Blog Post: Watch the film 12 Angry Men - Look for Intellectual Virtues and Critical Reasoning Moves

Linda Elder
Jul 30, 2019 • 4y ago
Watch the film 12 Angry Men - Look for Intellectual Virtues and Critical Reasoning Moves

If you want to see ethical critical thinking vividly displayed in stark relief against bias, myopia and group think, see the movie 12 Angry Men (I recommend the 1957 version. The acting and directing are magnificent). And then see it again and again periodically, given that it is a classic film with many layers, and hence deserving of our analysis and consideration.

Read about the film here:

I was introduced to this movie in a social psychology course as a graduate student; Richard Paul and I viewed and explored its many levels through our years together. It was one of our favorite classics, to return to time and again. I could image a world in which all jurors were required to watch this film, and thoroughly analyze its significant meanings, before serving on a jury.

Keep in mind these questions when watching the film and afterwards please share your answers in response to this blog:

What intellectual virtues and critical thinking “moves” do you see displayed in the film? Elaborate and exemplify.

What forces are working against critical reasoning in this setting? Elaborate and exemplify.

1589 Views     5 Comments

Submit a comment


Posted by: Susan Crooks

I am planning on completing this assignment next weekend. You can access this movie free:

Posted by:

Posted by: Behnam Jafari

Linda, Thank you very much for introducing such a classic movie. It was fantastic and artistic. I learned a lot from my first watching.

Thank you, Susan, for sharing the download link. It was very helpful and exciting and I am waiting for you comment and feedback(if You like)

I am very assured that I should watch it again and again to delve into its deeper layers. The movie is very engaging to me because it is artistically showing both the lack and presence of the Intellectual Virtues in reasoning. The most significant point I learned from this movie is: There were eleven people from different backgrounds who mostly wanted to punish that boy mainly because of their internal anger. This anger could come from their personal emotional experiences, prejudices, racism and other probabilities such as a HOT room. For instance, in the beginning of the argument the person No. 2 says I am adhering to facts and I have no personal feeling toward this argument that in the end of the movie we are seeing that unlike his claim he has a very strong personal emotion. The person No. 9 suddenly stereotyping kids living in suburb as a criminal. Henry Fonda, No. 7 is just following evidence-based reasoning. I think he__ thanks to the intellectual virtues such as Int. (Int. as Intellectual) Courage, Int. Humility, Int. Confidence in Reason, Int. Perseverance__ could convince others. In fact, his secret was that he emphasized that " He does NOT know, He is just neutrally reasonable doubtful. He is not in favor or against the boy." Then, others started to trust him and his reasoning. I mean he tried to prevent others from taking the argument personal.

Reminder: No. 7 is Henry Fonda the first man who believed that the boy was NOT guilty.
Ans. 1: As much as I could figure out in my first watching the movie these Virtues could be seen:
Int. Humility: When No. 7 says, I do NOT know whether he is guilty or not but I want to find convincing reasons.
Confidence in Reason and Int. Perseverance: No. 7 limited himself to just evidence-based reasoning and tries over and over challenging arguments by dissecting their elements such as assumptions, inferences, point of views, and so on.
Int. Empathy: No. 7 tries to LISTEN carefully and sympathetically to others. This allowed him to put himself in their shows to see the argument from their point of views.
Int. Integrity: No. 7 held himself to the same standards applying to others in reasoning. For instance, he tried to prevent others from straying from the topic and he himself never lost his focus on the argument.
Intellectual courage: No. 7 never attach the argument to his personal backgrounds and beliefs. Although, he was alone in the beginning, he had intellectual courage to continue as a critical thinker. During the argument, he rarely lost his temper. On the other hand, we see that some change their mind easily (lack of Int. Autonomy) or were affected by conformity.

Ans 2: There are some forces against fair-minded critical thinking as follow:
a) Vague thinking: they(except NO.7) were just crammed with some testimonies which failed to meet such standards as Accuracy, Relevance, Depth, Precision, Fairness
b) Lack of Int. Courage which caused them to attach their personal feelings, beliefs, their past experiences with the argument and also to follow conformity.
c) Lack of ethical reasoning. Almost none of them(except No.7) were aware of the implications of their decision. It seemed that it was even not about the life of a young man. They just make decisions based on their faulty reasoning and personal emotions. This was the part of the movie which impressed me a lot. How much I have been aware of the implications of my reasoning and decisions during my life? How much positively and negatively have I affected others’ lives? This part was very intense to me, since I was able to see myself like those eleven people. This is sad but the good news is also that I also see inside of myself that I can improve my reasoning to fair-minded critical thinking ethically.

