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Fallacies are Statements that Contain Errors of Logic or Language

A fallacy is an argument that may be persuasive but contains an error of logic or language.

A fallacy is an error in reasoning, but reasoning can be erroneous in a number of ways, so there is no definitive type of fallacy.

Greek Philosopher Aristotle The Greek Philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) was the first to gather and explain the most common types of errors in reasoning, such as equivocation, begging the question, and false cause.

Aristotle wrote in On Sophistical Refutations (c. 350 BCE)

That some reasonings are genuine, while others seem to be so but are not, is evident. This happens with arguments, as also elsewhere, through a certain likeness between the genuine and the sham. For physically some people are in a vigorous condition, while others merely seem to be so by blowing and rigging themselves out as the tribesmen do their victims for sacrifice; and some people are beautiful thanks to their beauty, while others seem to be so, by dint of embellishing themselves. So it is, too, with inanimate things; for of these, too, some are really silver and others gold, while others are not and merely seem to be such to our sense; e.g. things made of litharge and tin seem to be of silver, while those made of yellow metal look golden. In the same way both reasoning and refutation are sometimes genuine, sometimes not, though inexperience may make them appear so: for inexperienced people obtain only, as it were, a distant view of these things. For reasoning rests on certain statements such that they involve necessarily the assertion of something other than what has been stated, through what has been stated: refutation is reasoning involving the contradictory of the given conclusion. Now some of them do not really achieve this, though they seem to do so for a number of reasons; and of these the most prolific and usual domain is the argument that turns upon names only. It is impossible in a discussion to bring in the actual things discussed: we use their names as symbols instead of them; and therefore we suppose that what follows in the names, follows in the things as well, just as people who calculate suppose in regard to their counters.

In the subsequent centuries of philosophical debate, new categories of fallacies were identified, and the philosophers William of Ockham and John Buridan compiled an extensive number of fallacy types, giving them Latin names such as argumentum ad populum (appeal to the people) and argumentum ad baculum (appeal to the stick, or force).

There are now more than 200 named fallacies, commonly divided between formal and informal.

  • Formal fallacies are mistakes in the logical form of an argument, independent of its semantic content. For example, in the non-fallacious form called Modus Ponens, a correct deduction can be derived from a conditional premise and a correct antecedent, regardless of the content. However, in the related formal fallacy called “affirming the consequent,” a false deduction is derived from the same correct conditional premise and a false antecedent. It follows that not every instance of the deduction would be true, even if the premise statements appeared correct individually.
  • An informal fallacy occurs when the content or organization of the premises of an argument constitutes an error in reasoning, as when an arguer changes the subject (red herring) or appeals to an inappropriate authority (argumentum ad verecundiam).
Posted in Mental Models and Psychology Philosophy and Wisdom

How to Cross-Fertilize Ideas?

How to Cross-Fertilize Ideas?

Managers can kindle creativity by helping employees to cross-fertilize in their thinking, to think across subjects and disciplines. The traditional office environment often has separate classrooms and classmates for different subjects and seems to influence employees into thinking that learning occurs in discrete boxes—the math box, the social studies box, and the science box. Creative ideas and insights often result, however, from integrating material across subject areas, not from memorizing and reciting material.

Teaching employees to cross-fertilize draws on their skills, interests, and abilities, regardless of the subject. If employees are having trouble understanding math, managers might ask them to draft test questions related to their special interests. For instance, they might ask the baseball fan to devise geometry problems based on a game. The context may spur creative ideas because the student finds the topic (baseball) enjoyable and it may counteract some of the anxiety caused by geometry. Cross-fertilization motivates employees who aren’t interested in subjects taught in the abstract.

One way managers can promote cross-fertilization in the office is to ask employees to identify their best and worst professional areas. Employees can then be asked to come up with project ideas in their weak area based on ideas borrowed from one of their strongest areas. For example, managers can describe to employees that they can apply their interest in science to social studies by analyzing the scientific aspects of trends in national politics.

