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The Science of Reasoning

The Science of Reasoning

About Reasoning

Reasoning is a unique ability in humans. Whatever civilizational advancement we see, it is because of our ability to think, imagine and reason. We all give reasons and ask for reasons but most humans don’t understand the fallacies of reasoning. Due to this sometimes we are putting forward a correct point but we are using the wrong reasoning.

In Sanskrit, we have a subject called Tarka Shastra, which deals with reasoning. My purpose of writing this article is neither to guide you for some career exam nor to make you a TV debater, but to summarize the importance of correct reasoning. If you know what is the correct way of reasoning then nobody can confuse you and the most important thing, you will not confuse yourself and feel a victim of society.

The reasoning is a process of using existing knowledge to draw conclusions.
A conclusion may mean you are predicting something, explaining something, or reaching to a conclusion about something.

Argument = Premise + Conclusion.
- An argument can have multiple premises. In a simple argument, generally, there is one conclusion.
- Premise is statements of fact. In an argument, there may be multiple statements of the premise.
- Conclusion is a statement, it may be a hypothesis or theory which you want to prove right or wrong.

Type of Reasoning

There are seven methods of reasoning 1. Deductive Reasoning, 2. Inductive Reasoning, 3. Abductive Reasoning, 4. Analogy Reasoning, 5. Cause and effect Reasoning, 6. Critical Thinking, and 7. Decompositional Reasoning

  1. Deductive Reasoning is a process when we have a generic statement (premise) and we want to reach a conclusion about a specific. For example, All the crows are black (generic statement, premise). You said, in the morning you have seen a crow. (normal statement, premise). Therefore you have seen a black crow. (conclusive statement)
  2. Inductive Reasoning is a process, where we have specific statements (premises) and we do generalization (conclusion). For example, I am sad (specific statement, premise), you are sad (specific statement, premise), and my friend is sad (specific statement, premise). Therefore the entire world is sad (conclusive statement).
  3. Abductive Reasoning is like inductive reasoning but we reach a conclusion about which we have extremely less knowledge. Therefore the risk is high. For example, if a customer writes an email that his computer’s wireless mouse is not working, you may conclude it is because its battery dried up. In the absence of a full scenario, you can put your best guess. FAQs are based on abductive reasoning.
  4. Analogical reasoning is a process, where we look at patterns and reach a conclusion. Parents buy pens for their children, and they buy milk for their children, therefore if we keep both together it will be easier for parents to purchase.
  5. Cause-and-effect reasoning. For example, the value of our marketing campaign project is very high, therefore we should have a higher budget for this.
  6. Critical thinking: Before making a final conclusion think deeper about all the aspects and all the consequences. When a judge wants to give a verdict or a copyright is granted to somebody decision-makers need to think about all pros-cons of their decision, and analyze all the statements of facts (proof submitted). For example, you learned next 2 days there will be a strike of transporters. Then you think about your office transportation, children’s pickup drop, how your home helper will come, how a person who comes to open the office and clean the office will come, etc.
  7. Decompositional Reasoning process breaks the entire process or product into different subprocesses or subcomponents and looks into each subprocess or sub components separately. Look into interactions between components.

Error in Reasoning

In the process of different kinds of reasoning as mentioned above, we are reaching some conclusion or predicting something, or explaining something there may be errors and this can lead to wrong predictions or conclusions, or explanations. In Logical Science these errors are called fallacies. There are many kinds of fallacies.

Type of Fallacies

  1. Fallacy of Composition: If it’s true of the parts then it’s true of the whole. If there are three great players on my hockey team then my hockey team must also be great. (Your hockey team may be great but the reasoning may be wrong.)

  2. Fallacy of Division: If it’s true of the whole then it must be true of the parts. If my flat is about half the size of your flat then it follows logically that my doors must be half the size of your doors. (Your door size may be half but the reason may be something else.)

  3. The gambler’s fallacy: An idea that streaks of good luck or bad luck exist and are not just random noise. It’s been read six times in a row and I met you at the same place. (So it is my good luck and not just a chance, so you are denying the possibility of randomness).

  4. Tu Quoque or Appeal to Hypocrisy or Who are you to Talk: If your brother doing all this which you are saying us not to do then you tell us who you are to preach to us? No lecture us. (My brother is doing something wrong and I am speaking some truth to you, these are two different things. Just because I or my brother are doing something does not mean it is right and you do it.)

  5. Straw Man: Willfully misrepresenting an argument often in a massively hyperbolic fashion, e.g. We should cut down on our use of fossil fuels. oh, so you want to ban all cars and make 80-year-olds with suitcases run around on bicycles? (Speaker didn’t say anything about old people but the original argument was stretched to misrepresent him/her)

  6. Ad Hominem (at the person): You’re evil an evil person, we should throw you out of the room. We will not listen to you. (Sometimes people are obviously biased or subjective because of their ideology, party, culture, etc. But it does not mean they are always wrong. We should learn how to draw a line between a personal attack and attacking an argument.)

