Aug 102013

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Common Reasoning Errors #1: Ingredient-Composition Error


I tend to be quite opinionated, love to argue, and have an insatiable urge to rid the world of bullshit. The end result of all of this that I tend to argue a lot on the Internet. However, I’ve started trying to avoid that, because it ends up being time consuming and not entirely satisfying because of the amazing amount of willpower that most people have when it comes to being, and remaining, wrong. As much as I avoid putting myself in such situations, it still happens regularly, thanks to the very nature of the Internet.

One thing I have noticed, however, is that most of the time, I end up arguing the exact same thing. As it turns out, that’s because there are a small number of common logic and reasoning errors that are repeatedly made in the areas that I come across most often (mainly politics and health/fitness). So, in an attempt at being efficient, I figured I might as well just write a series of blog posts addressing these errors. That way I can just link to the relevant posts…essentially having my cake and eating it too.

I will try to point out the errors, provide examples of how they show up in various contexts, and explain why they are, in fact, errors. This should help effectuate the ultimate goal of helping others recognize the errors in their daily life, and know what to do when encountering them.

Generally, the errors are all reasoning errors, which means that I’m not necessarily attacking the resulting conclusion. It’s entirely possible to come to a correct conclusion despite an error in the underlying reasoning. In fact, sometimes these reasoning errors are errors only in certain contexts, so one must understand how to identify these contexts. And even though a particular conclusion may be right despite reasoning errors, relying on a conclusion that follows from a reasoning error is unwise, and generally indicates that one should do further research.

Why is it important to focus on reasoning errors? Because 99% of the information that you will come across in your daily life, whether news reports, Internet blogs, etc., will be second hand information that involves analyzing a set of facts and drawing conclusions based on the analysis. For example, a blog post telling you that you should not eat a certain food will generally attempt to provide some logical reasoning as to why the product is “unhealthy”. You’ll see plenty of examples related to that topic.

Noticing the reasoning errors will allow you to determine whether you need to do more research or find a better source. If someone makes one very basic error in their analysis, why would you trust the rest? You’ll either have to continue reading their analysis, knowing full well that it might contain other, more subtle errors, or spend more time verifying the information they provide. Many of the errors I will introduce are so basic that when I come across one, I will immediately stop reading because I know the author lacks the capacity to provide a meaningful analysis.

I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to structure the series, but most likely I will introduce individual errors in single posts. This will help make them more digestible, as opposed to writing fewer posts that are of greater length. I will add new posts as I come across errors that I feel are common enough to address. Then, when I come across other examples of the errors I have previously discussed, I’ll create new posts and link them in some way. By seeing how these errors actually materialize in various situations, it should be easier to pick them out on your own.

I will probably post other related blog posts that are more general, but related, along the way, such as understanding the importance of identifying the limits of human knowledge. I’ll link to them in this series, but won’t technically include them as a part of the series itself. I’ll put everything in some kind of outline or table of contents or something when I start adding more posts. Keep an eye on the blog for updates.

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  One Response to “Common Reasoning Errors: Introduction and Contents”

  1. […] View the introduction/table of contents for this series of posts here. […]

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