understandable, the meaning can be grasped
free from errors or distortions, true
exact to the necessary level of detail
relating to the matter at hand
containing complexities and multiple interrelationships
encompassing multiple viewpoints
the parts make sense together, no contradictions
focusing on the important, not trivial
Justifiable, not self-serving or one-sided
There are numerous other standards that may be applied to elements on a contextual basis. Here are just a few:
Completeness, Validity, Rationality, Sufficiency, Necessity, Feasabilty, Consistency, Authenticity, Effectiveness, Efficiency
Can you identify others standards relevant to your situation?
Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. If we want to think well, we must understand at least the rudiments of thought, the most basic structures out of which all thinking is made. We must learn how to take thinking apart.
All Thinking Is Defined by the Eight Elements That Make It Up. Eight basic structures are present in all thinking: Whenever we think, we think for a purpose within a point of view based on assumptions leading to implications and consequences. We use concepts, ideas and theories to interpret data, facts, and experiences in order to answer questions, solve problems, and resolve issues.Thinking, then:
- generates purposes
- raises questions
- uses information
- utilizes concepts
- makes inferences
- makes assumptions
- generates implications
- embodies a point of view
Element: Purpose All reasoning has a PURPOSE.
Element: Question All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some QUESTION, to solve some problem.
Element: Information All reasoning is based on DATA, INFORMATION and EVIDENCE.
Element: Interpretation and Inference All reasoning contains INFERENCES or INTERPRETATIONS by which we draw CONCLUSIONS and give meaning to data.
Element: Concepts All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, CONCEPTS and IDEAS.
All reasoning is based on ASSUMPTIONS.
Element: Implications All reasoning leads somewhere or has IMPLICATIONS and CONSEQUENCES.
Element: Point Of View All reasoning is done from some POINT OF VIEW.
Think About... PurposeYour purpose is your goal, your objective,
what you are trying to accomplish. We also use the term to include functions, motives, and intentions.
You should be clear about your purpose, and your purpose should be justifiable.
Questions which target purpose
State the QuestionThe question lays out the problem or issue and
guides our thinking. When the question is vague, our thinking will lack clarity and distinctness.
The question should be clear and precise enough to productively guide our thinking.
Questions which target the question
Gather... InformationInformation includes the facts, data, evidence, or experiences we use to figure things out. It does not necessarily imply accuracy or correctness.
The information you use should be accurate and relevant to the question or issue you are addressing.
Questions which target information
Watch Your... InferencesInferences are interpretations or conclusions you come to. Inferring is what the mind does in figuring something out.
Inferences should logically follow from the evidence. Infer no more or less than what is implied in the situation.
Questions to check your inferences
Clarify Your... ConceptsConcepts are ideas, theories, laws, principles, or hypotheses we use in thinking to make sense of things.
Be clear about the concepts you are using and use them justifiably.
Questions you can ask about concepts
Check Your... Assumptions
Assumptions are beliefs you take for granted. They usually operate at the subconscious or unconscious level of thought.
Make sure that you are clear about your assumptions and they are justified by sound evidence.
Questions you can ask about assumptions
Think Through the...
Implications and Consequences
Implications are inherent in your thoughts, whether you see them or not. The best thinkers think through the logical implications in a situation before acting.
Questions you can ask about implications
Point of View
view something. It includes what you are looking at and the way you are seeing it.
Make sure you understand the limitations of your point of view and that you fully consider other relevant viewpoints.
Questions to check your point of view
We all have a system to break down how we understand things, how the world looks to us, how we make sense of the world. The ways we think are called the Elements of Thought.
But once we have thought about something, how do we know if we’re right? How do we know if our thinking is any good?
Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t think well. We tend to favor decisions and ideas that favor us, put our own group over other groups. We are…ego-centric and socio-centric. So, we need to force ourselves to look at things the way they truly are. So, to assess the quality of our thinking, we use the Intellectual Standards.
A standard is a measure of how good something is. The ancient Romans used symbols on the top of long poles to show the troops where they should stand and which way to face. It brought order to a crazy and chaotic battlefield. In much the same way, we use standards in thinking to make sure that hold our feet to the fire, to make sure that what we say and do is actually right.
There are nine Intellectual Standards we use to assess thinking: Clarity, Accuracy, Precision, Relevance, Depth, Breadth, Logic, Significance, and Fairness. Let’s check them out one-by-one.
Clarity forces the thinking to be explained well so that it is easy to understand. When thinking is easy to follow, it has Clarity.
Accuracy makes sure that all information is correct and free from error. If the thinking is reliable, then it has Accuracy.
Precision goes one step further than Accuracy. It demands that the words and data used are exact. If no more details could be added, then it has Precision.
Relevance means that everything included is important, that each part makes a difference. If something is focused on what needs to be said, there is Relevance.
Depth makes the argument thorough. It forces us to explore the complexities. If an argument includes all the nuances necessary to make the point, it has Depth.
Breadth demands that additional viewpoints are taken into account. Are all perspectives considered? When all sides of an argument are discussed, then we find Breadth.
Logical means that an argument is reasonable, the thinking is consistent and the conclusions follow from the evidence. When something makes sense step-by-step, then it is Logical.
Significance compels us to include the most important ideas. We don’t want to leave out crucial facts that would help to make a point. When everything that is essential is included, then we find Significance.
Fairness means that the argument is balanced and free from bias. It pushes us to be impartial and evenhanded toward other positions. When an argument is objective, there is Fairness.
There are more Intellectual Standards, but if you use these nine to assess thinking, then you’re on your way to thinking like a pro.