Fundamental principles of invalid reasoning

Maarten Maartensz

Abstract: This paper clarifies the fundamental principle of invalid reasoning by identifying three general principles of reasoning that seem to be the - emotional, psychological - bases of many fallacies in reasoning. These are the mental habits of wishful thinking, conformism and chauvinism: To infer conclusions that conform to one's desires; to infer conclusions that conform to the desires of leaders, authorities or majorities; and to infer conclusions that conform to the ideas or values of one's group or one's society. Reasons are provided why these mental habits are so seductive and common, and examples and instances of invalid reasoning are suggested. It is considered what one can do against invalid reasoning. There are no logical or mathematical technicalities in the paper.


1. Valid and invalid reasoning
2. Wishful thinking
3. Conformism
4. Chauvinism
5. What one can do against invalid reasoning

See also: Fundamental principles of valid reasoning
                 Sections in detail.

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought.  All that we are is founded upon our thoughts, and formed on our thoughts."  
Dhammapadda, 1.1

  "If we believe absurdities,
    we shall commit atrocities."


1. Valid and invalid reasoning

Valid reasoning defined: In this paper I shall understand by reasoning any verbal inferencing using assumptions and conclusions, and by valid reasoning any conclusion that is true if the assumptions given for it are true. (See also: Fundamental principles of valid reasoning)

Accordingly, invalid reasoning is any drawing of conclusions that may be false when the premisses on the strength of which they are drawn are true, and invalid reasoning thus has the dangerous property of leading possibly to false conclusions from true premisses. As long as this is clear and intentional - as with irony or when being rhetorical - this may not matter, but as soon as inference is believed to lead to a true conclusion where in fact it does not, whoever believes the conclusion may get into serious troubles, for he believes reality to be other than it really is.

Fallacies: Since Antiquity there have been made many lists of known logical fallacies. There is considerable overlap in these lists, but no complete agreement on what are the most important fallacies, and indeed there are infinitely many ways in which one may be logically mistaken.

The minimal definition of a fallacy is that one infers a conclusion that is not validly entailed by the premisses one has made. This may be done on purpose, when one wants to deceive someone else, or it may be done unwittingly, when in effect one deceives oneself.

In the section Literature I give references to several useful expositions of common logical fallacies. Typical and important ones are fallacies of generalization (such as argueing from some to all); fallacies relating to the size or bias of such samples as one has; and the fallacy of begging the question, which amounts to assuming what one seeks to prove.

My concern in this paper is somewhat more general and also a little more psychological than to provide a listing and discussion of logical fallacies. I want to identify the invalid principles that - it seems to me - lead to most fallacies and also to the most serious fallacies, and explain why human beings resort to such means so often.

Principles of invalid reasoning:  So my concern is both with logic and psychology. What I seek answers to in this paper are the following questions:

  • What are the sort of assumptions that facilitate or invite or accompany fallacious reasoning?
  • And what makes these assumptions that lure humans into drawing false or improbable conclusions so seductive and so common?

Here I presume that one can satisfactorily define what is valid reasoning (see e.g. Fundamental principles of valid reasoning) and thus that one can identify invalid reasoning, at least in principle. If you do not know much or any formal logic, there still is an easy way to do so mostly correctly: Withold your consent from any inference you know that you do not certainly know is valid.

The problem with invalid reasoning is this: While it ought to be mostly obvious to fairly intelligent human beings when they reason validly, and when they should know they do not, still most human beings do not reason validly in many circumstances. Now what is the reason for this, and what are those circumstances?

