Archives

Occam’s Razor

I. Definition Occam’s Razor (or Ockham’s Razor, also known as the Principle of Parsimony) is the idea that more straightforward explanations are, in general, better. That is, if you have two possible theories that fit all available evidence, the best theory is the one with fewer moving parts. It’s important to emphasize the part about fitting all available evidence. Sometimes, the simplest explana... »

Autonomy

I. Definition Autonomy (pronounced aw-TAW-nuh-mee) is Greek for “self-rule,” and it’s basically another word for liberty. If you have autonomy, you are able to make your own choices and go your own direction. It’s a central idea in modern political theory, closely related to the ideas of political freedom and democracy. Autonomy is all about thinking for yourself and acting on your own desires, wh... »

Dualism

I. Definition Dualism can refer to any philosophy that believes in two. But two of what? There are countless forms of dualism in different philosophical traditions -far too many to cover in one article! So in this article, we’ll cover “mind-body” dualism, which is by far the most important form of dualism in modern European/American philosophy. It should not be confused with “Manicheanism,” which ... »

Fallacy

I. Definition If logic was a sport, fallacies would be the fouls or errors. Fallacies violate the rules of logical thought, but often seem plausible or even convincing. If you want your arguments to be logical and well-reasoned, you have to make sure that they aren’t full of logical fallacies. A fallacy is an illogical conclusion, but not necessarily a false statement. This is an important distinc... »

Logos

I. Definition Logos is a way of arguing calmly and carefully, using reason alone and not relying on the emotions. Logos (LOH-gohs) is a Greek word meaning “reason” or “rationality.” It comes from the philosopher Aristotle, who emphasized the difference between logos and pathos, or emotion. We might say that logos comes from the mind, while pathos comes from the heart.   II. Examples of Logos ... »

Ethos

I. Definition Ethos was one of Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion, standing alongside logos (logical argument) and pathos (emotions). Ethos is the trickiest of the three to define, but it roughly means credibility or character. It’s the strategy of showing your audience that you’re trustworthy and honorable, and you know what you’re talking about. This is usually done through tone, but there ar... »

Inference

I. Definition and Key Ideas An inference is a process of drawing conclusions based on the evidence. On the basis of some evidence or a “premise,” you infer a conclusion. For example: Based on this premise… …you can infer: Weather forecast says 80% chance of thunderstorms It’s a good idea to bring an umbrella There are over 40 million volumes in the university library They probably have... »

Humanism

I. Definition Humanism is a belief in the value, freedom, and independence of human beings. For a humanist, all human beings are born with moral value, and have a responsibility to help one another live better lives. Humanism emphasizes reason and science over scripture (religious texts) and tradition, and believes that human beings are flawed but capable of improvement. It also tries to discover ... »