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08 January 2011

About.com: Critiquing Arguments - How to Evaluate & Critique Logical Arguments

A lot of people have trouble with logic.  Not only theitards and denialists, but smart people too.  We are after all the product of evolution, and have brains encumbered by many roiling emotions and contradictory signals.  However, most smart people are able to overcome the weaknesses of our biology and logically trace an argument to the most correct solution or position.  Well, unless it's about religion or politics...  Then it's like going to the Monty Python argument clinic.




Anyway, Austin Cline has a small essay on logical arguments.  While it may not really work against the people who really need it, at least you can weild it as a weapon against them.  I figure, if they use the "Pigeon Playing Chess" method of argument, we can make them appear even more foolish than they already are (and yes, I realize that is a much more emotional and illogical method than this article would approve of.  But I do not tolerate idiots very well, and think they should be mocked and dismissed to the fringe they belong in...).


Critiquing Arguments - How to Evaluate & Critique Logical Arguments

Can You Spot Flaws & Fallacies in Logical Arguments?

Knowing what an argument is and how it is structured is only the beginning. You can't properly evaluate and critique logical arguments without understanding the ways in which those arguments can go wrong. These problems are generally known as flaws and fallacies: a fallacy is a specific kind of defect in an arguments reasoning or inferences while a flaw is some other background defect in attitude, presentation, or reception. Can you recognize flaws and fallacies in arguments you see?

1. How do you Critique an Argument?

Assuming that we have established that we have an actual argument, the next step is to examine it for validity and soundness. There are two points on which an argument might fail: its premises or its inferences. Because of this, it is necessary to distinguish between valid arguments and sound arguments.

2. What is Occam's Razor?

Many people have heard of 'Occam's Razor,' but not everyone understands how it is supposed to work or why it is useful when evaluating claims and arguments. That is a pity, because it is one of the most useful tools available in a skeptic's toolbox.

3. What is a Fallacy?

Fallacies are defects in an argument — other than false premises — which cause an argument to be invalid, unsound or weak. By understanding what fallacies are, you can avoid making them and more easily detect them in the work of others.

4. Index of Formal & Informal Fallacies in Logical Arguments

Known logical fallacies listed in categories and explained as to why they are defects in arguments as opposed to valid reasoning. Multiple examples are included so that you can see what is happening in the sorts of arguments you may encounter in real life.

5. Logical Flaws in Reasoning: Flawed Reasoning, Arguments, and Attitudes

When a person's argument is flawed, usually those flaws can be traced back to identifiable fallacies. Not all flaws, however, can be technically labeled as fallacies. Some of these flaws might represent very specific errors in the reasoning process while others are better described as flaws in a person's attitude or how they approach the subject matter generally.Logical Flaws in Reasoning: Flawed Reasoning, Arguments, and Attitudes

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