  7. Genetic Fallacy: Assuming that an argument is automatically wrong because of its source. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  8. Fallacious appeals to authority: You bring in someone who’s an expert in an entirely unrelated field and then expect others to treat them as an expert in this field. Being an expert in cinema doesn’t mean he is automatically an expert in religion, history, culture, and civilization. (S/He may be making a sensible statement but that is not because he is an expert. He may be speaking complete nonsense. We should not believe him/her because he is not an expert on this subject)

  9. Red herring or A fallacy of Distraction: They might have stolen the puppy your honor but look how sad they are to be in court red herrings. (They may be sad in the court because don’t like visiting courts or it is too hot or some other problem. Their sadness has nothing to do with your puppy. Maybe they have not stolen at all)

  10. Appeal to Emotion: To distract you by making you feel bad for the other person. Interviewer: Why should we hire you for this job? Interviewee: Because if you don’t hire me then I’ll be out on the street and I’ll have to live in a cardboard box you don’t want to make me live in a cardboard box do you? (If the person is not hired he may actually end up living in cardboard but that is not Interviewer’s problem. You need to prove your competency and tell him what can you do for the organization. So this reason for hiring is not an actual reason for hiring)

  11. Appeal to Popularity Bandwagon: Five million people can’t be wrong. (Just because most people are using Urea fertilizer in the crop field, it doesn’t mean it is correct)

  12. Appeal to Tradition: People have been doing this for thousands of years so it must be right. (Just because people have been doing it for a long time it doesn’t mean it right now, it may also be possible it was wrong then)

  13. Appeal to Nature: Don’t trust medicine or science it’s full of chemicals. Chemicals are bad for health. Therefore taking nature-based medicine is very natural. (Just because medicine is chemical doesn’t mean it is bad. Or it is less efficient. Or Naturopathy is more effective for the problem which you have)

  14. Appeal to Ignorance: If you can’t prove it false it must be true or vice versa. You can’t prove that ghosts don’t exist therefore they must exist. (Due to limited resources or knowledge if someone is not able to prove something or disprove something it doesn’t mean the opposite is established)

  15. Begging the Question: A premise that you are trying to prove, you assume that as true. Krishna said in Bhagwad Gita that I am the creator of everything (statement of premise), therefore He must be true (conclusion). Because Bhagwad Gita is ultimately a truth book (statement of premise) and it cannot be wrong (conclusion). Who said that Bhagwad Gita is speaking Truth? Krishna said. (Krishna may actually be the creator of everything, but the argument is wrong)

  16. Equivocation: Using one word to mean multiple things and thus drawing incorrect conclusions. A law can be repealed by the proper authority. The law of gravity is a law, therefore the law of gravity can be repealed.

  17. False Dichotomy / Black or White: Either you agree with everything I say or you declare yourself against me. There is no middle ground sort of opposite to the black-and-white fallacy.

  18. Middle Ground Fallacy: Some people think two plus two is four and some people think two plus two is five then clearly the answer lies somewhere in the middle of 4 and 5.

  19. Decision Point Fallacy or the Sororities Paradox: The decision point fallacy says because there is a continuum it means we can’t distinguish between things. But just because the boundaries between things are a bit blurry doesn’t mean we can’t distinguish one thing from another.

  20. Slippery Slope Fallacy: The assertion that one step will inevitably lead to another, which will inevitably lead to another, and continue so on. If you get a credit card then you will overspend and you will not be able to make your payments and then you will definitely end up living on the street in a cardboard box if you can stop at any of the steps then it’s a fallacy

  21. Hasty Generalizations: Anecdotes this is where you draw a general conclusion from a small or biased sample. My uncle smoked 10 cigarettes a day and he lived to 115 so cigarettes mustn’t be bad for you. (It may be an exception. Or your uncle may be able to do something else which removed the effect of cigarettes Or your uncle may be smoking in a different way or there is any other reason)

  22. Faulty Analogy: Comparing things that aren’t actually similar in the way that would be relevant. Government is like a business since businesses strive to make a profit so the government should also do the same.

  23. Burden of Proof: When you insist that it’s incumbent upon the person who disbelieves your claims to provide proof against them rather than providing proof for them yourself. If someone says I am a ghost, it is his responsibility to prove it. And you, who don’t believe he is a ghost will prove he is not a ghost. Both need to work hard to prove their point. If you transfer this burden to another person and you simply reject his all proof, this way you may not be able to know the truth. It may the possible you are talking with an actual ghost.

  24. Affirming the Consequent: My dog barks when there’s an intruder (premise) my dog is not barking therefore there’s no intruder (conclusion). My dog is barking (premise), therefore there must be an intruder (conclusion). A dog may bark for other reasons also. Therefore, if your dog is barking it doesn’t mean there is an intruder. Consider a premise “my dog barks only when there is an intruder”

  25. Denying the Antecedent: If it barks then it’s a dog (premise). It’s barking therefore it’s a dog (conclusion). (But if it’s not barking then it’s not a dog. It is not valid because the dog may be tired.)

  26. Moving the Goalposts: You make a claim like, you can eat 100 sweets. But when you were tested and you failed then you say, I do it when I am hungry.

  27. False cause correlation: Correlation is not Causation. If global temperatures increase while pirate numbers decrease that doesn’t mean that pirates prevent global warming.

  28. Loaded Question: Asking something with an assumption built in that means the answerer sounds bad no matter what they say. Advocate asked in a courtroom, when did you stop beating your wife? (But the person in the witness box never even thought about this crime)

  29. False Dilemma: An Indian to another Indian, either Love India or leave it. If I don’t love India then it doesn’t mean I hate India or I am anti-national. (I may be a peaceful law-abiding citizen of the country. Does our constitution state that people like me are not allowed to live in India?)

  30. Circular Argument: According to my brain, my brain is reliable. Smoking pot is against the law because it’s wrong; I know it’s wrong because it is against the law


Now we understand, for reasoning, we need an argument. An argument is composed of minimum a premise and a conclusion. There are seven kinds of reasoning. Many fallacies can be introduced during the reasoning process. We understood the most common fallacies (approx 30 in summary). Now when someone is presenting his argument and reasoning you can understand why that is not logical. Similarly, when you are analyzing your own argument you come to know, what is the correct way of analysis.

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