analytical thinking steps logical reasoning critical thinking skills

You Will Love These Analytical Thinking Steps

The framework of spiritual exploration would seem to be an odd place for studying any type of analytical skills or logic.  However, these kinds of critical thinking skills are essential for our spiritual journey.

Why is Logical Reasoning Important?

Logical thinking is analytical thinking.  It’s the ability to determine what is correct or legitimate.  The following article is a tool to help you improve these skills. It will show you how people use an argument to influence their thinking.  Learning how to spot these tactics will help you make better decisions. In this way, you can learn to separate the facts from fictitious arguments, propositions, and assumptions.

The arena of spirituality is prime territory for misleading claims and tactics.  The study of logical reasoning will help you sort out the “facts from the fiction.”  Trust me.  You need this if you are serious about investigating spiritual matters.  It’s essential to know the distinction between a change in perception and awareness versus emotional enchantment.

After reading this article, we recommend two complementary tools, spotting logical fallacies and the truth-seekers axioms.   Using these three tools together will enhance your critical thinking ability.

Analytical Thinking Steps

Critical thinking starts with learning how a language is a tool made up of propositions and arguments.  It’s a set of statements that persuade you to accept a conclusion.  So, this is where our journey of logical reasoning starts.  If you can spot the form of the argument, then you can dissect the validity of the proposition.

A sound argument contains valid, unbiased statements, which results in a correct conclusion. So, the best way to determine a false one is to identify problems with its construction.  To do this, you need to know the format of the two main types of selling propositions — deductive and inductive reasoning.

You can create a valid argument with either Inductive or deductive reasoning.  You can tell which type someone uses from the way they state the conclusion.  A “deductive argument” presents its outcome as absolutes or “proofs certain.”  In contrast, the conclusion of an inductive argument shows its answer in terms of probabilities.  The accuracy of either type depends on the accuracy of the propositions.  If you build an argument on invalid assumptions, it results in a false conclusion.

Inductive reasoning is a way of investigating phenomena using relevant valid data. It helps us reach the most probable conclusions. It contrasts with the closed world assumption of deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning presupposes the desired answer the provides data to support it.  Omitting data that is irrelevant is appropriate as long it truly does not matter to the final decision.  The problem arises when you leave out valid data that does impact the outcome.

Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning uses the concept of a”Closed World Assumption.” It’s the presumption that what is known is presumed to be true. And, conversely, what is not known is assumed to be false.  The correct argument construction for deductive reasoning must always include the answer in the premise statements. The following is an example of the proper form of deductive logic.

The Broken Window Using Deductive Reasoning

We’ll use the broken window as a starting point.

A window is broke in a house. Phyllis and Fred live in this house. Phyllis was the last person at home. So, we conclude that:

    • Either Phyllis or Fred broke the window.
    • Fred says he did not break the window.
    • Phyllis had the most likely opportunity to break the window.
    • Therefore, Phyllis broke the window.

Here, the argument rests on the validity of the above statements.  Thus, the answer must be that Phillis broke the window.

The answer must be within the premise statements of the argument.  And all other possibilities not in the premises are false. The answer is definitive, precise, and without question as long as ALL the Closed World Assumptions are valid.  The value of analytical thinking steps begins with spotting this proposition and then testing the statements on which they base their conclusion.

When using deductive logic, it is essential to ensure that the premise statements are valid.  It includes making sure “what is not unknown to be true is false.”  But, the premise statements in the above example raise several questions. Many unknowns could impact our conclusion. Our certainty of Fred not being involved is also suspect. Can we be sure of the facts?  Are we sure some unknown cause isn’t responsible for the broken window?

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning uses data to provide a degree of certainty.  It is the likelihood of something happening. With inductive reasoning, we reach conclusions based on the degree of probability that something is true or false.  Our answer is not absolute certainty but an educated assumption on the likelihood of it being true.

The conclusion is in a range of probable outcomes.  It could be anywhere from a low, almost negligible probability to a high likelihood approaching near certainty.  It’s the level of truth you need in the realm of religion and spirituality.

