Be Cautious of the Fallacy Fallacy
There’s a danger to learning about cognitive biases and logical fallacies and so on which is that you end up with this tool kit of ways to reject other people’s arguments.
Julia Galef is a New York-based writer and public speaker specializing in science, rationality, and design. She serves on the board of directors of the New York City Skeptics, co-hosts their official podcast, Rationally Speaking, and co-writes the blog Rationally Speaking along with philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci. She has moderated panel discussions at The Amazing Meeting and the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, and gives frequent public lectures to organizations including the Center for Inquiry and the Secular Student Alliance. Julia received her B.A. in statistics from Columbia in 2005.
While it’s really valuable to be able to notice rhetorical fallacies in other people’s arguments, it’s possibly even more valuable to be able to notice them in your own arguments.
And the reason is that there’s a danger to learning about cognitive biases and logical fallacies and so on which is that you end up with this tool kit of ways to reject other people’s arguments. And if you don’t turn that tool kit on yourself then you just end up more and more entrenched in the beliefs that you already had.
There’s this term that I like called the fallacy fallacy which refers to when you notice some fallacy in something someone’s saying and you use that as an excuse to ignore their point altogether even though, in fact, they might have many good points despite the one fallacy in their argument.
And if you’re smart you should be especially cautious of the fallacy fallacy because research shows that smart people have greater ability to notice flaws in other people’s arguments and don't look for flaws in their own arguments. So, you really have to want to figure out the right answer, to figure out the truth more than you want to prove yourself right or to win a particular argument.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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