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Does Reasoning Have Parts?

The parts of thinking can also be called the elements of reasoning or the fundamental structures of thought. We will use these expressions interchangeably. The elements or parts of reasoning are those essential dimensions of reasoning that are present whenever and wherever reasoning occurs—independent of whether we are reasoning well or poorly (Figure 6.2). Working together, these elements shape reasoning and provide a general logic to the use of thought.

Figure 6.2. These parts or elements of reasoning are always present in human thinking.

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When we become adept at identifying the elements of our reasoning (Figure 6.3), we are in a much better position to recognize flaws in our thinking, by locating problems in this or that part. We are in a much better position, in other words, to analyze the mistakes in our thinking (or mistakes in the thinking of others).

Figure 6.3. Critical thinkers understand the importance of taking thinking apart in order to analyze it for flaws.

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