The authors’ main purpose of this chapter is to teach the importance of examining our ethics through the lenses of critical thinking. In general, critical thinking is being able to learn new material with an open mind and having a heightened level of self-awareness of our biases and how our biases impact the analysis of information. A critical thinking approach when applied to the logical analysis of journal articles, chapters or entire textbooks–encourages us to analyze the author(s)’ goals, objectives, issues, observations, facts, conclusions, biases, inferences, assumptions, perspectives, and their overall point of view. Critical thinking entails the ability to think clearly and rationally. Critical thinkers will take additional steps to increase their learning by conceptualizing, making connections between ideas, identifying, constructing and evaluating arguments. It requires the reader to find inconsistencies and common errors in thinking or reasoning. Our approach to this new problem solving process should be systematic and logical, not emotional. Critical thinkers will clearly spotlight, not hide, their own beliefs and values, (2006, Foundation for Critical Thinking). This reflection paper will follow the critical thinking steps of analyzing the logic of an article as suggested by Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder (Foundations of Critical Thinking). All steps and required criteria have been italicized, underlined and highlighted in bold.
Passive vs. Active Learners. Former traditional teaching and learning styles instilled passive learning: “Me teacher–you student,” “I teach–you learn,” or “I talk you–listen.” To evolve into a critical thinker one must desire evidence, data and be willing to be an active learner. We must
cease the habits of passive learning, which simply accumulate and regurgitate information. During my undergraduate studies, in the 1980’s, anyone who could read, write and had decent short term memory skills, had the tools to be successful in college. Passive learners think in black and white. Passive learners’ do not make the effort to look deeper or consider options. The passive learner has a tendency to view the world as one dimensional. May the passive learner rest in peace because he/she will not succeed in today’s era of higher order of thinking which most colleges expect. On the same token, professors whom foster critical thinking students must not feel challenged by students who question, share opposing ideas, or present competing evidence. Today’s professor should not confuse a student’s “out-of-the-box” thinking as combative or argumentative. They should view student interaction as an essential part of learning. By doing so, classroom discussions will be invigorating and the ability of viewing a single topic from multiple angles will be encouraged and perceived as relevant in this new type of learning. The key question that the authors are addressing, “is it possible to be ethically perfect?”
The problem may be when our code of ethics are written as commandments, “Thou shall not….” we are sure to fall short of 100% compliance. Pope and Vasquez provide an abundance of important information, they discuss in great detail how “we must be aware of common problems in judgement, reasoning, language, and justifications.” This chapter defines and provides examples of the following, 22 logical fallacies: ad hominem, affirming the consequent, appeal to ignorance (ad ignorantium), argument to logic (argumentum ad logicam), begging the question (petitio principii), composition fallacy, denying the antecedent, disjunctive fallacy, division fallacy, existential fallacy, false analogy, false dilemma, genetic fallacy, golden mean fallacy, mistaking deductive validity for truth, naturalistic fallacy, nominal fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this), red herring, slippery slope, straw person, and you too (tu quoque).
The main inference in this chapter is being human makes us vulnerable to ethical errors. The key concepts we need to understand in this chapter are: learn to recognize major patterns and pitfalls. The main assumption(s) underlying the authors’ thinking is, we are not perfect, but ignorance is not bliss nor is it an excuse for unethical behavior. If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are we must learn how judgement, the 22 types of logical fallacies in ethical reasoning, language and justifications impact are interpretation and commitment to adhere to our professional ethics. The consequences or benefits if you take authors’ line of reasoning: you will be less likely to commit ethical errors due to ignorance or experience difficulty applying ethics to your specific situation. However, if we fail to take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are we are sure to succumb to the pitfalls of logical fallacies which may place our client’s or ourselves in harm’s way. Clinicians may be misguided or misdirected by faulty and flawed reasoning. The implied consequences if you ignore the authors’ reasoning: we will be one of the many practitioners who although “conscientious and committed to ethical behavior, will be mislead by common cognitive strategies. Common cognitive strategies can fool us by making what we know seem perfectly ethical.” (pp.31)
The main point of view presented in this chapter is: regardless of how well intended or committed practitioners are to upholding ethical practice, as humans we are prone to physical exhaustion, mental stress, fear and conflict. When functioning under pressure we may rely on twisted judgement, appealing fallacies and juggled language. The authors believe no practitioner is infallible and at one time or another, we will all be vulnerable to at least a few of these ethical justifications (In Ethics ; Malpractice). Reflection
This chapter served as a reawakening of active learning and self-awareness. As Licensed Professional Counselors we should continuously examine our inner thoughts, values, perceptions and integrate critical thinking into all new learning. By re-examining my personal and professional ethics through the lenses of critical thinking, it guides me to a deeper level of comprehension, conceptualization and individualized application. The portion of the chapter which discusses individual examples for each fallacy type is extremely helpful. The examples actually jarred memories of my own errors and colleagues experiences and oversights which have transpired over the past 20+ years as a mental health provider. By staying abreast and alert of common ethical pitfalls, I will be wiser and make better judgement calls based on facts and not fallacies. I will be less likely to be swayed by faulty reasoning or get lost in confusing language. This chapter will serve as a tool, as it clearly provides the steps of how to analyze any situation in it’s entirety in order to reach an ethical and logical decision which will not negatively impact clients or myself. When I actively apply higher order of reasoning and implement critical thinking into the understanding of ethics, I will not be easily manipulated and I will be less likely to fall vulnerable to ethical error.
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