读书笔记 - Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking

开始po读书笔记了,给这个荒芜的小博客一点生机 :D


陆陆续续看了两个月,终于看完了.. 最开始看这篇是想了解一下怎么问问题,因为课上时常有美国同学问的问题让我为之一震,「卧槽我咋没想到这一点!!」但是看完以后发现书和我预期的略微有些不一样….

书中很多东西其实或多或少都是见过的。一开始我是抱着促进学术的目的去看这本书的,最后觉得它对于社科类的学术、或者对于网上流传的谣言有更直接的效果。毕竟现在我涉及到的东西,由于Coq及其它theorem prover的存在,只要Coq验证过了,就足以相信它一定是对的。关键变成了确定定义的theorem是否切题是否合适。呃.. 跑题了..

以下是部分摘录和笔记,删减版,我知道无删减版的笔记是不会有人看的.. ~_~ (删减版就会有么..)

Structure

书上是有critical thinking的定义的:

Consequently, critical thinking, as we will use the term, refers to the following:

  1. awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions;
  2. ability to ask and answer critical questions at appropriate times
  3. desire to actively use the critical questions.

不过我觉得其实这个定义蛮虚的.. 里头的”critical questions”似乎就依赖于每一章的标题那11条..

整本书结构很清晰,每章的标题合起来就是一个checklist, 照着这些一个个去想就大约做到critical thinking了(吧)

  1. What are the issues and the conclusions?
  2. What are the reasons?
  3. Which words or phrases are ambiguous?
  4. What are the value conflicts and assumptions?
  5. What are the descriptive assumptions?
  6. Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?
  7. How good is the evidence? (这里分了两章)
  8. Are there rival causes?
  9. Are the statistics deceptive?
  10. What significant information is omitted?
  11. What reasonable conclusions are possible?

整本书14章,第一章introduction, 最后一章整合全部放了个大习题,另外第7点分了两章

Introduction

书本首先描述了两种读书的方法,一种主动、一种被动。

被动的方法被描述为sponge approach, 像海绵一样都吸收进来

A second advantage of the sponge approach is that it is relatively passive. Rather than requiring strenuous mental effort, it tends to be rather quick and easy, especially when the material is presented in a clear and interesting fashion. The primary mental effort involves concentration and memory.

主动,似乎被称作panning-for-gold approach. 按照以前老师的说法,是带着问题去读,是一个和作者主动交流的过程,刚想到一个问题,作者在下一页就解答出来了,这种琴瑟相鸣(shen me gui)感觉很棒的!

The most important characteristic of the panning-for-gold approach is interactive involvement-a dialogue between the writer and the reader, or the speaker and the listener.

被动的方式比较省力,所以一不小心就会..

不过,当我只是刚刚开始了解某个领域的时候,很多东西我不了解,也只能够被动的去接受的吧(想起刚来时候看的那些paper, 完全看不懂..=.=)书里也说到了这一点:

To pan for intellectual gold, there must be something in your pan to evaluate. In addition, to evaluate arguments, we must possess knowledge, dependable opinions.

另外,很多时候,我其实都没有那么多时间/精力去深究某个东西到底对不对啊,那就只能把决定权托付给某个你相信的人了 ╮(╯_╰)╭

1. What are the issues and the conclusions?
2. What are the reasons?

找出描述的问题&结论,这个应该不难的吧.. 我记得小学就有归纳「主要内容」和「中心思想」的练习了,现在这么一对比,这俩和「issues」&「conclusions」还真蛮像的诶!!

书中定义了两种issues, descriptive & prescriptive. 即「是什么」&「怎么做」。这俩术语我还是第一次见到

「是什么」:

Descriptive issues are those that raise questions about the accuracy of descriptions of the past, present, or future.

… Such issues are descriptive issues. They are commonly found in textbooks, magazines, the Internet, and television. Such issues reflect our curiosity about patterns or order in the world.

