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Critical thinking Part 4: Getting Personal

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Some arguments focus on the person and not what they're saying. A way to keep focused on the discussion is to think of the sporting phrase: 'play the ball, not the player.' It's hard to listen to people we don't like, and difficult to disagree with those that we trust and admire. But there is a difference between who a person is and what they're saying. For example, you might not like a particular fossil fuel company because of past illegal and unethical behavior. A smiling representative from the company comes on television and claims their chemical research division has discovered an environmentally friendly 'clean' form of petrol. It's too easy to be suspicious of their actions. After all, you don't like them. They could be lying to make money. The company's history may imply it's actions could warrant closer and further discussion. But you can't logically claim that they're wrong based on that argument alone. Linking your dislike with your disbelief is playing the player, not the issue. You can't be an expert on all things and how you feel about a person can be a tempting first step in deciding if you trust them. But arguments based on who you trust and who you suspect, just aren't valid. We turn to experts when we're looking for good advice. However, claiming a conclusion is logically true because an expert made the claim, is a poor argument. Climate change is not a concern because experts say so, it's a concern because the facts and the logic indicate that global warming is a sound conclusion. That doesn't mean that we should ignore experts, instead we need to ask questions to better understand the facts and the logic that they use.

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 5 seconds
Country: Australia
Language: English
Producer: Bridge 8
Director: James Hutson
Views: 2,113
Posted by: ffuentes on Feb 29, 2012

Part 4 of the TechNyou critical thinking resource.

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