It should be clear that one commits a logical fallacy for some reason, and that reason can be stated in the form of some sort of assumption one makes, and it also should be clear to every thinking human being that every thinking human being, whatever his or her intelligence, knowledge and logical acuity, commits some fallacies of reasoning every day. Many of these fallacies are quickly corrected and were not very important anyway. Many of these fallacies remain hidden and yet do not much harm, because the false conclusions they led to were not important, or were not important to many. However, the fallacies of reasoning of human beings that have lead to enormous loss of life, much human misery, and many cruelties and atrocitiesm are the following:

1. wishful thinking: To find conclusions that conform to one's desires.
2. conformism: To find conclusions that conform to the desires of leaders, authorities or majorities.
3. chauvinism: To find conclusions that conform to the ideas or values of one's society.

It is well to repeat Voltaire here I quoted above: "If we believe absurdities,  we shall commit atrocities". For the fallacies I described often have lead to strong beliefs in what were in fact absurdities, and often have lead to action based on those beliefs that involved the lifes, health, happiness and property of very many human beings, and destroyed or ruined many human lifes.

It is noteworthy that the general principle is the same in all three kinds of fallacy: Each leads to conclusions one desires for some non-logical reason, where a non-logical reason is simply any presumption one makes that does not belong to logic and cannot be justified by logic because it leads often or sometimes to false conclusions when believed. And it is noteworthy that, therefore, the three kinds of fundamental principles of invalid reasoning that I have distinguished are maintained and fuelled by an obvious principle: The false inferences they lead to are inferred because they please those who infer them.

2. Wishful thinking

We start with the fundamental principle of invalid reasoning, which is wishful thinking.

Wishful thinking defined: Wishful thinking is the inference of conclusions that conform to one's desires because they conform to one's desires: "It is so, because I desire it to be so; it is not so, because I desire it not to be so."

Inference Scheme of Wishful Thinking: I desire it were true, therefore it is true.

This is the fundamental principle of invalid reasoning, and it should be clear why this is so and why no human being spends a day or an hour without some wishful thinking: Because wishful thinking yields what human beings wish, and gives them satisfaction and pleasure, even if this is merely fantasy, and because human beings desire so much to get what they please that merely imagining that things are as they desire to believe they are is a sufficiently strong motive to make them believe what they desire, and to act on that belief.

Indeed, this very principle is involved in most religious and political conversions, and in such contexts has a name: The leap of faith. If one knows one would desire very much that it is true that God exists, or that socialism will make mankind happy, or that persons from another race or ethnic group are inferior, then one may find that one soon embraces the conclusions one desires to be true as if they are evident important truths mankind has been waiting for since ages.

Thus, very many millions of human beings with a religion or a politicial creed have been converted or have converted themselves by a leap of faith to sincere belief in what in fact they do not know at all to be true but much desire to be true, often at least in part because they have been told and believe that mankind would be much helped if these desires were true - from a just and punitive God to the arrival of the millenium and the greatness, goodness and genius of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, and very many other beliefs of this kind, all with their associated acts of the faithful, that involved killing or locking up or persecuting millions, which was all done, it was usually claimed, in their own best interests.

The many pleasures of wishful thinking: Clearly, wishful thinking provides an easy and pleasing way to satisfy one's desires, for we all like to succeed and we all like to have the things we desire. Wishful thinking is quite succesful - but for one fundamental shortcoming: One satisfies one's desires in one's fantasy. But then this often may not at all be clear to the practicians of wishful thinking (until it is too late), and often there is no other realistic way to satisfy one's desires other than by indulging one's capacity to fantasize.

It is often not at all clear to the practicians of wishful thinking that all they in fact achieve is imagined satisfaction of their desires, and not real satisfacton. Thus, socialism in the Soviet Union and the Cultural Revolution in China were produced by millions of people who believed sincerely they were doing something really good, and that they were creating the conditions in which a New Man would arise, who would be happy, honest, just and altruistic. Very much of what social institutions achieve in fact is achieved with the help of wishful thinking, and this includes both the good and the bad they achieve, for much of both the good and the bad cannot be achieved without some faith and commitment.

