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:
- 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.
- Be alert to generalizations, especially ones that are unsupported or that are supported from just one or two specific, unusual or extreme examples.
- Be alert to anyone who uses emotional language and evaluative words instead of objective, factual responses.
- Do not confuse opinion, attitude, personal bias, speculation, personal assurance or unsupported generalization with hard, factual evidence.
- 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.
- Be sure that the evidence is relevant to the specific topic of discussion, not to some related topic.
- When an authority is referred to, do not automatically accept that authority unless their credentials are relevant to the issue under discussion.
- Make sure that the conclusion follows from the evidence.
- 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.
- Wherever possible, do not allow rational discussions to become heated arguments.
- Make sure that the evidence is thorough, not selective.
- Don't quibble; don't argue just for the sake of arguing.
- 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."
- Whenever you hear an argument, examine it before you accept its conclusions. As three questions:
- Are the statements - the premises - the points being made and used as evidence - true?
- Is the evidence complete? Or has the evidence been one-sided?
- Does the conclusion come incontrovertibly from the evidence? Or might a different conclusion just as easily have come from the evidence?
- 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