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THE CONCEPT OF CRITICAL THINKING

As humans we think all the time because we possess the ability and capacity to do so. However, it is not all types of thinking that is productive or relevant to our own very existence. Although we have the natural abilities to think as humans, this mental ability is an art and a craft. Consequently, the art of correct thinking can be acquired through learning.
There are several different types of thinking such as: creative thinking, design thinking, innovative thinking, positive thinking, and of course critical thinking. For the purpose of this course, we will concentrate on critical thinking.

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THE CONCEPT OF CRITICAL THINKING

  1. 1. 1 DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT STUDIES Chapter 3: The Concept of Critical Thinking PROGRAMME: ALL BSc COURSE TITLE: Logical Reasoning, Conceptualization and Critical Thinking COURSE CODE: PAID311 TOTAL CREDITS: 3 BY NGANG PEREZ (MAJOR 1) PAN AFRICAN INSTITUTE FOR DEVELOPMENT -WEST AFRICA (PAID-WA) BUEA LECTURE NOTES FOR Logical reasoning, conceptualization and critical thinking
  2. 2. 2 COURSE OUTLINE FOR LOGICAL REASONING, CONCEPTUALIZATION AND CRITICAL THINKING PROGRAMME: ALL BSc COURSE TITLE: Logical reasoning, conceptualization and critical thinking COURSE CODE: PAID311 TOTAL CREDIT: 3 TOTAL LECTURE HOURS: 15 LECTURER: NGANG Perez (Major 1) A. COURSE OVERVIEW AND OUTLINE 1. Course Description: This course provides students with a general overview on the concept of critical thinking and logical reasoning. It emphasizes the importance of attitudes and practice for good thinking in today’s society. It establishes a balance approach to think more and think better be it politically, culturally, economically and socially. Critical thinking is thinking clearly and rationally. It involves thinking precisely and systematically, and following the rules of logic and scientific reasoning, among other things. As such the study, equips students with the technical skills to a tremendous force of constructive argument. Thus the topics understudy will include focal areas such as; logic and reasoning, structure and parts of argument, the concept of critical thinking amongst others. 2. COURSE OBJECTIVES: By the end of this course, student should be able to: • Learning Objectives: By the end of this course, students should be able to: ➢ Lay down the foundational principles of logical reasoning and its relevance ➢ Develop their capacity to think logically and critically about any given situation within their environment PAN AFRICAN INSTITUTE FOR DEVELOPMENT- WEST AFRICA (PAID-WA) BUEA
  3. 3. 3 ➢ Bring out clearly the differences between logical reasoning and balanced argument ➢ Understand how to identify cause-and-effect relationships ➢ Outline the Different Types of Values ➢ Understand Moral Values and Normativity 3. COURSE SCHEDULE AND TOPICS This course will cover the following topics in 5 learning sessions with one session per week as follows: Week 3: Session 3/Chapter 3: The Concept of Critical Thinking Date: Topics • Thinking Skills in the Age of Globalization • Misconceptions about Critical Thinking o What Critical Thinking is not! o What Critical Thinking is! • The relevance of critical thinking • Critical Thinking Skills • Barriers to critical thinking • How to overcome these Barriers to critical thinking • Some practical applications of critical thinking skills • Conclusion and Summary • Review Question 4. GENERAL COURSE REVIEW AND FINAL EXAM PREPARATION Date: Topics • Chapter 3: The Concept of Critical Thinking 5. OTHER REQUIREMENTS ➢ Required Text Books or Articles ❖ Leo A. Groarke and Cristopher W, Tindale 2004. Good reasoning matters: A constructive approach to critical thinking. (3rd Edition). New York, Oxford University Press ❖ Barbara Minto, 2008. The pyramid principle: Logic in writing and thinking (3rd edition). Prentice Hall. ❖ Nemeth, C. and Ormiston, M. (2006). Creative idea generation: Harmony versus stimulation. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37(3):524-535. ❖ Fang, X., Singh, S., and Ahluwalia, R. (2007). An examination of different explanations for the mere exposure effect. Journal of Consumer Research, 34(1):97-103. ❖ Epstein, R. (1999). Critical thinking. Wadsworth, Belmont, MA
  4. 4. 4 ➢ Important weblinks 1) https://www.skillsyouneed.com/learn/critical-thinking.html [accessed 25th July 2019] 2) https://philosophy.hku.hk/think/critical/ct.php [accessed 25th July 2019] 3) https://thinkeracademy.com/critical-thinking-skills/ [accessed 25th July 2019] B. COURSE EVALUATION • Written Assignment 15% • Graded Quiz 10% • Discussion Assignment 5% • Final Exams taken on Campus 70% total 100% C. LECTURE NOTES AND PRESENTATION (Next Page)
