"The Red Herring and the Power of Logic" is a book designed to help people of all persuasions to think more clearly and gain an independence of mind. As we learn the methods of logical thinking we will see many problems or issues in a new light. Our approach to these will gain a new confidence. The gift of independence is there already, waiting to be adopted, absorbed and applied to every day life. It is a gift that cannot be taken away once we have it. It is a gift that will become second nature and one will wonder how one ever managed without it.
In fact we have the gift of independence within us, ready to flourish, awaiting the spark that will set us on course. Regretfully there are influences that inhibit our logical reasoning powers and prevent us from gaining fully independent thinking.. Fortunately however, humans are naturally curious of mind and by engaging this book you have already taken the first steps towards identifying these preventive forces. We often encounter the arguments of authorities and even friends that sound a little suspect but we can't put our finger on exactly why.
One often comes across, in books on logical or critical reasoning, advice on how to 'win' an argument or how to persuade and influence others. It suggests a rather combative approach. Businessmen and women are encouraged to spot fallacies in their opponents' arguments. Discussions and arguments are seen as competitions with winners and losers.
This is not the approach that I wish to support. I heartily accept that the 'best argument wins the day'. One must remember though that the best argument may not be one's own.
Recognising this is important because we are tempted to lose sight of the truth, in order to get one's own point across. We all like to have the final say. We get a buzz from feeling that we have impressed someone with our convincing arguments.
If we look at the world we can see where this type of thought manifests itself and leads unfortunately to illogical and dishonest reasoning. The party politician constructs arguments that 'appeal' to an intended audience. Lawyers and barristers construct defence and cross-examination strategies. In both cases there is no genuine enquiry into the truth, only a desire to convince people by means of any sophistry available. Newspaper editors deliberately distort or withhold information to satisfy a readership with pre-conceived opinions. Religious leaders try to restrict the free flow of information and criticism of their beliefs. They insist on faith and an unquestioning attitude. They assume the truth.
To the logical thinker, however, these assumptions cannot be made. Truth is recognised as desirable and yet difficult to achieve. If we are to have any success then the logical thinker must approach all the relevant information with an open mind. Our reasoning must be sound and we must free ourselves from trying to impress others. None of these requirements are easy, but they are a beginning.
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arm-chair logic: self-help for logical thinking, critical thinking, lateral thinking and reasoning.