACT reason, how our minds ACTUALLY work. Every critical thinker should be familiar with the concept of a "cognitive bias". In this episode of The Critical Thinker podcast I give an overview of what cognitive biases are and why they're important. In the next episode I'll look at some examples of cognitive biases in action.
In this episode I talk about what it means to really understand a position that is different from your own, and what sorts of skills and attitudes you need to cultivate in order to achieve this kind of understanding. It turns out that critical thinkers can learn a thing or two from good actors!
Critical thinking instruction has a dirty secret. The dirty secret is that critical thinking can't be taught! Okay, maybe that's a bit too strong. But at least one important and essential component of critical thinking can't really be taught -- at least, not in a critical thinking class. What is this component? BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE. In this episode I begin a three-part series on the importance of background knowledge for critical thinking.
We've talked about the relationship between logic and argumentation in previous episodes. In this episode I want to look at the relationship between argumentation and "rhetoric", the art of persuasive speech. I try to show that critical thinkers need a conception of argumentation that combines elements from both the philosophical and rhetorical traditions. I also give two book recommendations for people interested in learning more about argumentation from the rhetorical tradition. Books referenced in this episode: Thank You For Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About The Art of Persuasion, by Jay Heinrichs Everything’s An Argument, by Andrea Lunsford and John Ruszkiewicz
Logic is an essential component of critical thinking, but how much logic do you really need to learn? If you take a course in formal logic you'll learn all kinds of fancy techniques for constructing derivations and determining whether the logical form of an argument is valid or invalid. But how much of this stuff is actually useful from a critical thinking standpoint? That's the subject of this episode. I'm going to try to help you understand what parts of formal logic you -- as a person looking to develop your critical thinking skills -- should focus on, and what parts you can safely leave to the specialists.
On this episode we're beginning a series on what I'm calling "The 5 Essential Components of Critical Thinking". I believe that effective critical thinking requires that we work at developing not just one but all five of these components, because in real-world critical thinking contexts, they're each dependent on one another to function properly. What are the five components? They are 1. Logic 2. Argumentation 3. Rhetoric 4. Background Knowledge 5. Attitudes and Values In this episode we also begin a closer look at the first two components on the list, "Logic" and "Argumentation". I try to explain how these differ and give an example (a gay marriage argument) to illustrate the difference.
Our first "mailbag" episode! In this episode I answer a viewer question about an argument involving brains and computers. Along the way we introduce the concept of a "fallacy" and look at three different kinds of fallacies: the "use-mention" fallacy the fallacy of equivocation begging the question
On this episode of the podcast we're looking at the relationship between critical thinking and the pursuit of philosophical wisdom. In it I distinguish the philosophical pursuit of wisdom from the wisdom that is offered by revealed religion on the one hand, and mysticism on the other.
This week on the podcast we're asking two questions: What is the role of critical thinking in supporting and sustaining liberal democratic societies? (My answer: A Big One!) Do we, as citizens, have a civic duty to cultivate our critical thinking faculties? (My answer: YES!) I also talk about the sorry state of critical thinking education in the public school system, and a distressing trend I'm seeing in colleges and universities.