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7 Tips for Learning to Get Your Ideas Through


The American cognitive-science philosopher Daniel Dennett recommends these to encourage critical thinking, especially during an argument.

Daniel Dennett, the American philosopher whose work is centred on the specialised study of consciousness, religion, will and artificial intelligence, published an extract of his book Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking in the form of a series of recommendations to practice critical thinking.

1. Use your mistakes: practice a rigorous intellectual honesty. When you make a mistake, take a deep breath and analyse your mistakes dispassionately without compassion. Use and learn from them.

2. Respect your opponent: persuasion makes others pay attention. Show that you understand your opponents’ stand as well as they do, show a wise judgement.

3. The “surely” klaxon: when you use “surely”, you make others become more alert. It is essential that you argue what is necessary to validate that affirmation.

4. Always answer rhetorical questions: this type of resource is based on the idea that the answers are so obvious it would be silly to even consider them. Do it, that way you won’t come off as pretentious, ambiguous or comfortable.

5. Simplify your theories: don’t be extravagant or complicated; simplicity and clarity are valuable for the listener.

6. Get to the point: if you know your argument is not great, don’t use it, and resort to that which is clear.

7. Don’t be ambiguous: an argument that might seem important and true but which might sound ambiguous should be avoided.

Assuming that our listener knows what we mean to say, and thus resort to the use of ambiguities, is no less than disgraceful to critical thinking and communication in general. Dennett underlines the importance of clarity and simplicity, and above all evinces the ridicule that results from snubbing an interlocutor when exposing an argument. After all, critical thinking involves humility and clarity in order to be effective, and it has taken a big part in human evolution. And although simple, his advice can make a significant change in the way we get our ideas through and in the way we construct our thinking.

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