How Critical Thinking Can Combat Argumentation Wizardry

I’ve always found fallacies to be the most interesting part of argumentation. I like to describe them as the wizardry of arguments because they include tricks and techniques that make an unsound argument appear logical.  Fallacies are deceptive arguements. In fact the word fallacy dates back to 1350 from the Latin words “fallacia” meaning deceit & “fallax” meaning deceptive.

The Foundation for Critical Thinking explains, what I see, the main problem behind many people’s inability to identify fallacies:

“Most people deeply believe in — but are unaware of — the following premises:

1. It’s true if I believe it.
2. It’s true if we believe it.
3. It’s true if I want to believe it.
4. It’s true if it serves my vested interest to believe it.”

Identifying fallacious arguments might be easier if there was a comprehensive list of all the possible fallacies you could memorize and look for. Lucky for us, no such list exists. There are dozens of fallacies. From the straw man fallacy to the slippery slope, you can try an identify the various types of argumentation wizardry but there is a better way to move past the above premises.

Critical thinking encourages you to be a fair-minded thinker. Critical thinkers don’t need to memorize lists of various fallacies. Instead, they are able to combat them by working through the RED-model. While evaluating arguments you should: be aware of persuasion techniques (such as fallacies), recognize bias and check strong emotions.

Just for fun here are some of my favorite Foul Ways to Win an Argument according to The Thinker’s Guide to Fallacies:

“Accuse your opponent of doing what he is accusing you of.
Accuse him of sliding down a slippery slope.
Assume a posture of righteousness.
Beg the question.
Create a false dilemma.
Devise analogies (and metaphors) that support your view.
Create misgivings: where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Deny your inconsistencies.
Evade questions, gracefully.
Flatter your audience.
Ignore the evidence.
Ignore the main point.
Make your opponent look ridiculous.
Raise nothing but objections.
Rewrite history.
Treat abstract words and symbols as if they were real things.
Throw in a red herring… or two.
Throw in some statistics.
Use double standards.”

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Elizabeth Pauker-Silva

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