Cornerstones of Critical Thinking 1 - 8 Introduction to Critical Thinking


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Cornerstones of Critical Thinking 1 - 8 Introduction to Critical Thinking
Cornerstones of Critical Thinking 1 Looking at Both Sides

In leaving Scientology the subject of critical thinking is bound to come up at some point. Lots of ex Scientologists have very strong opinions on it.

Many claim to have never really been fooled by Scientology and to have been sound critical thinkers the entire time they were in Scientology. They often claim that Scientology didn't fool them, despite having given thousands of dollars to Scientology, worked for years for Scientology, disconnected from friends and family for Scientology and committed their lives to Scientology they claim Scientology never fooled then and they are and always have been critical thinkers. Okay.

There's a lot of discussion about critical thinking and the lack of it, the actual inhibition of it and what some would call annihilation of critical and independent thinking in Scientologists that they exhibit after indoctrination in Scientology.

I think the first thing to know about critical thinking is it's not something that is learned by reading a definition or paragraph or even a book. It's definitely not something that anyone has as a natural tendency. It's a subject that needs to be studied to be effectively learned and applied.
I wouldn't expect someone to know math without studying it or psychology or hypnosis or medicine.

Things like evolution and physics and climate change all take a lot of work to have enough understanding to form an educated opinion regarding, even an incorrect one.
And critical thinking is no different.

I think lots of information is required to even begin to dip your toes into critical thinking.
I am going to give some examples, bring up references and make an appeal to support my claim.
First off critical thinking has the simplest definition of thinking about thinking in order to improve thinking. Huh ? It means looking at how thinking is done, how information is treated and looked at in order to do a good or hopefully better job of handling it, to find and use the best habits regarding thinking we can find and see which are poor habits but to reduce those if possible.

I am going to start with a very simple example from life. Years ago on the T.V. show Sixty Minutes a court case was described. A woman coach was the assistant coach at a college for a basketball team.

The head coach retired and the assistant head coach was a candidate to replace him. She had been very successful for many years. A male candidate got the job.

Now the attorney for the woman was smart. He took a dry erase board and at the top wrote the name of each candidate and underneath wrote all the relevant qualifications for each person.
Underneath the woman candidate was perhaps twenty qualifications. She was very successful in several programs, won awards, her teams won tournaments and titles, she had a superb resume. She was probably more than qualified.

Under the name of the man was two years experience as an assistant coach. That's it.
It was a great example of presenting an apples to apples comparison between two things.
The witnesses just couldn't spin it away or use talking points to bury the truth. The female candidate was only not hired because she was a woman. No other reason was plausible.
She won the lawsuit and could have gotten a large settlement but opted to accept the job instead.
But the important point is we should isolate relevant details for comparisons when they are warranted.

The point is made in full far better than I have by John Stuart Mill in his very short and simple book On Liberty.

“There must be discussion to show how experience is to be interpreted. Wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and argument; but facts and arguments, to produce any effect on the mind, must be brought before it. Very few facts are able to tell their own story, without comments to bring out their meaning. The whole strength and value, then, of human judgment depending on the one property, that it can be set right when it is wrong, reliance can be placed on it only when the means of setting it right are kept constantly at hand. In the case of any person whose judgement is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct.”John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, published in 1859

John Stuart Mill makes a persuasive case for hearing the best arguments for and against ideas before being able to properly form an opinion.

It's somewhat against human nature to look for the evidence against what we believe or the best evidence for arguments against our beliefs. But it's a foundation of good critical thinking.

Cornerstones of Critical Thinking 2 Logical Fallacies and Biases

In looking at critical thinking several minimum criteria for a minimum education on several topics exist. If you don't know a good amount of very specific details about very specific ideas you will be extremely limited in successful critical thinking.

Two of the most basic topics to tackle are logical fallacies and biases. As human beings we have a nature that includes tendencies to think in and be persuaded by logical fallacies and biases that limit our ability to think rationally.

First off logical fallacies include numerous ideas that have been used in debate or presenting ideas that are faulty logic. They are sometimes accepted as valid arguments but upon good logical analysis are faulty.

If for example we look at the fallacy called ad hominem which translates to against the man it is a class of fallacies that includes personal insults. If for example in a debate someone said I think company X is poisoning our local river and we should stop them and a representative for company X responds by saying "that guy is a loser, therefore his claims have no merit, don't listen to him" that is a fallacy. An example of poor reason in creating an argument.

Regardless of any opinions regarding a person being a loser a claim by a person on a company poisoning a river could be true. It could be false too but the status of a person as a loser is irrelevant. When people use irrelevant information to dismiss claims that is a fallacy, if it is a personal insult then it's ad hominem.

For some special circumstances personal character is relevant. One example is individuals claiming that following their ideology produces morally superior individuals who are infallible or obviously superior to others and therefore validates a moral authority over others.

Such individuals with the use of claims of moral superiority invite scrutiny of their claims including alleged exemplary character. If I say I prayed myself into a state of grace in which I no longer ever commit bad acts then things like infidelity and lying on my part are entirely relevant. Relevant to those particular claims. Not to other unrelated claims.

