Skip to main content
Search form
  • 00:01

    TOM CHATFIELD: The astonishing importanceof challenging assumptions.It's impossible to say anything without making assumptions.Just by saying this, I'm assumingthat you understand English, are paying attention,and care at least a little bit about what I have to say.I may be wrong.It doesn't matter very much.At worst, you'll ignore me or write a cutting

  • 00:22

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: comment about this video.If, however, we were both working on an oil rigand I shouted out a warning to you in a languageyou didn't understand, but that I thought you did,my assumption might turn out to mattervery much when a piece of metal hits you in the head.Taking things for granted that shouldn't be taken for granted

  • 00:43

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: is not only a hazard on oil rigs.Consider the following line of argument--there is no such thing as evolution.Scientists have spent centuries tryingto prove its truth beyond doubt and they'vefailed again and again.So it can't be true.Can you spot the dodgy, unstated assumptionin that line of argument?

  • 01:03

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: It relies on the belief that anythingwhich hasn't definitively been proved truemust therefore be false.Once I;ve spelled this out, and you've thought about it a bit,it's easier to show it doesn't make sense.If I said to you, there's some doubtthat giving money to charity benefits society,

  • 01:23

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: so, therefore, giving money to charitydoes no good at all, that doesn't sound right.If I said, I can't be entirely surethat my wife doesn't turn into a birdwhen I'm not looking at her, so she must do this.Now you know something's wrong.Plenty of things cannot be definitively proved one wayor the other, and yet this doesn't automatically make them

  • 01:45

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: true or untrue.They're simply more or less likely to be true.But until we identify and spell out the troublesome assumptionlike this, it's difficult to engage property with a claim,or to see where exactly someone might be tryingto trick us into agreement.In general, assumptions are dangerous whenan argument or set of beliefs relies upon them,

  • 02:08

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: and yet, because they're unstatedthey are unexamined and unchallenged.And this is especially true when two peoplehold very different assumptions, making it impossiblefor them to have a meaningful conversation.For example, one person says, we must learnfrom the lessons of history.Another replies, I think our education system

  • 02:30

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: must look forwards.Now the first person is talking about human historyas a general source of knowledge,and the second person is talking about historyas a subject taught in schools.But unless they pause and clarify what they mean,they're likely to end up just tradingnoisy assertions without finding any common ground.

  • 02:50

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: Politics and playgrounds are like this a lot of the time.Unearthing significant assumptions is quite an art,given just how many things we need to assume evento have a conversation.If I tell you that something is wrong because it'sagainst nature--gay marriage, perhaps, or blood transfusions,or cosmetic dentistry--well, what exactly am I assuming?

  • 03:13

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: Are clothes against nature, or medicines,or written language, or walking upright, or indoor toilets?Do I even know what I'm assuming if I say something like this?Perhaps the trickiest art of all is digging outour own unexamined assumptions.What do you think matters most in life?Why?How did you arrive at this view?

  • 03:35

    TOM CHATFIELD [continued]: Might you be assuming too much in some of the opinionsyou hold, or in some of the judgments you pass on others?

Video Info

Series Name: Critical Thinking

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2018

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Critical reading, writing and thinking

Keywords: belief perseverance; beliefs (psychology); Strategic assumptions

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Tom Chatfield explains the importance of challenging assumptions, especially when an assumption forms the basis of a set of beliefs.

Looks like you do not have access to this content.

The Importance of Challenging Assumptions

Tom Chatfield explains the importance of challenging assumptions, especially when an assumption forms the basis of a set of beliefs.

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website