Tag Archives: informal logic movement

What’s wrong?

The main motivation for the Critical Thinking Squared website and this blog is to raise consciousness about critical thinking pedagogy in the discipline of philosophy.  There are a few ways in which scholarship has advanced in recent decades that textbooks continue to ignore.  Many of these advances come from argumentation theory, and here are the basic advancements in that field that I find textbooks tend to neglect:

  1. Arguments take place in dialogues.  Some theorists view the dialogue as a secondary aspect; but the consensus is that among the range of forms that argumentation can take, arguments take place between people.  They are not free-standing but audience-relative, an insight going back to Chaim Perelman and Stephen Toulmin.
  2. Fallacies are forms of argumentation. Without this assumption there is little hope of providing any coherent account of fallacies. While fallacy labels provide a longstanding method for teaching reasoning, the errors we count as fallacies take many different forms and until the development of the informal logic movement there was little method behind the lists of error names.  The depth of this problem has been set forth by Charles Hamblin in his book Fallacies (1970).  Since then, fallacies have been systematized in three different ways:
    1. The three aspects of an argument that may go wrong (acceptable premises, relevance of premises to conclusion, and sufficiency of premises in supporting the conclusion).  This analysis structures  the classic books by Johnson & Blair and Govier.
    2. Presumptive argumentation schemes that may work well or go awry.  Identification of the proper working of a presumptive scheme of argumentation, such as an appeal to authority or a generalization, one considers critical questions characteristic of the particular scheme.
    3. The pragma-dialectic approach treats fallacies as rule violations but that provides no systematic account of how they arise.

Many textbooks employ the first analysis, but many still lean on ad hoc lists of names and view most types as categorical problems despite the flourishing of epistemologies showing the relevance to reasoning of emotion, testimony, generalization, etc., all of which challenge such categorical dismissals.


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