So you really have to sort claims and relevant information supporting and refuting the claims based on what is alleged that is related. A person can have a poor claim and bad logic regarding one claim but a good argument, sound evidence and good reason regarding a different entirely separate claim.

I have previously in my blog post PISSED ! It's Not Your Fault described the following logical fallacies as common to Scientology doctrine and therefore common to the thinking of Scientologists: Personal incredulity , black and white thinking , magical thinking , the Texas sharpshooter fallacy ( aka apophenia ) , Ad Hominem , no true Scotsman ( Scientologist ) , Appeal to authority ( their own or Hubbard ) , begging the question , genetic , burden of proof , ambiguity , bandwagon , anecdotal and of course tu quoque . Additionally fallacies like composition/division, argument to ignorance, false dichotomy, need to be well understood as well.

Several simple websites have good definitions and examples including Thou Shall Not Commit Logical Fallacies. It's a great one with two dozen of the most common fallacies well defined in simple terms. A great thing to do is to look over the list, find a fallacy or a few that you immediately understand well and can think of several examples of, find more examples, refine your ability to spot these few fallacies in others, whether in politics or philosophy or anywhere they have been used or are still used.

After you really can see and refer to a few with extreme competence and confidence add one more at a time to take on. Challenge yourself to see what it means, why it's a poor argument to support a claim. Then find examples for that one. Then add the others until you really have at least a couple dozen under your belt.

The real challenge is finding and calling out fallacies in your own arguments and thinking. That's the harder part. That's why you shouldn't even worry about it until it either pops up on your radar or until you know it cold in others. It's a progression like learning addition and subtraction very well is a prerequisite for learning multiplication and division.

The usual way to do it is really get basic addition and subtraction and the order of numbers down as first nature before taking the next step. That's the way to get to taking on your own fallacies and the fallacies of people you agree with.

A necessary compliment to logical fallacies in critical thinking is biases. If you take on either one without the other you are missing a lot of the picture.

The sister page to Thou Shall Not Commit Logical Fallacies is 24 Cognitive Biases Stuffing Up Your Thinking. It lists brief definitions and examples for very common biases just as Thou Shall Not Commit Logical Fallacies takes on fallacies.

The same tactic can be used in taking on biases with the special challenge that several biases by their nature are prejudices that cause individuals to not perceive them and often particularly perceive them if at all in other people but not themselves. That's important to understand in taking them on. If you understand they limit others but not you then you are displaying the bias being described. How can one come to believe they have a bias they don't perceive ? Look for the scientific evidence and research that asserts the bias exists at all and look for evidence it is hidden from people who hold it and evidence that everyone or people in general tend to hold the bias. This seems like a lot of work but after it's been done for a few relevant biases the time and effort declines tremendously, because the evidence that supports much of these claims is similar or the same, so you don't have to repeat the entire process every time.

Thou Shall Not Commit Logical Fallacies has the following essential fallacies listed and defined: Strawman, slippery slope, special pleading, the gambler's fallacy, black or white, false cause, ad hominem, begging the question, appeal to authority, appeal to nature, composition/division, anecdotal, appeal to emotion, tu quoque, burden of proof, no true Scotsman, the Texas sharpshooter, the fallacy fallacy, personal incredulity, ambiguity, genetic and middle ground.
24 cognitive biases stuffing up your thinking has these biases: anchoring, confirmation bias, backfire effect, declinism, just world hypothesis, sunk cost fallacy, Dunning-Kruger effect, Barnum effect, framing effect, in-group bias, fundamental attribution error, placebo effect, halo effect, bystander effect, availability heuristic, belief bias, groupthink, optimism bias, reactance, curse of knowledge, self-serving bias, negativity bias, and spotlight effect.

This may seem like a lot but over one hundred logical fallacies have been described and an additional one hundred biases have as well.

That's far too much to take on in one shot. Just reading the definitions of all them, even with examples, won't be an effective way to learn.

You have to be humble and realize just really understanding logical fallacies or biases takes patience, repetition, time , effort and revisiting the same material periodically.
You can find long lists of fallacies and biases and I recommend doing it after you are fairly familiar with at least a couple dozen of each and know at least a half dozen of each so well you can comfortably explain them to others and spot examples that are real and make up examples very easily.

Sometimes an obscure fallacy or bias is exactly what you need to understand the flaws in a poor argument or the problems with doing or thinking something a certain way.

Often the clue that fallacies and biases need to be checked for is something that doesn't add up, something that just feels wrong despite being presented as legitimate.

If you want to be a good critical thinker a commitment to learning about logical fallacies and biases is an indispensable essential.

Cornerstones of Critical Thinking 3 Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework
Doctor Richard Paul and Doctor Linda Elder are credited with creating the Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework. It's an example of one of several available models. It's like any creation of human beings not perfect. Perhaps a far better model will be created by someone someday. It's extremely impressive in my opinion and well worth learning.

