Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thinking Logically

Thanks to Amal Ghazal for lending her expertise to our seminar. The debate over the new citizenship handbook has continued this week. Active History provides a fairly thorough overview that refers to our seminar. So feel free to weigh in with your opinion, either on this blog or one of the others.

Monday will be our last seminar for the Fall semester. As we discussed last class, your task for this week is to discuss how an article or book in your field commits a fallacy. You can select the fallacy first from the taxonomy in the Fallacy Files web site, and then review articles and books to look for evidence of it. Alternatively, you can select a book first and then read through it critically, looking for whether the author commits a fallacy.

You may want to start with some of the more common fallacies, such as red herrings, non causa pro causa (and its sub-fallacies), unrepresentative sample, one-sidedness, loaded question, bifurcation, appeal to consequences, and appeals to ignorance.

If the article or book you've chosen contains a literature review or an explicit historiographic discussion, then look for these common fallacies as well: the bandwagon fallacy, the ever popular ad hominem attack, the etymological fallacy, and the appeal to emotion.

I encourage you to post comments on what your research turns up. See you at the Stokes Seminar on Friday.


Anonymous said...

What amazes me is how many of these logical fallacies are also time-honored methods of advertising.

It's a little spooky.


Jerry Bannister said...

In terms of context, it's important to keep in mind the recent rise of behavioral economics, which is a popular hybrid of Keynesian and Friedmanite theories. (According to some commentators, President Obama subscribes to this approach). For a useful summary of this movement, which explores the apparent illogic and irrationality of certain behaviorial patterns, see this piece by John Cassidy. If you're curious about this, you can also visit the Nudge web site.