Indeed, it seems some wishful thinking is involved in the realization of any complicated end that depends on the doing of several steps, for often most of the necessary preparatory steps towards a desirable end are themselves not desirable, and all one has as a reward for one's pains in doing those steps while one does them is the belief that they further some desirable end that one has.

Also, it seems a very well-founded guess that the vast majority of the desires a human being has will not be realized, and this includes desires one holds important and has spend much time and trouble to realize. Besides, one tends to find that the relatively few desires one has that one does satisfy tend to be satisfied in unexpected ways and often pan out as not as pleasant or interesting or rewarding as one had hoped. So again one has cause for seeking satisfaction in one's imagination.

The fundamental reason wishful thinking works is that it provides satisfaction, even if the satisfaction is merely imagined - for indeed most of the satisfactions human have are mostly imaginary, and in any case depend on the imagination.

Ideological fallacy: An ideology is a set of beliefs and values that are shared by the members of a group, that state what the members believe the world is like and what it should be like, and that forms the shared intellectual and moral foundation for the group's existence. Every human group needs some minimal ideology, that may be wholly innocuous and benevolent and also be quite simple, or that may be quite dangerous to others and be complicated and demanding. In any case, there is no human group without some shared ideas about what the world is and should be that is shared by the members of the group, for else there would not be a coordinated group and no basis to cooperate and understand each others for its members. The ideological fallacy is a variation of wishful thinking applied to Our Group: What Our Leaders and Our members believe and want is evidently True and Good.

Clifford's dictum: The English 19th century mathematician and physicist W.K. Clifford formulated a general principle that makes sense as soon as it concerns beliefs the consequences when one acts upon them will also be important to others:  "It is always wrong, for anyone, anywhere, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence".

There is much to be said for this principle, though it cannot be quite right as stated, since in everyday life one is often forced to come to some decision - operate the patient or not, for example - for which there is not sufficient evidence. Even so, this principle is a useful antidote to keep in mind to help one to avoid what fanatics do, always for the best of reasons, they sincerely believe: To believe anything their own faith and own leaders tell them, without any good evidence whatsoever, merely because the faith or the leaders desire this, and to pretend that what they believe is true because they believe it.

William James's Will to Believe: William James was a great psychologist and much aware of what he called the will to believe. He even wrote a book of that title, and spend quite a number of pages in  exploring the conditions and consequences of the will to believe. He was, upon the whole, more favourably inclined towards the will to believe than I am, because he was religious, but too intelligent to believe a religion could be believed (by intelligent people) without some quite unreasonable leap of faith.

Examples of wishful thinking: Everyone who reads a daily paper or watches television reads or hears every day many examples of wishful thinking - and will tend to identify those of his political or religious opponents, and tend not to identify the wishful thinking on which the beliefs and values of his own group depend (for these will tend to have the appearance of obvious and valid truths). 

So I will not give many examples, and trust the reader can find his own. I merely list two obvious historical sayings, both apparently made in a fully serious mood, that bring out fairly well what often is involved in wishful thinking. The Church Father Tertullian defended the Christian faith by quoting the following principle: Credo quia absurdum i.e. I believe it because it is absurd. This belief has the logical property of making all rational discourse vain and useless, for someone who will believe something also when it is shown to be absurd has intentionally given up valid reasoning, and made it impossible to refute him by rational argumentation. In the same vein, the 19th century Russian Orthodox theologian Shestov "has insisted that the rejection of all rational standards is a part of true belief. In a commentary on Dostoyevksy he contended that the refusal to accept that 2+2=4 and the ability to believe that 2+2=5 are intimately connected with attaining religious truth". (Quoted from the lemma Fideism, in the Encyclopedia of Philososphy. Also, compare Orwell's "1984".)

3. Conformism

Conformism defined: Conformisms consists in the finding of conclusions that conform to the desires of leaders, authorities or majorities.

Inference Scheme of Conformism: The authorities, leader, priest, party, church, nation, boss, majority, well-behaved members of my group desire it were true, therefore it is true.

