Rule I use to save myself from (shitty) fallacious thinking

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What happens when we like something too much? What happens when we put an idea (or concept) on a pedestal? What happens when we emotionally connect with an idea? When it resonates with us? Do we immediately fall into bias and fallacious thinking patterns, and how easy is it for us to not challenge it? Unfortunately, the answers are usually yes and too easy.


Regardless of how much we are drawn to something, we should uphold the idea of learning, the principle backbone of science and the epitome of stepping away from one’s ego – we challenge the idea and if it doesn’t stand up to the rigorous exercise, leave the idea in the dust where it belongs and you keep going. We embrace criticism of the concept and are willing to walk away unattached.

ASIDE: This aside is to note that disgust, aversion and any other avoidant emotion should initiate the same response of Stop, Test, and Understand. It’s not just for positive emotions; it’s all. 

I’m intent on thinking logically and rationally. I have a principle, a not-so-silent rule, that I find myself constantly putting to the ground and testing. It’s purpose is to steer me towards better open-mindedness, understanding and rationales and to avoid fallacies of thought. When I’m emotional about something and find myself enamoured with an idea (which is completely normal – I can no sooner divorce myself from my emotions than I can make a choice to stop breathing), I immediately try to take a step back.


Fallacious thinking likes old emotional habits and ruts.


Emotions can cripple the rational abilities. I remember that I am so incredibly fallible. Not only am I fallible, but I am also predisposed to fallacious thinking. I have engaged in some damaging, ignorant and worldview-skewing fallacies in my past and I know how easy it could be to slip back into them. 


I feel like there are ruts are in my brain, and even though I’m not currently trundling inside them, at any given point, a little too much emotion here, a little too much resonance there, and I would be shoved back into those dangerous ditches – into the fallacious thought patterns where I would be none the wiser. I am well aware of the ease with which we can fool ourselves, and it is my responsibility to be on guard with my mind. It’s become a habit to stop as soon as I am falling in love with an idea or a thought or a concept or even a spokesperson, and to consider. I have a niggling little voice compelling me to search, to verify….


I come from the premise that we as human beings are not perfect. No matter who we are, the way our brain functions can work against us. It’s so easy to delude ourselves into thinking that we are right and it is so often accomplished with emotions. Emotions are the backbone of fallacious thinking. 


My new go-to principle is to grab myself by the shoulders and move myself aside from the noise and the emotion and the hype of the new thing. “Let’s take a step back. This concept or idea that you are falling in love with resonates with you emotionally, so what are you missing?” I assume I’m mistaken or I’m not fully understanding what’s on hand, which is often the case with us humans. 


Fallacious thinking is in bed with stupidity sometimes.


No one is perfect, no one is infallible. Even the most rigorous and intelligent person will engage in some fallacious thinking at one point or another; and I feel like, in my own experience, I know just enough to know that I don’t know enough to know when I’m doing something stupid. You really might as well stop reading here, because by my own admission I wouldn’t know if I was doing something stupid but I’d know the likelihood is high…. 


There’s a part of me that wants to reign it in; I want to tame the erroneous reasoning I’m prone to. I want to tame the loss incurred to myself and to others that comes from fallacy and stupidity that I might engage in. 


Logic is the mathematics of ideas. Logic is the study of correct reasoning which is the process of drawing logical inferences. Without a logical structure and consistency, our ideas and understandings lose integrity. 


I don’t want to conflate my emotions with my reasoning’s accuracy. God, argh, been there, done that. I know, it’s probably going to be hard for me to avoid doing this completely, but I challenge myself constantly. I cannot blindly accept what I’m told or feel anymore – I wash my hands of it. Every chance I get I will challenge whatever comes to my mind.


Just like I mentioned in this article that when our heroes fall, if we are so attached to them, they will bury us with themselves. We cannot marry their identity or their concepts; we need to be willing to be wrong. That is the essence of learning and skepticism. There is an order, and if something doesn’t fit you can’t make it true just because you feel it’s true, or because of emotional speculations. 


There is a logical way to arrive at the truth (or the most accurate interpretation of the data that yet has the opportunity to be proven wrong [deductive reasoning]), regardless of one’s feelings. Not always easy, but necessary. Humans are ultimately emotional – if we are completely divorced of emotions, we suffer from a form of psychopathy. It is a hard task to challenge something that resonates with you emotionally, to lay aside preferences and habit; but the difficulty of the task is what lies between you and the consequences of erroneous reasoning and emotional blunders. 


What I think is quite ironic about this whole topic is that although I am under the impression that the human mind is able to connect the dots with intuition and wisdom, and that resonation may be good for us, it remains my own safety measure to confer with ALL my mind’s resources (not just emotion, or intuition, but also logic and verifiable knowledge) in an as objective as possible environment to empower myself.  


I had to write about this because of a book that I’ve just finished, Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb, in which there was a rabbit hole of big words and ego-stroking concepts that I fell into. I loved the book, I’m not going to lie. After reading, I felt like I learnt something.


fallacious thinking


But Nassim being predominantly a philosopher, I wanted to know what other respected authors and philosophers thought of him. I also was curious about his tendency to dismiss major chunks of science as ‘fooled’, such as economics. How would people take this? And I suppose I found myself in a position where I would need to plead ignorance and listen to ‘experts’ in their fields, because I honestly have no idea if what I read was amazing or dribble…. Although, I guess my inherent skepticism made me doubt his genius (I’m not saying he isn’t, I’m just saying I doubt it.)


I went online and saw that Taleb is seen as a pompous overly-pretentious prick who thinks that he’s smarter than everyone else, and that everyone else is more stupid than him. I was honestly trying to find critiques and peer reviews of his concepts and ideas, but sadly I found more personal attacks on his character and his style of writing, which I kinda liked. 


I think he may be obtuse and over-confident in his own theory, but it’s definitely something I want to explore and possibly disprove. 


I’m not so much promoting the fact that I read an amazing book and then felt slightly sad that the author is not as amazing as he makes out in his own words (surprise), but instead I am learning of my own inability to be rational at all times. I think I am also bemoaning the fact that no matter how much I know, I am an irrational human being constantly trying not to be. There’s actually nothing that I can really do to stop it, except abide by logical and sound philosophical structures that encourage ethical living and accurate exploration of the world I find myself in. 


That’s why I love philosophy. It gives you principles to fall back on when you fail naturally, and/or  it makes that failure normal and effective.  For instance, this particular rule of mine to take a step back when I feel inclined towards a concept or an idea enables me 1) to step out of the noise for a bit and allow new perspectives, 2) to aim for greater objectivity by encouraging doubt and exploration without pressure, and 3) to allow more self-reflection and understanding of the ideas that I do ingest. 


At the end of the day, I think my greatest protection from delusion and fallacy is a willingness for me to change my mind when presented with logic and verifiable evidence and then to change my behaviour in accordance with the shift in understanding.




-Affiliate links used in this article 

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