Allow time for Creative Thinking

Managers also need to allow employees the time to think creatively. Often, creativity requires time for incubation. Many societies today are societies in a hurry. People eat fast food, rush from one place to another, and value quickness. One way to say someone is smart is to say that the person is quick, a clear indication of an emphasis on time. This is also indicated by the format of many of the standardized tests used – lots of multiple-choice problems squeezed into a brief time slot.

Most creative insights do not happen in a rush. People need time to understand a problem and to toss it around. If employees are asked to think creatively, they need time to do it well. If managers stuff questions into their tests or give their employees more homework than they can complete, they are not allowing them time to think creatively.

Instruct and Assess for Creativity

Managers also should instruct and assess for creativity. If managers give only multiple-choice tests, employees quickly learn the type of thinking that managers value, no matter what they say. If managers want to encourage creativity, they need to include at least some opportunities for creative thought in assignments and tests.

Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

Many Award-winning Inventions Are Re-inventions


We like to think that invention comes as a flash of insight, the equivalent of that sudden Archimedean displacement of bath water that occasioned one of the most famous Greek interjections, Eureka. Then the inventor gets to rapidly translating a stunning discovery into a new product. Its mass appeal soon transforms the world, proving once again the power of a single, simple idea.

But this story is a myth. The popular heroic narrative has almost nothing to do with the way modern invention (conceptual creation of a new product or process, sometimes accompanied by a prototypical design) and innovation (large-scale diffusion of commercially viable inventions) work. A closer examination reveals that many award-winning inventions are re-inventions.

Most scientific or engineering discoveries would never become successful products without contributions from other scientists or engineers. Every major invention is the child of far-flung parents who may never meet. These contributions may be just as important as the original insight, but they will not attract public adulation. They will not be celebrated by media, and they will not be rewarded with Nobel prizes. We insist on celebrating lone heroic path-finders but even the most admired, and the most successful inventors are part of a more remarkable supply chain innovators who are largely ignored for the simpler mythology of one man or one eureka moment.

Source: Vaclav Smil’s “The Myth of the Innovator Hero” in The Atlantic, 15 Nov. 2011

Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Objectivity vs. Subjectivity

Objectivity vs. Subjectivity in Judgment


Something is considered objective when it is seen to be free and independent from particular feelings, opinions, emotions, or sentiments.

When someone or something displays these characteristics he, she or it is said to show objectivity. Objectivity is a central plank of the scientific approach to building knowledge. For adherents of objectivized approaches, knowledge thus created is said to contain truth and validity.

An important concept within this view of objectivity is that such truths exist independent of, and external to, the mind and body of the observer or researcher.


Subjectivity concerns, among other facets, points of view drawn from an individual, or groups’ perspective. It is the product of particular mind(s), imagination(s), knowledge(s) and experiences.

From a mainstream and normative perspective, the description of something as ‘subjective’ is generally likely to be considered as problematic by which is meant that it will be viewed as partial, biased, and not based on objective reasoning or rationalism.

Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

10 Ways to Improve Your Creative Imagination

  1. Improve Your Creative Imagination If you want to develop your creative imagination you must open your mind to new unexplored paths, think of offbeat ways to tackle a problem, make something that is hard easier.
  2. Be curious about everything—the world is full of amazing wonders for you to learn about. They will become your storehouse of memories and ideas that you can use when needed.
  3. Look deep into the problem you face and imagine different alternatives for solving the problem. Try new paths— don’t accept the status-quo, if you fail at one task try another approach. Take everything with a grain of salt, keep an open mind.
  4. Try to associate with other creative people, people who discuss ideas.
  5. Always be on the lookout for new innovations that you can improve upon. When a new product, device or machine is invented it is already ripe for improving. Technology is always being improved. Just look at the automobile, since it was invented over a hundred years ago it has been constantly improved with thousands of new innovations added.
  6. This goes for any product, there is always room for improvement. Even if you come up with what seems to be a crazy way of solving a problem—write it down anyway—think about it—it may turn out to be a good idea.
  7. Start thinking about writing a story, think of a plot, think up characters for the story, take notes and expand the story over a period of time. Refine and change the story if you want to. Take your time, new ideas will pop out of your subconscious as you think about it. It is your creation you can do anything you want with it, use you imagination.
  8. Whether you are writing music or leading an army into battle keep your mind open for opportunities—new angles—different strategies—if one thing doesn’t work try another.
  9. Develop your interests and natural talents—follow these talents—be curious, learn as much as you can about subjects you are interested in and then improvise, develop, expand them. Follow different off beat paths. If they don’t work try another tack.
  10. Build upon the ideas of other peopleimprove and refine their ideas. It is the fundamental reason for human progress. It created the ‘Mind’ of mankind (the vast network of human minds that continually spread ideas across time and place).
Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

Quotations on the Inner Scorecard

Inner Scorecard Some of the greatest thinkers in history have mentioned the importance of the inner scorecard.

  • “What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”
  • “This above all, to your own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, You cannot then be false to any man.”
    William Shakespeare, from Hamlet: Act 1, scene 3, 78—82
  • “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.”
    Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement address (2005)

Recommended Book: ‘How Will You Measure Your Life?’ by Clayton M. Christensen provides a business-like perspective of life, not in terms of reflecting on life in terms of profit or loss, but more in terms of ideals, ethics, integrity and brutal honesty about yourself, who you are and where you are going.

Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Books Recommended by Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time—none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads—at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”
— Charlie Munger

Charlie Munger (Vice-Chairman at Berkshire Hathaway) and Mugerisms Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett’s partner and Vice-Chairman at Berkshire Hathaway, the investment conglomerate. In his capacity, Munger has been a behind-the-scenes co-thinker at Berkshire and has influenced many a decision made by Warren Buffett.

At the 2004 annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger said,

“We read a lot. I don’t know anyone who’s wise who doesn’t read a lot. But that’s not enough: You have to have a temperament to grab ideas and do sensible things. Most people don’t grab the right ideas or don’t know what to do with them.”
— Charlie Munger

Munger was chair of Wesco Financial Corporation from 1984 through 2011. He is also the chair of the Daily Journal Corporation, based in Los Angeles, California, and a director of Costco Wholesale Corporation. Unlike Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger has claimed that he is a generalist for whom investment is only one of a broad range of interests that include architecture, philosophy, philanthropy, investing, yacht-design, etc.

Charlie Munger is a voracious reader and engages in books on history, science, biography and psychology. He once said, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time—none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads—at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”

At the 2014 annual meeting of The Daily Journal Company that Charlie Munger leds as Chairman, Charlie said,

“I’m very selective. I, sometimes, skim. I, sometimes, read one chapter and I sometimes read the damn thing twice. It’s been my experience in life [that] if you just keep thinking and reading, you don’t have to work.”

Charlie Munger’s Book Recommendations in Biography

Charlie Munger’s Book Recommendations in Biology

Charlie Munger’s Book Recommendations in Business & Investing

Charlie Munger’s Book Recommendations in Management & Leadership

Charlie Munger’s Book Recommendations in Philosphy & Psychology

Charlie Munger’s Book Recommendations in Sociology

Posted in Investing and Finance

Definitive List of Books on Warren Buffett, the World’s Greatest Investor

Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha,” is the Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is arguably the world’s most successful investor, and one of the richest and most respected businessmen in the world.

