Critique of "Being Logical"

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Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking by D.Q. McInerny is an introduction to the science and art of thinking and living logically. The 129-page guide was published in 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks and can be purchased for around ten dollars. The author D.Q. McInerny is currently a professor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Lincoln, Nebraska and has written a variety of pieces on religious philosophy to include Philosophical Psychology, and an article on the use of contraception. In the words of McInerny, “Logic is the very backbone of true education” (McInerny, 2005, p.ix). Yet in the Preface, he goes on to say “To my mind, logic is the missing piece of the American educational system, the subject that informs every other subject from English to history to science and math” (McInerny, 2005, p.ix). In his book McInerny attempts to guide his readers through the process of seeing the world and evaluating their circumstances in an objective and critical manner. Ultimately he aims to instill an intrinsic need for truth gained through logic that his readers will utilize in everyday life.

Being logical consists of five sections, the first three serve as a foundation for logical thinking. They consist of Preparing the Mind for Logic, The Basic Principles of logic and Argument – the Language of Logic. The last two sections, The Sources of Illogical Thinking and The Principal Forms of Illogical Thinking put the foundations of logic into action by pointing out errors that one may make while attempting sound logic. The last two sections, specifically section five synthesizes the material previously covered in the book by defining the ways in which reasoning can go awry. McInerny wrote of 28 principal forms of illogical thinking. The eleven most notable forms of illogical thinking can be grouped by their basic causes: a basic misinterpretation of language and arrival at a conclusion through illogical processes, a lack of critical thinking or attention to the matter at hand, and finally, purposefully misleading and manipulative argumentation.

Undistributed middle, begging the question and inability to disprove does not prove all occur when one misinterprets the language of an argument or comes to a conclusion through an illogical process. According to McInerny Undistributed middle occurs when one falsely attributes traits to the conclusion based on a term or statement in the premise that is not universal or always true. For example, many elite marathon runners are Kenyan. Aallyah is Kenyan therefore she is an elite marathoner. Similar to undistributed middle, begging the question is when a statement seams like an argument that proves the conclusion when in truth the assertion is simply stated twice in different words. There is not actually any supporting evidence to prove the assertion. For example, because Jimmy goes to the gym on a regular basis, Jimmy has good physical fitness. Another form of illogical thinking is the assertion that the inability to disprove something in effect proves it. For example, just because one cannot disprove the existence of a higher power or God, does not prove that God exists. It is a matter that has not been proven or disproven therefore it is simply a matter of faith or opinion not at all based in logical fact.

Abusing tradition, democratic fallacy and abuses of expertise all stem from lack of critical thinking, attention to the matter at hand or weak-minded group think. Sometimes tradition is followed simply because it is the way things have always been regardless of its logical merit or usefulness. Conversely, a sound tradition is often abandoned simply for the sake of innovation. Both of these failures in logic are forms of using and abusing tradition. The quality of a tradition should be judged on its merit and effectiveness not simply its longevity. The Democratic Fallacy occurs when a conclusion or opinion is held as true simply because the...
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