It will take time to dig deep into it. It's related to online courses and videos and books. It's a very concise way to get a far more rational and logical approach to thinking.

After looking at it one time it's obvious a lot of thought and effort went into it. I recommend taking whatever part sticks out most to you as correct or sensible or understandable and focus on the terms, ideas and definitions used for that.

Dig into it and see if you can think of how poor thinking lacks these things and how they are used in sound thinking.

The intellectual standards, elements of thought and intellectual traits all have a place in critical thinking.

I feel for people trying to be rational and logical, whether or not they have been in a cult or not, these ideas and this approach can be life changing.

For Scientology cult members in particular critical and independent thinking is often impaired and this framework can hopefully replace the pseudoscience and lies in Scientology with something more honest, more real and more effective.

To really understand the Paul-Elder model of critical thinking you need to invest time. Doctors Richard Paul and Linda Elder together created numerous books and videos on critical thinking. I highly recommend reading at least one of their books on critical thinking and spending at least a few hours watching the YouTube videos and seeing one of of them instructing people how to incorporate their model into education.

Far more information is necessary to understand HOW Richard Paul implemented his system. Seeing him do it in videos is informative in a way that really nothing else is.

Below is an excerpt from the University of Louisville regarding the Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework.

Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them. (Paul and Elder, 2001). The Paul-Elder framework has three components:
The elements of thought (reasoning)
The intellectual standards that should be applied to the elements of reasoning
The intellectual traits associated with a cultivated critical thinker that result from the consistent and disciplined application of the intellectual standards to the elements of thought
Graphic Representation of Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework
According to Paul and Elder (1997), there are two essential dimensions of thinking that students need to master in order to learn how to upgrade their thinking. They need to be able to identify the "parts" of their thinking, and they need to be able to assess their use of these parts of thinking.
The "parts" or elements of thinking are as follows:
All reasoning has a purpose
All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some question, to solve some problem
All reasoning is based on assumptions
All reasoning is done from some point of view
All reasoning is based on data, information and evidence
All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, concepts and ideas
All reasoning contains inferences or interpretations by which we draw conclusions and give meaning to data
All reasoning leads somewhere or has implications and consequences
The intellectual standards that are to these elements are used to determine the quality of reasoning. Good critical thinking requires having a command of these standards. According to Paul and Elder (1997 ,2006), the ultimate goal is for the standards of reasoning to become infused in all thinking so as to become the guide to better and better reasoning. The intellectual standards include:
Could you elaborate?
Could you illustrate what you mean?
Could you give me an example?
How could we check on that?
How could we find out if that is true?
How could we verify or test that?
Could you be more specific?
Could you give me more details?
Could you be more exact?
How does that relate to the problem?
How does that bear on the question?
How does that help us with the issue?
What factors make this difficult?
What are some of the complexities of this question?
What are some of the difficulties we need to deal with?
Do we need to look at this from another perspective?
Do we need to consider another point of view?
Do we need to look at this in other ways?
Does all of this make sense together?
Does your first paragraph fit in with your last one?
Does what you say follow from the evidence?
Is this the most important problem to consider?
Is this the central idea to focus on?
Which of these facts are most important?
Is my thinking justifiable in context?
Am I taking into account the thinking of others?
Is my purpose fair given the situation?
Am I using my concepts in keeping with educated usage, or am I distorting them to get what I want?
Consistent application of the standards of thinking to the elements of thinking result in the development of intellectual traits of:
Intellectual Humility
Intellectual Courage
Intellectual Empathy
Intellectual Autonomy
Intellectual Integrity
Intellectual Perseverance
Confidence in Reason
Habitual utilization of the intellectual traits produce a well-cultivated critical thinker who is able to:
Raise vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
Gather and assess relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
Come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
Think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
Communicate effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems
Paul, R. and Elder, L. (2010). The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools. Dillon Beach: Foundation for Critical Thinking Press.

Cornerstones of Critical Thinking 4 Being a Pain in the Ass

In referencing Critical Thinking I should point out a book on the topic and strengths and weaknesses in the book and subject. How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Asking the Right Questions by Christopher DiCarlo is an excellent book on the subject that covers a lot of the basics in the subject and the history of some people who have helped advance the subject by their actions.

One principle that is promoted as the first priority regarding critical thinking is consistency. It makes sense that you need to strive for consistency as a fundamental. You need consistent terms to even discuss critical thinking and mean today what you meant yesterday.

The history of Socrates and several other important philosophers is covered. How Socrates challenged people with questions and exposed inconsistencies in beliefs and gaps in knowledge is one of the most important developments in critical thinking.

Socratic debate and how good arguments are constructed is broken down for people as well. Any serious student of critical thinking needs to understand Socratic questions and debate and also logical fallacies and sound arguments and poor ones. These critical thinking basics are indispensable for everyone. Without them you honestly can't debate, spot poor arguments or understand what makes them poor arguments.

You will get caught up in poor logic and not be able to tell good ones from bad ones in your own thinking without this knowledge.

