The core of critical thinking is developing the ability to understand and evaluate others’ arguments, and to construct arguments of one’s own.
We are surrounded by attempts to persuade us; we should accept some and reject others. This post is all about learning to discern which attempts to persuade fall into which category.
This means first learning to work out what argument – also what kind of argument – is being presented to us. This requires an understanding of the various elements of arguments, and an ability to read a passage or listen to a speech and reconstruct its argument. Any statement that attempts to persuade you that something is true by offering at least one reason for thinking that it is so counts as an argument. The second skill involved is assessing the strength of the evidence offered, keeping an eye out for any logical fallacies that might have been committed.