Clearly, conformism is a kind of wishful thinking, namely where the wishes that move one to infer conclusions are the wishes of authorities, majorities, or groups. This is often a very important kind of wishful thinking, and also a kind that has quite a few good consequences even if it is a fallacy, for many persons do act wisely or prudently when they choose to believe authorities, or when they decide to act and think as the others do, because they themselves see no good reason to do otherwise, while being social and adjusted at least feels pleasant to oneself and one's fellows, whether one forms a group of cannibals, scientists, pirates or musicians.

The many pleasures of conformism: In any group and any society there are considerable premiums on conforming, and for many ways of non-conforming there are considerable punishments. The premiums need not be monetary to be appreciated, nor need the punishments be legal to be feared: Every man in society has to consider his reputation and his standing, and these tend to be approximately equal to how ordinary, how normal, and how much one seems like One of Us in the groups one belongs to. If one does not speak or think "like everyone does" one will run into trouble and discrimination, however polite and rational one is; if one does not behave "like everyone does" one will be considered at least slightly mad, however inspired by sincerity and justice; and whoever does not look "like everyone does", whether in dress or skin-color is normally considered inferior, also if he is a benevolent genius.

In short, part of the pleasures of conformism is that one gets praise for being or seeming like the average in one's society, and part of the pains of non-conformism is that one is blamed for being or seeming different from the average in one's society.

This is very much like the social mechanism whereby hyenas, chickens and goats maintain social order in the group, and probably has deep animalistic roots: Scape-goating and the persecution of deviants are as human as they are common among goats, chickens and hyenas, except that human beings have sufficient intelligence to be far more cruel than other animals. The converse of this is that anyone who does look like the average does in the society is therefore likable to most in the society, not because one is in any way special or good, but because one seems in no way different or bad, and hence does not seem dangerous to social peace nor offensive to the social leaders nor an outstanding individual amongst a crowd of mediocrities who take great pride in their mediocrity.

The (moral, silent) majority: In every society the majority conforms, and at least seems to live by the morals of the group, and forms the almost always silent majority of people who do and think and feel as they are told, usually for no better or other reason than that they are told to do and to think and feel thus, and that they like to follow leaders or at least have learned to fear the consequences of not (apparently) following leaders.

For this there are many reasons, some good, some bad:

  • There is safety in numbers, if no wit: The majority may be quite wrong (and indeed often is), but it also tends to be quite strong, simply because it is in majority.
  • There are many social pressures to conform, some benevolent and just: To conform to the beliefs and values and practices of the majority - "if in Rome, do as the Romans do"; if among cannibals, do as the cannibals do - is often safe and helps one survive, and part of the reason any human society survives is the mutual help its members give one another, that tends to be based on perceived likeness and conformism.
  • At least part of the reasons groups survive is that their shared common sense and shared values help them survive, which shows conformism does serve desirable ends and does work successfully to some extent as long as the groups they help uphold do survive.
  • Belonging to the majority usually helps one serve many of one's personal needs: Conformers tend to be far more widely liked than non-conformers, and thus are sooner and better helped and supported.
  • There is always the strong force of example and fashion, since human beings, like any other social animal, learn by example and imitation, and seem to have an instincts that approves being "like everyone else" and liking whomever seems "like everyone else", in Our Group.

The state, church and boss: The authorities humans most often conform to, willingly or not, are the state, the church and one's current boss, and in each case one important and obvious reason to do so is self-interest, for individuals tend to loose conflicts with these authorities, and the consequences of displeasing the authorities of the state or church or one's current group may be painful and far reaching.

However, the majority in a group tends to conform because they believe what the state or church or boss tells them is so, and because they desire to do what the authorities say they ought to do. Usually, the majority consists of willing conformists, who are proud to be and do "like everyone else" or at least to be and do "like every decent person" (i.e. the majority of succesfull conformers).

