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Archive for July, 2011

Do you know the difference between a fact, inference, opinion, or assumption? They are all kinds of information, but it’s easy to confuse them for each other when you encounter them. Facts are important, no doubt, but is it also possible to rely on the other three? Gwyn Teatro’s “You’re Not The Boss Of Me” blog sheds good insight on the distinction between these four words, and their relationship to critical thinking:

Fact is something known with certainty that can be objectively demonstrated and verified;

Inference is an interpretation of events that provides explanations for situations in which all of the facts are not available or yet to be determined;

Opinion is a subjective statement based on personal beliefs and;

Assumption is a supposition or idea that is unsubstantiated by fact or conscious reasoning.

To the critical thinker, the goal in processing new information is to get as close to fact as possible.  Facts are hard evidence.  I think it safe to say that the farther away we get from fact, the less reliable will be our evidence.  As such, it is an important leadership skill to be able to clearly identify sources of information and put them in the proper perspective.  This does not mean that facts are the only basis on which leaders will make a decision. However, it does allow them to place value on the information received and guide the decision-making process accordingly.

Learn more in this post.

We’re all thankful for this guidance Gwyn.

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On the Learning Support page of the University of Tasmania:

“Little evidence of critical thinking” is a frequent comment on student essays.

But what is critical thinking, or critical analysis? Briefly, critical thinking means thinking well and applying sound intellectual standards to your thinking. It involves self-evaluation, thinking about your thinking, and being sure that you are not jumping to conclusions. You should be prepared to consider all aspects of an issue before making up your mind, and to avoid letting personal bias or prejudice interfere with your reasoning. Critical thinking is important for most academic tasks, including reading, tutorial discussions, written assignments and exam answers.

The web page includes excellent pointers on what critical thinkers should consider, different modes of critical thinking, playing devil’s advocate, and developing a conceptual framework when tackling an issue or idea.

We are happy to see schools espouse critical thinking around the world.

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Cultural icon, film director, film producer, and master of the suspense genre, Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, and his thoughts on:

Acting

When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?, ‘ I say, ‘Your salary.’

I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle.

Disney has the best casting. If he doesn’t like an actor he just tears him up.

Murder

In films murders are always very clean. I show how difficult it is and what a messy thing it is to kill a man.

Some of our most exquisite murders have been domestic, performed with tenderness in simple, homey places like the kitchen table.

Someone once told me that every minute a murder occurs, so I don’t want to waste your time, I know you want to go back to work.

Antagonists

The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.

Time

The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.

Bagpipes

These are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.

Winning

There is nothing to winning, really. That is, if you happen to be blessed with a keen eye, an agile mind, and no scruples whatsoever.

Television

Television has brought back murder into the home – where it belongs.

Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.

Television is like the American toaster, you push the button and the same thing pops up everytime.

Television is like the invention of indoor plumbing. It didn’t change people’s habits. It just kept them inside the house.

Seeing a murder on television can help work off one’s antagonisms. And if you haven’t any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.

Managing Fear

The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them.

Books

The paperback is very interesting but I find it will never replace the hardcover book – it makes a very poor doorstop.

Suspense

There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.

Victims

Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.

Fears

I am scared easily, here is a list of my adrenaline – production: 1: small children, 2: policemen, 3: high places, 4: that my next movie will not be as good as the last one.

Fortune

Luck is everything… My good luck in life was to be a really frightened person. I’m fortunate to be a coward, to have a low threshold of fear, because a hero couldn’t make a good suspense film.

Film Direction

In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director.

Film Sound

Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.

If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on.

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Found on the Watson Critical Thinking Blog is this awesome graphic, featuring some of the best thinkers, doers, and inventors over the centuries. A good insight from this list: it is not confined to scientists, showing that critical thinking is applicable to many disciplines, interests, and occupations. On our part we’ve featured critical thinkers from various fields, and in the future we will definitely highlight the names included on this graphic as well.

Good stuff.

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Hypatia was a 4th-century Greek scientist, philosopher, and astronomer. A noted scholar from the great library of Alexandria, she was murdered on 415 AD by a Christian mob. Her death coincided with the beginning of the Dark Ages.

Her thoughts on:

Dogma

All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.

Free Thought

Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.

Enlightnment

Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond.

Myths

Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fancies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them.

Superstition vs. Truth

In fact, men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth — often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you cannot get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable.

We previously featured the story of Hypatia on Carl sagan’s account of the last days of Alexandria–and the loss of all the classical knowledge of that time.

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Critical thinking has always been around but it’s good that schools are actively espousing the discipline.

From the University of Canberra’s page on Critical Thinking:

Critical thinking as a generic skill for life.

The skills that you develop at university in critical thinking will support you in your future professional lives. Professionals constantly need to make decisions based on critical thinking, to evaluate processes and outcomes, and to reflect upon their practice.

Good critical thinkers make good professionals.

In the end, that’s why you are at university.

The insightful page has further tips on how to develop a critical mind, as well as useful techniques on how to read and write critically.

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American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, and musician, William Melvin Hicks, and his thoughts on:

Being Smart

Children are smarter than any of us. Know how I know that? I don’t know one child with a full time job and children.

Music

Music is a great energizer. It’s a language everybody knows.

Advocacy

If you’re so pro-life, do me a favour: don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.

Community

I get a kick out of being an outsider constantly. It allows me to be creative.

Media

Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye.

Inspiration

If you don’t think drugs have done good things for us, then take all of your records, tapes and CD’s and burn them.

The next big thing

Listen, the next revolution is gonna be a revolution of ideas.

Clergy

Women priests. Great, great. Now there’s priests of both sexes I don’t listen to.

Enablement

We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution.

Comedy

It’s always funny until someone gets hurt. Then it’s just hilarious.

Smoking

I’m not really a heavy smoker any more. I only get through two lighters a day now.

America

People in the United Kingdom and outside the United States share my bemusement with the United States that America doesn’t share with itself.

Bliss

I left in love, in laughter, and in truth, and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.

Enlightenment

As long as one person lives in darkness then it seems to be a responsibility to tell other people.

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In 2006, Focus Consulting Group published a case study on Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. The article expounded on key behaviours which were the management style of Buffett and his vice-chariman: Charlie Munger.

What is fascinating is that many of the behaviours identified by Focus that were integral to Berkshire’s success as a company have close ties to the behaviours associated with critical thinking.  Read the article below and see for yourself.

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This covers an entire subject on argumentation which debaters and lawyers are highly familiar with, but most of us common men take for granted. We are bombarded by fallacies in every day communication, from advertising to political statements in the media, to news articles on television and newspapers. The internet has only sped up the speed at which we consume communication and our exposure to logical fallacies.

It is a good exercise to review the list of logical fallacies from time to time just to refresh ourselves on how they can unfairly and incorrectly swing an argument. This list from Changing Minds is a good place to start: (more…)

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We’ve added a new section (see the new tab on top: “Critical Thinkers“) which is a gallery gathering many of the famous people we’ve featured here in the past with direct links to the post featuring their critical ideas.

Enjoy reading and check the gallery often for new additions.

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