Critical thinking entails purpose and the inclusion of reasoning to defend one’s ideas. An evaluation of comparative, ideological, and empirical reasoning will enable an individual to determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of each type of analysis. To identify these strengths and weaknesses, one must define the basis of each way of thinking.
In Facione’s THINK Critically, the basis of comparative reasoning is one’s familiarity on a specific topic and drawing explanations and conclusions from there. It arouses critical thinking because it persuades the listener to believe in the speaker as he speaks in a manner where he looks very knowledgeable about the matter. The more familiar the listener is with the position the speaker is defending, it is more likely that the listener will agree with the speaker. The smoother the speaker proceeds with his explanations with less complexity and more focus on the essential features of the topic, the listener may agree with the speaker.
The downside of this mode of reasoning is that it is biased and there is an absence of concrete proof because it is based on one’s own interpretation without prior verification. Comparison may be illogical but as long as what one believes in is defended by his familiarity on the topic, he pursues the argument. The way one sees things is different from others; some may agree with the speaker, some may not.
Facione states that one’s reasoning may be rooted on his beliefs and core values. He follows the ideals and principles of an ideology and creates logical arguments supported by his beliefs.
The strength of ideological reasoning is rooted on secondary data gained through publications and people with the same belief. The argument can continue as the speaker relies on the information that he gathered; but when all those details have been debunked, another set of ideologies should be consulted. Ideological reasoning may not be able to defend all the issues present in the world. A single ideology will not suffice. A possible weakness of this mode of reasoning is that one’s conviction may not be appropriate at all times because there are some discussions where specific ideologies are applicable. Defending one’s belief beyond logic may result to loss in the argument because most people go by the logic. Some carry on defending their beliefs to debunk the ideologies of others, as in ideology battles.
Empirical reasoning, according to Facione, is preceded by the observations and experiences gained by an individual to support his arguments, which are verifiable. Moreover, new knowledge may arise and be offered to the listeners. The argument does not only become a circulation of current knowledge but also an integration of current and new knowledge. The strength of this mode of reasoning lies in its openness to verification. It follows methodologies that keep the study objective and logical.
Though this may be the case, what we see is not always what it seems. The observation of some may be selective. Interpretation may not be in line with other relevant studies. Empirical reasoning requires more research and experiments to strengthen one’s reasoning. Manipulated and constant variables need to be identified to make a critical judgment of the results obtained.
A truth-seeker’s judgment
Among the three types of reasoning, I believe that empirical reasoning is the most valuable. An individual who defends his ideas through empirical reasoning has an edge over those who defend their ideas with comparative and ideological reasoning. I say this because empirical reasoning is supported by raw information gathered from observation and interpreted with supplementary readings or discussions on relevant studies or experiments. Comparative reasoning can easily be debunked because it is usually based on the point of view of the speaker. Moreover, the speaker may choose to compare his ideas with others which are irrelevant or incomparable. Ideological reasoning, on the other hand, tests the faith of an individual in a belief that may have been passed on to him or may have been acquired through time. A person who uses ideological reasoning may have gathered secondary data from books or other persons who share the same belief, thus, he may not have experienced or applied his belief first hand.
Take for example crime scene investigation. Investigators and forensic scientists integrate the information they have gathered and processed. Investigators conduct a crime scene check wherein they observe and gather evidence. These observations and evidence are shared with the forensic scientists who work in the lab to process these information and help investigators in coming up with a conclusion. With the availability of concrete proof, empirical reasoning can be applied in court hearings. Statements of investigators involved in the case are supported by information that can be verified. With empirical reasoning, knowledge that is formerly unknown is presented to the jury to enhance the chances of obtaining justice.
Facione, Peter. THINK Critically. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2010.