Several other philosophers including skeptics get recognition for their important contributions to critical thinking including separation of claims regarding nature and claims regarding the supernatural. The approach of setting aside things you don't know about is explored as well.
I highly recommend this book, even for people who have some familiarity with critical thinking because it's so strong regarding explaining how to construct arguments and how logical fallacies impede arguments and debate. It also excels in describing the important contributions of several historical figures and the ideas they forwarded that critical thinking still is built on today.
Whether you take my suggestion and read this particular book or not all the basic components of critical thinking which it provides are ones you simply cannot do without for any serious student of critical thinking.

All in all very good for critical thinking. What's it bad at or lacking ? It has the weakness most work by an expert gets when they are dealing with something way outside their expertise.

The weak area it has is dealing with what the author calls faith. The author likely doesn't know about the work regarding influence and awe and fervor. They likely don't know about the work of people like Robert Jay Lifton regarding mass movements or Yuval Laor regarding awe and fervor or Robert Cialdini regarding influence. There's a lot more involved in faith than a knowing and conscious decision to believe something without evidence.

The lesson here is that to understand a subject you need to discover the weak points in the subject, or at least a particular author, and the strong ones and go outside the work to supplement it when needed.

This book is definitely a great start for critical thinking despite one or two weak areas. Just look outside of it regarding those areas.

Cornerstones of Critical Thinking 5 Show The Work

In human beings different tendencies produce different approaches to knowledge. Much of the knowledge we have is based on what people we see as similar to ourselves believe.

I am going to give an example that is easy to understand. I understand that people who seriously study physics have to learn lots of formulas to explain forces like gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force and how all these forces interact.
The formulas need to be accurate and consistent. They need to work in all situations and circumstances that occur in the physical universe.

If a formula has the sizes and orbits of bodies in a system that have known distances and speeds then the positions should be predictable if the formula is accurate as proof it's genuine.
This is applied with planets in the solar system as one example.

I recall one time a physicist on Facebook discussed how people would support exotic theories on gravity for example and there is no shortage of things like hypergravity or a ten dimensional universe model or eleven dimensional universe and parts of string theory that get championed.
The physicist pointed out something crucial to understand in critical thinking: if you don't understand the physics formulas enough to write them out then you don't actually have an educated opinion on the matter. You may have an opinion and may even be correct, but you don't have a real independent understanding of the subject.

It's similar to having memorized the answer to a math problem but not really understanding why that is the answer. You can't show the work because you can't do the work.

What is this relevant for ? All kinds of things. I realized when I saw this that many beliefs we hold are not from an educated opinion but instead from choosing to believe what we believe people like us should believe.

For example I don't have sufficient education regarding numerous subjects to form an educated opinion on the age of the universe.

I know most people like myself tend to believe that the physical universe is fourteen to twenty billion years old. Great , but I don't really know that is correct, just what people similar to myself tend to believe.

So, what should I do ? I have several options. I can just believe the universe is around fourteen billion years old or a little older, or I could believe it and realize I am taking someone else's word for it or probably best of all I could say I don't know. That's it. I don't actually know how old the universe is.

I know most people like myself use the conventional scientific answer and it may be true, but I don't know enough about several subjects to really understand the arguments for and against the fourteen to twenty billion year old universe with a big bang idea.

I have read a bit about the big bang and some evidence for it. Maybe it has more than enough evidence that it should be believed, I don't know enough to even weigh the best arguments for and against the big bang theory.

So, the advantage of disciplining yourself and others to at least learn the basics of whatever you try to believe in or reject to have a baseline of enough understanding to form, consider, weigh, accept and reject competent arguments for and against the concepts regarding an opinion is that with this you can show the work, because you can do the work.

Getting back to the example with physics you can write the formulas to express the concepts. That way another physics PhD student would be able to examine your concepts and test them. Maybe they would immediately find flaws or problems with your work. Maybe they will realize you have solved all the problems earlier attempts have failed by seeing your work.

My point isn't that you should learn physics and formulas, unless you want to, it's that a good critical thinker knows what they know from serious study and consideration of ideas and what they believe because an authority told them or because people who are similar to them tend to believe.
It's a good habit to have to realize what would probably be the answer on a test but also what we really know and understand.

I am the kind of person that usually would believe in things like the big bang, a fourteen billion years old universe, evolution and lots of other things.

It's best to be honest about how much I understand. Honestly for all these things I don't really know enough to form an educated opinion.

So, instead of just going with the crowd of people like myself or following the authority I respect I can just say I don't know. That's it.

Now this standard of requiring being educated isn't easy to impose on yourself but it's good for several reasons pertaining to critical thinking.

First off it gives you a better discernment of what you know, kind of know and don't really know and it gives you the ability to spot bullshit from other people better. If you are exceptionally careful to sort what you know well from what you have some details regarding but not a great education on and if you make calling it out in yourself first nature it becomes a piece of cake to do it with others. That's a great way to be a better critical thinker because demanding it on purpose from yourself makes it your default method of thinking. You deal with yourself constantly.

