Ethical Realism

August 30, 2013

Manipulative Tactics

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:47 am
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Manipulative tactics are those that can get people into believing something without giving any reason to think the belief is true. Informal fallacies are errors in reasoning that are often used as manipulative tactics, but sometimes we can use a manipulative tactic without actually committing an error in reasoning. Although informal fallacies are only one type of manipulative tactic, philosophers often treat all manipulative tactics as though they are fallacies. Just about every type of manipulative tactic has a corresponding fallacy. I will give examples of various manipulative tactics and corresponding fallacies. I hope to help make it clear that the difference between fallacies and potentially nonfallacious manipulative tactics is generally not important enough to worry about. Some people might defend a manipulative tactic by insisting it’s “not actually fallacious,” but that reply would usually miss the point. (more…)

July 16, 2013

The Appeal to Authority

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 11:21 pm
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Should we ever trust anyone’s expertise? The “appeal to authority” is a well-known fallacy (nonrational way to reason) and some people claim that all appeals to authority are fallacious. I was once told that my religion is science because I trust the expert opinion of scientists, so apparently that person doesn’t think scientists should be trusted. I will explain why we should often trust expert opinion and we have little choice but to often do so. (more…)

The Critical Thinking Attitude & Critical Thinking Virtues

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:34 am
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Critical thinking is an educational domain concerned with good reasoning. In the broad sense critical thinking includes both formal and informal logic. The narrow sense of critical thinking (as it is often taught in universities) is primarily concerned with (and often equated with) informal logic. Formal logic primarily involves the study of logical systems, logical axioms, logical consistency, and logical validity; and informal logic primarily involves argument identification, argument interpretation, unstated premise identification, and informal fallacies. (See “What is Logic?” for more information.) Critical thinking is generally not thought to be merely about memorizing logical facts. Instead, it is also thought to involve the development of critical thinking skills, the critical thinking attitude, and critical thinking virtues. The purpose of this paper is to briefly discuss critical thinking skills, the critical thinking attitude, and critical thinking virtues. (more…)

July 8, 2013

Unstated Premises

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:18 am
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I will discuss what unstated premises are, how to identify them, and how to determine what they are.

What are unstated premises?

Unstated premises are premises that a deductive argument requires, but are not explicitly stated. Deductive arguments are popular and can be rationally persuasive, but people don’t always state all of the premises that their deductive arguments require. These premises can be called “unstated premises,” “missing premises,” or “hidden assumptions.” For example, consider the following argument: (more…)

May 2, 2013

Cognitive Bias & Informal Fallacies

Daniel Kahneman wrote Thinking, Fast and Slow, which is about the psychological research concerning cognitive bias. Kahneman could very well be the leading expert concerning cognitive bias at this point in time. His research concerns how people reason and why people often reason poorly, and it has some important implications for critical thinking. I will describe three cognitive biases that he discussed in his book, and explain how they relate to logical fallacies. (more…)

March 6, 2013

Why Logic is Important

Filed under: epistemology,philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:56 am
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Recommended reading: What is Logic?

Why is logic education important? The main question here is what the real point of logic education is. The real point of logic is not to teach people how to be logic professors, or to increase test scores, or to impress potential employers. Philosophers and mathematicians were very interested in understanding logic long before it was taught in universities precisely because of how important it is. Why is logic so important? The answer is that logic helps us better understand good arguments—it helps us differentiate between good and bad reasons to believe something. We should want to have well-justified beliefs. We want to know what we should believe. Understanding good argumentation helps us understand when we should believe something, and understanding logic helps us understand good argumentation. (more…)

February 12, 2013

Arguments Are Important

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 1:38 am
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At some point you are likely to hear about how giving arguments is rude and we would all get along better without arguing. Arguing is often thought to be a shouting match or hostile disagreement of some sort. However, argumentation is central to thinking rationally and critical thinking. The success of natural science could not exist without it. Yes, some arguments are disrespectful, but not all of them are. (more…)

January 22, 2013

How to Have a Rational Debate

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:22 am
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It can be difficult to find anyone willing and able to engage in rational debate, but it is something I think we should aspire to having. Many people refuse to engage in rational debate because they find it offensive or they would rather engage in name calling. I believe that rational debate has a lot to offer. It can help us better understand how to reason properly and to develop critical thinking skills. Rational debate is important to everyone who wants to know what they should believe about a controversial issue because we need to know if there’s a good argument in favor of a belief. (more…)

December 31, 2012

What is Argument Mapping?

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 9:26 am
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You can download a PDF ebook of this introduction to argument mapping here:


Argument maps are visual representations of arguments to help people better understand them. A meta-analysis of various studies found that classes with lots of argument map practice are the most effective type of critical thinking class to help improve critical thinking skills. (more…)

December 6, 2012

Argument Maps vs Other Argument Diagrams

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 7:16 am
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I believe that argument maps as I understand them are superior to other types of argument diagrams. I will describe four different kinds of argument diagrams, then explain why argument maps seem to be the best. (more…)

October 10, 2012

What is Logic?

