Test your critical thinking skills: 6 puzzles

So how good at you at thinking critically?

‘Creative thinking needs to be fundamentally part of how courses are designed and not just an add-on.’ Photograph: Getty Images

‘Creative thinking needs to be fundamentally part of how courses are designed and not just an add-on.’ Photograph: Getty Images

 

CRITICAL THINKING WORKOUT: ‘THE SHIP OF THESEUS’ AND OTHER RIDDLES

So how good at you at thinking critically?

Hallmarks of the Socratic temperament are an ability to judge the cogency of an argument and to identify conclusions, reasons and assumptions in yourself and others.

Trinity College Dublin lecturer Gerry Dunne, a student of the field, adds to this list the quality of being a “reflective sceptic” – open-minded and well-informed – and the capacity to change your view when more evidence comes to light.

One way of testing your critical-thinking skills is to see how you approach aporia, philosophical puzzles that inevitably produce an element of doubt. Six such dilemmas are listed below. You can give your answers, or debate your ideas with Gerry Dunne and Joe Humphreys, at irishtimes.com:

1) The Ship of Theseus was well cared for. Each time planks became decayed, new and stronger timbers were put in their place. This continued until none of the original planks and masts remained. Had the Ship of Theseus thus ceased to exist? – Plutarch
 

2) You are on the board of a prestigious university. A student has recently submitted her PhD thesis and you are the external examiner. It is your job to examine its content and check that it makes a genuine contribution to ‘original thought’ and ‘scholarship’. Unfortunately, having read through it several times, you are convinced it is not original and that it merely consists of hundreds of footnotes based on the work of already established academics. You decide to decline the award of PhD and the student is devastated. Given the seriousness of your findings, how would you prove to the student that her work is not ‘original’? – Gerry Dunne
 

3) Tristram Shandy is an author writing an autobiography. Unfortunately, he writes very slowly; each day of his life takes him a year to write about. If Shandy continues at this rate for eternity, will his book ever be finished? – Bertrand Russell 

If you’ve finished with those, you could have a go at these (supplied by Gerry Dunne):

4) Does true happiness always involve some level of self-delusion?

5) Assuming God exists, is free will possible in heaven?

6) Would living forever add meaning to life?

 

philosophy@irishtimes.com

Twitter @JoeHumphreys42

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