Inductive reasoning may appear less accurate than deductive reasoning, but this isn’t true. It seems less precise because it provides a range of probabilities, not absolute certainties. Yet, inductive reasoning is the basis for science and most of what we know. The scientific process uses inductive reasoning because it’s the best way to seek the facts.  This process is the best way for us to make predictions and conclusions.

For example, we base our knowledge that the sun will rise tomorrow on inductive reasoning. The data used to validate this is historically validated “sunrises.” Inductive reasoning is often required because the answer you seek goes beyond the scope of the data.  The broken window presents an excellent example of how this reasoning is better than deductive reasoning.

The Broken Window Using Inductive Reasoning

The statements of the broken window argument leave us with several unanswered questions.  How else could the window have been broken? Could the window have been damaged by the weather or a bird flying into the window?  When was the window shattered? Did it happen in the last hour or last year? Can we be sure someone else was not involved? Could both Fred and Phillis be responsible?  Are there any mitigating circumstances? You can see there are a lot of unanswered questions.  It’s why it is prudent to use inductive logic to reach the most probable conclusion.

If we can’t say for sure that either Fred or Phyllis broke the window, then the probability of either of them breaking the window goes down from 50/50.  As the number of unknowns increases, our certainty about who or what broke the window decreases.

If we don’t know exactly when the window was damaged, this creates more opportunity for other people or things to be involved.   To gain greater certainty, we need more facts, more information.

Let’s assume that Fred or Phyllis are the only two people who could have broken the window.  Suppose we know that the window was broke in the last hour.  These kinds of facts would increase the probability that either Fred or Phyllis broke the window.  But, let’s say this is as far as we could go with the data we have.  The probability that Fred or Phillis broke the window goes down if we include other mitigating circumstances.  Given all the unknowns, the likelihood that either Fred or Phillis broke the window is still less than 50/50>.

Your goal should be seeking facts to find the most accurate conclusion, not seeking data to support your current opinion.  Inductive reasoning is the best process for this type of research.

How Negative Bias and Prejudice Influence Conclusions

Most people aren’t satisfied with the certainty of less than 50/50. They want to be more confident in their conclusion. Unfortunately, this means many people are more apt to accept a decision even when there isn’t data to support it.  People use other internal filters to assist in forming their conclusions.  Unfortunately, this filter is usually negative prejudice and bias.

Let’s return to our example of the broken window to see how bias might influence our conclusions. Let’s assume that Phyllis has a history of breaking windows.  Fred has no record of breaking windows.  We don’t know why Phyllis broke windows, only that she did. Does this information increase the probability that Phyllis broke the window?  No.  It should not because this is biased historical information.  Her previous history has nothing to do with the facts of the current situation.

The fact is, this information about Phyllis doesn’t bring us a “higher degree of probability” of certainty. It is not additional proof additional Phyllis broke the window.  If Fred knew about her history, perhaps he damaged it to get Phillis in trouble.

But, unfortunately, historical practice is the basis of many legal systems. Rapists target prostitutes because the victim has a history of promiscuity. The rapist uses the victim’s history as a defense against allegations of rape.

Ad Hominem Argument

An ad hominem argument is an attack against the reputation of the person making an argument.=.  (ad hominem is Latin for “to the man, or “to the person”).  It’s a strategy to discredit the reputation of the individual.  It taints any argument they may have.  You can find this in heavy use in politics.  Even though this is a false argument, it is an effective tactic for influencing essential decisions.

Improper Use of the Premise to Form Conclusions

Another common issue is stating a conclusion when the premise statements or facts do not support it.   If the results go beyond the data, you should present the answer in terms of probabilities.  But, this rarely occurs.  People often state the conclusion with absolute certainty, which is a typical error in religion and politics.

The following example outlines how this error relates to the shattered window.

