Philosophy Loft

Quick Logic Guide
Open for fast reference to basic concepts, principles, and methods of logic in the Western wisdom tradition: categorical syllogisms, propositional logic, and predicate logic.

Skeptical habits of thought are essential...
for nothing less than our survival because baloney, bamboozles, bunk, careless thinking, flimflam and wishes disguised as facts are not restricted to parlor magic and ambiguous advice on matters of the heart. – Carl Sagan

FAIR Assessment Engine
If you are confused by claims about stuff like fake news, UFO reports, Big Foot sightings, ESP, conspiracy reports, etc., then use this tool to uncover the baloney. This tool is a general method for rigorously evaluating unusual or weird claims that you might encounter. This "engine" has four cycles or steps—similar to a four-cycle internal combustion engine. But this "engine" is just a method —you are the thinker!

FAIR Cycles General Description
Formulate the unusual claim. This is the "intake" cycle. Because some claims may be stated in vague or incomplete ways, the first step is to formulate it so that it is as clear and specific as possible. Note: Although not all claims are hypotheses, any unusual claim can be considered a hypothesis—a provisional explanation for a particular phenomenon.
the evidence for the claim.
This is the "compression" cycle. At this point you put the claim under the pressure of your analysis of the evidence or reasons that are put forward to support it. You will use the critical thinking principles outlined in the CTP List.
alternative hypotheses.
This is the "combustion" cycle. Now, you let your creative imagination and critical intelligence explode into other possible ways to explain the phenomenon in question.
each hypothesis
This is the "exhaust" cycle. You will eliminate all hypotheses that fail the criteria of adequacy. Only the most robust hypothesis remains—generating new or more refined understanding.

Note that although not all claims are hypotheses, any unusual claim can be considered a hypothesis--a provisional explanation for a particular phenomenon. So in the following discussion, we will use the terms claim and hypothesis interchangeably. Before you examine any unusual claim, you must first be sure that it is stated clearly, with specific rather than general, vague, or ambiguous terms. For example, the claim "Astrology is true" is vague. This claim could be taken to mean that a field of "study" called astrology exists. To avoid these kinds of ambiguities, you would need to recast this claim into something like: "Astrologers can correctly identify someone's personality traits and predict personal future events by using sun signs." Although this is an improvement on the original claim, an even more exact formulation will be more specific about what it means to "correctly identify someone's personality traits" and "predict personal future events."

What are the reasons-empirical evidence and/or logical arguments-for accepting the claim? More specifically, use the Critical Thinking Principles (CTP List) and follow the 3-D approach:

3-D Approach
the exact nature and limitations of the empirical evidence.
Assess the evidence and determine whether there are or could be any reasonable doubts about the "evidence." Use CTP 1-15.  For example, Clive Backster, one of the FBI’s most respected lie detector experts, claimed that when he attached his lie detector to a philodendron in his office, he was able to detect that the plant was aware of his thoughts. Subsequent experiments by biologists, botanists, and other scientists could not reproduce the results that Backster reported. So, a theory of plant sentience that cites Backster’s experiments as "evidence" should be disqualified according to CTP #15 (Backster not an expert in botany), and  CTP #19 (the scientific method requires repeatable results).
if any of these reasons (pieces of evidence) should be disqualified.
Sometimes people offer "evidence" for a claim that actually provides no support for the claim. Use Critical Thinking Principles 1-15. For example, any argument in the form of "There are many people who say they have seen, heard, felt, or otherwise experienced X", should be disqualified according to CTP #8.
whether the hypothesis (claim) in question explains (accounts for) all the evidence.
If a hypothesis does not account for all the phenomena it is intended to explain, it is inadequate and should be disqualified according to CTP #20.

The quest for truth requires an open mind. Whether or not you have disqualified a particular claim in cycles 1 and 2 above, it is always prudent to consider if there are other ways (hypotheses) to account for the phenomena in question.. So, in this cycle, you must use your creativity to compose alternative explanations and then apply the standard procedures in cycles 1 and 2. You should continue looping through cycles 1 - 3 until you have identified all plausible alternatives.

Finally, after exploring credible, alternative hypotheses, you must evaluate each according to the criteria of adequacy (CTP #22 – 26). By applying these criteria to all candidate hypotheses, you should be able to quickly eliminate some and reduce the field to only one or two or three possibilities—depending on how many alternatives you identified in cycle 3. Following CTP #14, the more evidence we have for a proposition, the more credence we should give it. Accordingly, the more that a particular hypothesis meets all the criteria of adequacy better than any other alternative, more it deserves to be considered the best explanation so far.


Click this button
 or a Principle #
 to open the CTP List

The 26 critical thinking principles that we have compiled is not exhaustive. It is only a strong starting list. The principles in our list are organized into nine, general topic areas:

Logical possibility 1 - 2
Physical possibility 3 - 4
Personal experience 5 - 6
Belief vs. knowledge 7 - 9
Background information 10 - 11
Evidence / experts for claims 12 - 15
Objective reality 16 - 18
Scientific method / hypotheses 19 - 21
Criteria of adequacy for hypotheses 22 - 26



Vortex Portal

The Vortex Portal aggregates links to resources for Philosophy research and study.

What is Philosophy?

Thanks for your question about philosophy. The word "philosophy" is derived from two Greek words: philia (love) and sophia (wisdom)--literally: the love of wisdom. In the Western wisdom tradition, philosophical inquiry is considered to have started with some early Greek thinkers who came before Socrates. At that time, philosophy was taken to mean almost every kind of intellectual inquiry.

Today, philosophy has been more clearly distinguished from the sciences. But now, the nature of modern philosophy has become a philosophical problem of its own! For example, Bertrand Russell held that philosophy is the forerunner of science--a field of study that focuses on vaguely formulated problems which current science cannot handle. For existentialists, philosophy studies the "human condition". Still other philosophers argue that philosophy is mostly the analysis of language.

In short, there is no single, accurate answer to this question. What philosophy is today is probably best answered by considering what people who call themselves philosophers actually do. And the fact is, there are many philosophers who ask many different types of questions and who use many different methods for attempting to answer them. But all philosophers seem to have one disposition in common: they all passionately seek to understand what is real, and therefore true.

Some of the material in the Philosophy Loft is based on or adapted from material originally published elsewhere. Direct quotes are noted in quotation marks.

(1) Howard Kahane, Logic and Philosophy, Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, CA, 1969.
(2) David A. Conway and Ronald Munson, The Elements of Reasoning, Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, Belmont, CA, 2000, Third edition.
(3) Brooke Noel Moore and Richard Parker, Critical Thinking, Mayfield Publishing Company, Mountain View , CA, 1995, Fourth edition.
(4) Theodore Schick, Jr. and Lewis Vaughn, How to Think About Weird Things (Critical Thinking for a New Age),  Mayfield Publishing Company, Mountain View, CA, 1995.

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