For such a moral majority, the authorities are wise and benevolent, and might is right not only because it is strongest, but also because its pretensions are believed and desired (and there is no social power that does not pretend it aims at A Better World).

Common sense: There is another respectable reason for members of a group to conform to what the majority of the group thinks and does, which is common sense. In any society and group, a part of what the majority shares are principles of common sense, based on known (or widely supposed) properties of things and the existing habits and tastes members of the group. A considerable part of common sense tends to be (approximately) true, for without beliefs that are (approximately) true and without practices that are often succesful no group and no individual survives long.

Social pressures: A member of any human society is exposed to many types of social pressure, most of which are meant to make one conform. Thus, there are group, peer and parental pressures to conform, and part of these tends to be benevolent, and another part tends to be justifiable self-interest, for the members of a group have an obvious personal interest in sharing membership with persons that are predictable and are not dangerous or harmful.

Human role-playing: There is another feature about being human that strongly invites at least some conformism: To take part in a human society is to play one or more roles in it, which in turn means that the players often have to pretend to have feelings or capacities they do not (yet, quite) have, but which do belong to the roles they are playing. Thus, doctors and nurses are supposed to be kind; soldiers are supposed to be tough; and artists are supposed to please, all as a matter of course given the roles they play, often for pay, even if they do not feel just now like their roles require them to feel just now.

Prejudice and intentional blindness to evidence: One important way conformism operates is that it produces prejudice and intentional blindness to evidence. A good and sincere Catholic just "knows" he does not need to read any Protestant, Mohammedan or atheist propaganda, for these are all lies or madness that would get one in hell anyway, and the good and sincere Protestants, Mohammedans and atheists feel likewise about the beliefs of the Catholics. Similarly, a good Marxist just "knows" that he does not need to read any Liberal propaganda, since that is obviously all reactionary lies, whereas any good Liberal "knows" all Marxism is revolutionary madness that one can safely leave unread. And so on, and so on.

It is obvious that such habits of thought will help an ideology or religion to remain immune from criticism and rational debate, and it is clear that despising the ideological enemy and his writings gives much pleasure to all true believers of an ideology or religion, and contributes much to the stability and cohesion of his group, which is in the interest of the group and its leaders.

Examples of conformism: Any intelligent reader is supposed to be able to recognize in his own everyday acting and saying a considerable amount of conformism (things one does (not) do because one (dis)likes them, but because they are "the proper thing to do" in one's social environment), and likewise in the actings and sayings of his fellows. The great leading principle is ""If in Rome, do as the Romans do" - if among cannibals, do as cannibals do": Adjust, conform, and prosper, if possible without puking too much, in public. All I need to do here is to remind the reader of George Orwell's "Animal Farm", where the sheep bleated on almost any occasion their favourite "Four feet good, two feet bad", and where the principle of society was that "All are equal, but some are more equal than others". Whoever can sincerely believe such truisms is bound to be happy, though unintelligent.

4. Chauvinism:

Chauvinism defined: Chauvinism consists in the finding of conclusions that conform to the ideas or values of one's group.

Inference Scheme of Chauvinism: I am a member of this Group, therefore it is true that Our Group is best; Our Leaders are best (and wise and benevolent); Our Morals are best; Our Ideas are best; We are right; We mean well; We are able; We are good, and really and truly and honestly We are the Best.

Chauvinism as defined is a kind of wishful thinking, namely that one lives in and works for a highly desirable social group, with excellent leaders, fine morals, and sound ideas about what the world and human beings are like and should be like.

It is obvious that some amount of chauvinism is involved in any human group that hangs together, and that part of it seems necessary to maintain a human group, since this must depend on the consent and efforts of its members, which in turn will much depend on their feelings about the ends of the group and about the members and leaders of the group. It should also be obvious that human beings are very prone to become very chauvinistic very fast, as is also shown in national, ethnical and racial feelings, and in sport (hooliganism). Finally, it seems to be part of the chauvinistic faith of most chauvinists that he is not a chauvinist: All he does, he thinks, is to state the plain and obvious truth about the excellencies of his own group and its leaders, which anyone who has not willfully blinded himself should find perfectly self-evident.