    • Someone broke the window.
    • Fred and Phyllis were in the area.
    • Phyllis broke the window because Fred is considered an upstanding individual. In contrast, Phyllis has a documented incident of breaking windows.
    • Therefore, Phillis shattered the window.

As we discussed before, this is another false conclusion.  It uses negative bias and prejudice to reach unprovable assumptions while ignoring other possibilities, and it’s the kind of argument you’ll find in the arena of religion.

Using Circular Logic

Circular logic isn’t logical at all.  It’s a shell game.  So, our use of logical reasoning will uncover this tactic.  And, this is a common tactic with religious arguments.  It starts with deriving a valid conclusion from false data and then substantiating a false proposition. The following example outlines how this process works.

Marilyn Monroe Part One
    • No women walked on the moon before 1960.
    • Marilyn Monroe was a woman.
    • Therefore, Marilyn Monroe, a woman, was not allowed to walk on the moon.

Although the conclusion is correct, Marilyn Monroe was not an astronaut.  And, she did not walk on the moon.  But, the premise statements of the argument do not prove the conclusion.  Checking the facts behind the premise statements will reveal errors in the underlying propositions.  1969 is the year the first moon landing.

The premise statements are correct, but the last infers her gender was why she did not get the opportunity to walk on the moon.

Marilyn Monroe Part Two

So, now we take the inference a step further.  In this case,  Marilyn Monroe becomes a victim of gender discrimination because NASA did not select her as an astronaut. Silly as it sounds, this is precisely the type of argument you will encounter in much of Western organized religion. Here’s what this invalid argument looks like:

    • No women walked on the moon before 1960.
    • Marilyn Monroe was a woman.
    • Marilyn Monroe was not an astronaut, and she did not walk on the moon.
    • And so, Marilyn Monroe was a victim of discrimination by NASA.

Using Logical Reasoning to Investigate Religion

No matter your position, if you have one, everyone thinks their position is correct.  People can come up with some source to back up their thinking.  So, one of the best ways to test your beliefs is a process we call comparative analysis.  It’s a scientific approach to comparative religious studies.  With this process, you see how topics and concepts compare across several worldviews.  And it forces people to reconcile inconsistencies and fallacies within their thinking.

So, when we dig into the facts that support their beliefs, this can be quite an emotional challenge exercise. As we unearth and investigate their “sacred ground,” we use the practice of “emotional checks.”

Use Emotional Checks

Anytime you engage in spiritual research, we recommend using emotional checks.  It’s a practical process to help you stay as unbiased as possible.

Emotional checks will reduce stress and increase the accuracy of our research. So, think of it as a safety net.  It will catch us when we fall into emotional distress. When we face ideas conflicting with our current opinion, it creates a dilemma.  We instinctively react to protect our sacred ground.  You don’t want to research while in a state of distress.

Where to Seek the Facts

We recommend using the public library where there are volumes of resources that are not available even on the internet. Also, they have materials that aren’t already on your bookshelf.  Always, always, always use resources from authors outside the paradigm you are researching.  It will help you avoid bias.  Remember, people write books to present arguments supporting a conclusion—and they may contain bigotry, prejudice, and even unreliable data sources.  The arena of spirituality is full of opinions with misleading and erroneous fabrications.  Avoid works by celebrities or endorsements of “famous people.”  Test the validity of all resources.

Look for reference works and researchers without affiliation to the religion you are researching.  The exception is when you are trying to show the contrast between the facts and the fiction. In this case, you’ll find a lot more on the fiction side.  Don’t let the sheer volume of data deter you from the facts.

A Little Reasoning Goes a Long Way

Here’s an example of how to spot the improper use of deductive logic and the “false premise.”  We’ll use the Supreme Being Odin as our subject.

Prove Odin Doesn’t Exist

Let’s assume we are the public library, and someone asks us what we are researching.  We tell them religion, and they use several logical fallacies to prove their Supreme Being exists.

They first ask you to prove their god doesn’t exist, known as an Argument From Ignorance.   It asserts something is true because there is no evidence to prove it is false.  Don’t fall for this.   The burden of proof is always on the person claiming the existence OF something. They need to provide evidence something exists.  Then you can determine if their evidence is valid.

