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…)

June 13, 2013

Good Arguments

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 1:15 am
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What’s the point of a rational argument? To give someone a good reason to believe something. A sufficiently good argument gives us a good reason to believe something is true. It is better for us to have beliefs that are supported by good arguments in the sense that they are more likely true based on our limited understanding of the world, but it is possible for them to be false. (more…)

December 20, 2011

Five Tips For Better Debates

Debate can be an educational opportunity (for hopefully at least one participant), but many people find it to be a “waste of time.” This is likely due to the fact that many people have bad habits and know very little about how to debate well. Nonetheless, the Internet gives us new opportunities to debate using message boards, blogs, and so on. I want to encourage people to debate informally in everyday conversation whether face-to-face or online, and I will discuss five argumentative virtues that can help us have better debates—charity, relevance, clarity, modesty, and justification. These virtues apply to any sort of debate including philosophical essays, but I will also discuss certain flaws I’ve encountered in informal debates. (more…)

June 17, 2011

Logical Validity & Counterexamples

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:36 am
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I have already described formal logic and explained why it’s important for proper reasoning. One of the best ways to learn formal logic is to take a logic class. However, we don’t have to take a class just to learn the basics and improve our intuitive grasp of formal logic. What I want to do here is explain how to use counterexamples to prove an argument to be logically invalid. This can help improve our understanding of logic and help us prove arguments to be logically invalid. (more…)

June 16, 2011

Examples of Errors in Reasoning

One common way to learn about good reasoning is to pick apart arguments by spotting errors in reasoning and applying our knowledge of epistemic principles in various contexts. In other words, we can improve our rational thinking through practice. Once we can better criticize other people’s arguments, we can learn to better criticize our own. I will describe twenty examples of poor reasoning and one example of good reasoning, but I won’t immediately explain why I think the examples use poor reasoning. Instead, my answers will be listed in a separate section. You are encouraged to think about why each of these examples are examples of poor or good reasoning before reading my answers. If two arguments are presented in an example, then consider why there are errors in the reasoning of the objection rather than the positive argument. It is possible that my answers are mistaken or incomplete, but I will defend them. It’s possible for more than one error to be made, but my focus will be on the most serious failings of each argument rather than the less serious ones. Additionally, the focus here is not on false premises or conclusions as much as poor reasoning. That’s not to say that false assumptions don’t play an important role in poor reasoning in general. (more…)

December 27, 2010

Raising Children, Education, and Indoctrination

Are we educating and raising children properly or indoctrinating them? Most people seem to assume that children are educated pretty well, and they assume that they raise their own children pretty well—but almost everyone admits that at least some people indoctrinate their children by using manipulative or disrespectful tactics. Many people worry that parents or educators pass on their beliefs to children no matter how horrible the beliefs are. Many people think it’s wrong for racists to teach their children to be racists, communists to teach their children to be communists, and even religious people to teach their children to have a particular religion. (more…)

March 5, 2010

How to Become a Philosopher Free Ebook (Updated 11/26/2013)

I have made a free ebook that discusses the the basics you need to know to think philosophically. Want to improve your thinking? Attain a sort of critical thinking far beyond what most teachers understand? Live a life concentrated on what is most important? If so, philosophy is a good start. (more…)

February 26, 2010

Four Terrible Ways to Argue

Philosophers have mentioned thousands of fallacies (errors in reasoning), but I will discuss four more in detail that I find to be very common. These fallacies are terrible ways to argue. I have already discussed several other fallacies, but here are four more that everyone needs to know about. Understanding these fallacies can help us develop better argumentation, and they can help us identify errors in reasoning given by others. The four fallacies are the following:

  1. Appeal to Ignorance
  2. Equivocation
  3. Reversal of Burden of Proof
  4. Begging the Question


February 24, 2010

Four Requirements for Good Arguments

Formal logic can help us achieve clarity and help us make sure our arguments are relevant in various ways, but there are other requirements for a good argument. Most philosophers seem to get caught up discussing fallacies (errors in reasoning) rather than good reasoning. I will discuss the following four requirements for writing good arguments and the corresponding fallacies for failing to achieve the requirements:

  1. Supporting Evidence
  2. Relevant Evidence
  3. Consider all Viable Options
  4. Charity


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