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TheSpiderWeb's avatar

How do people learn how to point out fallacies in debates?

Asked by TheSpiderWeb (153points) August 2nd, 2017

Like for example, someone who has degrees in linguistics, anthropology and philosophy (he has also studied literature) do these subjects help people become good debators? Like do they teach you the names of logical fallacies and how to spot them?

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9 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Where I went to school (UC Santa Barbara), Philosophy 3 was Critical Thinking. It was a course just as you describe: logical fallacies and how to spot them.

Those types of courses are common at most Liberal Arts colleges. And, some of the better high schools teach it also.

LostInParadise's avatar

Khan Unirversity has a course in critical thinking. I have not taken it, but the choice of topics seems reasonable, including a section on fallacies and another on cognitive biases.

Once you know the basics, practice reconstructing people’s arguments to see if you can spot a fallacy. My personal point of view is that it is pedantic in a debate to call out someone’s argument as being a particular type of fallacy. Instead, point out the flaw in the particular argument, something along the lines of “Just because A it does not follow that B”. Knowledge of fallacies will help you to do this.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I had a philosophy course that taught this. Outside of coursework it is simply matter of learning what they are and taking time to learn how to spot them. That said, calling them out is a poor way to debate, you win a debate by having a better argument.

CWOTUS's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

Great question.

As others have stated, you can learn some of this through formalized course work, and it’s a good way to do it. But you can do a lot of it on your own, too.

For one thing, you can look up any number of links to describe and show the most common logical fallacies. You’ll have to keep looking after that to become more familiar with their application, but once you’re turned on to them it’s hard to turn that kind of thinking off (and that’s a good thing).

And here are some other considerations:
– Journalism (at least the way it used to be taught and applied) insists on factual reference to “time, form, place and event” as well as “who, what, when and where” and teaches questioners to be alert for missing data. (For example, and you can see this every day on the web, people post links to various events – which are undated. When you examine those you often find that although they are presented as current, they happened long ago and have been resolved. That’s a kind of lie.)

- Look up Richard Feynman’s address to the CalTech graduating class of 1973 (seriously). It’s called his “Cargo Cult” lecture. It’s brilliant and still applicable.

Mimishu1995's avatar

I know this isn’t the answer you want, but I have never taken any class. I just know when people are using fallacies and how I can talk back. I didn’t even know what fallacy means until someone pointed out that I have an innate ability to spot fallacies. Before that I only thought of them as “wrong arguments” and they just didn’t sound convincing. I can’t explain how my mind proceeds the information, I just can sense it. So I guess some people just have the ability to see fallacies.

My college has a critical thinking course. But I didn’t have a chance to take it because of many reasons.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The more knowledge you have in any subject, the better you can debate that subject, and others.
Learning new things should facilitate critical thinking skills in other areas too.

gorillapaws's avatar

Philosophy is where you learn about logical fallacies. You’ll learn how to break down an argument into it’s components and determine if it’s structure is correct as well as how to evaluate the individual premises that make up the structure of the argument.

Another thing to point out is that Philosophy is about discovering the truth (even if it turns out that your original position is wrong), debate is about convincing other people you’re right (even when you’re not).

Dutchess_III's avatar

Read Snopes some time. They carefully explain how they came to the conclusion, when they call it “false.
I’ve learned stuff that way that helps when I want to call something on FB “false.”

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