Some Great Advice by Robert Gula

funny-pictures-cat-activates-secret-doorI belong to a book club that has been reading Nonsense: Red Herrings, Straw Men and Sacred Cows: How We Abuse Logic in Our Everyday Language by Robert J. Gula.

I really wanted to share part of chapter 17 with you. Mr. Gula lists the most important principles to be gleaned from the rest of the book. I highly recommend getting the book and reading it. It has really helped me think more logically. The other thing it's helped me with is to realize when someone has used a logical fallacy on me. I might not remember the name, but I remember that it is nonsense. It sort of gives me a red flag when someone uses bad logic in an argument. I think that's pretty invaluable.

So here's the list of important principles from Robert Gula:

  1. Be alert to anyone who speaks in absolutes: who uses words like all, none, no one, never, always, everyone, must, immediately, or who refers to a group of people as if all the members have identical characteristics, beliefs or attitudes.

  2. Be alert to generalizations, especially ones that are unsupported or that are supported from just one or two specific, unusual or extreme examples.

  3. Be alert to anyone who uses emotional language and evaluative words instead of objective, factual responses.

  4. Do not confuse opinion, attitude, personal bias, speculation, personal assurance or unsupported generalization with hard, factual evidence.

  5. Be sure that the issue under discussion is clear and precise, that its ramifications, complexities and goals have been identified, and that the words and concepts have been defined.

  6. Be sure that the evidence is relevant to the specific topic of discussion, not to some related topic.

  7. When an authority is referred to, do not automatically accept that authority unless their credentials are relevant to the issue under discussion.

  8. Make sure that the conclusion follows from the evidence.

  9. Be sure that you do not put others in a position where they have to make inferences, and that you are not put in a position where you have to make inferences. In other words, be sure that necessary steps are not omitted in argument. Avoid making assumptions.

  10. Wherever possible, do not allow rational discussions to become heated arguments.

  11. Make sure that the evidence is thorough, not selective.

  12. Don't quibble; don't argue just for the sake of arguing.

  13. Think critically. Never let a fallacy go by without making a mental note of it; even if you don't say anything, say to yourself, "this is nonsense."

  14. Whenever you hear an argument, examine it before you accept its conclusions. As three questions:

    1. Are the statements - the premises - the points being made and used as evidence - true?

    2. Is the evidence complete? Or has the evidence been one-sided?

    3. Does the conclusion come incontrovertibly from the evidence? Or might a different conclusion just as easily have come from the evidence?

  15. Finally, no matter how skilled in argument you may become, never forget the opening sentence of Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado":
    The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.
    The world does not need another smart aleck.

Cross-posted from Morgantown Atheists

1 comment:

  1. This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 11/16/2009, at The Unreligious Right