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PHIL 102 Week 4 Notes

by: Margaret Pressman

PHIL 102 Week 4 Notes PHIL 102

Margaret Pressman
CSU Chico
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About this Document

These notes include what to read, the exercises and answers, plus the powerpoint presentation converted to a PDF.
Critical Thinking
Wai-Hung Wong
Class Notes
philosophy, PHIL 102, CSU Chico




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This 51 page Class Notes was uploaded by Margaret Pressman on Monday February 15, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PHIL 102 at California State University Chico taught by Wai-Hung Wong in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 42 views. For similar materials see Critical Thinking in PHIL-Philosophy at California State University Chico.

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Date Created: 02/15/16
Chapter 4 Credibility In this chapter, you will learn how to assess the credibility of a claim. Read the whole chapter and pay attention particularly to the following sections: Assessing the Content of the Claim (pp.99-103) The Credibility of Sources (pp.105-111) What You Are Supposed to Have Learned After reading this chapter, you should know: 1. It is important to know the source of a claim because not all sources are credible. 2. Why our background knowledge is relevant to our evaluation of a claim. Self-Testing Questions In order to test your understanding of the concepts you are supposed to have learned, ask yourself the following questions and answer them (either in writing or just in your mind) without looking at the book: 1. Why is the source of a claim relevant to the assessment of the content of the claim? 2. What is the difference between an interested party and a disinterested party? 3. Should we always trust our personal observations? Why? 4. Should we always trust our background knowledge? Why? If you don't know how to answer any of the above questions, you should reread the relevant section(s). Exercises Do the following exercises: Exercise 4-1 Exercise 4-7 Exercise 4-9 Exercise 4-11 Exercise 4-12 Exercise 4-15 Exercise 4-1 1. Bad lighting, noise, the speed at which events take place, bad weather 2. Being tired, distracted, emotionally upset 3. Credibility of the claim's content and of its source 4. Our own observations or our background knowledge 5. Our own firsthand observations 6. Our memory 7. False Exercise 4-7 Of the first five, we'd say 1, 3, and 4 are probably interested parties. Of the last three, you must presume #8 is an interested party unless you can be assured he or she will not benefit more from the sale of one brand or the other. Numbers 6 and 7 depend entirely on the level of knowledge of the individuals and their lack of brand loyalty. Exercise 4-9 Consolidation of ownership of news media, influence of advertisers, bias on the part of ownership or management, etc. Exercise 4-11 ▲1. In terms of expertise, we’d list (d), (c), and (b) first. Given what we’ve got to go on, we wouldn’t assign expert status to either (a) or (e). We’d list all entries as likely to be fairly unbiased except for (a), which we would expect to be very biased. 2. If the friend’s interests and needs are similar to ours and we trust his or her judgment, then we like (b) best. Source (c) will certainly be biased, and (a) might be. Expertise among writers of newspaper columns varies a lot, as does level of bias; at best they’re writing for a mass audience. Source (e) brings up many of the same problems, plus the possibility of advertising pressure. Magazine reviews, however, usually go into more detail and are more sophisticated than those found in newspapers; they are therefore probably more valuable sources for people who are moderately knowledgeable. ▲3. Expertise: First (b), then (a), then (c) and (d) about equal, and (e) last. We’d figure that (b) is most likely to be unbiased, with (c), (d), and (e) close behind; Choker would be a distant last on this scale. Her bad showing on the bias scale more than makes up for her high showing on the expertise scale. 4. We’d expect the former owner’s mechanic to know the car best. We’d expect the salesperson to be the least reliable, mainly because of bias. The independent mechanic is probably unbiased and knowledgeable but isn’t likely to be able to learn as much about the car as the former mechanic in a short time. We would not trust ourselves to be unbiased, especially if the car is a sporty red convertible. 5. We’d depend first on the magician, who is trained in the methods of illusion, then we’d have to group all the rest, except the psychic, together. There is a reason each of these might be better than a person off the street at spotting deception, but it’s hard to compare their likely abilities. Obviously, as one who either already believes in the phenomenon or has an interest in others holding such beliefs, the psychic is an interested party and the least credible on the list. Exercise 4-12 ▲1.The most credible choices are either the FDA or Consumer Reports, both of which investigate health claims of the sort in question with reasonable objectivity. The company that makes the product is the least credible source because it is an interested party and the most likely to be biased. The owner of the health food store