  5. 5. 5 WEEK 3: SESSION 3/CHAPTER 3 THE CONCEPT OF CRITICAL THINKING 3.0 Brief Introduction As humans we think all the time because we possess the ability and capacity to do so. However, it is not all types of thinking that is productive or relevant to our own very existence. Although we have the natural abilities to think as humans, this mental ability is an art and a craft. Consequently, the art of correct thinking can be acquired through learning. There are several different types of thinking such as: creative thinking, design thinking, innovative thinking, positive thinking, and of course critical thinking. For the purpose of this course, we will concentrate on critical thinking. 3.1 LEARNING OBJECTIVES By the end of this session, students should be able to; • Define accurately the term critical thinking • Different between what critical thinking is from what it is not • Understand why we should critically think • Bing out the critical thinking skills • Apply knowledge of critical thinking to practical situations • Identify barriers to critical thinking and overcome them. how to 3.2 DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS ➢ Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rational, skeptical, unbiased analysis, or evaluation of factual evidence. 3.3 THE MAIN CONTENT There are many different explanations of critical thinking. An understanding of all the respective schools of thought makes the concept very complex. However, it can be seen that they all emphasize the importance of clarity and rationality. Many people traced the importance of critical thinking in education to Dewey. But Dewey did not make very extensive use of the term "critical thinking". Instead, in his book “How We Think”, he argued for the importance of what he called "reflective thinking". In this chapter we will look at some aspects of critical thinking in the age of globalization, the misconceptions about critical thinking and a host of other factors. Stay tune!
  6. 6. 6 3.3.1: Thinking Skills in the Age of Globalization Whether we like it or not, globalization is changing the way we work and live. First of all, we are increasingly faced with complex problems that affect the whole world, whether it is global warming, pollution, financial crises, or new epidemics. We need good thinking and creative ideas to coordinate efforts to solve these problems. At the personal level, globalization brings about an ever-quickening pace of life. We have a huge amount of information available, but what we learn today might easily become obsolete tomorrow. Although fast changes also bring new opportunities, we now have to compete with talented people across the world. To be successful in this environment, we need good thinking skills that can help us make reliable decisions and acquire new knowledge quickly. But what do we mean by good thinking skills? Basically, it comes down to two things—critical thinking and creativity. Critical thinking is thinking clearly and rationally. It involves thinking precisely and systematically, and following the rules of logic and scientific reasoning, among other things. As for creativity, it is a matter of coming up with new and useful ideas, generating alternative possibilities. This subsection is about these two sets of thinking skills, but at this point, you might ask, which is more important, critical thinking or creativity? The short answer is that they are equally important. We need creativity to come up with ideas to solve problems, but we also need critical thinking to evaluate and improve these ideas. They complement each other, and we need both to survive and to prosper. 3.3.2: Misconceptions about Critical Thinking Critical thinking is a discipline that many people have a misconception of what the concept is all about. These misconceptions have negative consequences on people who are willing to acquire skills and become effective critical thinkers. Below are some of the most common misconceptions raised by Andrew Beck (2011) in his book titled “Critical thinking: an appeal to reason” 3.3.2.1: What Critical Thinking is not! • It is often believed that critical thinking means excessive criticism. This means always employing a negative criticism of the arguments people make. This is not true because as we are going to see, it has to do with making a balanced judgment about the truthfulness of an argument. • Critical thinking is not about being partial or biased in your reasoning or decision- making. Impartiality and objectivity are core values of the art of critical thinking. It has to do with making a faire judgment of your own claim or argument and that of others. • Critical thinking is not about being passive in discussions and debates. On the contrary it involves being an active contributor in debates and discussions and to defend your own arguments and claims. • Critical thinking is not practically useful because people in real life do not listen to reason. They act on the basis of self-interest, emotion, or personal relationships. The first problem with this objection is that it confuses rational thinking with talking about reasons. It might be true that
