Critical thinking involves a set of skills that can be applied to literally any topic. This includes ethics, which many people wrongly take to be a matter of pure opinion or maybe feeling. Critical thinking actually plays a good role in clear ethical thinking. Ethics is hard sometimes, and it’s easy to fall prey to bad arguments. To see what I mean, take a look at this chapter I wrote for a business ethics textbook: Critical Thinking for Business Ethics
Here’s the introduction:
This chapter will explore the application of critical thinking skills to the study of business ethics. We will begin by asking what critical thinking is. Students will learn that critical think- ing is a systematic approach to evaluating and formulating good arguments in defence of specific beliefs or claims. Next, we will ask why critical thinking is essential to ethics. This involves illustrating how mistaken ethical beliefs can be rooted in either (a) faulty premises or (b) faulty logic. Faulty premises will be further subdivided into unacceptable factual foundations and unacceptable ethical principles.
We will then provide students with a handful of key critical thinking skills that they can apply to analyzing and resolving ethical challenges. First, students will learn about argument structure and the key components of arguments, namely premises and conclusions. Next, students will learn about the ingredients of good ethical arguments, and will be given tools for examining both the acceptability of premises and the relevance of particular premises to specific conclusions. Finally, the chapter will include a brief discussion of various well-known pitfalls in ethical reasoning, including logical fallacies (such as the argument from tradition, false dilemma, and the argument from popularity) as well as cognitive biases (such as the framing effect).