may be very knowledgeable regarding nutrition but is not a credible source regarding drugs. Your local pharmacist can reasonably be regarded as credible, but he or she may not have access to as much information as the FDA or CR. (We should add here that the FDA itself has come under considerable criticism in recent years, especially for making decisions on medical issues based on political considerations. The debate over approval of Plan B, the “morning after” pill, was a case in point. [See “Morning-After Pill,” The New York Times, August 28, 2005.]) ▲2. It would probably be a mistake to consider any of the individuals on this list more expert than the others, although different kinds and different levels of bias are fairly predictable on the parts of the victim’s father, the NRA representative, and possibly the police chief. The senator might be expected to have access to more data that are relevant to the issue, but that would not in itself make his or her credibility much greater than that of the others. The problem here is that we are dealing with a value judgment that depends very heavily upon an individual’s point of view rather than his or her expertise. What is important to this question is less the credibility of the person who gives us an answer than the strength of the supporting argument, if any, that he or she provides. ▲3. Although problem 2 hinges on a value judgment, this one calls for an interpretation of the original intent of a constitutional amendment. Here, our choices would be either the Supreme Court justice or the constitutional historian, with a slight preference for the latter because Supreme Court justices are concerned more with constitutional issues as they have been interpreted by other courts than with original intent. (And Supreme Court Justices are not the most reliable historians of the court.) The NRA representative is paid to speak for a certain point of view and would be the least credible, in our view. The senator and the U.S. president would fall somewhere in between: Both reasonably might be expected to be knowledgeable about constitutional issues but much less so than our first two choices. 4. We’d put the NIH and the New England Journal of Medicine at the top of our list. Time magazine, if it is reporting on a scientific study, is likely to be next most reliable. We’d expect Runner’s World to be less able to do fact-checking than Time, but we’d pay them some mind. Your physician could fit anywhere after the first two on the list depending on how much evidence we had that he or she kept up on the science on this subject. 5. Notice that this is not a biological question. If it were, a physician would be best at answering it. Similarly, if it were a legal question, we’d trust the lawyer. But this is a philosophical question, and we’d put the philosopher at the top of the list. The minister is very likely to have theological prejudice on the issue, so we’d count him as probably biased. You’ll have to decide where you fall on the list. (If you thought that you are the most credible source, then you probably assume that the question is purely subjective. This assumption is not warranted; it is one that bears some examination, and for guidance in that examination we’d find it reasonable to turn to a philosopher.) Exercise 4-15 ▲1. We’d accept this as probably true—but probably only approximately true. It’s difficult to be precise about such matters; Campbell will most likely lay off about 650 workers, including about 175 at its headquarters. 2. We’re pretty sure Ms. Haskew didn’t teach paganism and devil worship in her fourth-grade classroom. Whether she even mentioned it is probably arguable, at least from what little is provided here. Given the quotation from one of the parents who opposed Haskew, we expect the problem was that she tried to teach her students anything at all. 3. Almost certainly true. We’d expect Mr. May to have done his homework. 4. Further information is necessary for this one (and it is probably not forthcoming). We hope reasonable people can take different positions on this issue, because the authors of this book do. One thinks the claim is much more likely to be true than not; the other thinks there’s no more evidence to believe it true than to believe it false. 5. We think this is probably true. Notice the difference between the issue here—which has to do with the purpose of the commission—and the one in the previous item. 6. Probably false, at least as it’s written here. 7. Probably false ▲8. Probably true 9. Probably true 10. Probably true, as peculiar as the story is 11. That the British manufacturer of Monopoly made the claim about the items being smuggled in Monopoly sets is very likely true. There is also a good chance that the items were actually smuggled, although we’re much less willing to bet on that. ▲12. No doubt cats that live indoors do tend to live longer than cats that are subject to the perils of outdoor life. If statistics on how much longer indoor cats live on the average were available, we’d expect the manufacturer to know them. But we suspect that such statistics would be difficult to establish (and probably not worth the effort), and we therefore have little confidence in the statistic cited here. The litter manufacturer is an interested party, of course. 