Then you can spot it in others, whether you point it out to them or just factor it into your examination of information from them. It's not always appropriate to point it out, so don't just hammer people with it with no judgement on when it's appropriate.

But you can listen to people and realize when they cannot or will not show the work appropriate to support their ideas and have no idea they are not being good critical thinkers.

Maybe they have sound ideas, but you are better off showing yourself the work and demanding it from others . It's an essential of critical thinking.

Many people have realized we tend to pick beliefs that conform to group norms for groups we are in or see ourselves as similar to. Robert Cialdini's book Influence described this as did the book Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow. In Subliminal Mlodinow described how there is good evidence from specific detailed studies on human psychology that shows we tend to be very certain we understand our motives for behavior but are terrible at actually intuitively perceiving these motives.
In plain English we think we know why we do things but good testing has shown we are most often way off regarding getting this right.

This has particular relevance to critical thinking. The aspect of this I am addressing here is that we should focus on what beliefs we hold due to solid evidence, a well developed and educated opinion and an awareness of the best arguments and evidence against the beliefs we hold all together.

We should see what we don't have enough understanding of to form our own educated opinion on and when we rely on experts or media or people similar to ourselves for information.

They may be correct or may not be. The information we get from other people that we accept as true is called inherited knowledge. Know it is inherited. The things we determine through hard work of our own is still going to be wrong sometimes and right sometimes but it's vital to know which is which.

Cornerstones of Critical Thinking 6 Propaganda: 7 Most Important Techniques of Propaganda
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Any good critical thinker needs at least a passing knowledge of propaganda techniques. At least learning the most prevalent ones and some history of the subject.
Propaganda: 7 Most Important Technique of Propaganda
by Negi Mohita Sociology

.Some of the important technique of Propaganda are: (i) Name-calling (ii) Glittering Generally (iii) Transfer Device (iv) Testimonial Device (v) Plain-folk Device (vi) Card Tactics (vii) Band-wagon.
Psychological Warfare:

As said Propaganda as a means to influence people is not something new. It is as old as the human group and has been employed at all times and on all cultural levels. It is, however, during the First World War that it was employed as a scientifically planned means of influencing people, as a formidable psychological weapon.

Thereafter, it was constantly perfected, reaching a high point in Nazi Germany. During the Second World War, both the sides again made use of propaganda. There was a “psychological war” or “war of nerves”. Every major belligerent systematically employed political propaganda and control of news as a weapon of warfare and. psychological warfare was recognized and accepted as a military instrument.

Psychological warfare is “the use of propaganda against an enemy through the employment of modern media of mass communications, together with such other operational measures and devices of a military, economic or political nature as may be required to supplement propaganda for the purpose of reaching mass audiences in order to persuade them to accept certain beliefs and ideas.”

It is used to undermine the enemy’s resistance, to dissuade neutrals from joining the other side, or to encourage friends and others. During the Second World War it was everywhere realized that the psychological warfare was at least as important as physical combat.

The value of psychological warfare as a technique of propaganda is as yet unknown. Soreno points out that “this kind of warfare depends on the skill and ability of the warrior to understand the problems of the enemy or target people and their patterns of thought and action, and to affect them with all the means at his disposal. He also feels that psychological warfare helps political leaders to camouflage reality and to dodge responsibility.

Instruments of Propaganda:

Propaganda today has become a science as well as an art; individuals specialize in it as a profession. Though propaganda may also be utilized for educational and public welfare purposes, but this constructive kind of propaganda has hardly been so far properly utilized. It is usually carried on to serve the interests of groups rather than the general public.

Alfred M. Lee and Elizabeth B. Lee classified the propaganda devices into seven major categories:
(i) name-calling (ii) Glittering generalities, (iii) transfer, (iv) testimonial, (v) Plain-folk, (vi) Card-stacking and (vii) Bandwagon. Each of these devices makes an appeal to feelings rather than to reason. They rest upon the premise that emotion or feeling has certain strategic advantages over the appeal to reason. These propaganda devices need not be used singly; they are usually employed in combination.

To these devices Alfred M. Lee later added: Guilty-by-Association and Guilty-by-Heredity and their opposites, Virtue-by-Association and Virtue-by-Heredity. He also analysed the “techniques of basic procedure” used by the propagandist. These include: Selecting the issue: Case making; and simplification.
A brief discussion of the above seven techniques are as follows:

(i) Name-calling:
This technique consists in giving a bad name to a person, a group, an idea or an event. The name so given arouses an emotional attitude of hostility and rejection. The terms “capitalist,” “fascist,” war-monger”, “right-reactionary” create an emotional attitude of hatred toward the person. Thus, J.P. Narayan was called by the Congress leaders a right reactionary and the B.J.P. has been called after the Ayodhya incident a fascist party and a communal organisation.

(ii) Glittering Generally:
Under this technique the propagandist uses some attractive or impressive words or ideas which mislead the people. He may call his party “the protector of Hinduism” or the “saviour of dalits” or use the words like secularism, equality, justice, democracy to influence the public.

