Philosophy

Tips to Help You Think Clearly

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Author Greg Koukl Published on 12/20/2012

I stumbled upon a very helpful list of maxims of clear and careful thinking that I’m passing on to you. It comes from James Beverley and is gleaned from a section entitled “How to Think and Reason Correctly” in his book Holy Laughter and the Toronto Blessing, published by Zondervan.

I stumbled upon a very helpful list of maxims of clear and careful thinking that I’m passing on to you. It comes from James Beverley and is gleaned from a section entitled “How to Think and Reason Correctly” in his book Holy Laughter and the Toronto Blessing, published by Zondervan.

  • Emotion does not settle issues of truth.
  • Tradition is not always right.
  • Do not give human authority figures uncritical allegiance.
  • Be careful of the way you use words. Words are tools. They must be used properly and carefully.
  • Do not force people into limited or false options.
  • Do not use name-calling or put-downs as a debate tactic (argumentum ad hominem).
  • Be careful of accusations based solely on the presumed origin of a given idea or practice (the genetic fallacy). The popularity or unpopularity of something does not make it either true or false.
  • The fact that something is either an old or a new idea does not automatically make it correct (chronological snobbery).
  • Be careful in the use of “guilt by association.” Do not dismiss good ideas or practices by letting your imagination take them to inappropriate extremes.
  • Be prudent when using the “slippery slope” argument (not all slopes are slippery; i.e. “b” does not necessarily follow “a” in all cases).
  • Be alert to cause and effect errors (post hoc propter hoc).
  • Make sure that conclusions follow from adequate evidence and support (non sequitur does not follow). Do not accept clichés or popular slogans uncritically.
  • Do not “stack the deck,” i.e. only point out observations that support your pet theory, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
  • Be wary of generalization. Remember that the truth is not always in the middle.
  • Do not take ideas or people out of context.
  • Understand that spiritual discernment means being ready to admit to weakness or limitation in that very gift; being willing to abandon “shortcuts” in return for the demanding spiritual disciplines that produce lasting fruit; and resisting the temptation to judge the hearts of others.

From Clear Thinking Vol. 2 No.3, Winter 1997, Stand to Reason (copyright 1997—Do not copy without permission.)