Chapter 5: Critical Thinking Which Words or Phrases Are Ambiguous? Course Objectives:The course will enable students to: Analyze the structure of an argument.Understand the way language is used to inf

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Chapter 5: Critical Thinking

Which Words or Phrases Are Ambiguous?

  1. Course Objectives:

The course will enable students to:

  1. Analyze the structure of an argument.
  2. Understand the way language is used to influence thinking, feelings and behavior.
  3. Identify ambiguities, assumptions, values, and fallacies in reasoning.

Ambiguities

When something is ambiguous, it means that there could be more than one meaning. Ambiguous means that something could be uncertain or indefinite.

At this point, you should be able to identify the issue, the conclusion, and the reasons, which are the structural elements of an argument. Once you have determined that an argument is structurally complete, you can begin to evaluate the quality of its content. In order to begin to evaluate the quality of an argument you must make certain that you do understand the content. You must be sure that you understand the meaning of the elements of the reasoning structure.

Content, context, or meaning of the key terms and phrases associated with the issue, conclusion, and reasons of an argument is crucial in understanding the argument itself. The acceptability or value of the communicator’s reasoning is completely dependant upon the interpretation of key words and phrases.

Did you ever miss the point that someone was communicating to you? Did you ever have to ask for clarification? If this has happened to you, and you know it has, the problem was probably because of ambiguity.

Read the following passage once, without stopping, and let us see what happens.

The boy’s arrows were nearly gone so they sat down on the grass and stopped hunting. Over at the edge of the woods they saw Henry making a small bow to a girl who was coming down the road. She had tears in her dress and tears in her eyes. She gave Henry a note, which he brought over to the group of young hunters. Read to the boys, it caused great excitement. After a minute, but rapid examination of their weapons, they ran down to the valley. Does were standing at the edge of the lake, making an excellent target. (Source unknown.)

Confusing Flexibility of Words

No pun intended but the above passage should give you pause to think and that is the point. We have a tendency to both speed-read and to assume that the meanings of the words that we encounter are obvious.

In some instances, words are spelled the same way but have different pronunciations and different meanings. (Tears in eyes, tears in dress). In some instances, words are spelled the same, pronounced the same but have a different meaning dependant upon context. (Jam the door, jam on bread).

Abstractness can also lead to ambiguity. Consider the word obscenity. American society spent a good portion of the second half of the twentieth century attempting to define this word. With the changing of societal values came a challenge to what was deemed to be obscene. United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall noted that one man’s art is another man’s pornography. When asked if he could define obscene material Justice Marshall was alleged to reply, “I know it when I see it.”

Loaded language, and its intentional use, is another contributing factor, which leads to ambiguity. Loaded language is a favorite tool of politicians and advertisers. No politician will tell you that they are going to raise your taxes, but if they want to increase “revenue enhancements” then that is what their going to do. A car dealer will tell you that there is no money down and sixty “easy” monthly payments of $350.00. When was the last time you “easily” spent $350.00 on a regular basis?

You should now be aware that not all words have a single meaning. If that were the case, communication would be highly effective and there would be no misunderstandings. Take your time when you listen or when you read and make sure that you do understand the content and context.

TIPS FOR FINDING AMBIGUITIES

*Check the Issue for Key Terms

Once you have identified the issue you should check it for key terms or phrases. Ask yourself if you truly understand the meaning. Could another meaning be substituted which would change the nature of the argument?

*Check the Reasons and the Conclusion for Key Terms

Do you understand the meanings of the key terms and phrases in the reasoning structure? Could another meaning be substituted?

*Check for Abstract Words and Phrases

The more abstract a word, the more meanings you can discover. Be wary of encompassing words, words that can have multiple meanings.

*Use Reverse Role Play

Play devil’s advocate. If you were opposed to the author, how might you define key terms and phrases?

Ambiguity and the Sources of Meaning

Meanings of words usually come in one of three forms: synonyms, examples, and definition by specific criteria. Searching for these sources of meaning while looking for ambiguities can make the process easier. You want to find the most likely meaning of a word when you identify a key term or phrase and knowing the sources of meaning will benefit you.

This is the question

What words or phrases are ambiguous in the death penalty article?

Can you refute them with quality evidence?