(iii) Transfer Device:
In this device, the propagandist presents his cause as an integral part of a larger cause by identifying himself and his cause with the collective representation acceptable to the public at large. Thus, to safeguard “people’s democracy” the communists condemn all non-communists as “counter- revolutionaries.” The Congress invokes the name of Gandhi in order to bolster its position. The opposition parties use the word ‘secularism’ to defeat the Bhartiya Janta Party.

(iv) Testimonial Device:
Under this technique the propagandist advertises a thing with the name of some distinguished person. Thus the name of a film actor Ashok Kumar may be used for selling ‘Paan Parag’.

(v) Plain-folk Device:
This device is used extensively by politicians. The politician professes that he is just like others, with their common virtues and vices. Thus a leader may embrace a child in a slum area or take his lunch sitting with the slum dwellers on a mat to impress upon them that he is one of them.

(vi) Card Tactics:
This device requires skill and ingenuity. The true facts are twisted and coloured by the propagandist to suit his interest and impress his listeners. Thus, a politician may weave a story and present it as a true event.

(vii) Band-wagon:
Under this technique the propagandist advertises that since everybody is doing a thing, therefore, you may as well do it. Thus, the advertisement, “Five crores of people in India are using Alias bicycle so you also should have it today” is a band-wagon technique.

The following are a few guide-lines for a propagandist:
Firstly, repeat your idea persistently and systematically. Even falsehood, when presented incessantly, begins to appear as truth. So never be tired of repeating your side time and again.
Secondly, do not admit, do not even suggest that there is any side to the question but that one you represent. In other words, you must distort the evidence.

Thirdly, cast your cause in the role of the hero, and your opposition in the role of the villain. Resort to generalities, emolionalised symbols and stereotypes. Prove the high-mindedness, nobility and humaneness of your cause, and at the same time, demonstrate the low motives, ignoble deeds and self-seeking activities of the opposition,

Fourthly, produce testimonials on behalf of your cause, supplied by persons whose names carry a great deal of weight, such as the president of the country or a famous actor,

Fifthly, to get the most permanent eventual results your propaganda targets should be children, mix your belief in the educational curriculum. This is what totalitarian states mostly do.

But as said above, all these are methods employed by the propagandist who to serve the interests of their groups try to influence the people. In such propaganda lie as a weapon has a definite value. The Propaganda Ministry of the Third Reich used the lie successfully for several purposes. The Soviets had developed a highly skillful technique of propaganda which was their basic instrument for propagating communism abroad. The effective propaganda of the Reds was an important cause of their success.

To emphasize again, scientifically speaking propaganda is neither bad nor good. According to Katherine Gerould “propaganda is a good word gone wrong.”

The goodness or badness of propaganda depends upon what cause the particular group propounds. An American may regard a cause propounded by the Soviet as wrong.
Anyhow, the fact remains that, in modern times, even a right cause unless defended by propaganda, is virtually certain to be lost or crippled. Therefore, even a democratic state must not make itself defenseless in the field of opinion, it must meet propaganda with propaganda, pitting the correct and justified against the false and negative.

Cornerstones of Critical Thinking 7 Rhetoric and Sublime Writing
In learning critical thinking we need a good understanding of many aspects of influence. We influence ourselves and others by many means, sometimes knowingly influencing others and often unknowingly influencing both ourselves and others.

I have briefly introduced essentials to critical thinking like logical fallacies, arguments, biases, the Paul-Elder critical thinking model, propaganda techniques and so on.

Two more things that are essentials for critical thinking are classic rhetoric and sublime writing. They are areas of looking at persuasion that are important to the history of critical thinking and need to be something you can think with to understand certain aspects of thinking and persuasion.
With many subjects that are partially or fully composed of persuasion it is worthwhile to learn a bit about them to be a well rounded critical thinker. Classic rhetoric and sublime writing are definitely on my list.

Below I quote for the briefest definitions of ethos, logos and pathos.
Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are modes of persuasion used to convince audiences. They are also referred to as the three artistic proofs (Aristotle coined the terms), and are all represented by Greek words.

Ethos or the ethical appeal, means to convince an audience of the author’s credibility or character.
An author would use ethos to show to his audience that he is a credible source and is worth listening to. Ethos is the Greek word for “character.” The word “ethic” is derived from ethos.
Ethos can be developed by choosing language that is appropriate for the audience and topic (also means choosing proper level of vocabulary), making yourself sound fair or unbiased, introducing your expertise or pedigree, and by using correct grammar and syntax.

Pathos or the emotional appeal, means to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions.
Authors use pathos to invoke sympathy from an audience; to make the audience feel what what the author wants them to feel. A common use of pathos would be to draw pity from an audience. Another use of pathos would be to inspire anger from an audience; perhaps in order to prompt action. Pathos is the Greek word for both “suffering” and “experience.” The words empathy and pathetic are derived from pathos.

Pathos can be developed by using meaningful language, emotional tone, emotion evoking examples, stories of emotional events, and implied meanings.

