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Critical thinking part 4: getting personal (Australia)

The resource covers basic logic and faulty arguments, developing student's critical thinking skills.

Some arguments focus on the person and not what they're saying. A way to keep your focus 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's 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 behaviour. 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 its actions could warrant closer attention 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.

ARGUMENT= A discussion in which disagreement is expressed; a debate. A course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating truth or falsehood. A fact or statement put forth as proof or evidence; a reason

FOCUS= /fəʊkəs/ To concentrate on, to pay attention to.

PLAY THE BALL, NOT THE PLAYER= (European football=soccer metaphor) This means that when the opponent is on offence, and he's heading towards your goal with the ball, you try to kick the ball away from him. You don't kick the player on the shins. You don't knock the player down, get him in a headlock, and give him noogies. You only go after the ball. The relevance of this expression here is to make you remember that when somebody is giving you an argument, you have to concentrate on the validity of the argument and not on how much you like or dislike the person saying it.

TRUST= If you trust a person, you think that they are honest, reliable and will never fool you or betray you.

FOSSIL FUEL COMPANY= A company which extracts fossil fuel (oil, coal, gas) to produce petrol (AmE gasoline), electricity, or any other form of energy. Fossil fuels pollute and are the main contributors for global warming.

UNETHICAL= Contrary to conscience or morality or law or approved social standards of behaviour.

BEHAVIOUR= (AmE behavior) The way you act (especially with other people)

REPRESENTATIVE= A representative from an organization is someone who has been authorized to speak or act in the name of the organization.

CLAIMS= If you claim something, you say that it is true.

CHEMICAL=  /kemɪkəl/  


RESEARCH= Investigation.

DIVISION= A division in a company is a section of that company which has a particular task.

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY= Which is good (or at least not bad) for the environment (the environment is nature). We can use “friendly” with any other concept:
A user friendly guide = a guide easy to understand by users.
A human friendly chemical = a chemical product that is not harmful for humans.
A crop friendly insecticide = a insecticide that will kill insects but will not harm plants.

PETROL= Today most of the energy consumed in the world comes from crude oil (or simply “oil”), which is a black fossil liquid. But that liquid must be processed and refined before we can use it in our cars, etc. The result of that process is called “petrol” in British English, and “gasoline” or simply “gas” in American English.

SUSPICIOUS= If something is suspicious, you don’t trust it, you think it looks ok but it is probably not alright.

LYING= The –ing form of “to lie”. To lie is not to tell the truth. The final E is dropped and the I changes to Y because in English you can’t have two I’s together.

IMPLY= (Philosophy / Logic) to suggest or involve as a necessary consequence.

WARRANT= To guarantee; to justify.

FURTHER= (comparative of “far”) Additional, more.

LINKING= Connecting, joining.

ISSUE=  /ɪʃu:/ A point of discussion.


TEMPTING= Attractive, inviting.

VALID= Just, well-grounded, correct.

TURN TO= If you turn to someone for help, you look for their help.

HOWEVER= Nevertheless, but…

POOR ARGUMENT= A poor argument is not strong and valid.

CLIMATE= Weather.

CONCERN= Worry, problem. A concern is something that makes you feel worried and anxious.

SOUND= A sound idea/conclusion/argument, etc. is well-grounded, has a firm basis, is difficult or impossible to refute, to contradict.

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