can be 200 words or so

Chapter 5: Critical Thinking Which Words or Phrases Are Ambiguous? Course Objectives:The course will enable students to: Analyze the structure of an argument.Understand the way language is used to inf
Eight Week Session Module 2 Critical Thinking Which Words or Phrases Are Ambiguous? Huff: Sample with built in Bias II. Course Objectives: The course will enable students to: Analyze the structure of an argument. Understand the way language is used to influence thinking, feelings and behavior. Identify ambiguities, assumptions, values, and fallacies in reasoning. Ambiguities When something is ambiguous, it means that there could be more than one meaning. Ambiguous means that something could be uncertain or indefinite. At this point, you should be able to identify the issue, the conclusion, and the reasons, which are the structural elements of an argument. Once you have determined that an argument is structurally complete, you can begin to evaluate the quality of its content. In order to begin to evaluate the quality of an argument you must make certain that you do understand the content. You must be sure that you understand the meaning of the elements of the reasoning structure. Content, context, or meaning of the key terms and phrases associated with the issue, conclusion, and reasons of an argument is crucial in understanding the argument itself. The acceptability or value of the communicator’s reasoning is completely dependant upon the interpretation of key words and phrases. Did you ever miss the point that someone was communicating to you? Did you ever have to ask for clarification? If this has happened to you, and you know it has, the problem was probably because of ambiguity. Read the following passage once, without stopping, and let us see what happens. The boy’s arrows were nearly gone so they sat down on the grass and stopped hunting. Over at the edge of the woods they saw Henry making a small bow to a girl who was coming down the road. She had tears in her dress and tears in her eyes. She gave Henry a note, which he brought over to the group of young hunters. Read to the boys, it caused great excitement. After a minute, but rapid examination of their weapons, they ran down to the valley. Does were standing at the edge of the lake, making an excellent target. (Source unknown.) Confusing Flexibility of Words No pun intended but the above passage should give you pause to think and that is the point. We have a tendency to both speed-read and to assume that the meanings of the words that we encounter are obvious. In some instances, words are spelled the same way but have different pronunciations and different meanings. (Tears in eyes, tears in dress). In some instances, words are spelled the same, pronounced the same but have a different meaning dependant upon context. (Jam the door, jam on bread). Abstractness can also lead to ambiguity. Consider the word obscenity. American society spent a good portion of the second half of the twentieth century attempting to define this word. With the changing of societal values came a challenge to what was deemed to be obscene. United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall noted that one man’s art is another man’s pornography. When asked if he could define obscene material Justice Marshall was alleged to reply, “I know it when I see it.” Loaded language, and its intentional use, is another contributing factor, which leads to ambiguity. Loaded language is a favorite tool of politicians and advertisers. No politician will tell you that they are going to raise your taxes, but if they want to increase “revenue enhancements” then that is what their going to do. A car dealer will tell you that there is no money down and sixty “easy” monthly payments of $350.00. When was the last time you “easily” spent $350.00 on a regular basis? You should now be aware that not all words have a single meaning. If that were the case, communication would be highly effective and there would be no misunderstandings. Take your time when you listen or when you read and make sure that you do understand the content and context. TIPS FOR FINDING AMBIGUITIES *Check the Issue for Key Terms Once you have identified the issue you should check it for key terms or phrases. Ask yourself if you truly understand the meaning. Could another meaning be substituted which would change the nature of the argument? *Check the Reasons and the Conclusion for Key Terms Do you understand the meanings of the key terms and phrases in the reasoning structure? Could another meaning be substituted? *Check for Abstract Words and Phrases The more abstract a word, the more meanings you can discover. Be wary of encompassing words, words that can have multiple meanings. *Use Reverse Role Play Play devil’s advocate. If you were opposed to the author, how might you define key terms and phrases? Ambiguity and the Sources of Meaning Meanings of words usually come in one of three forms: synonyms, examples, and definition by specific criteria. Searching for these sources of meaning while looking for ambiguities can make the process easier. You want to find the most likely meaning of a word when you identify a key term or phrase and knowing the sources of meaning will benefit you. Statistics (Huff) Introduction Watch television, listen to the radio or read a newspaper and you are very likely to encounter a statistic. Most statistics seem very impressive, such as the average American household is comprised of 4.6 people or that the use of seat-belts have reduced the number of motor vehicle accident fatalities by 32%. While statistics appear to seem incredibly precise they are based on information that usually proves too inadequate for precision. Professor Hans L. Trefousse, Professor of American History at the City University of New York, always used an interesting metaphor whenever someone presented him with statistical information. He likened statistics to a skimpy bathing suit, because they can show something that is quite revealing, yet hide the essentials. His metaphor is amusing and true. Whenever we encounter numbers, or see a percentage sign, we have a tendency to immediately accept these statistics as fact. When we do this we make the giant assumption that the person who created the statistics, or the person using them, is not mistaken or misleading. Biased Methodology Let us pretend that St. Joseph’s College wants to come up with a new advertising campaign to increase the enrollment of the School of Adult and Professional Education. The college contracts an independent research firm to poll recent St. Joseph’s graduates and recent graduates from the other private colleges in Brooklyn. The result of the poll becomes the new advertising campaign. The major discovery of the poll was that graduates of the School of Adult and Professional Education at St. Joseph’s College tended to earn more money than the graduates from other colleges. The average household income for a St. Joseph’s graduate was $72,000 a year as opposed to only $31,000 for