13. Balderdash. To the extent that we understand what the author is saying, we don’t believe it. These observations conflict with the background knowledge of most sane people. 14. Since these claims are made by staff writer for a reputable nontechnical science magazine (you can look him up), he is probably well informed; and since they are printed in Esquire, a magazine that is not in general a suspicious source of information; and also since they coincide with our own observations that a person’s features seem to become more pronounced with age, we are inclined to accept them. The claims are not particularly precise, and they are clearly general statements not intended to apply to every individual to the same degree. All this said, we would be very pleased to see a more authoritative source—for example a professor of physiology writing in a science journal—pronounce them one and all false. 15. Probably true 16. This comes from a knowledgeable source, but also an interested party. (We’d like to know the extent to which the advertiser benefits from sales.) Without hearing conflicting claims from other equally credible sources, we’d accept it as a reliable report of the prices in effect as of that date. 17. Probably true; this source is known for exaggeration and sensationalism, but this story received much public confirmation from other sources. 18. There is probably some truth to the story, but we would not trust the details not to be exaggerated and inflammatory. 19. We’d give this one credit. The AP is probably trustworthy here, and we’ve heard of other similar conflicts between parents and schools in southern California. ▲20. Oh, come on. We don’t know whether whom to blame more for spreading this nonsense, the New York Post or The People’s Daily. Chapter 4 Credibility © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All rights reserved. n How believable is a claim? n How credible is a source? © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All rights r2served. n Not an all-or-nothing thing! Statements/sources vary in credibility. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All right3 reserved. For example: n“Teach owns a duck.” n“Teach owns a dump truck.” n“Teach owns a hippopotamus.” © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All4rights reserved. Why is it harder to believe the teacher owns a hippopotamus? nIt raises more questions. nHow’d she get one? nWhere does she keep the sucker? nSay—isn’t it illegal to keep a hippo? nEtc. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Al5 rights reserved. In short: nThe idea of the teacher owning a hippo conflicts with your “background knowledge.” © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Al6 rights reserved. I B R / e r y a o R © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All rights reserved. 7 Which is most UNBELIEVABLE? nTeach is under 20 years old. nTeach is under 55 year old. nTeach is under 90 years old. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. 8ll rights reserved. Which is LEAST unbelievable? n They’ve taught crows how to play checkers. n Bush arranged 9/11 so he could invade Iraq and get its oil. n Teach is related to George Washington. n Bigfoot exists. n We have been visited by space aliens. Some of them are taking this class. Which is MOST unbelievable? © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All righ9s reserved. Obviously: nThe more unbelievable the claim, the stronger the argument you need to accept it. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Al10rights reserved. 11 For example: n “Dean Stooler can run ü More is required to a mile in less than establish the first four minutes.” statement. n “Dean Stooler can run a mile in less than seven minutes.” © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All rights reserved. Watch out for things you accept just because you’ve heard them so often: nA critical thinker will want EVIDENCE before accepting “what everyone knows.” © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Educatio12 All rights reserved. Once upon a time “everyone” believed these claims… n Daddy long legs are the world’s most poisonous spider. n Eating carrots makes you see better. n Aspirin with Coca-Cola will make you drunk. n Pop Rocks followed by Pepsi can make your stomach explode. n Going outside with wet hair will give you a cold. (more…) © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All righ13 reserved. n Reading in dim light will hurt your eyes. n Too much TV will hurt your eyes. n Chocolate causes pimples. n Coffee stunts your growth. n Crossing your eyes can make you cross-eyed. n Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All rights reserv14. Credibility of Sources © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All rights r15erved. Two kinds of doubt: 1. Doubts about a source’s knowledge 2. Doubts about a source’s truthfulness, objectivity, reliability © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All16ights reserved. “Ryder knows a lot, but you can’t trust a word he says.” “Ryder never lies, but he doesn’t know a thing.” Either way, Ryder isn’t the best source. