15 Ways to Detect Nonsense
by Brian Auten
How do you avoid bad thinking? How do you detect nonsense? By nonsense we mean fallacious reasoning. Robert J. Gula’s book Nonsense is a great place to start to begin to think critically and to spot fallacies in reasoning. (Review here.) It’s a book that is thorough with an informal style with plenty of entertaining examples. If it’s a fallacy, it’s probably in this book. In the final note of the book, Gula distills the book into 15 principles. Here is that content: 15 Ways to Detect Nonsense:
- Be alert to anyone who speaks in absolutes: who uses words such as all, none, no one, never, always, everyone, must, immediately, or who refers to a group of people as if all the members have identical characteristics, beliefs, or attitudes.
- Be alert to generalizations, especially to generalizations that are not supported or that are supported from just one or two specific, unusual, or extreme examples.
- Be alert to anyone who uses emotional language and evaluative words instead of objective, factual responses.
- Do not confuse opinion, attitude, personal bias, speculation, personal assurance, or unsupported generalization with hard, factual evidence.
- Be sure that the issue under discussion is clear and precise, that its ramifications and complexities have been identified, that its goals have been identified, and that the words and concepts have been defined…
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