Logic and Social Change – We Need Both

Logic may not always (ever?) triumph over emotion but logic still has an important role to play in activism. Here you will find some suggestions for using logic for a cause or against the opposition, or to improve the quality of your own thinking. Please use logic for all three purposes!

Using Logic to Advance a Cause: I’ll assume you can make some reasonable connections between the principles you espouse, the idea you are putting forward, and the supposed results. If you can explain your line of reasoning your cause will be helped. Study the common logical fallacies and try not to commit any of them.

(What? Do a search for “list of fallacies” on Wikipedia and read the entry.)

Screw up here and your opponents, or the public, will catch you. If you look at your argument dispassionately, you may see that your idea is based on shaky logic.

Fight the Other Side: I’m going to take a risk here and suggest that it probably won’t be hard to find logical flaws in the other side’s argument. Pointing these out to them or the public might help in one of two ways. The folks on the other side may agree that their idea wasn’t as good as it seems, though don’t expect such an open admission of error! You could still use whatever opening apperas to discuss your idea or a third one that’s closer to your own preference.

Improve Your Own Thinking: Once you know how to spot faulty reasoning you could (Please!) apply the rules to your own arguments. Refer back to that list of logical fallacies on Wikipedia. Think about a solution/program/policy that you advocate. Are there any logical flaws in your reasoning on this subject? How might your reasoning be strengthened? Do you need to abandon the idea? You should do a quick “reality check” on your idea. Put the idea aside for a few days then return to it and ask yourself if a reasonable, non-activist would be likely to embrace the idea.

That’s all pretty abstract stuff, so let me help you to apply the principles. Try finding or making an agrument for or against one of these issues:

1. Teaching sex education classes in high school
2. Banning private ownsership of firearms
3. Teaching intelligent design (again you can check Wikipedia) if you don’t know what that is) in public schools


~ by chetdavis on October 1, 2007.

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