Logos or the appeal to logic, means to convince an audience by use of logic or reason.
To use logos would be to cite facts and statistics, historical and literal analogies, and citing certain authorities on a subject.Logos is the Greek word for “word,” however the true definition goes beyond that, and can be most closely described as “the word or that by which the inward thought is expressed, Lat. oratio; and, the inward thought itself, Lat. Ratio. (1) The word “logic” is derived from logos.

Logos can be developed by using advanced, theoretical or abstract language, citing facts (very important), using historical and literal analogies, and by constructing logical arguments.
In order to persuade your audience, proper of Ethos, Pathos and Logos is necessary.
Examples of Ethos, Logos and Pathos:

Example of Ethos:
"I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future."

Democratic Presidential Candidate Acceptance Speech by Barack Obama. August 28th, 2008.

Example of Pathos:
"I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed."

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. August 28th, 1963.

Example of Logos:
"However, although private final demand, output, and employment have indeed been growing for more than a year, the pace of that growth recently appears somewhat less vigorous than we expected. Notably, since stabilizing in mid-2009, real household spending in the United States has grown in the range of 1 to 2 percent at annual rates, a relatively modest pace. Households' caution is understandable. Importantly, the painfully slow recovery in the labor market has restrained growth in labor income, raised uncertainty about job security and prospects, and damped confidence. Also, although consumer credit shows some signs of thawing, responses to our Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices suggest that lending standards to households generally remain tight."

The Economic Outlook and Monetary Policy by Ben Bernanke. August 27th, 2010.
End quote

A bit about sublime writing or sublime art and persuasion is worth noting in any discussion of rhetoric. It is initially something that doesn't need a lot of study. It really connects the dots between classic rhetoric and many other ideas and subjects, particularly in light of very recent work.

Here is a tiny excerpt on sublime persuasion from Wikipedia:

The earliest text on the sublime was written sometime in the first or third century AD by the Greek writer (pseudo-) Longinus in his work On the Sublime (Περὶ ὕψους, Perì hýpsous). Longinus defines the literary sublime as "excellence in language", the "expression of a great spirit" and the power to provoke "ecstasy" in one's readers. Longinus holds that the goal of a writer should be to produce a form of ecstasy.

He in other words elucidates sublime: "Sublimity refers to a certain type of elevated language that strikes its listener with the mighty and irresistible power of a thunderbolt. A sublime passage can be heard again and again with equal pleasure." End quote

To understand how this coordinates with other subjects we need to be aware of quite a few things that are relevant. A small collection of very precise concepts bring this into focus.

Ecstasy is defined as a trance state. Trance states are part of the foundation of the subject of hypnosis. Trances are worth serious examination in understanding hypnosis as theory and the reality of it which a lot of modern psychology can elaborate on.

I have extensively described hypnosis and trance phenomenon in numerous blog posts at Mockingbird's Nest, particularly as they pertain to Scientology.

Basic Introduction to Hypnosis in Scientology for example covers basic concepts and definitions from hypnosis for someone with very brief examples. Burning Down Hell - How Commands Are Hidden , Varied And Repeated In Scientology To Control You As Hypnotic Implants digs a bit deeper.

It is worth pointing out that the sublime is associated with inspiring awe in people. It involves often story telling that people get caught up in. It involves vivid imagery often in reality through art of movies or a visual medium or through the imagination of the audience of written or spoken communication.

Vivid imagery and stories people get caught up in are long known in hypnosis and by modern neuroscience and psychology. The modern experts like George Lakoff and Steven Pinker describe how we have metaphors or narratives that occur subconsciously, below our conscious awareness their models of how we think and are influenced include that we think in and are influenced by stories.

Additionally the vivid imagery is associated with strong impressions and lasting influence. The classic example is that after the movie Jaws aired people developed vivid imagery of shark attacks therefore millions of people were in terror of sharks and indifferent to car accidents. Sharks kill around ten Americans a year and car accidents kill tens of thousands of people in America per year, but the vivid imagery and cinematic portrayal of sharks influenced people very strongly.

I must touch upon the work of Yuval Laor. Yuval Laor is well known for work regarding awe and fervor and their effects in influencing people.

I have heard him describe his work on several podcasts recently and been thoroughly impressed.
I hope he is able to finish and publish a book on his work and it can compliment everything that I have touched on here and include good modern scientific research and evidence to bring classic rhetoric ideas on sublime persuasion fully to the modern day.

Cornerstones of Critical Thinking 8 We Learn Together
In earlier posts on critical thinking I touched on the crucial ideas John Stuart Mill described in his book On Liberty. As I said it is a very quick read and has a few vital ideas that are well presented. Here I want to elaborate a tiny bit on the most crucial ideas he brought up or inspired.

“There must be discussion to show how experience is to be interpreted. Wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and argument; but facts and arguments, to produce any effect on the mind, must be brought before it. Very few facts are able to tell their own story, without comments to bring out their meaning. The whole strength and value, then, of human judgment depending on the one property, that it can be set right when it is wrong, reliance can be placed on it only when the means of setting it right are kept constantly at hand. In the case of any person whose judgement is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct.”John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, published in 1859

To elaborate even further I frankly believe even one person, whether you or me or anyone else, has different degrees of understanding they can have for ideas.

