I am passionately interested in learning how we can improve our thinking so we can better understand what is true.
Improving the way we think about life so that we can communicate our ideas more clearly and confidently and identify information that is a result of sloppy, biased, misinformed thinking.
There is what exists (reality)
There is what we perceive it to be
(what we wish, want and believe to be true)
and then there is the many undeniable
variations of the truth.
For the truth isn’t a one-size fits all option.
Subjective truth is what is true about your experience of the world. How you feel when you see the color blue, what chocolate tastes like to you, what it’s like being with your family, all these are your experiences and yours alone. They are your personal truths.
I am interested in how we might bridge the gap between these personal truths, our perceptions about life and bring them closer together with deductive and inductive truths, to navigate our lives with a better map.
How might we begin? With acceptance. Acceptance of uncertainty. A fundamental skill for everyone is the ability to accept large amounts of uncertainty. In an ever-changing world, nothing is ever certain.
Here, four good arguments about doing just that. On Quora “How You Can Bridge The Gap Between Perception & Reality?”
Where Logic & Critical Thinking Fits in to the Truth
Logic is the science of how to evaluate arguments and reasoning. How to decimate what is false from true. Critical thinking is a process of evaluation that uses logic to separate truth from falsehood, and reasonable from unreasonable beliefs.
If you want to better evaluate the various claims, ideas, and arguments you encounter, you need a better understanding of basic logic and the process of critical thinking.
By developing your critical thinking skills you learn to evaluate information that you hear and process information that you collect while recognizing your implicit biases.
Characteristics of Critical Thinking
To become a critical thinker, you must develop a few skills.
- Recognize assumptions you carry with you. Have you ever wondered why you believe the things that you believe? Do you believe things because you’ve been told to believe them? Step outside your own beliefs to observe from a neutral viewpoint. Be aware of assumptions and learn to self-reflect.
- Process information honestly. People sometimes pass along information that is not really true (i.e. the “fake news” crisis).
- Recognize a generalization. Girls don’t like bugs. Old people are wise. Cats make better pets. These are generalizations. They’re not always true, are they?
- Evaluate old information and new ideas. There was a time when doctors thought leeches could cure us. Recognize that just because something is commonly accepted, doesn’t mean it is true.
- Produce new ideas based on sound evidence. Detectives solve crimes by collecting bits of truths and putting them all together like a puzzle. One small deceit can jeopardize an investigation. The entire truth-seeking process is destabilized by one piece of bad evidence, leading to a wrong conclusion.
- Analyze a problem and recognize the complex parts. A mechanic must understand how an entire engine works before s/he can diagnose a problem. Sometimes it is necessary to deconstruct an engine to figure out which part isn’t working. You should approach big problems like this: break them down into smaller parts and observe carefully and deliberately.
- Use precise vocabulary and communicate with clarity. The truth can be blurred by fuzzy language. It is important to develop your vocabulary so you can communicate truths accurately.
- Manage emotions in response to a situation or problem. Don’t be fooled by stirred up, emotional plea or angry speech. Stay rational and keep your emotions in check as you encounter new information.
- Judge your sources. Learn to recognize hidden agendas and bias when you collect information.
Daily Practices to improve your logical thinking
- Don’t accept just anything as true, which you do not clearly know to be such; that is, avoid hasty judgments and prejudice will prevent jumping the gun. It requires a disciplined mind.
- Divide each difficulty under examination into as many parts as possible, or into as many as necessary for the solution of the problem. Most problems are combinations of problems and this failure to understand such will lead to jumping to conclusion.
- Begin with the things that are simplest and easiest to understand, and then ascend to knowledge of the more complex.
- Make enumerations so complete, and reviews so comprehensive, that you may be assured that nothing is omitted.
- Draw out in tables or lists of what you know, and that which is wrong. If Boolean algebra is needed make, your truth tables of items. Make flow charts of the problem(s).
- The answer is in the details. Study each part as itself and then as a whole.