  7. 7. 7 many people are irrational, and to influence them we need to appeal to authority, emotions, or anything other than reason. But we can still use critical thinking to think strategically about the best means to achieve our objectives. • Critical thinking is not opposing emotions, relationships, and so on. Consider for example love and friendship. They are certainly valuable, but critical thinking can help us cultivate them. For example, thinking carefully about what is good or bad about a relationship can help us improve it and make it more fulfilling. Besides, it is not always wise to act solely on the basis of emotions. They can be biased by ego, fear, and greed. Thinking more about our decisions can counteract this problem. 3.3.2.1: What Critical Thinking is! Thinking is a mental activity that the mind engages in with the help of the senses. Although the Rationalist proponents are in strong support of their theory of innatism which argues that man is born with innate ideas, the Empiricist school rejects this theory. The leading proponent of the Empiricist school and distinguished British philosopher, John Locke argues that at birth, the human mind is like a tabula rasa (a black sheet of paper). Hence whatever the mind acquires is from experience. Therefore, to him, knowledge comes from experience and not inborn because it is the sense that feed the mind with ideas to perform its functions. The word critical in Latin is criticus and in Greek is Kritokos, both meaning able to make judgment. There are several definitions of critical thinking as this concept has been under research for several decades. Among the numerous definitions advanced by scholars in this discipline, that of Robert Ennis is one of the most explicit. He defines critical thinking as reasonable reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to belief or what to do (David Hunter, 2014). There are some key elements of this definition worth revisiting. Let’s take a look! • Critical thinking is reasonable thinking: This has to do with the ability of exercising logical reasoning skills. It is reasonable because there is a method that needs to be applied in working out things. • Critical thinking is reflective thinking. This refers to thinking that pushes us to question our thoughts and decisions and that of others as well. We are bound to question any information, action or object that do not appear intellectually satisfactory to us. We have mentioned before that critical thinking leads us towards what to believe in the sense that it is a matter of what the facts or evidence are. For example, to say it is rainy outside is a fact. It also involves reasoning about what the facts are and this is known as theoretical reasoning To say critical thinking leads us towards what to do involve two key elements: what to value or what to strive for. It has to do with your goal and the best means to attain that goal. It is all about focusing on the right idea and the right action to take. For example, should I buy a new dress now or continue with the old ones?
  8. 8. 8 We decide what to do on the bases of what we already value or what we already think makes for a good life. Decisions about what to value are among the most difficult and profound decisions we can make. But critical thinking can help us to make some of these decisions. Hence deciding what to do involves reasoning about what to do and how to do it. This is call practical reasoning. To think critically on what to belief or what to do is reasonable because we have to have not just reasons but good ones for the decisions we make. 3.3.3: The relevance of critical thinking Critical thinking is very relevant in our everyday lives as humans for several reasons: • It gives us the ability to reflect skeptically. Within the context of critical thinking, skepticism gives us the ability to apply doubts in certain situations. It does not mean we doubt everything we hear and see. It means being open and holding to the fact that there is a possibility that what you know at a given time may only be part of the picture. Hence critical thinking gives us the tools to use skepticism and doubt constructively. • Critical thinking helps us to make better and informed decisions whether something is likely to be true, effective or productive. It guides you on when to be trustful or skeptical. • Critical thinking gives you the ability and skills to defend yourself from false accusations and manipulations. • It enable you to be able to provide evidence and reasons for the opinions we hold. • Critical thinking skills enable us to ask the right questions and to say yes or no when these responses are appropriate. • Critical thinking enables us to be able to provide good reasons for our decisions and actions. • When we become critical thinkers, you possess an intellectual mind that is autonomous, independent and free, rather than just sticking to or being drilled by what people say. • As a critical thinker, you will possess the ability to distinguish cultural and irrational believes that carry no evidence for their stands. • As a critical thinker, you are able to live an examined life. The distinguished Greek thinker, Socrates once said” The unexamined life is not worth living’. As humans, we are able to examine our lives objectively in order to improve it. • Critical thinking skills help us to solve practical and theoretical problems that we encounter in our daily lives, by seeking the right solutions. 3.3.4: Critical Thinking Skills Every human being has the ability to become a critical thinker because we all have the minds and brains required for this mental activity. However, the art of critical thinking requires a number of