「怎么做」:

Prescriptive issues are those that raise questions about what we should do or what is right or wrong, good or bad.


至于一些重点的连词,像”consequently”, “indicates that”这样的我就不列举了

找论据,这个也没什么好说的啊,除了下边这个单词用法:

Reasons + Conclusion = Argument

3. Which words or phrases are ambiguous?

这一章的重点在于找出那些含糊其词的地方,不然只是鸡同鸭讲。

举个栗子,比如”exercise very often”这样一个描述,对方或许想说的是「每天都有锻炼」,而我可能理解为「每周锻炼2-3次」就符合了。名不正则言不顺,言不顺则事不成(是这么用的么..)

怎么做呢:

we do this exercise, keep asking, ‘What does the author mean by that?” and pay particular attention to abstract terms.

不过我觉得这一点用不好的话,很容易变成钻牛角尖,所以只有当含糊定义影响推理的时候才一定需要正名!文中也是这么说的!

Resist the temptation to make note of the unclear meaning of any and all words. Only the ambiguity in the reasoning is crucial to critical thinkers.


在说到「定义」的时候,有提到

Meanings usually come in one of three forms: synonyms, examples, and what we will call “definition by specific criteria.”

For critical evaluation of most controversial issues, synonyms and examples are inadequate. They fail to tell you the specific properties that are crucial for an unambiguous understanding of the term.

这个应该早就是常识了的对吧


此外,文中在讲到”ambiguous”的时候,还披露了一个单词的用法,涨姿势!

Political language is often loaded and ambiguous. For example, welfare is often how we refer to governmental help to those we don’t like; when help from the government goes to groups we like, we call it a subsidy or an incentive.

4. What are the value conflicts and assumptions?

这一章的大意是说,对方可能有一些预设的价值观倾向,就好比Liberal vs. Conservative. 说有时候不了解这些就没法充分理解对方为什么要说这些、这样说。

In all arguments, there will be certain ideas taken for granted by the writer. Typically, these ideas will not be stated. You will have to find them by reading between the lines. These ideas are important invisible links in the reasoning structure, the glue that holds the entire argument together. Until you supply these links, you cannot truly understand the argument.

怎么做呢?

One important means of determining value assumptions, then, is to ask the question, do the particular consequences or outcomes presented as reasons seem so desirable to the writer or speaker?”

但是我觉得光在文中看可能看不出来吧,也许需要去额外了解一番对方的背景?


什么是价值观?我也没深究过具体定义,书上是这么说的

Values, as we will use the term, are ideas that someone thinks are worthwhile.

Values are standards of conduct that we endorse and expect people to meet.

5. What are the descriptive assumptions?
6. Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?
7. How good is the evidence?

之后的5-7, 我都没咋记笔记了,因为觉得都是已经比较了解的内容了(是不是这个才是有意思的地方..)

传说中的Slippery Slope, Find Perfect Solution等其它著名错误在这里都有介绍

8. Are there rival causes?

这一章针对的是这么一种情况:已经假定了一个逻辑链:A -> B. 然后在此基础之上做出了各种论断。但是其实可能有其它导致B的情况,于是专门针对A的措施就没有说服力了

一个事件可能有多个原因共同造成,所以:

So, the best answer experts can give to the talk show hosts’ question is “We don’t know the cause for such events, but we can speculate about possible causes that might have contributed to the event.”

这样其它的可能的成因就是”rival causes”. 下边是一个这样的”rival causes”的例子:

… Before they do, they should contemplate each of four potential explanations for the research findings.

  1. Explanation 1: X is a cause of Y. (Smoking does indeed kill the flu virus.)
  1. Explanation 2: Y is a cause of X. (Feeling healthy, or feeling the beginning of what might be the flu, causes people to smoke.)
  1. Explanation 3: X and Y are associated because of some third Z. (Smoking and being without the flu are both caused by related factors, such as frequent washing of the hands after smoking prevents the spread of the flu virus.)
  1. Explanation 4: X and Y each other … (People who do not usually catch the flu have a tendency to smoke, and the smoke may affect some potential illnesses.)