- Ask yourself this: “Is it logical, illogical, or nonlogical? Nonlogical does not mean illogical. Nonlogical is a statement like “I like to travel,” or “I love you” (showing emotion or opinions) are ordinarily regarded as non-argumentative and do not require supporting evidence since it solely is in the head of the person making the statement. Illogical is one, which violates the rules of sound reasoning (like added 2 plus 2 and getting 5).
- Do not use All, Always, Never, forever, Not ever, as they lead to false conclusions by over simplifying and generalizing.
- The most simplest answer may or may not be the one. If it truly is only one problem, then the simplest answer is most likely the correct one. If it is a series of problems, or more than one interconnecting problem, then it is no longer just simple.
Avoiding Logical Fallacies
Logical fallacies are flaws in reasoning that lead to illogical statements. Though logical fallacies tend to occur when ideas are being argued, they can be found in all types of writing. Most logical fallacies masquerade as reasonable statements, but they’re in fact attempts to manipulate readers by appealing to their emotions instead of their intellects, their hearts rather than their heads. The names by which logical fallacies are known indicate the way that thinking has gone wrong.
A hasty generalization draws conclusions from inadequate evidence. Suppose someone says, “My hometown is the best place in the state to live.” And the person gives only two examples to support the opinion. That’s not enough. And others might not feel the same way, perhaps for many reasons. Therefore, the person who makes such a statement is indulging in a hasty generalization. Stereotyping is another kind of hasty generalization. It happens, for example, when someone says, “Everyone from country X is dishonest.” Such a sweeping claim about all members of a particular ethnic, religious, racial, or political group is stereotyping. Yet another kind of stereotyping is sexism, which occurs when someone discriminates against another person based on gender. For example, when an observer of a minor traffic accident involving women makes negative comments about all “women drivers,” the person is guilty of a combination of stereotyping and sexism—both components of hasty generalization.
A false analogy draws a comparison in which the differences outweigh the similarities or the similarities are irrelevant. For example, “Old Joe Smith would never make a good president because an old dog can’t learn new tricks” is a false analogy. Joe Smith isn’t a dog. Also, learning the role of a president cannot be compared to a dog’s learning tricks. Homespun analogies like this have an air of wisdom about them but tend to fall apart when examined closely.
Begging the question
Begging the question tries to offer proof by simply using another version of the argument itself. This is also called circular reasoning. For example, “Wrestling is a dangerous sport because it is unsafe” begs the question. Unsafe is a synonym for dangerous, so the statement goes around in a circle, getting nowhere. Evidence of the claimed danger is missing. Here’s another example with a different twist. “Wrestling is a dangerous sport because wrestlers get injured.” Here, the support fro the second part of the statement is the argument in the first part of the statement. Obviously, since wrestling is a popular sport, it can be safe when undertaken with proper training and practice. And here’s yet another example: “Wrestlers love danger.” This time, the problem is the unstated assumption that wrestling’s supposed danger, not the sport, is what attracts wrestlers. Yet the audience can’t be assumed to share the opinion that wrestling is dangerous.
An irrelevant argument reaches a conclusion that doesn’t follow from the premises. It’s also called a non sequitur (Latin for “it does not follow”). This happens when a conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises. Here’s an example: “Jane Jones is a forceful speaker, so she’ll make a good mayor.” What does speaking ability have to do with being a good mayor?
A false cause assumes that because two events are related in time, the first caused the second. It’s also known as post hoc, ergo propter hoc (Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”) or the Butterfly effect. For example, if someone claims that a new weather satellite launched last week has caused the rain that’s been falling ever since, that person is connecting two events that have no causal relationship to each other. One must be careful that the two are connected. Cause and Effect can lead to the ripple effect though. When many events are related and can be traced back to each other much like the “to build a mousetrap game.” This is a major cause of jumping to a conclusion for many that do not carefully look at the outcome and logically reason out the problem.
Self-contradiction uses two premises that can’t both be true at the same time. Here’s an example: “Only when nuclear weapons have finally destroyed us will we be convinced of the need to control them.” This is self-contradictory because no one would be around to be convinced if everyone had been destroyed.
