Ethical Realism

April 17, 2014

Can We Reason About Ethics?

Filed under: epistemology,ethics — JW Gray @ 7:51 am
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I think we can reason about what is good and bad (or right and wrong).

Let’s start off with a simple example. We have a choice to give to a charity that helps people or a charity we find out doesn’t really help people. Which charity should we give to? I think it is obvious. The one that actually helps people. There is no point to giving to a charity that doesn’t help anyone. (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…)

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…)

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:


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…)

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…)

November 2, 2011

Review of The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail

Filed under: ethics,philosophy,review — JW Gray @ 7:16 am
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Jonathan Haidt, a moral psychologist, wrote the essay “The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail” where he introduces his “social intuitionist model” of moral judgment and discusses four reasons to doubt the causal importance of reason for moral judgments. The social intuitionist model proposes that moral judgments are created from various factors including intuition and emotion, and only rarely due to a reasoning process. “Rationalist models” supposedly claim that that moral judgments are mainly created by a reasoning process. (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…)

June 17, 2011

Examples of Valid & Invalid Logical Reasoning

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:29 am
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I have described formal logic, said a little about why it’s important for proper reasoning, and described how we can prove arguments to be logically invalid through counterexamples. I will now give examples of valid and invalid logical arguments to help illustrate the difference and help us learn how to identify the difference in everyday life. I will give 10 examples of arguments that could be either valid or invalid, but I won’t give the answers to the examples right away to give you a chance to think about the answers on your own. Then I will give the answers in another section below and justify my answer using counterexamples when possible. I will also prove that various argument forms are valid. It’s possible that the arguments below make use of poor reasoning that is unrelated to logical validity, but logical validity is my only concern here. (more…)

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…)

August 26, 2010

Moral Reasoning Without Moral Theories

Someone once suggested that we might not need moral theories to reason about morality. I found this to be an intriguing idea despite not fully knowing how it could be done, but I now understand why moral reasoning does not require a moral theory. There are at least four ways to reason about morality without theory: (more…)

August 6, 2010

10 Myths About Morality

Although philosophers disagree about many elements of morality, they agree about quite a bit as well. Philosophers disagree about whether capital punishment or the war on drugs are right, but they agree that slavery and torture are almost always wrong (if not always wrong). Philosophers also agree quite a bit about what views about morality are false, and for good reason. These myths are untenable views about morality, and they are often very popular among the nonphilosophers. I think it’s important that everyone find out that these views are untenable. I will discuss ten of these myths about morality:


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


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