It’s a ploy people use to substantiate their claim of the existence of imaginary beings.   Proving something doesn’t exist when it has no physical form is impossible.  That’s why they attempt to use this to win an argument.  The absence of a material substance (the lack of milk in a bowl) to prove milk exists is not a valid comparison.  Milk exists apart from the bowl.  It is not valid proof of the existence of a Supreme Being.  “The absence of evidence is not evidence of existence.”

You can’t prove gods don’t exist, but that doesn’t mean they do. You can’t disprove that Apolo, Zeus, Mythra, Dyonisys, or any other god doesn’t exist. But, because there is no proof that they don’t exist doesn’t mean they do.

We are continuing with our discussion of Odin at the library.

Anecdotal Stories and Sacred Texts as Proof of Odin

When we challenge them to provide evidence for the existence of Odin, we get the following response: First, no ice-giants exist.  Odin promised to wipe out the ice giants.  So, since there are no ice-giants, this is proof of Odin’s existence.

Secondly, Odin is prolific in paganism’s early stories dating back through oral traditions in Germanic mythology.   Odin (from Old Norse Óðinn).  The God Odin is prevalent in early forms of paganism.   Odin, in Old English as Wóden, in Old Saxon as Wōden, and Old High German as Wuotan or Wodan.

With so much historical evidence from so many authoritative sources, it is evident that Odin exists.  The answer is, no, you’re mistaken. It isn’t evidence of the existence of Odin.  Sorry, but the absence of imaginary creatures does not represent evidence they ever existed.  Nor is it evidence Odin got rid of them.  And, the recounting of stories, no matter the age or supposed authority of origin, does not suffice as proof for the existence of Odin. These points apply to all Gods, all imaginary friends, and enemies, not just Odin.

Completing Odin

Our friend at the library is not happy with our discourse’s outcome. But, we want to give them some encouragement.  We present them with some references on the subject of logic.  And, point out it doesn’t matter what you believe.

You can still engage in spiritual exploration even if you have an imaginary friend.  Logical reasoning is one of the primary tools we use in our blended learning process.  You can use spiritual technologies without the need to believe in any religion.

Spiritual Technologies

The spiritual explorer uses the analytical thinking steps to guide their decision-making processes. The realm of spirituality is full of claims which use the tactics we’ve outlined above.  There are practical and valid processes outside of religion and their arguments.

The catalog of ancient methods for exploring consciousness is what we call spiritual technologies.   They are a collection of processes to develop the potential of the mind, body, and spirit.   They offer us ways to expand awareness and reach higher states of consciousness.

These tools differ significantly from religion. They do not require faith or belief in any religious doctrine.  Anyone can use these processes to develop their full potential.  All you need to do is follow the process, and it’s just like following the recipe for baking a cake.  If you combine the right ingredients in the right way and you get something delicious.

We select the best of these ancient methods for our blended learning method.  These processes are time-tested by generations of use, and they stand up to the rigorous tests of science. They are repeatable processes, and several produce measurable effects on our physiology.  These changes include increased brainwave coherence, lower heart rate, and increased skin resistance.  Changes like this prove these partitions of consciousness differ significantly from waking, dreaming, and sleeping.

We divide these tools into four major categories:

Everyone can use these methods to create their unique spiritual path, and you can start with any of these methods.  The more of them you use, the faster your progress.

Logical Reasoning Final Thoughts

We hope this discussion on the analytical thinking steps helps you to see the value of using logic.  Today, it’s not just religion that is full of false arguments.  The nightly news is also full of the misuse of this kind of selling tactic.  Don’t let them fool you.  Refresh yourself with the content of this article regularly.

If this article resonates, there are more on our blog. To find out more about our organization, see our FAQ page.

Are you interested in spiritual exploration?  Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey (1).  Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions.  Please consider donating and supporting our mission.

References

(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia

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