A red herring tries to distract attention from one issue by introducing a second that is unrelated to the first. It’s sometimes call ignoring the question. Here’s an example: “Why worry about pandas becoming extinct when we haven’t solved the plight of the homeless?” What do homeless people have to do with pandas? If the point is that money spent to prevent the extinction of pandas should do to the homeless, then that’s what should be said. By using an irrelevant issue, a person hopes to distract that audience, just as putting a herring in the path of a bloodhound would distract if from the scent it has been told to follow. This is very big in the political arena.
Argument to the person
An argument to the person means attacking the person making the argument rather than the argument itself. It’s also know as the ad hominem or ad homunem (Latin for “to the man”) attack. When a person’s appearance, habits, or character is criticized instead of the merits of that person’s argument, the attack is a fallacy. Here’s an example: “We’d take her position on child abuse seriously if she were not so nasty to her husband.” What does nastiness to an adult, though it isn’t nice, have to do with child abuse? Most people when losing a debate do this “You always think you are right, but you are not!”
Guilt by association
Guilt by association means that a person’s arguments, ideas, or opinions lack merit because of that person’s activities, interests, or companions. For example, here’s the fallacy in operation: “Jack belongs to the International Hill Climbers Association, which declared bankruptcy last month. This makes him unfit to be mayor of our city.” The fact that the group that declared bankruptcy and has Jack as a member has nothing to do with his ability to be the mayor.
Jumping on the bandwagon
Jumping on the bandwagon means something is right or permissible because “everyone does it.” It’s also called ad popilim (Latin for “to the people”). This fallacy operates in statements such as “How could smoking be unhealthy if million so people smoke?” Just because one can do something doesn’t make it right to do. Also done as justification of actions.
False or irrelevant authority
Using false or irrelevant authority means citing the opinion of someone who has no expertise in the subject at hand. This fallacy attempts to transfer prestige from one area to another. Many television commercials rely on this tactic—a famous tennis player praising a brand of motor oil or a popular movie start lauding a brand of cheese.
Card-stacking ignores evidence of the other side of the questions. It’s also know as special pleading. From all the available facts, only those that will build the best (or worst) possible case are used. Many television commercials use this strategy. When three slim, happy consumers praise a diet plan, only at the very end of the ad does the announcer—in a very low and speedy voice—say that results vary and even that language seems to have been chosen to be vague and non-informative.
The either-or fallacy
The either-or fallacy offers only two alternatives when more exist. This fallacy is also called false dilemma. Such fallacies tend to touch on emotional issues and can therefore seem accurate until analyzed. For example, “Either go to college or forget about getting a job” is an example of an either-or fallacy. Obviously, many jobs don’t require a college education.
Taking something out of context
Taking something out of context deliberately distorts an idea or a fact by removing it from its previously surrounding material. For example, suppose that a newspaper movie critic writes, “The plot was predictable and boring, but the music was sparkling.” And the next day an ad for the movie claims “critics cal it ‘sparkling.’” This is an example of the critic’s words having been taken out of context thereby a distortion of the original.
Appeal to ignorance
Appeal to ignorance ties to make an incorrect argument based on its never having been shown to be false—or, the reverse, an incorrect argument based on its not yet having been proven true. Such appeals can be very persuasive because they prey on people’s superstitions or lack of knowledge. Such appeals are often stated in the fuzzy language of double negatives. Here’s an example: “Because it hasn’t been proven that eating food X does not cause cancer, we can assume that is does.” In truth, the absence of opposing evidence proves nothing. Telling half the story or giving half the information, then drawing a conclusion from that.
Ambiguity and equivocation
Ambiguity and equivocation are statements that can be interpreted in more than one way, thus concealing the truth. For example, suppose a person is asked, “Is she doing a good job?” and the person answers with “She’s performing as expected.” Such an answer is open to positive or negative interpretation. A similar example of this fallacy is when the question “Have you made any progress?” is answered by “We’ve held some meetings.” Most who do this answer with nonspecific answers, never directly answering the question at hand. Avoidance is the key to identifying this.
This is a reposting from Recognizing and Avoiding Logical Fantasies
You can find over 300 logical fallacies here at Logically Fallacious