  9. 9. 9 skills and abilities which can be acquired through learning and training. A critical thinker is someone who is able to do the following: • Understand the logical connections between ideas. • Formulate ideas succinctly and precisely. • Identify, construct, and evaluate arguments. • Evaluate the pros and cons of a decision. • Evaluate the evidence for and against a hypothesis. • Detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning. • Analyze problems systematically. • Identify the relevance and importance of ideas. • Justify one’s beliefs and values. • Reflect and evaluate one’s thinking skills. Below, are some of the skills that are indispensable to practice the art of critical thinking. • You need to be a logical and rational thinker. This kind of a person uses good reasons to make decisions or to solve problems. You cannot separate logical reasoning from critical thinking given that the two go together. • Evaluation skills. You need to be able to evaluate your own beliefs and actions, as well as that of others whether they are right or wrong or have sufficient grounds to convince others. • Analysis. You should have the ability to relate concepts to ideas and categories and to derive meaning from them. Irrespective of the form it takes, analysis always aims at giving a meaning to a set of statements or arguments. It also involves analyzing evidence and drawing conclusions from them. This can be applied in a variety of settings. • Synthesis. You need to be able to isolate irrelevant from relevant information to be able to come out with the most relevant message from any written or oral discuss, argument or debate. • Reflexive thinking. You need to develop your own ability towards using the right approach to problem solving by asking the right questions. As we can see from the list, critical thinking skills are essential for all sorts of careers in which we have to communicate ideas, make decisions, analyze, and solve problems. This is why critical thinking is called a domain-general thinking skill. But critical thinking is not just for the workplace. To live a meaningful life and plan for the future, we need to think about ourselves honestly and carefully. The Greek philosopher Socrates (469–399 B.C.E.) once said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” One big difference between human beings and other animals is our capacity for
  10. 10. 10 self-reflection. We can examine the purpose and meaning of our life and change ourselves accordingly. Critical thinking contributes to this process of self-evaluation and transformation. Good critical thinking is also the foundation of science and democracy. Science requires rationality in designing experiments and testing theories. A vibrant and progressive democracy requires citizens who can think objectively about social and political issues and are able to avoid biases and prejudices. So obviously the cultivation of critical thinking should be a central aim of education. 3.3.5: Barriers to critical thinking There are a number of factors that can hinder one from becoming an efficient critical thinker, which includes the following: • Traditional beliefs and customs • Religious beliefs • Misconception of the subject matter of critical thinking, as many people think that critical thinking is only about negative criticism of people’s thoughts and ideas. However, this is not true given that critical thinking aims to offer an objective, balanced and transparent appreciation of one’s argument and that of others. • Over estimating our own reasoning abilities. This happens when we think that our own reasons and belief system is the best (ethnocentrism). • Lack of method and strategies to practice critical thinking. Some people have the interest to become critical thinkers but they do not know how to go about it. • Many people are also very reluctant to criticize experts, for example students and teachers. The former feel very inferior intellectually to say anything against their teachers given that they are the ones who trained them. • Due to impatience, some people do not pay sufficient focus and attention to details. This kind of attitude hinders a full application of critical thinking skills. 3.3.5.1: How to overcome these Barriers to critical thinking All the above barriers can be overcome by improving on the relevant critical thinking skills through training, reading and applying the knowledge to real world situations. For example, if you are trained to reason logically, you will be able to question some religious and traditional beliefs without ample evidence to support their stands. Note that questioning is not a problem, rather the problem probes in if you are questioning to learn or otherwise. Each of the critical thinking skills highlighted above can make a positive impact on improving your ability to think critically. I have not said you should question the existence of God ooh? Because whether you believe it or not God exist. Just take it like that. It may be subjective to you, but because I am your lecturer you will
