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?
Posted in Conceptual Analysis, Consistency, Critical thinking, Ethical issues, What should be done?, What should the policy be? | Leave a comment

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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Fallacy: Moving the goal post

A fallacy at stake

Special pleading / moving the goal post

Case study

See video above. Original video @ CNN.


Several issues are raised in this discussion. One by one:

  • What is the question at stake?
  • What position does each individual take in response to that question?
  • What standard or value does each position appeal to?
  • Is the standard being appealed to change?
  • If yes, when and how?


  • What words does Tapper put in Giuliani’s mouth?
  • Vice versa?
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Colin Powell’s Emails

This clip can be used to motivate a discussion about ethical decision making, and different standards at stake in a particular decision.

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Is Trump Being Asked the Right Questions?


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