graduates from the other private colleges. Using this data the School of Adult and Professional Education created a new recruitment campaign whose slogan was “If you want to succeed come to SJC.” The statistics seem to be impressive. It would appear that if you enroll at St. Joseph’s College you are destined to increase your salary. However, there are quite a number questions that need to be asked before you can accept the validity of the statistics. These questions focus on the methodology of the statistics. How was the survey done? How many people were surveyed? How many people responded? How certain can you be that the respondents were truthful or accurate? The answers to these questions are required in order for you to judge the value of the statistics. Assume that 180 St. Joseph’s graduates were surveyed and 18 responded. That is only a 10% response rate. That low of a response rate can have a significant impact on the value of the statistics. Out of the 10% that responded there is no way to independently verify their responses. Now you can begin to appreciate the importance of understanding the methodology of a statistic. If you do not know the source of a statistic, nor how was it gathered, it should be rejected. II. Course Objectives: The course will enable students to: Recognize statistical generalizations, manipulations, and methods in a variety of contexts. Assess the accuracy and value/worth of claims and arguments. Draw and defend reasonable conclusions from presented evidence. Learning Objectives: After reading this chapter and your class notes, you should be able to: Explain the purpose of sampling. Explain what makes a sample representative of the population. Explain the sampling process by which a representative sample is obtained. Differentiate between a simple random sample; stratified random sample; and systematic random sample. Explain sampling error. Identify sources of error in polls and surveys and how they affect the probability of error or margin of error. Perform a simple random sample. Review exercises: Take a simple random sample of the Category 3-5 Hurricane Data. Using a list of random numbers or the random integer generator @ http://www.random.org/integers/ Source: National Hurricane Center 2004 Match the corresponding random selection, to the respective number in the list of Cat. 3-5 hurricanes. In the first selection, we randomly selected the numbers: 7; 13; 4; 9; and 8 which represents the specific decade that we sampled. For ease of application let’s arrange these randomly selected numbers in ascending order as follows: 4; 7; 8; 9; 13. So we now have decade 4 (1881-1890) in our sample. How many Cat 3-5 Hurricanes occurred in decade 4? Answer: 5. Repeating this for the remaining 4 selections, our corresponding randomly selected Cat 3-5 hurricanes for our sample should be: 5; 7; 5; 8; 4. Next week we will calculate the Measures of Central Tendency as outlined in Chapter 2: How to Lie with Statistics.
Chapter 5: Critical Thinking Which Words or Phrases Are Ambiguous? Course Objectives:The course will enable students to: Analyze the structure of an argument.Understand the way language is used to inf
A Case for the Death Penalty (1) Troy Davis, 42, died at 11:08 p.m. according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. (2) His death by lethal injection came 19 years after he was convicted by a jury of his peers for the brutal murder of off duty police officer Mark MacPhail. (3) Moments before his execution, Davis reportedly told the family of Mr. MacPail, “I’m not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent.” (4) Mr. Davis’ newfound reverence for life, stems in no small part, from the fact that he was about to lose his own. (5) Life is precious and the death penalty just reaffirms that fact. (6) I support the death penalty for cop killers and heinous crimes of murder. (7) The death penalty is a deterrent. (8) Without a doubt, Mr. Davis will never kill again. (9) We don’t have to like the death penalty in order to support it. (10) We must fight fire with fire. (11) If someone comes down with cancer, it may be necessary to take radical steps to cure the cancer: radical surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. (12) The disease in this case is injustice. (13) Should this cop killer be given clemency? (14) We may not like the death penalty, but it must be available for such heinous crimes; otherwise, we are giving criminals, like Mr. Davis, a license to kill. (15) The evidence is clear. (16) When executions went down, the number of murders went up. (17) Looking at the data from 1950-2002, the murder rate went from 4.6 per 100,000 population in 1951 to 10.2 per 100,000 population in 1980, as executions went to zero during the period the Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional. (18) Execution resumed in 1977. (19) As you can see, the murder rate once again declined (see chart below). (20) Opponents of the death penalty often make the argument that we might kill an innocent person. (21) Mark MacPail was an innocent person who was executed by Mr. Davis. (22) He received no appeals to the Supreme Court; no appeals for clemency. (23) Mr. Davis killed in cold blood. (24) It is fallacy to argue that the death penalty should be abolished because an innocent person might die. (25) Innocent persons are dying all the time; however, only the murderers have the chance to appeal their sentence. (26) In 2010, fifty-six police officers were killed in the line of duty in the US. (27) No doubt by someone who had murdered before. (28) Even life in prison does not guarantee that they will not kill again. (29) All too often, these individuals kill again in prison. (30) Life without parole does not always mean life without parole. (31) California is about to release teen murderers, including cop killers, who were sentenced to life without parole for their crimes. (32) When we lower the penalty for murder, it diminishes regard for the value of the victim’s life. (33) Support for the death penalty comes from a surprising group of people—Kant, Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Mill agreed that natural law properly authorizes the State to take life in order to administer justice. (34) Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin endorsed it. Abraham Lincoln authorized executions for deserters in wartime. (35) Alexis de Tocqueville, the author of Democracy in America, believed that the death penalty was essential to the support of social order. (36) The United States Constitution condemns cruel and inhuman punishment, but does not condemn capital punishment. (37) Rick Perry stated that,” Texas has a very thoughtful, lengthy, and clear process, which ensures everyone a fair hearing, so there is no need to lose sleep over the possibility of executing an innocent person”. (38) The appeals process is indeed lengthy. (39) Mr. Davis had 19 years of appeals and the Supreme Court reaffirmed his guilt. (40) Finally justice has been served.

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