Blog Post: Intellectual Standards are Presupposed in Every Subject and Discipline

Linda Elder
Jul 13, 2020 • 31d ago
Intellectual Standards are Presupposed in Every Subject and Discipline

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"All academic subjects and disciplines presuppose the use and fulfillment of intellectual standards. This follows from the fact that reasoning lies at the heart of every subject and discipline. Where there is reasoning, there is a need to analyze the component structures of reasoning, and then, ultimately to assess those structures using intellectual standards."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"·      Are you fully aware of the intellectual standards most important to reasoning well within your subject or discipline?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"·      To what degree are these intellectual standards made explicit within the field?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"·      To what degree are these intellectual standards violate by professionals within the field?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"When we recognize that every academic discipline is a mode of thought, we recognize that all thinking within a discipline can be analyzed according to its essential logic."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","bold":true},"insert":"Every academic discipline:"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"generates purposes"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"raises questions"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"uses information"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"utilizes concepts"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"makes inferences"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"makes assumptions"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"generates implications"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"embodies a point of view"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"To learn any subject, then, is to learn how to reason within that subject, and to analyze the structures embedded in it. It is to learn to think within its logic with skill and discipline, to (for example):"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"raise vital questions and problems within it, formulating them clearly and precisely;"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"gather and assess information, using ideas to interpret that information insightfully;"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"and standards;"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"adopt the point of view of the discipline, recognizing and assessing, as need be, its"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"assumptions, implications, and practical consequences;"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"communicate effectively with others using the language of the discipline and that of"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"educated public discourse; and"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"relate what one is learning in the subject to other subjects and to what is significant in"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"human life."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"All subjects and modes of human thought thus take for granted essential intellectual standards. In other words, those who think with skill within disciplines recognize the importance of clarifying and exploring key concepts, of identifying relevant information when reasoning through problems and issues and checking that information for accuracy, of reasoning through the complexities in issues, of reasoning within alternative relevant and significant viewpoints, and so on."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Conversely, no subject or discipline could exist without holding to essential intellectual standards. No scientist, for instance, would argue that it is just as well for scientists to think unclearly as clearly, to think inaccurately as accurately, to think irrelevantly as relevantly. Foundational intellectual standards are thus assumed within the logic of every subject and discipline. In short, intellectual standards are indefeasible when it comes to reasoning through and issues in the disciplines; they are unavoidable."},{"insert":"\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Intellectual Standards Most Relevant to Reasoning Within the Disciplines Need to Be Articulated"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Every field of study, then, presupposes and strives to meet basic and essential intellectual standards such as accuracy, relevance, and logicalness. However, some intellectual standards may be more important to reasoning well within any given field than other intellectual standards. Therefore, it is up to those working within each discipline to articulate the intellectual standards most important to reasoning through the problems and issues in the discipline, to detail how the standards should be contextualized within"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"the field."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"By explicitly contextualizing intellectual standards within your discipline, you raise your awareness of them; you are more likely to consistently meet them; you are more likely to see when they are being ignored or violated."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Careful analysis of any discipline helps illuminate the intellectual standards most necessary to thinking well within it. To lay bare this logic, and keeping in mind the elements or structures of thought embedded in every discipline, you can begin with the following questions:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What is the main purpose or goal of studying this subject? What are people in this field"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"trying to accomplish?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What kinds of questions do they ask? What kinds of problems do they try to solve?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What sorts of information or data do they gather?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What types of inferences or judgments do they typically make? (Judgments about…)"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"How do they go about gathering information in ways that are distinctive to this field?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What are the most basic ideas, concepts or theories in this field?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What do professionals in this field take for granted or assume?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"How should studying this field affect my view of the world?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What viewpoint is fostered in this field?"},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"What implications follow from studying this discipline? How are the products of this"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"field used in everyday life?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Once you have answered these questions, you can then begin to apply intellectual standards to the logic of your discipline and to see which intellectual standards are most usefully contextualized within it. To exemplify this, consider the following logic of ecology followed by our brief comments on some of the intellectual standards essential to skilled reasoning within that logic."},{"insert":"\n \n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#0066cc","bold":true},"insert":"The Logic of Ecology"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Purposes of Ecologists"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists seek to understand plants and animals as they exist in nature, with emphasis on their interrelationships, interdependence, and interactions with the environment. They work to understand all the influences that combine to produce and modify an animal or given plant, and thus to account for its existence and peculiarities within its habitat."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Questions that Ecologists Ask"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"How do plants and animals interact? How do animals interact with each other? How do plants and animals depend on one another? How do the varying ecosystems function within themselves? How do they interact with other ecosystems? How are plants and animals affected by environmental influences? How do animals and plants grow, develop, die, and replace themselves? How do plants and animals create balances between each other? What happens when plants and animals become unbalanced?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Information Ecologists Use"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"The primary information used by ecologists is gained through observing plants and animals themselves, their interactions, and how they live within their environments. Ecologists note how animals and plants are born, how they reproduce, how they die, how they evolve, and how they are affected by environmental changes. They also use information from other disciplines including chemistry, meteorology and geology."