The many pleasures of chauvinism: Human beings are social animals, and the societies that social animals form seem to be based at least in part on strong feelings on the side of the members of the great excellence, desirability and goodness of their own society and its morals and leaders.

This seems to hold for bees and ants (who kill other bees and ants who committed the social sin of not smelling like One of Us), and it certainly holds for hyenas, wolves and humans. It seems to have some instinctual and hormonal base, and it seems to be unavoidable. And indeed, if one disregards false beliefs, it is obvious that chauvinism is a remarkably succesful way to promote fellow-feeling, social cooperation, and mutual help amongst members of a group, and to foster patriotism, heroism and self-sacrifice in war.

The many joys of ethnicism and racism: As human beings are, on average, a considerable part of the instinctual need for the pleasures of chauvinism come from ethnicism and racism. In every race and any group the great majority will obviously not belong to the brightest, most beautiful or most artistic human beings, and especially to such individuals, it gives great comfort to be able to think of anyone not "One of Us" as remarkably inferior to any "One of Us" in all kinds of ways that deeply matter, especially to Us.

Also, human history is filled to the brim with tales of hatred, persecution and war between different groups, all in part based on strong feelings of chauvinism in the different groups, that made it much easier and much more pleasant to hate each other passionately, and to try to kill and destroy each other for what We hold are the Best of Moral Reasons. And this has given much scope to all manner of heroic acts, fine patriotism, rich plunder, pleasant rapes, and enjoyable sadism thinly disguised as the gathering of military intelligence. (See also: Mark Twain's War-Prayer.)

Especially the more stupid and more ugly members of a social group, which, as mankind is on average, tend to be the majority of any group, have throughout the ages of human history found great joys and personal fulfillment in the heroic and patriotic persecution of everyone not quite like them, and especially those from another race, religion or political creed.

Man's social nature: Human beings are social creatures. They like to live in groups, in part because their instincts, hormones and needs dispose them that way, and in part because they are intelligent enough to understand that social cooperation is capable of producing all kinds of benefits and advantages no individual and no small group of individuals is capable of producing by itself. This is part of the reason chauvinism about one's group is popular in any human group, and does make one popular in a human group: It keeps the group together, and furthers fellow-feeling and mutual support.

Homo homini lupus: One way of becoming a human success is by making war on other humans and winning. The advantages of piracy, theft and plunder and the joys of destruction, cruelty, rape and inflicting suffering upon others have been obvious throughout human history, provided they were perpetrated by Us upon Them, even if to admit this has not always been fashionable in times of peace. Of course, what is restrained and noble patriotism to one party, is piracy, rape and plunder to the other party, while in each party most party-feelings are dictated by chauvinism, which may take many forms, depending on the group and its ideology.

Groupthinking: A virtually certain way to become at least somewhat successful in society even if one is none to smart is to partcipate a lot in Groupthink: To do as the leaders wish and to publicly praise the leaders and the group often and loudly helps much to make one popular with most fellow members of the group and improves one's social chances. In nearly all groups it is considered highly desirable that its members are "well-adjusted" and "non-deviant", both of which come about by looking, behaving and talking like One of Us.

George Orwell has unearthed several principles involved in this. Thus, in "Animal Farm", that treats of a socialist revolution of the animals on a farm against their human oppressor, the sheeps bleat all the time the Great Truth the pigs taught them: "Four legs good, two legs bad" and in "1984" the non-conformist Winston is tortured so long that he becomes convinced that "Two plus two is five if the Party wants it".