  11. 11. 11 have to take it from me for your own good. However, critical thinking remains very useful in our society and daily lives. So how do we enhance our critical thinking if it is so useful? Obviously, we are all able to think critically to some extent, or we will not survive very long! But there is always room for improvement. Even with a skill as natural as running, training with an expert can improve our breathing and posture and help us run even better. Thinking is something we all do and take for granted, but the fact is that even normally intelligent people can sometimes be stubborn and biased. Psychology research tells us that people make lot of mistakes in their reasoning—they overestimate their abilities, interpret the world to confirm their prejudices, and look for causes and patterns in the wrong places. By studying critical thinking, we are more likely to avoid such errors. We can also help other people by studying critical thinking. Sometimes we get the feeling that an argument is wrong but we do not know exactly why. Critical thinking gives us the concepts and vocabulary to explain what is wrong. This promotes understanding and more effective discussions. Hope you understand? Good critical thinking is a cognitive skill. In general, developing a skill requires three conditions— learning the theory, deliberate practice, and adopting the right attitudes. By theory we mean the rules and facts we have to know in order to possess the skill. For example, one cannot be a good basketball player without knowing the rules that govern the game. An even after knowing the rules, for you to be a good player, you will need to devote considerable time in practicing. It was generally noted that top basketball players trained averagely for 10hours per day. After understanding the rules of the game in theory and in practice, the one last thing that is required for critical thinking to be complete is the art of adopting the right attitude. This is what differentiates good players from great players in and out of the pitch- the right attitude. 3.3.6: Some practical applications of critical thinking skills Questions Which of the following actions involves the use of critical thinking skills? 1. Riding a bike 2. Watching the news on TV 3. Doing laundry 4. Planning a vacation 5. Conducting a literature review 6. Identify five activities you do on a daily basis that do not involve critical thinking and explain why you think so. 7. Identify five activities that you do on a daily basis that would be improved by thinking critically about them and explain how this would happen by thinking critically.
  12. 12. 12 8. List five reasons why it is good t think critically 9. Identify and explain five possible obstacles to thinking critically and describe one strategy for overcoming each obstacle. 3.4 Conclusion The idea that we should think critically might seem downright boring, and yet we should not underestimate the power of critical thinking. It requires having the discipline to reflect on the reasons for our actions, and this is very important if we want to improve ourselves and become more successful. Warren Buffet is one of the world's richest persons, widely admired for his investment record and philanthropy. The adherence to critical thinking is a crucial factor in Buffet's success. Here is what he says about the importance of being able to give reasons for our actions: You ought to be able to explain why you're taking the job you're taking, why you're making the investment you're making, or whatever it may be. And if it can't stand applying pencil to paper, you'd better think it through some more. And if you can't write an intelligent answer to those questions, don't do it. I never buy anything unless I can fill out on a piece of paper my reasons. I may be wrong, but I would know the answer to that. "I'm paying $32 billion today for the Coca-Cola Company because..." If you can't answer that question, you shouldn't buy it. If you can answer that question, and you do it a few times, you'll make a lot of money. Making money might not be your top priority, but if we can apply the same discipline in giving reasons for our actions and think about these reasons carefully, we are more likely to achieve our goals. 3.5 Summary Thinking is a mental activity that the mind engages in with the help of the senses. Although the Rationalist proponents are in strong support of their theory of innatism which argues that man is born with innate ideas, the Empiricist school rejects this theory. The leading proponent of the Empiricist school and distinguished British philosopher, John Locke argues that at birth, the human mind is like a tabula rasa (a black sheet of paper). Hence whatever the mind acquires is from experience. Every human being has the ability to become a critical thinker because we all have the minds and brains required for this mental activity. However, the art of critical thinking requires a number of skills and abilities which can be acquired through learning and training. Good critical thinking is also the foundation of science and democracy. Science requires rationality in designing experiments and testing theories. A vibrant and progressive democracy requires citizens who can think objectively about social and political issues and are able to avoid biases and prejudices.
