Critical Thinking #2: “Logical Self Defense”, (Review)

(The 3rd edition of the book, by Johnson & Blair)

This book was published by two philosophy professors from the University of Windsor, in Windsor, ON, Canada.

While not directly related to law, the content can be applied to people involved in legal matters. In such cases, a person will try to make factual, logical, and well reasoned arguments while trying to refute the facts, logic, and reasoning of the other side. Being able to debunk an opponent, while preventing yourself from being debunked is a sign of a well put together case.

Of course, one trying to make an argument (or a legal case for that matter), may be lacking in facts, logic, or reasoning. In that case, there are 2 basic pathways: (#1) admit they have nothing; or (#2) try to debate using less than honest tactics. While (#1) does happen often, (#2) is by far the more frustrating one to deal with.

In a legal sense, (#2) will mean going to court/negotiation/arbitration knowing that you don’t have any basis for being there. It adds to time and expense of these proceedings. Happily though, dishonest argumentation can usually be defeated by having stronger arguments.

Here is the previous post on, and here is the original article. Here, Mr. Reed goes through the vast array of dishonest tactics used in debating.

As for the Johnson/Blair book, it goes through many types of arguments and statements. Various logical errors and gaps are explained, as is cause-and-effect. Many examples are shown of drawing conclusions where the available information is insufficient or irrelevant. By deconstructing those fallacious arguments, you will likely make far less of them in the future, in order to avoid the same thing from happening to you.

A Brief Outline of the book:
Chapters 1-2: Identifying and Constructing Arguments
Chapters 3-7: Fallacies
Chapters 8-9: Analyzing and Constructing Arguments
Chapter 10: News Media

On some level, the book is a rather dry read, as is the John T. Reed article. If this topic is not of interest to a person, there is nothing I can do to make it sound exciting. However, it picks apart many common errors, and goes through the errors. For someone looking to improve their reasoning and argumentation, it is a tedious, but worthy read.

The techniques shown here are not solely applicable to Canada or the United States. Being able to defend one’s self logically (hence the title), is a universally applicable skill. Defend yourself!

Critical Thinking #1: Honest v. Dishonest Debate Tactics, (Review )

Note: This is a response to a posing in August 2015 by John T. Reed. Mr. Reed goes on to list the 2 ways which you can HONESTLY debate someone, and then the myriad of ways one can DISHONESTLY debate another. Mr. Reed has no affiliation with this site, and this review is based on reading his website.

The webpage can be found click here.

Mr. Reed lists 2 ways to HONESTLY debate. They are:
1. pointing out errors or omissions in your opponent’s facts
2. pointing out errors or omissions in your opponent’s logic

He then goes on to cite dozens of ways you can DISHONESTLY debate. Here are a few:
(1) Name calling;
(2) Changing the subject;
(3) Straw-Man arguments (misrepresenting a person’s views);
(4) Conflating facts and opinions;
(5) Manipulating language;
(6) Badgering a person (keep repeating the question);
(7) Finding small errors (arguing the minor points while avoiding the major ones);

Mr. Reed early on expresses his frustration at how people debate. To quote him:

One of the great disappointments of my life is discovering how thoroughly dishonest most people are. Some people will, on the slightest provocation, fire off a statement or paragraph that contains three, four, five, or six different, intellectually-dishonest arguments in a matter of seconds. Alan Colmes who regularly appears on Fox News is one of them. Juan Williams is another.

The page is well worth a read. Going through it, these examples can regularly be found in both the media and politics. People do get exposed to these dishonest tactics and often do not realize it.

Why This is Important to This Site
Aside from being a very interesting read, the lessons here are applicable in the topic of law.

Mr. Reed argues that debate consists of: (a) Facts; and (b) Logic. In other words, the logic which connects those facts form the basis of argument. Similarly with the law, it mainly consists of: (a) Facts; and (b) Law. Facts are tried, and their applicability to the law is then contested. Actually, the practice of law really is just a form of debate.

Overall it is a very thorough list.

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