An idea can be better understood if it is prepared to be presented than if it is merely thought of in isolation in the mind. Just getting ready to say it or write it or present it in some way helps the holder of the idea to look at it more than they might otherwise.

Actually presenting it takes this a step further. Even just saying something to a mirror or toy or writing it in a private journal for no one else to see helps the holder of the idea to further understand it. Sometimes you write a sentence down then see flaws in it, see weaknesses, see errors that you otherwise never would.

To take it a step further presenting ideas to actual human beings who will comment can help you to form them even more. Someone can point out something that you haven't included in presenting an idea. You might realize you left out saying something you assumed but didn't actually say.
You might realize you didn't think of something relevant regarding your idea. You might think your idea needs to be looked at again or another idea needs to be developed to replace or compliment your idea.

The point is really understanding and developing ideas in human beings has a necessary group interaction component. It doesn't mean groups always reason better than individuals, sometimes an individual is correct and a group, even a big group, is entirely wrong.
There are processes in thinking and understanding that require people interacting with one another. There is just no getting around it.

There is a concept that compliments the idea that understanding ideas requires discussion and criticism and evaluation by groups.
That concept is collective learning.

A website called Avenues Open has the following definition:
Collective learning refers to the sharing, storing, and accumulation of information over time and across generations.
Information was likely initially passed through gesture, then verbally, then with symbols, and finally through a variety of technology-based media. Collective learning is a distinguishing characteristic of humans, and the principle reason why knowledge and technology are progressing exponentially. End quote

That describes how we as humans gather information over time from multiple individual minds. Some are contemporaries to one another and may contribute together or never interact directly.
Some collective learning occurs over time, lots of time, decades and generations and centuries and millennia.

If we look long and hard at the tiniest details of progress in human knowledge in specific subjects a very humbling realization will naturally occur. We can see that progress is usually extremely gradual in a series of many, many steps.

Often these steps have many failures and accidents involved. Progress takes many failures to achieve a few successes and many successes are attempts to do something else or understand something else that by accident produces something useful in another area.

Sometimes the incremental steps are missed and so the result seems to be a stroke of pure genius.

A simple example is the work of Einstein in relativity and special relativity. It is extremely brilliant.
I commented on this once and was given a list of about eight ideas that were partially or fully formed by contemporaries of Einstein but not combined exactly as he had done.

It made his innovation take on a different meaning. He was able to think with, reason with and combine and take apart very specific ideas in physics which most people wouldn't easily understand, much less work with.

We progress very slowly and incrementally in terms of time required to form ideas, explore ideas and develop real world applications through research and innovation.

Now, today this may seem to be happening quickly but add up all the time all the minds working in a subject and add up all their efforts together and to be even more complete and add the time of the minds that came up with the preceding knowledge that their later knowledge is built upon and you will see thousands and thousands of hours of effort going into development of knowledge, just about any knowledge.

Whether we are thinking of medicine or engineering or economics or physics or any of thousands of other subjects this is true.

Good critical thinking requires the intellectual humility to recognize the limits of the thinking of a single person and that we learn and test ideas together, particularly over time.

These principles help you to understand your thinking and that of other people and how ideas developed and changed over time.

In looking at these weaknesses and tendencies another complimentary idea is important. I have found several experts in various fields who have championed a need that is almost obvious when you understand how we reason as groups, develop ideas and knowledge collectively and over time. That is the need to have an interdisciplinary approach or understanding.

Several people see needs to work with parts of different subjects complimenting each other or clarifying one another or being strong in an area where another subject is weak.

Robert Sapolsky described it regarding several subjects and human behavior in his book Behave. Leonard Mlodinow described it in his book Subliminal regarding human behavior. Critical thinking expert Richard Paul described it in a lecture on critical thinking. He described how a model someone believes in must be something you can examine with other models outside the model itself.

Of course he described how that requires a good understanding of the model being considered and not merely a superficial understanding.

One of the best indicators of when a person has knowledge that doesn't adequately include understanding particular things is when the terms and concepts they are using to describe a particular topic are from fields that don't actually address the topic.

In seeing people who for example are well educated people on other topics who comment on things they never got educated on it can be easy to see if you are educated.

Sometimes scientists comment on Scientology and it is obvious they are not educated on cults, undue influence, aspects of psychology relevant to cults and so on.

Sometimes experts in other subjects, even psychology, comment on racism and reveal they consider racism merely ignorance or something that can be completely explained in a sentence or two.

From a perspective understanding bias, human history and behavior there is far, far more to racism than can be explained in a paragraph or two.

But an expert in a different, even related, field can mistakenly believe they understand something they really are not educated on, not even a little bit.

It takes a lot of humility to understand where you are weak or uneducated and look far and wide for relevant subjects and ideas in those subjects to understand the things you don't know that are relevant and necessary to understand what you want to know. And that is the heart of critical thinking.