Tag: logic and reasoning
The fact that we are able to anticipate most of the consequences of our actions is undoubtedly a blessing. However, we can also allow fear or over-cautiousness to make us anticipate events that are not likely to follow. This edges us toward a common error of judgement: the slippery slope.
We use our experience and knowledge to understand what is unknown or inaccessible to us. We are attracted to patterns and judge the world in terms of what is already familiar to us. However, out of a desire to understand some things more quickly, we often draw conclusions without sufficient evidence. Thus we fall into the trap of the sophism called hasty generalization.
The appeal to ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam) is an error in thinking which argues that a conclusion is true because there is no evidence against it, or that a conclusion is false because there is no evidence in its favour.
Needing to process a multitude of complex information in a short amount of time can lead to erroneous reasoning. When a conclusion is supported by weak or irrelevant arguments, the reasoning falls into the category called non sequitur—does not follow, or irrelevant argument.
When what someone says can be interpreted in multiple ways, we are in danger of coming to an understanding which is different to their intended message.
When one wants to justify the harm one has done by saying that others have done the same or that this evil was only a reaction to the harm done by someone else, they commit the logical error of appealing to hypocrisy.
In an argumentative discussion each party involved must be able to express their point of view without constraints, discrimination or other interferences. This is, in fact, an important prerequisite for the effort to overcome differences of opinion. In practice however, often things are far from this ideal. Not only do interlocutors not respect each other’s right to free speech, but they also resort to unfair and manipulating arguments in order to impose their own opinion. One of these devices is the appeal to the person or the argumentum ad hominem.
The moment we distort a person’s intention, statement, gesture or action for our own personal gain we are using, consciously or unconsciously, the straw man argument − a frequent fallacy.
In our everyday lives we often resort to simply repeating what has been said or done before. But not everything that is old is authentic or correct. When we refer to tradition with full confidence that the way it was understood and acted on in the past is self-evident, we are committing the logical error of appealing to tradition, or false induction.
In everyday life, whether we like it or not, we rely on the information provided by experts or specialists. However, no authority deserves blind trust. When we take someone's word for granted simply because that person is an authority, we make the logical mistake called "appeal to authority."
When we consider that a conclusion is founded only if a lot of people consider it true, we fall into the trap of the argumentum ad populum or the appeal to popularity.
As Christians we are interested in a perpetual spiritual, moral, general human perfecting. But can we really succeed without perfecting our way of thinking, our capacity to understand, and thus without increasing our intellectual capital?
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