Don’t Judge Too Quickly

Class Activity for Introducing a First Round of “Socrates” Questions

(this is what I send out to students who missed the particular session that featured this activity…)


1. Watch each video indicated below. Ideally, watch them with a friend or family member so you can discuss your observations and conclusions with someone else.

2. Come up with an answer to each question listed in the “Questions” section below. Don’t worry too much about what I mean by each question– consider different interpretations of each question, consider different answers, etc. I will say more about these questions as we proceed through the term.

3. Over the next week, ask the following question at least three different times, to three different people; journal the experience, the response, your insights, etc., in your class notes.

“Can you help me understand what led you to that conclusion?”

Be very polite and sincere when you ask this. Do not use this question as a weapon. Use it to uncover and understand their reasoning. No follow up questions are necessary; be sure to thank them for engaging with you and answering your question; feel free to explain that this is required for your critical thinking class.

4. Share your answers to the questions, and your experiences with asking the question, the next time you see me in class.


Watch the first, third, and fourth video.

Of course you can watch ALL of them– but those are the ones we watched in class.


  1. What is being assumed? By whom?
  2. What led them to their conclusion?
  3. Was there any other explanation? I.e., Was any other conclusion possible?
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Women’s March discussion resources

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The definition of “broad”

Useful for discussions about developing, analyzing, and evaluating definitions…

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Conceptual clarification

Here’s a good article for a discussion about the role of conceptual analysis / clarification in discussions about high stakes policy decisions.

“Trump Vows To End ‘Sanctuary Cities,’ But No One Can Agree What That Label Means”

  • What definition / conception of “sanctuary city” is being asserted, in each case?
  • What traits (if any) are asserted in each case? Put another way, what are the necessary or sufficient conditions asserted in each case?
  • Are any of those traits logically defensible?
  • Do any of those traits correspond with reality? If yes, what exactly?
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Trust in the Media — focus group

What led each individual to their conclusion?

What definition or standard of measure is each individual operating on?

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“I AM citing the facts”

Are facts enough?

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Critical Thinking @ The Motley Fool

The Motley Fool’s Gaby Lapera and John Maxfield dig into how investors, and people more generally, can improve their critical-thinking skills and thereby boost the performance of their portfolios.

A podcast of the episode is here:

…The first, most important, most basic step is: Ask a question. It can’t be any old question, and you can’t just ask it any old way..

…Precision is really important. Precision of language, precision of thought, is really important when you’re formulating your question, when you’re doing your research.

…[Y]ou don’t just want sources that confirm what you already believe. What’s the point in doing a whole bunch of research if you’re just adding more substance to what you already think or know?

…You have to be open to information that contradicts your feelings, your expectations, and your worldview. In order to do this at all, you need to be able to acknowledge any bias you might hold.

…[A]nytime you’re going to make a decision, there’s always the possibility that you’re going to be wrong. You have to factor that into the decision-making process.

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Fallacy alert

Need to practice your fallacy detection skills?

Check out the comments section for this article:

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Philosophy Humor

My significant other came across these two satirical takes on Philosophy today– if you don’t like curse words, don’t read these:

@ The Onion: here

@ UNC’s The Minor: here

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Driverless Cars

Here are a couple resources sent my way from a current student (thanks Kolby!) who came across them while further researching a thought experiment we covered one day in class…


Driverless cars pose a quandary when it comes to safety. These autonomous vehicles are programmed with a set of safety rules, and it is not hard to construct a scenario in which those rules come into conflict with each other. Suppose a driverless car must either hit a pedestrian or swerve in such a way that it crashes and harms its passengers. What should it be instructed to do?


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