To put everything in a nutshell, I learned one thing important that in an argument there is not any loser or winner. The only thing that does matter is evidence-based reasoning ethically.

Posted by: Joseph Halter

Comment: Great movie on critical thinking with fairness and justice in mind with human frailties. Each juror showed a little bit of each of us.

The environment was hostile with high room temperature and very little comfort for a discussion, dialogue or debate to come to a conclusion.

1. What intellectual virtues and critical thinking “moves” do you see displayed in the film? Elaborate and exemplify.

I would suggest all intellectual virtues were exhibited and most of the elements and standards given by various members of the jury.

Intellectual empathy and intellectual courage seem to go together. Juror 8 illustrated both to begin with. He wanted to put himself in the position or point of view of the defendant to start and humanize the person. He asked, "suppose you were on trial?" With this position, he took the courage to go against the rest of the group based on the presumption of innocence "concept" and started with this position rather than guilty.

Juror 8 with others exhibited humility many times since they were not sure if this was true or not of the information or assumptions or conclusions presented. They could be wrong but were willing to explore with reason and logic the evidence using the standards of critical thinking, such as accuracy. The "eye witnesses" information needed further analysis and assessment since it was significant in the conclusion by the prosecution. After reviewing further with clarity (questions used and assumptions examined for accuracy) logic, precision (knife and glasses), relevancy (train noise and speed), depth and breath of questions, assumptions and information gathered with fairness to the various stakeholders involved including the victim and the accused and others.

Many of the jurors were open-minded to examine further reasoning with intellectual integrity since new evidence was presented about the train speed, elderly man and his agility and the glasses of the woman. The juror who was raising many biases and prejudices of people who lived in slums was also able to see his reasoning was faulty after feedback from others.

The virtue of Intellectual Perseverance was demonstrated with the principle of innocent and reasonable doubt. These two concepts seem to be the most significant and relevant for the pursuit of the truth.

Allowing each of the voices of the jurors to contribute to the dialogue/debate was showing Confidence in Reasoning and providing each with different points of views of the information or lack of presented.

I was amazed that juror 8 had shown Fairmindedness with objectively, unemotional and detached of his own interest for the goodness of justice and fairness. Personal attacks did not faze him and held his composure throughout the debate. He showed Empathy at the end by getting the last jurors jacket and helping him with it.

2. What forces are working against critical reasoning in this setting? Elaborate and exemplify.

Wow! So many forces of egocentric and sociocentric forces were at played in the movie.

Slogan and cliques such as "do gooders", "slum and poor people" "Think too much and you get mixed up"

Biases and prejudices of self interest of people living in the slums. One statement that was profound saying, prejudices/biases obscure the truth.

Time at the beginning was a barrier since many of them had other things to do.

Emotions of the "angry" jurors did not help with the logic or reasoning for the conclusion or information.

Tic, tac toe game playing as a distraction and bad humor.

Many of the statement made offended jurors, such as age, background, income, etc.

Eye witnesses seem credible until behaviors were examined and it shows how we forget things that we do not favor. Confirmation bias.


In the long run, after logic and reason were conducted, the "heat"diminished and the "light" got brighter for a fair-minded conclusion. Justice and fairness was served by ordinary people.

Edited: August 10.

Posted by: James Brent

I have watched this movie many times and occasionally use it as part of a class project. I think many of the comments made here state very well what intellectual virtues are in play and what critical thinking moves are made. As for a contribution, I wanted to bring up just or twof things: I wondered for a long time why it was called "12 'Angry' Men." It seems to me now, after seeing it again, that perhaps each of the jurors also reflected anger. Some of them were angry superficially, such as the juror who was angry because it was hot and because he wanted to be at a baseball game. Some were angry because their prejudices or projections or authority were being challenged. But those who exemplified intellectual virtues most highly, such as Fonda's character, were angry at hypocrisy and closemindedness. That kind of 'anger' might be an expression itself of an intellectual virtue.

Posted by: Joseph Halter

I think our emotions, desires and logic does come to the surface since it is a natural response to the situation. For the most part, I thought Juror 8 (Fonda) kept his composure with all the conflicting and irrational statements. Much better than I would have been able to do but than this was a scripted movie from the book written several years earlier.

I do think sometimes constructive and mild emotions can be very helpful. How does one present an argument without much emotion? To present another point of view (innocent until proven otherwise) than what others are providing (guilty) takes intellectual courage with moderate emotion. Anger by definition is "a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility" according to dictionary. I did not see much anger with Juror 8 but that may be my bias.