18 responses to “Critical Thinking: The Rational Discussion Flowchart”

  1. Ajay

    This is really a nice chart quite informative in the way we make decisions.

  2. Roger Scime

    I love this chart. I’ve been trying to teach students how to apply the techniques of Informal Logic / Critical Thinking into their writing—especially journalism writing, and this chart will go a long way toward providing the, guidelines for, especially, interviewing.

    Thanks to Brandon Scott Borrell and to you for posting it.

  3. Jeff Hurt

    Great flow chart on critical thinking and decsion making.

    For me, here’s what’s missing….emotions! Our emotions get in the way. Very few people are convinced by pure logic. If that were true, politics would be very different. Facts, data, information rarely convinced anyone. However, facts, data, information coupled with pictures, emotions and stories do persuade people.

    The challenge is that our emotions, our beliefs, our convictions taint our thinking and hamper us from good logical reasoning.

    Now for a flow chart that shows how emotions can impact the process. ;)

  4. Anon

    This kind of rational person exists in the same world unicorns do :-)

    Agree with what someone said earlier in the comments, emotions are not considered which usually put paid to any hope of following such a model.

    Also, personality, ego and close mindedness not taken into account.

  5. Trevor

    What I really love about this chart is that it highlights the importance of intellectual integrity. That is to say, if I say that I believe ‘a’ to be so, and I find out that some of the necessary consequences of ‘a’ are distasteful to me, I either abandon ‘a’ as a precept or articulate a new thought ‘b’ which is more specifically descriptive of my values.

    That said, there should maybe be a sub-set of discussions in which neither person will change their mind, but are pressed to explain all their arguments in this way for the furtherance of critical thinking by their opponents! One might call that a marriage!

  6. Sylvie

    I think there are certain flaws in this flowchart… Was it Herbert Simon who criticized/adapted the rational choice theory because we never have enough information to make the optimal choice? I think that same criticism applies to saying the position with the more supporting evidence is true. Though I understand the importance of evidence, I don’t think the other person’s position is false simply because it has less apparent evidence than the first. Plus, sometimes the evidence just isn’t clearly benefiting one position, which is why we have lots of unanswered questions in this world…

  7. Don

    I would hope that critical thinking would not be confined to pure logic, we don’t make decisions that way, and in many cases, nor should we. I like the flow chart and it need not contain any refernce to emotions, but it becomes just an intellectual exercise. Pure logic devoid of practical application is sophistry.

  8. Matthew Fletcher

    I like the sentiment of the chart.

    However, it conflates, rationalism, logic, and empiricism all into the same model. For example, two people can have a *rational* discussion – that is one based on theoretical reasoning from *a priori* principles – without ever introducing any empirical evidence – that is observable facts. Conversely, as one commenter above notes, an argument with more supporting evidence does not automatically equate to one that is more “rational” or based on “logic.” Again, a discussion based on logic could be one completely devoid of evidence.

    Also there is a whole lot of subjectivity still involved in proceeding through the chart, if one were in fact to attempt to do so “rationally.” For example, step #2 “If one of your arguments is shown to be faulty will you stop using that argument?” I would question: faulty on what basis? Faulty on whose determination by what criteria? Time to introduce a sub-model to determine the criteria of “faulty.” And so on.

    Once the point of discussion is arrived at though, rules #1 and #2 are great.

  9. MCRumph

    I agree with a number of the other commentators. If you were to follow these rules then all the best things to talk about could never be addressed: art, philosophy, music, literature, food et al. Rationality, logic and reason are all very well, but only in the smallest doses. If you were to follow this flow chart either one of two things would happen.

    You would never really talk to anybody for more than 2 1/4 minutes.
    You would have very boring conversations.

    So, other than that, the chart is great.

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  11. Marilou Kishur

    I posted a Diamond REO song on my FB page to which my nephew has had some objections. He tells me I may not reply legitimately to his assumptions unless I adhere to this chart, which he has referenced and linked in his comments. He says unless I do so, I am off-topic,

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  13. Jim


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  15. Bill Orton

    Most of it is very good. However, the first decision box, I think, needs some revision. Why? It seems to me that the “would anything change your mind?” criteria eliminates any discussion about basics, philosophical questions concerning ethics, religion, epistemology, politics, and such. It would disallow discussions between athiests and theists, evolutionists and creationists, climate alarmists and skeptics, statists and libertarians, and so on. It seems to me that criteria #1 biases discussions in favor of slight differences, and would increase the information “bubbles” where progressives only talk to progressives, Xtian fundies only talk to Xtian fundies, Democrats only talk to Democrats. It seems to inhibit cross-pollination of ideas. (I’m still thinking about how to modify box #1 to allow “deep” discussions between people who will never agree.)

    What about this?

    “Can you envision anything that will change your mind on this topic?”

    For the “No” answer, there needs to be a new decision box saying something like,

    “Are you willing to explore basic premises, possible arguments, and conceptual models, even though agreement is highly unlikely?

    If “Yes” then we go on the the original box 2 which says, “If one of your arguments shown to be faulty…”
    If “No” then it points to the “This is not a discussion” terminal.

    1. David Muessener

      Exactly what I thought. Discussions about (own) fundamental believes are blocked by Box #1. Though I have to say, if I am not willing to give up my position in the first place, and just try to convince my discussion partner of my believes, it turns out more to be a conversion than a conversation.

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