很多人容易犯的一个错误就是

Confusing “After this” with “Because of this”

As you might guess, political and business leaders are fond of using the Post argument, especially when it works in their favor.

For example, they tend to take credit for anything good that takes place after they assumed their leadership role and to place blame elsewhere for anything bad that happens.

另一个很多人容易犯的错误:

We tend to see the cause of other’s behavior as coming from within (their personal characteristics) rather than from without (situational forces.)

So, for example, when someone steals something from someone else, we are likely to view the stealing initially as a result of a tendency of the person to be immoral or to be inconsiderate.

9. Are the statistics deceptive?

这个就毋庸多言了吧,关于数据如何骗人,比如证明了另外一个其实无关的结论:

Communicators often deceive us when they use statistics that prove one thing but then claim to have proved something quite different. The statistics don’t prove what they seem to!

比如(故意)省略掉了一些东西,这个看下一章

Statistics often deceive us because they are incomplete.

此外,

When you see “average” values, always ask: “Does it matter whether it is the mean, the median, or the mode?”

我倒是第一次看到这几个都可以用average来表示呃.. 以前一直觉得average == mean

10. What significant information is omitted?

While critical thinkers are seeking the strength of autonomy, they cannot do so if they are making decisions on the basis of highly limited information.

我觉得所谓的”omitted information”就是那种补上之后会让说服力变弱的信息,对方有意/无意的没有说这些

其实我觉得这一章和之前说过的很多东西是类似的,比如rival causes那里,对方声称 A -> B, 但其实也有可能是 C -> B. 那么对方就有意/无意遗漏了对是否 C->B 的论证。而这一章的着重点在于,在这些信息缺失的时候做出判断,其实就是使用”xxx is true, if blabla”的套路,自己把遗漏的信息补上..

书中说这样的incomplete reasoning是不可避免的:

Incomplete reasoning is inevitable for several reasons.

  1. First, there is the limitation imposed by time and space. Arguments are incomplete because communicators do not have forever to organize them, nor do they have unlimited space or time in which to present their reasons.
  1. …… 好像一共列了4个

所以要适时止损:

It’s wise to seek additional information that would improve the support for your opinions, but at some point you must stop searching and make a decision, even when the most forceful answer you are willing to defend is a “yes, but. .

11. What reasonable conclusions are possible?

Very rarely will you have a situation in which only one conclusion can be reasonably inferred.

In an earlier chapter, we discussed the importance of rival causes. The point there was that there are different possible causal bases for a particular conclusion.

This chapter, however, focuses on the alternative conclusions that are all possible outcomes from a single set of reasons.

又举个栗子,这里所谓的possible different conclusion, 好比是和对方提出的conclusion在程度上有些许区别的东西,e.g. 对方说因为xxx, 我们要禁止xxx. 另一种可能的conclusion是,我们加强监管xxx (而非全面禁止)

我来试着类比阐述一下,通过前边讲的很多东西,我们能够证明 A -> B, 但是我们没法证明 B is best goal, 也许∃ C, A -> C /\ C is the best goal. 这一章的中心思想大约就是这个

文章里说:

While we have tremendous respect for logic and facts, we cannot exaggerate their worth as guides for conclusion formation. They take us only so far; then we have to go the rest of the way toward belief, the help that facts and logic have provided.


对付这种东西,书里给了一个思路,就是把问题转换成 “what should we do about xxx” 的形式,然后就可以很清楚的看出并非一定要执行对方提出的conclusion:

Reword the issue to “What should we do about Y?”

例子如下:

Should we close the bars downtown? The answer is a resounding yes! Since the bars opened, a dozen young college students have suffered from alcohol poisoning.

Once we change this question to, “What should we do about the number of college students suffering from alcohol poisoning?” a number of possible solutions come to mind, which help us formulate our conclusion to the issue.