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Judgments Ecologists Make"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists make judgments about how ecosystems naturally function, about how animals and plants within them function, about why they function as they do. They make judgments about how ecosystems become out of balance and what can be done to bring them back into balance. They make judgments"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"about how natural communities should be grouped and classified. They must also make judgments about how best to inform and guide public policy, where relevant and possible."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Concepts that Guide Ecologists’ Thinking"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"One of the most fundamental concepts in ecology is ecosystem, defined as a group of living things dependent on one another and living in a particular habitat. Ecologists study how differing ecosystems function. Another key concept in ecology is ecological succession, the natural pattern of change occurring within every ecosystem when natural processes are undisturbed. This pattern includes the birth, development, death, and then replacement of natural communities. Ecologists have grouped communities into larger units called biomes, regions throughout the world classified. according to physical features, including temperature, rainfall and type of vegetation. Another fundamental concept in ecology is balance of nature, the natural process of birth, reproduction, eating and being eaten, which keeps animal/plant communities fairly stable. Other key concepts include imbalances, energy, nutrients, population growth, diversity, habitat, competition, predation, parasitism, adaptation, coevolution, succession and climax communities and conservation."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Key Assumptions Ecologists Make"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Patterns exist within animal/plant communities; these communities should be studied and classified; animals and plants often depend on one another and modify one another; and balances must be maintained within ecosystems."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Some Key Implications of Thinking Ecologically"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"The study of ecology leads to numerous implications for life on Earth. By studying balance of nature, for example, we can see when nature is out of balance, as in overpopulation, and our failure to mitigate human causes of climate change. We can see how pesticides, designed to kill pests on farm crops, also lead to the harm of mammals and birds, either directly or indirectly through food webs. We can also learn how over-farming causes erosion and depletion of soil nutrients."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Point of View of Ecologists"},{"insert":": "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists look at plants and animals and see them functioning in relationship with one another within their habitats, and needing to be in balance for the earth to be healthy and sustainable."},{"insert":"\n \n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#006100","bold":true},"insert":"Application of Intellectual Standards in Ecology:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"To comprehend how intellectual standards are essential to reasoning through questions and issues within ecology, consider the following examples, noting the intellectual standards in italics:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Reasoning within the logic of ecology depends upon one’s ability to formulate "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"clearly "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"and "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"precisely"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" the questions at the heart of the discipline. Thus ecologists must be able to identify and formulate seminal questions within the field."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must think "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"comprehensively"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" about the questions at the heart of the discipline."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must think "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"deeply"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" about ecological issues so as not to oversimplify their approach to them."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Through their questions, ecologists must draw links between ecology and other modes of thought, questions that seek "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"relevant"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" understandings from other subjects and disciplines (such as botany, zoology, ethics)."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must ensure that the information they use in reasoning through ecological issues is "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"accurate"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" and "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"relevant"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" to the questions being addressed. They must include information about all "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"relevant"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" parts of the interconnected system."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Though ecologists draw from a large body of facts, they must make many judgments utilizing those facts, many of which come from observations and which lend themselves to more than one reasonable interpretation. Ecologists must therefore be careful to draw the most "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"logical"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" inferences in observing plant and animal life as they attempt to understand complexities in ecological systems."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must think "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"comprehensively"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" in making judgments about ecological systems."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must also make "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"logical"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" judgments about how best to help guide public policy."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must have a rich and "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"deep"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" understanding of concepts outside ecology which influence or affect ecological realities (concepts such as political power, economic power, vested interest, politics, population control) to make reasonable judgments about how to best foster protection of ecological systems."},{"insert":"\n• "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Ecologists must be able to follow out the "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"logical"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" implications of their observations and interpretations - decades and even centuries into the future. Largely because of the prominence of the human species on the planet, because of its inordinately high population in comparison with other mammals, the earth is an ecosystem out of balance. Couple this with the fact that many human behaviors lead to devastating effects for other animals and plants living on the planet and the importance of ecological thinking seems apparent. Our very survival may well depend upon it. Thus ecologists need to reason well through the most important "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"logical"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" implications of ecosystems out of balance, and they need to educate people about the problem and what can be done about it."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Now that you have read through our example, write out your own example, first detailing the logic of your discipline focused on the elements of reasoning (see the "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"Wheel of Reason"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" in the Academy for help with this), then detail the intellectual standards most important to reasoning through your discipline (see "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"Criteria Corner"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" in the Academy for help with this). Your students should be able to perform these tasks as well. Otherwise they will not be learning to the think through your field as a mode of reasoning, with an established logic, and with definitive intellectual standards that must be adhered to while reasoning through problems and issues within the field."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"This blog is adapted from "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20","italic":true},"insert":"The Thinker’s Guide to Intellectual Standards"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" by Linda Elder and Richard Paul (2008)."},{"insert":"\n"}]}

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