Critical Thinking

analogy (argument from) anecdotal evidence argument begging the question bullshit facts scepticism truth

Analogy (argument from)

…arguments from analogy are only reliable if the situations being compared are relevantly similar, and unfortunately there is no simple test for relevant similarity. (Warburton 2008:12)

Anecdotal evidence

But when the prior is low, even honest excuses cannot make a claim likely. That’s precisely why “anecdotal evidence” is worthless in science, and in courts of law. (Carrier 2012:56)


Argument is the activity of logic, and any particular argument is a concrete manifestation of the reasoning process. … A categorical argument (one made up of categorical statements) is the most effective of arguments, then, because it provides us with certain knowledge. (McInerny 2005:41)

…the kind of knowledge that an argument can provide us is more sure than that based upon voices of authority. (McInerny 2005:60)

An argument expresses the heart of reasoning, the inferential move; in its simplest form it invites us to accept one idea as true on the basis of another. (McInerny 2005:84)

An argument has a dual purpose: to produce true conclusions and to persuade an audience. (McInerny 2005:88)

Argument is rational discourse. It is not to be confused with quarreling. The object of argument is to get at the truth. The object of quarreling is to get at other people. (McInerny 2005:97)

The ideal argument allows people to see that something is true on the basis of evidence. The only force that an honest arguer wants to use is the force of reason. (McInerny 2005:115)

Begging the question

The fallacy we call ‘‘begging the question’’ is therefore a very basic kind of mistake, for it attempts to get around the whole argumentation process. (McInerny 2005:109)


Her statement is grounded neither in a belief that it is true nor, as a lie must be, in a belief that it is not true. It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth—this indifference to how things really are—that I regard as of the essence of bullshit. (Frankfurt 2005:33–34)

…the essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony. (Frankfurt 2005:47)

…when I talk as I do about an Intellectual Black Hole being a bullshit belief system, it’s not the content I’m suggesting is bullshit but the manner in which its core beliefs are defended and promoted. … The bullshitter does not knowingly tell a fib. He does not assert something he knows to be false. Rather he just says things to suit his purposes… without any care as to whether what he says is true. (Law 2011b:14)


“Facts… were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.” (Loftus 2011:18)


Skeptics have their positions but are willing to consider other viewpoints; the religious are indoctrinated not to seriously question their beliefs. (Jason Long in Loftus 2010:77)

Skepticism is not a belief system. It’s an approach to truth claims, and a reasonable one at that. Skepticism is the hallmark of an adult who thinks for herself. (Loftus 2010:92)

The bottom line is that skepticism is a word used to describe doubt or disbelief. … It’s merely a filter we use to strain out the bad ideas, leaving us with the good ones. (Loftus 2011:13)

…skepticism is a learned virtue. (Loftus 2013:14)

Informed skepticism is an attitude expressed as follows: (1) it assumes one’s own religious faith has the burden of proof; (2) it adopts the methodological-naturalist viewpoint by which one assumes there is a natural explanation for the origins of a given religion, its holy books, and it’s [sic] extraordinary claims of miracles; (3) it demands sufficient evidence before concluding a religion is true; (4) it disallows any faith in the religion under investigation, since the informed skeptic cannot leap over the lack of evidence by punting to faith. (Loftus 2013:21)

There is a place for skepticism in sound reasoning, but it should be selectively employed. A distinction has to be made between skepticism as a permanent attitude, which is to be avoided at all costs, and skepticism as a fitting, even necessary, response to a particular situation. (McInerny 2005:91)

But skepticism as a permanent attitude, a philosophical point of view, is deadly. It subverts the reasoning process before it even gets started, transforming it into a process of mis-reasoning. (McInerny 2005:91–92)

The extreme skeptic proclaims baldly that there is no truth. This is obviously a self-contradictory position, for if there is no truth there is no standard by which that very claim can be assessed, and the skeptic’s statement is empty of meaning. The moderate skeptic is prepared to concede that truth may exist, but he maintains that if it does, the human mind in incapable of attaining it. At first, this position might appear less dismissive of truth than that of the extreme skeptic, but it really is not. A truth that is merely theoretical, and to which we do not have access, is, for all practical purposes, nonexistent. (McInerny 2005:92)


Her statement is grounded neither in a belief that it is true nor, as a lie must be, in a belief that it is not true. It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth—this indifference to how things really are—that I regard as of the essence of bullshit. (Frankfurt 2005:33–34)

Telling a lie is an act with a sharp focus. It is designed to insert a particular falsehood at a specific point in a set or system of beliefs, in order to avoid the consequences of having that point occupied by the truth. … The liar is inescapably concerned with truth-values. (Frankfurt 2005:51)

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. (Frankfurt 2005:55)

…telling lies does not unfit a person for telling the truth in the same way that bullshitting tends to. Through excessive indulgence in the latter activity, which involves making assertions without paying attention to anything except what it suits one to say, a person’s normal habit of attending to the ways things are may become attenuated or lost. (Frankfurt 2005:60)

The bullshitter … does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are. (Frankfurt 2005:61)

…truth often possesses very considerable practical utility. (Frankfurt 2007:15)

These shameless antagonists of common sense—members of a certain emblematic subgroup of them call themselves “postmodernists”—rebelliously and self-righteously deny that truth has any genuinely objective reality at all. (Frankfurt 2007:18–19)

…according to the postmodernists’ line of thought, the distinctions that we make between what is true and what is false are ultimately guided by nothing more indisputably objective … than our individual points of view. (Frankfurt 2007:20–21)

Insofar as truths possess instrumental value, they do so because they capture and convey the nature of these realities. (Frankfurt 2007:52)

The facts—the true nature of reality—are the final and incontrovertible recourse of inquiry. (Frankfurt 2007:55)

If there were no such facts or truths, if the world invariably and unresistingly became whatever we might like or wish it to be, we would be unable to distinguish ourselves from what is other than ourselves and we would have no sense of what in particular we ourselves are. It is only through our recognition of a world of stubbornly independent reality, fact, and truth that we come both to recognize ourselves as beings distinct from others and to articulate the specific nature of our own identities. (Frankfurt 2007:100–101)

…not to pursue truth would be absurd, since it is the only thing that gives meaning. (McInerny 2005:19)

Truth has two basic forms. There is ‘‘ontological’’ truth and ‘‘logical’’ truth. Of these two, ontological truth is the more basic. By ontological truth we refer to the truth of being or existence. Something is said to be ontologically true, then, if it actually exists; it has real being. (McInerny 2005:19–20)

Logical truth is simply the truth of statements. (McInerny 2005:20)

Establishing the truth in any particular situation is a matter of determining whether what one believes to be true, or suspects might be true, has a basis in fact. It is a matter of bringing together in harmonious juxtaposition the subjective and the objective. But the focus of attention here must be on the objective order of things. (McInerny 2005:20–21)

What determines the truth or falsity of a statement is what actually exists in the real world. Logical truth, in other words, is founded upon ontological truth. (McInerny 2005:21)

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