Critical Thinking: An Introduction
Fallacies and critical thinking are all the rage in some circles, but I hear a lot about (and occasionally experience) people making ’logic-noises’ who clearly haven’t studied the subject. In fact, they seem unaware one can take a University course in the subject, as they’ve missed the first lesson every student of Logic learns - the Principle of Charity.
The principle of charity means that we should interpret any statement charitably, that we should assume the speaker is acting in good faith, and that if someone looks like they have mad beliefs then we should clarify the intended statement rather than denouncing it. I’ll give an example of a statement, and counterargument:
I think we should return to Christian values.
So you want to sell-off virgins after committing war-crimes? That's awful.
Selling virgins may well be in the Bible, but it’s definitely not what someone is talking about when they say ‘Christian values’.
A better answer might be:
The Bible has over fifty books, and there's a lot of commentary in Christian circles, so could you clarify which values you think society has lost, and should be regained?
Maybe people could start waking up to the need for Communist values after the next housing crisis.
Or maybe we could skip all that and just send people to the gulags now, if that's what you want.
The speaker has not suggested any gulags, so if the interlocutor wishes to show that gulags follow necessarily from anything which might be described as communist, then the burden rests on them to clearly propose this, and argue for it. A better reply might be:
Communist countries don't have a great history. Are you speaking about countries like that, or some new form of communism?
That’s better, as it opens the door for conversation, but could be better still.
And now for one of my all-time favourites from Reddit:
Trust me allot of Americans feel that way [about thugs], but if we are public about it we could lose our jobs and standings. The blue haired woke people are the loudest and will stop roads and shit if they don’t have their way. Even though they think they are doing the right thing they don’t read anything past headlines and are ruining this country and not allowing America to help the world
It’s not possible to engage with this sort of thing in good faith, so no real discourse can happen. The principle of charity can only request silence.
I suspect a lot of the facts-and-logic crowd wanted a verbal weapon to ‘own the libs’ or something, but just as real science involves fewer glorious speeches and more arguing over the significance of a chi-squared distribution, real facts-and-logic begins with patience and understanding.