Examples of chauvinism: Once again, I maintain that any intelligent reader can identify many evident examples of chauvinism in his daily reading in the paper or his daily watching of TV. Religious or political gatherings seem to be impossible - as men are, on average - without displays of lots of chauvinism, usually to the effect that We are the Best, and that anyone who doesn't see this must be intentionally blind, awfully stupid, or mad.

One useful saying here, that applies not only to patriotism but to chauvinism is Dr. Johnson's "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel", for those who cannot become an honest success by their own efforts and talents, may easily become a success by playing on the chauvinistic feelings of the members of their group. And thus many a prominent and rewarding political or religious career has been made.

5. What one can do against invalid reasoning

I have tried to outline three of the fundamental principles that make it easy, natural and indeed often desirable for human beings to commit logical fallacies, and to explain why it is so easy, pleasant and usually popular for human beings to make these logical mistakes.

Apart from the reasons I gave, there are two important principles involved I have not listed yet. As Ovid observed, the ordinary way of the human heart proceeds by "Video meliora proboque; deteriora sequor" i.e. "I see the good and agree that it is good, but I do the bad" - because doing the bad is often more pleasant, more rewarding, more popular, or less demanding and less dangerous than doing the good. And as Buddha observed about the ordinary ways of the human heart: "Stupidity and egoism are the roots of all vice".

What can one do to recognize fallacies and prevent oneself from committing them? Here is a brief list of some things one may do:

  • Learn logic and study fallacies.
  • Learn philosophy of science.
  • Learn mathematics.
  • Learn science.
  • Learn history.
  • Learn probability theory and statistics.

None of these studies will make one perfect, and no human being can live a single day without committing many fallacies of reasoning, nor survive his own fine human society without seeming to be mostly like most in his society. But one can try to do the best one can not to reason falsely, or at least to know that one commits a logical fallacy when one is forced to state one (as may easily happen in religious or political contexts, if one wishes to survive or live in peace).

Finally, there are some guidelines one may use and try to live by

  • Mistrust the inferences one makes when emotional. (For this is the time it is easiest and feels most pleasant to deceive oneself into thinking that what one desires to be true is true - which includes also beliefs that what one desires to be false is false)
  • Make the time one spends on thinking and searching for evidence proportional to the importance of one's conclusions. (Especially: Do not convince yourself that a political creed or religious faith is fine for you in a fit of enthusiasm. Try to base your beliefs on good evidence and sound logic, and check and double-check the reasonings that went into important decisions.)
  • Dare to be a rational and reasonable individual. (For this is much more difficult than it seems to be, and indeed so difficult that the vast majority gives up being a real individual, and hides himself behind the masks and inside the roles one plays in society to make money, in the vain hope that one could be who one feels one really is in one's leisure time, when one feels free from society's control.)

Maarten Maartensz



Berne: Games people play.
Edwards Ed.: Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Fearnside and Holther: Fallacies, the Counterfeit of Argument
Goffmann: The presentation of self in everyday society
Huizinga: Homo ludens
Orwell: Animal Farm and 1984
Talmon: The origins of totalitarian democracy

Sections in detail:

1. Valid and invalid reasoning

Valid reasoning defined
Principles of invalid reasoninG

2. Wishful thinking

Wishful thinking defined
The many pleasures of wishful thinking
Ideological fallacy
Clifford's dictum
William James's Will to Believe
Examples of wishful thinking

3. Conformism

Conformism defined
The many pleasures of conformism
The (moral, silent) majority
The state, church and boss
Common sense
Social pressures
Human role-playing
Prejudice and intentional blindness to evidence
Examples of conformism

4. Chauvinism

Chauvinism defined
The many pleasures of chauvinism
The many joys of ethnicism and racism
Man's social nature 
Homo homini lupus
Examples of chauvinism

5. What one can do against invalid reasoning



First draft version: 7 nov 2003.
Last draft version: 2 jan 2004.
I checked (and improved) the formatting on Sep 17, 20016.
Copyright Maarten Maartensz.