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:10 am
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Logic is a domain of philosophy concerned with rational criteria that applies to argumentation. Logic includes a study of argumentation within natural language, consistent reasoning, valid argumentation, and errors in reasoning. It is divided into two main domains: Formal and informal logic. (more…)

September 9, 2012

10 Myths About Logic

Logic is greatly misunderstood. Not only do very few people understand logic properly, but even critical thinking educators believe false things about logic. I will discuss ten myths (false beliefs) I believe many people have about logic. (more…)

August 22, 2012

Not All Good Arguments Are Logically Sound Part 2

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 12:18 am
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See Part 1 here. (I advise you to read part 1 first.)

One reason that not all good arguments are logically sound is because good arguments used in science are inductive, and inductive arguments are not meant to be logically sound. However, not all good deductive arguments are logically sound either. There is a sense that deductive arguments would ideally be logically sound, but some deductive arguments have sufficiently justified premises, even if those premises aren’t known to be true for certain. A good deductive argument must be logically valid, and it must have sufficiently justified premises. Even so, not all good deductive arguments are logically sound. (more…)

August 13, 2012

Not All Good Arguments Are Logically Sound

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 11:53 pm
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More than one person has believed that all good arguments are logically sound, but this is a mistake. Not all good arguments are logically sound. Even so, understanding why not all good arguments are logically sound can help us better understand what good arguments are. I will discuss what good arguments are, I will explain what it means for an argument to be logically sound, explain the distinction between deductive and inductive arguments, and present an argument that proves that not all good arguments are logically sound. (more…)

June 24, 2012

Critical Thinking Concepts Everyone Should Know About

There is a great deal of critical thinking concepts that can be both convenient to use and help improve our critical thinking skills. However, some critical thinking concepts should be considered to be indispensable to being a human being because it’s a requirement of having a minimal capacity to reason and argue properly. The list of critical thinking terminology listed here are used to refer to concepts that everyone should know about—and yet many people either haven’t been informed about them or they don’t understand them properly:


June 7, 2012

Introduction to Philosophical Thinking

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:49 am
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The following is a list of links to blog posts in the “correct order” for learning about philosophical argumentation and essay writing. (It can be a good idea to read my “Introduction to Argument Mapping & Critical Thinking” and “What is Philosophy?” articles before reading these articles.) (more…)

May 31, 2012

Nonrational Forms of Persuasion & Manipulation

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 12:45 am
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The world is full of manipulation, lies, and unreasonable thought. We all know we can’t believe everything we read, but people still get manipulated and charlatans occasionally make a fortune anyway. The Internet is one of the greatest sources of information, but we still need to know what information is reliable. It can be difficult to know what to believe, it can be difficult to identify manipulation, and it can be difficult to identify errors in reasoning. Additionally, there is research that strongly suggests that even the most reasonable people suffer from a great deal of cognitive bias. (more…)

April 27, 2012

Introduction to Argument Mapping & Critical Thinking (Ebook/PDF, updated 12/5/2012)

You can download a free short introduction to critical thinking & argument mapping. Go here for more information.

I have made a comprehensive introduction to argument mapping and critical thinking in the form of an ebook. There is evidence that argument mapping is the most effective way to learn critical thinking. Argument maps are visual representations of arguments that help us understand how arguments work, and what it takes to make a good argument.

This ebook is no longer available for free on the website because I am considering publishing it. If you would like to use it for free to teach a class, you can send me a message with information about who you are, the school you work at, and how you plan on using it in the class. I would also require that you give me feedback. You can send me a message using the form below.


April 16, 2012

Argument Mapping Classes Are The Most Effective At Improving Critical Thinking

According to a meta-analysis of existing studies, argument mapping classes are by far the most effective at improving critical thinking.

Claudia María Álvarez Ortiz completed an in-depth analysis regarding the most effective forms of critical thinking education in 2007. Her MA thesis was Does Philosophy Improve Critical Thinking Skills? It can be downloaded for free right here in PDF format. She wanted to know how effective philosophy classes are at teaching critical thinking compared to other classes. Her study provides evidence for the following conclusions: (more…)

June 19, 2011

Proving an Argument Is Logically Valid

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 9:05 am
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I have discussed the importance of understanding logical form and how to create formal counterexamples. Understanding logic well is a lot easier when we know something about logical validity, and one way to better understand logical validity is to consider an argument that proves an argument to be valid. If we can know why an argument can be valid, then we can know more about logical validity in general. I will now produce a proof of logical validity here. It can take some time to understand the proof, so you might want to take your time to read it carefully. (more…)

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