Logic Is Dead
As discussed in a previous post, logic fails in the real world. Real-world problems do not lend themselves to logical reasoning since any non-trivial issue involves some uncertainty (Was the report accurate? Is the test result a false-positive?). When the problem is also complex, involving large amounts of information with intricate dependencies, then uncertainty can render the logical argument meaningless.
How Does Anyone Make Decisions?
Given these hurdles, how has humanity managed to make any progress at all? How do we deal with uncertain information in cases of high complexity? Continue reading
Heuristics: Decision-making Shortcuts
What are you more afraid of: boarding a plane, or getting into a car? For many people, flying comes with nervousness or trepidation. Such concerns don’t reflect realistic concerns. Car crashes claim more lives each year by orders of magnitude. But they do reflect something else: a cognitive trap to which almost everyone is susceptible.
Making decisions can be difficult. To help us along, our minds use a number of cognitive shortcuts. These shortcuts, called heuristics, allow us to make more rapid decisions with minimal calculations. Unfortunately, while generally efficient, heuristics can also lead us astray.
Isn’t Logic Great?
Who doesn’t like logic? We idolize Sherlock Holmes’ ability to solve mysteries by “eliminating the impossible.” In arguments with friends, we try to prove we’re right using logic, rather than intuition or emotions. And we especially enjoy pointing out others’ logical fallacies–preferably using latin terms.
Don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. Finding logical fallacies is actually much less impressive than you might think. That’s because in the real world, all arguments violate the principles of formal logic.
Yes, perhaps every logical argument you have ever encountered was flawed.
The False Dilemma
The Fallacy of Presumption can take many forms. One common example is the false dilemma. This fallacy is also known as the false binary or false dichotomy. As its name indicates, the false dilemma divides a scenario into only two alternatives. When the situation calls for a yes/no answer, that works fine. But in many situations, things are more complex. Thus the false dilemma tricks you into choosing between two imprecise, inaccurate or otherwise flawed options.
What do ad hominems, appeals to authority, red herrings and the straw man argument have in common? Each of these is an example of the Fallacy of Relevance.
Fallacies of Relevance are logical fallacies in which a key part of the argument is actually irrelevant to its conclusion. People often find these fallacies hard to detect. Understanding how to construct and take apart an argument can help you avoid falling for such fallacies.
Circular reasoning is a common logical fallacy. It is a form of the Fallacy of Presumption. In these fallacies, an argument sounds coherent and compelling, but is actually dependent on one or more faulty or unproven arguments . In circular reasoning, each claim loops around and rests on the assumption of one of the other claims. Thus, no single starting point is ever conclusively and independently established.
“Donald Trump says that he is trustworthy. But Donald Trump is a liar. You can’t trust liars. When Donald Trump says that he is trustworthy, he is lying.”
“Crooked Hillary is crooked because she’s untrustworthy. She can’t be trustworthy because she’s crooked.”