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Educati17. All rights reserved. Q: Can you tell if a person (not someone you know) is lying to you? Are there any tell-tale clues? © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. A18 rights reserved. n Excessive sweating? n Shifty eye movement/avoiding eye contact? n Staring up to the left/other micro-expressions? n Wimpy handshake? n Changing the subject? n Appearing lacking in self-confidence? n Nervous laughter? © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All rights rese19ed. If any of these were at all reliable, we wouldn’t need courts, ID checks, lie detectors, blah blah blah… Why would teachers take precautions against cheating, if they could just look at a kid and tell? Need four volunteers! © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All rights21eserved. A more scientific experiment: Need just two volunteers… © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All 22ghts reserved. Here are your “voting” options. T/T : Both L/L: Both T/L: First L/T: First telling lying person person truth truthful; lying; second is second is lying truthful © 2009 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. 23l rights reserved. Even a truthful source can: nMake MISTAKES nBe BIASED nLACK EXPERTISE © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education.24ll rights reserved. n How to judge a person’s expertise? © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All rights reserv25. Self-confidence/nervousness? Clothes? Posture? Gender? Accent? Nationality ? © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Educat26n. All rights reserved. Those all seem pretty unreliable. Anyone can LOOK like an authority… © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Educa27on. All rights reserved. Height? 3200296.stm © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. A28 rights reserved. How would YOU make someone look like a scientist? Use a stereotype! nWhite lab coat or poor-fitting suit nPocket protector nGlasses; thick nGray hair nGerman/British accent, etc. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All r29hts reserved. Conclusion: It’s difficult to measure a person’s expertise by looking at him or her. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Educati30. All rights reserved. BEST indicators of a source’s knowledge are these: nEducation nExperience nReputation nPosition nAchievements © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. A31 rights reserved. Does being an expert in one field make you an expert in another field? nNot if the two fields aren’t related. nAn expert in economics doesn’t automatically qualify as expert in, say, political science. nAn expert in oceanography shouldn’t be assumed to be an expert in genetics. nYour business professor can’t be assumed to have expert knowledge of history. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All righ32 reserved. A common mistake: To attach EXTRA authority to what someone says JUST because he/she: n Is your parent n Is your friend n Is your teacher n (Being a TEACHER carries extra weight in the person’s field, but the fact he/she is YOUR teacher doesn’t add anything.) © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All right33reserved. Other sources: n Newspapers; other print media n Electronic media; TV, radio n The Internet is actually a source of sources, not a source in itself. n University publications n Government publications n Professional journals © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All rig34s reserved. An example of an unreliable news source…? nThe weekly rag available in the checkout line. REDNECK ALIENS TAKE OVER TRAILER PARK! © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Educa35on. All rights reserved. A much better source: nThe website of the Sacremento Bee © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Al36rights reserved. Even better (because more complete): nThe New York Times newspaper n © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. 37l rights reserved. One final idea… © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All righ38 reserved. Sometimes you get an unbelievable claim coming from a credible source. Like, say, from a friend or a relative. Like, imagine your aunt is convinced she saw a ghost. Good old Aunt Rose…she has no reason to lie, and she is as honest as the day is long. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. 40l rights reserved. This brings us to Hume’s principle. Hume? © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Educatio41 All rights reserved. David Hume nDavid Hume (1711-1776), a nice chap. Liked to play whist. Here’s what he said… Hume’s principle: nNo source can establish that a miracle happened, unless the possibility that the source is mistaken would be a bigger miracle than what he or she is claiming. © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education.43ll rights reserved. “When anyone tells me he saw a dead man restored to life, I consider whether it be more probable that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact he relates should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous than the event which he relates, then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.” © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. A44 rights reserved. One last point: nSearch engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) do not rank webpages by their authoritativeness! © 2015 McGraw-Hill Higher Education. All 45ghts reserved.


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