Monday, April 27, 2015

Using Validity and Critical Thinking On a Daily Basis

On a daily basis, we hear claims of how this product leads to weight loss, how we should support someone’s awe-inspiring cause, and where we should be spending our time. Invalid arguments are familiar and knowing how to determine whether or not an argument is truthful can help us make choices that lead to better outcomes.

Life is full of people who want you to buy something, sell something, get on a team, and convert to their cause. The list of invalid arguments are nearly endless. Most of us come across inaccurate and invalid arguments that are designed to stir our emotions but have little substance. Knowing valid from invalid arguments helps us see the truth behind the words.

An argument is valid if the premises are true, and the conclusion is not false. Main points should lead to and support the conclusion. In situations where the premises are true but the conclusion is false then the argument is invalid. The premise and the conclusion should hold true.

Even though logic and life may seem different, one leads to the quality of the other. Good choices offer greater outcomes. It is beneficial to try and find your way through arguments by using critical thinking and searching out counter arguments. If you can select counter arguments, the argument becomes open to questioning and more likely invalid.

You can see an example of a statement from a shifty used cars salesman:

“This is a great car because its style is modern. You seem like a guy with great taste, and if you buy this car you are going to be popular as well”.

While it might be true that buying this car is popular and could make you more popular there are many circumstances where this does not hold true. Perhaps you have a great sense of style and decide to buy the car but don’t want your friends to ride in it. If your friends can’t get a ride, they may not like you very much. Maybe the car is in style for people in your grandmother's age group.

The point being that popularity rests only in part on the type of car you drive and more heavily influenced by personality, style, and other issues that make one desirable. The car in and of itself won’t make you the most popular person in town.

It may have been more accurate for the salesperson to say, “This car has sold more models than any other car in the country. You seem to be a guy who cares about his social image. If you buy this car, it will make a statement about who you are.”

This statement is more accurate as the facts about the popularity can be checked with sales numbers. Likewise, research has backed the idea that when we buy a product we are saying a little bit about ourselves. Many of purchase choices are a direct reflection of our personality. The second argument makes it through the "smell" test.

Validity of arguments should maintain a level of internal consistency that helps us know that the premises justify the conclusion. Searching out alternative explanations helps us get a better grasp of what is going on. Flattery with emotionally driven words is not the same as having a logical argument with internal consistency.

Using your logic, reasoning, and fact checking ability, you will be less prone to the false statements that have become part of our lives. Whether it be advertising, a request for a donation, purchasing a car or political support for an idea it is important for you to use your critical thinking skills. It will help you make more accurate conclusions and decisions that lead to advantageous behavior that helps you fulfill your goals.

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