  13. 13. 13 There are a number of factors that can hinder one from becoming an efficient critical thinker, which includes the following: Traditional beliefs and customs, Religious beliefs So how do we enhance our critical thinking if it is so useful? Obviously, we are all able to think critically to some extent, or we will not survive very long! But there is always room for improvement. Even with a skill as natural as running, training with an expert can improve our breathing and posture and help us run even better. Good critical thinking is a cognitive skill. In general, developing a skill requires three conditions— learning the theory, deliberate practice, and adopting the right attitudes. 3.6 Review Questions ❖ Critical thinking is a discipline that many people have a misconception of what the concept is all about. ❖ Critical thinking is very relevant in our everyday lives as humans for several reasons. State and explain some of these relevance. ❖ Every human being has the ability to become a critical thinker because we all have the minds and brains required for this mental activity. With the aid of examples state and explain the critical thinking skills. ❖ State and explain the barriers to critical thinking. ❖ What measures can be put in place to overcome the barriers to critical thinking. 3.7 References ❖ Epstein, R. (1999). Critical thinking. Wadsworth, Belmont, MA. ❖ Hurley, P. (2006). A Concise Introduction to Logic. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA. ❖ Michalko, M. (2006). Thinker toys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. ❖ Nemeth, C. and Ormiston, M. (2006). Creative idea generation: Harmony versus stimulation. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37(3):524-535. 3.8 Task ❖ Read the notes on unit 3.3.4 (Critical Thinking Skills) and make a brief summary of not more than half a page. 3.9: Reading Assignment/Suggested Readings: ❖ Read this article by Rudinow, J. and Barry, V (2007). “Invitation to Critical Thinking. Wadsworth, Belmon, CA. Accessed from https://epdf.pub/invitation-to-critical-thinking- sixth-edition.html July 02, 2019 3.10 Reading Assignment Supplementary Source ❖ You Tube Video lecture: Critical Thinking ❖ Video Highlights: This video looks at some of the principles of critical thinking..
  14. 14. 14 ❖ Note: To access the video, copy and paste this Playlist ❖ URL: https://youtu.be/6OLPL5p0fMg?t=312 ❖ Source https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OLPL5p0fMg&feature=youtu.be&t=311. Retrieved 02 July 2019. 3.12Written Assignment ❖ Critical thinking is a discipline that many people have a misconception of what the concept is all about. 3.12 Discussion Assignment ❖ Critical thinking is very relevant in our everyday lives as humans for several reasons. State and explain some of these relevance. 3.13 Graded Quiz ❖ 1. The mental ability to think is … Tick the most appropriate. a. An art b. A Craft c. Science d. A & C are correct 2. Critical thinking is not practically useful because people in real life do not listen to reason. True or False? Tick the most appropriate. a. True b. False c. True but it depends on what you are thinking d. A & C are correct 3. Critical thinking opposes emotions and relationships in life. Do you agree? Tick the most appropriate answer! a. I agree b. I don’t agree c. I agree, but it confuses rational thinking d. It depends on the situation 4. At birth, the human mind is like a tabula rasa (a black sheet of paper). Which school of thought supports this theory? Tick the most appropriate a. Rationalist school of thought b. Innatism school of thought c. Empiricist school of thought d. Neo-rational school of thought 5. Is it true to say that Critical thinking is reflective thinking? Tick the most appropriate answer! a. Yes, it is
  15. 15. 15 b. No it isn’t c. Yes, but not always d. A & C are correct 6. Reasoning about what to do and how to do it, is called - - -. Tick the most appropriate answer! a. Reasonable thinking b. Reflective thinking c. Practical reasoning d. Objective thinking 7. Within the context of critical thinking, skepticism gives us the ability to - - -. Tick the most appropriate! a. Apply doubt on important things b. Apply doubt on everything c. Apply doubt on certain things d. Apply doubt on one thing 8. Good critical thinking is considered as the foundation for - - -. Tick the most appropriate! a. Science b. Culture c. Democracy d. A & C are correct

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As humans we think all the time because we possess the ability and capacity to do so. However, it is not all types of thinking that is productive or relevant to our own very existence. Although we have the natural abilities to think as humans, this mental ability is an art and a craft. Consequently, the art of correct thinking can be acquired through learning. There are several different types of thinking such as: creative thinking, design thinking, innovative thinking, positive thinking, and of course critical thinking. For the purpose of this course, we will concentrate on critical thinking.

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