Don’t argue from anecdote

By which I mean exactly what I say — personal experience is irrelevant. I learned this myself much later than I’d prefer to admit, and it turns out that it’s terrible form.

The problem is that too many offer a personal narrative drawn on their own experiences and then go on to generalize, based on that impression. This not only introduces (often overwhelming) bias, but better still, the only way to validate that kind of claim is if you can show the generalization really does apply to the whole.

Of course, folks do this all the time and it isn’t quite the same as tu quoque or the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. But it also introduces cognitive dissonance by artificially limiting the sampled data.

  • Trackback are closed
  • Comments (2)
    • jane
    • January 18th, 2011

    that’s a very interesting thought …..

    • Max Bell
    • January 18th, 2011

    There was a great pair of articles up on Real Clear Politics yesterday that revolved around an editorial Paul Krugman wrote for the New York Times and a rebuttal written for the National Review by Yuval Levine. One of the very rare instances where informal logic was actually discussed in the public forum.

    The structure underlying informal logic is effectively comprised of absolute rules; it’s actually a function of language, like grammar. It’s also a solid example of the utility of philosophy and works hand in glove with critical thinking.

    In practice, however, you wind up with all these nonsensical arguments that could be avoided if the practice were better understood by the general population.

Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: