Critical Thinking Skills: Developing Effective Analysis and Argument

This leading guide helps students to develop reflective thinking skills, improve their critical analysis and construct arguments more effectively. Written by Stella Cottrell, a leader in the field with over one million book sales to date, this text breaks down a complex subject into easily understood blocks, providing easy-to-follow, step-by-step explanations and practice activities to develop understanding and practice your skills at each stage. Essential for students who are mystified by tutor comments such as ‘more critical analysis needed’, this is an invaluable tool for anyone wishing to develop advanced skills in this area and learn to apply them to tasks such as reading, writing, and note-taking.

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Extending the extended mind: the case for extended affectivity

The thesis of the extended mind (ExM) holds that the material underpinnings of an individual’s mental states and processes need not be restricted to those contained within biological boundaries: when conditions are right, material artefacts can be incorporated by the thinking subject in such a way as to become a component of her extended mind. Up to this point, the focus of this approach has been on phenomena of a distinctively cognitive nature, such as states of dispositional belief, and processes of planning and calculation. In this paper, we aim to expand the scope of ExM by considering the case for extended affectivity. We begin by clarifying the central commitments of ExM, before investigating its applicability to a range of affective phenomena, both dispositional and occurrent. We argue that proponents of ExM should also accept that the vehicles of emotions, moods, sentiments, temperaments, and character traits can extend beyond skull and skin

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Extended Cognition and the Internet

The Internet is an important focus of attention for those concerned with issues of extended cognition. In particular, the application of active externalist theorizing to the Internet gives rise to the notion of Internet-extended cognition: the idea that the Internet can form part of an integrated nexus of material elements that serves as the realization base for human mental states and processes. The current review attempts to survey a range of issues and controversies that arise in respect of the notion of Internet-extended cognition. These include the issue of whether the Internet, as a technological system, is able to support real-world cases of cognitive extension. It also includes issues concerning the cognitive and epistemic impacts of the Internet. Finally, the review highlights a range of issues and concerns that have not been the focus of previous philosophical attention. These include issues of ‘network-extended cognitive bloat’, ‘conjoined minds’, and an entirely new form of cognitive extension that goes under the heading of ‘human-extended machine cognition’. Together, these issues serve to highlight the value and importance of Internet-extended cognition to contemporary philosophical debates about the extended mind. In particular, the notion of Internet-extended cognition has the potential to highlight points of philosophical progress that are not easily revealed by the kind of technologically low-grade cases that tend to animate the majority of philosophical discussions in this area.

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The complexities of knowledge

“Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills, which is acquired through experience or education by perceiving, discovering, or learning,” according to Wikipedia’s definition. Knowledge can also refer to a theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Plato believed that knowledge came from believing something to be true, along with it actually being true, and with being justified in believing it to be true. In my opinion, this is a good way of understanding knowledge, because we are (psychologically) required to believe something to be true in order to count it in our head as knowledge; otherwise, it’s speculation or fake news.

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Read also: The changing nature of knowledge

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Epistemological Problems of Perception

The central problem in the epistemology of perception is that of explaining how perception could give us knowledge or justified belief about an external world, about things outside of ourselves. This problem has traditionally been viewed in terms of a skeptical argument that purports to show that such knowledge and justification are impossible. Skepticism about the external world highlights a number of epistemological difficulties regarding the nature and epistemic role of experience, and the question of how perception might bring us into contact with a mind-independent reality. The issues that arise are of central importance for understanding knowledge and justification more generally, even aside from their connection to skepticism.

Two main types of response to the skeptical argument have traditionally been given: a metaphysical response that focuses on the nature of the world, perceptual experience, and/or the relation between them, in an effort to show that perceptual knowledge is indeed possible; and a more directly epistemological response that focuses on principles specifying what is required for knowledge and/or justification, in an effort to show that skepticism misstates the requirements for knowledge.

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The Value of Knowledge

The value of knowledge has always been a central topic within epistemology. Going all the way back to Plato’s Meno, philosophers have asked, why is knowledge more valuable than mere true belief? Interest in this question has grown in recent years, with theorists proposing a range of answers. But some reject the premise of the question and claim that the value of knowledge is ‘swamped’ by the value of true belief. And others argue that statuses other than knowledge, such as justification or understanding, are distinctively valuable. We will call the general question of why knowledge is valuable the value problem.

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Beyond the Sociobiological Dilemma: Social Emotions and the Evolution of Morality

Is morality biologically altruistic? Does it imply a disadvantage in the struggle for existence? A positive answer puts morality at odds with natural selection unless natural selection operates at the level of groups. In this case, a trait that is good for groups though bad for individuals can evolve. Sociobiologists reject group selection and have adopted one of two horns of a dilemma. Either morality is based on an egoistic calculus, compatible with natural selection; or morality continues tied to psychological and biological altruism but not as a product of natural selection. The dilemma denies a third possibility—that psychological altruism evolves as a biologically selfish trait. I discuss the classical treatments of the paradox by Charles Darwin and Robert Trivers, focusing on the role they attribute to social emotions. The upshot is that both Darwin and Trivers sketch a natural-selection process relying on innate emotional mechanisms that render morality adaptive for individuals as well as for groups. I give additional reasons for viewing it as a form of natural, instead of only cultural, selection

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The Social Ontology of Democracy

This paper offers an account of the social foundations of a theory of democracy. It purports to show that a social ontology of democracy is the necessary counterpart of a political theory of democracy. It notably contends that decisions concerning basic social ontological assumptions are relevant not only for empirical research but bear a significant impact also on normative theorizing. The paper then explains why interactionist rather than substantial social ontologies provide the most promising starting point for building a social ontology of democracy. It then introduces and examines the three notions of habits, patterns of interaction, and forms of social organization, conceived as the main pillars of an interactionist social ontology of democracy and briefly discusses some major implications of this approach for democratic theory.

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Social Structures and the Ontology of Social Groups

Social groups—like teams, committees, gender groups, and racial groups—play a central role in our lives and in philosophical inquiry. Here I develop and motivate a structuralist ontology of social groups centered on social structures (i.e., networks of relations that are constitutively dependent on social factors). The view delivers a picture that encompasses a diverse range of social groups while maintaining important metaphysical and normative distinctions between groups of different kinds. It also meets the constraint that not every arbitrary collection of people is a social group. In addition, the framework provides resources for developing a broader structuralist view in social ontology.

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The sociobiology of everyday life

The 1000-year-old novel The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu around 1002 CE, shows the operation of general principles of sociobiology. Isolated from western influences and cloaked in Japanese traditions, the common traits associated with reproductive processes are clearly evident. The novel depicts the differential investment of males and females in offspring, male competitive behaviors, and concerns for paternity, kin selection, reciprocal social exchange, species-typical emotional expression, female mate choice, positive assortative mating, and acknowledgment of hereditary transmission of physical and psychological traits. The nature of human behavior in Genji’s time seems a little different than now and has all the attributes of species-specific and universal traits. Indeed, it can be argued that the fundamental characteristics of Homo sapiens have never changed, being influenced only in form by culture. The qualitative and quantitative evaluation of ancient texts is a strong methodology for understanding the invariant nature of human behavior.

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