Critical Thinking with Argument Maps

By Dave Kinkead, University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project

Lesson 02 – Beliefs & Opinions

Now that we’ve had a brief look at why we should worry about critical thinking and argument mapping, let’s move on to the how. But first, just a little more why.

Why do we reason? If you’re a little bit odd (and most philosophers are at least a little bit odd), you might answer because it’s fun! Thinking about things can be an intellectually stimulating activity.

If you’re pragmatic, you might answer because it’s profitable. Thinking well is a key element of success in school or in the workplace.

But an answer that applies to everyone is that reasoning well give us confidence that our beliefs are true – and having true (or at least justified) beliefs about the world is very important.

Beliefs are the building blocks of reason but we can only have beliefs about certain things – things that can be true or false.

We can’t believe in a question for example, because questions can’t be true or false. It just doesn’t make any sense to say “I believe that ‘what is the time?’”. We can believe in the answers to questions however – “I believe that it is 10:23am” makes sense, even if I’m wrong.

Philosophers call statements that can be true or false propositions. The first step in learning to think critically is to learn to phrase your beleifs in propositionally. And an easy way to get into this habit is by starting your belief with “It’s true that …”

So let’s begin thinking critcally with argument maps by stating a belief propositionally. Think of a belief you have about a topic that is totally uncontroversial, like say … abortion or homosexuality. Now complete the sentence …

It's true that ...

Good – you’ve just stated your belief propositionally.

Now, let’s begin mapping. Double click on the box below and write the rest of the statement (you can delete the “It’s true that” bit). Click the ‘save’ icon and name your map.

Excellent – you’ve just made your first map with it’s own URL so that you can share it with others.

This may not seem like much now but stating a belief propositionally is the first step in working out whether or not that belief is justified.

Next lesson …

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