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time—none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads—at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”
Charlie Munger

Warren Buffett, his partner Charlie Munger, and Berkshire Hathaway have become the face of capitalism at its best. The company is a multifaceted, extensive collection of businesses and investments spanning railroads to manufactured homes, underwear to jewelry, and encyclopedias to newspapers. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are exceptional investors and overseers of a vast business empire. They are brilliant at having discipline and rigor in their investment and management methodologies, in finding great businesses to invest in, and, letting the managers of Berkshire’s businesses go about their duties with little interference from headquarters. Another distinctive feature of Berkshire Hathaway is that Warren amd Charlie are in it for the long term, quite in contrast with traders, speculators, and buy-out artists who crowd Wall Street today.

Posted in Investing and Finance Leaders and Innovators

Thought Experiments

Thought Experiments

A thought experiments is a procedure of the imagination used to investigate the nature of things. Thought experiments consist of the use of hypothetical examples and counterexamples to prove or refute philosophical analyses or theories.

When contemplating imaginative suppositions, thought experiments are used to consider variations of an existing thinking or a line of reasoning. To use a thought experiment is to reason about an imagined scenario with the intention of confirming or disconfirming some hypothesis or theory.

The most interesting thought experiments are those which not only refute an existing theory but also suggest a new one which they lend rational support.

Thought experiments are employed to consider the implications of theories and to investigate the boundaries of concepts. They are well-structured exercises of the imagination in which test cases are envisioned with a view to establishing their conceptual coherence or their compatibility with some proposed theory.

Some academics passionately oppose the theoretical use of thought experiments as substituting imaginativeness for reality, but since philosophical argument is often concerned to ascertain exactly what is possible, it is hard to see how philosophy could do without thought experiments altogether.

The most famous examples of the use of thought experiments are,

For further reading, see “Thought Experiments in Science and Philosophy” by Melanie Frappier, Letitia Meynell, James Robert Brown or “Thought Experiments” by R. A. Sorensen or other books on the use of throught processes.

Posted in Mental Models and Psychology Philosophy and Wisdom

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Various Research Methods

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Various Research Methods

Experimental Method

Advantages of Experimental Method:

  • Precise control possible

Disadvantages of Experimental Method:

  • Artificial setting typical
  • Causal conclusions possible
  • Intrusiveness typically high
  • Precise measurement possible
  • Complex behaviors difficult to measure
  • Theory testing possible
  • Unstructured exploratory research difficult

Correlational Observation

Advantages of Correlational Observation:

  • Relationships between variables can be found

Disadvantages of Correlational Observation:

  • Causal conclusions impossible
  • Precise measurement usually possible
  • Control of variables difficult
  • Intrusiveness usually low
  • Many participants required


Advantages of Ethnography:

  • Unfamiliar situations can be described

Disadvantages of Ethnography:

  • Control of variables impossible
  • Complex behaviors can be described
  • Precise measurement difficult
  • Intrusiveness low
  • Investigator bias possible
  • Participants treated humanistically
  • Causal conclusions impossible

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Questionnaires


Advantages of Questionnaires:

  • Data collection efficient

Disadvantages of Questionnaires:

  • Causal conclusions impossible
  • Attitude or opinion can be measured
  • Self-reports difficult to verify
  • Unbiased sample selection difficult
  • Response rates low when mailed

Naturalistic Observation

Advantages of Naturalistic Observation:

  • Realistic setting helps generalization

Disadvantages of Naturalistic Observation:

  • Control of variables impossible
  • Intrusiveness low
  • Data collection inefficient
  • Investigator bias possible

Archival Research

Advantages of Archival Research:

  • No additional data collection required

Disadvantages of Archival Research:

  • Causal conclusions impossible
  • Rare behaviors can be studied
  • Appropriate records often not available
  • Nonmanipulable events can be studied
  • Data collected by nonscientists
  • Data usually correlational at best

Case History

Advantages of Case History:

  • Rare cases can bestudied

Disadvantages of Case History:

  • Control of variables impossible
  • Complex behavior can be intensively studied
  • Data often based on fallible memories
  • Investigator bias highly likely
  • Causal conclusions impossible
Posted in Education and Career Mental Models and Psychology