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Your Deceptive Mind Part 7: “The Structure and Purpose of Argument”

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By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center presents the 24-part Great Courses series, Your Deceptive Mind Part 7: “The Structure and Purpose of Argument” on Thursday, August 9, 2018, 5:30pm, at the Meditation Center, Callejon Blanco 4.

We have looked at how massively flawed our brains are as a tool for understanding the universe. Yet, we have the ability to reason. The next section of the course will address how to use that reasoning ability to override the flaws in our neurobiological function. In this lecture, we begin with a discussion of the structure and purpose of argument. We will learn about specific logical fallacies with the goal of avoiding such fallacies in our thinking and recognizing these fallacies in the arguments of others.

The critical thinking approach to argumentation is to value the process of developing the argument and reaching a conclusion, maintaining a willingness to change any conclusion when new information or a better argument is presented. Rationalizing is when we start with the conclusion and look for arguments to defend it. It can seem superficially similar to reason. When we have a conclusion not in accord with the facts, or disturbed by new information, our tendency is to rationalize in order to resolve the cognitive dissonance that results. Another way to avoid cognitive dissonance is to focus on the process instead. If we don’t tie ourselves firmly to a conclusion, we won’t feel any emotional dissonance when new data is encountered.

In logic, the term “argument” is a set of statements used to support a conclusion. An argument must start with specific premises and logically derive a conclusion from them. Explanations and assertions are not arguments. A premise is a starting point, a fact or assumption we take as given. If the premise is false, any conclusion based upon that premise is not sound. Assumptions must be recognized as such. Assumptions or incomplete premises weaken an argument. Before beginning the argument, we must examine the premises for unsupported assumptions and false premises. If you can discover the errors and assumptions of logic, you should be able to resolve differences and come to a better conclusion.

The course is presented by Steven Novella, MD, Academic Neurologist, Yale School of Medicine. He is host and producer of the award-winning podcast, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. He writes a regular column for Skeptical Inquirer. He maintains a personal blog, NeuroLogica Blog, covering news and issues in neuroscience, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Novella is the founder and senior editor of Science-Based Medicine, a group medical and health blog.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


Video Presentation

Your Deceptive Mind Part 7: “The Structure and Purpose of Argument”

Thu, Aug 9, 5:30pm

Meditation Center

Callejón Blanco 4

Free, donations accepted

044 415 156 1950


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