Monday, 31 March 2014

Informal fallacies in public health reasoning

Public health problems pose a considerable challenge to the general public. These problems demand engagement from people who must undertake assessments of issues as diverse as the safety of immunizations and the risks posed by chemicals and microbes in food. However, these assessments require scientific knowledge on the part of the public and this knowledge is often lacking or ineffectively utilized. Public health reasoners must reconcile these competing factors using whatever cognitive resources are at their disposal. It will be contended that a group of arguments, which have traditionally been described as fallacious by philosophers and logicians, are a valuable cognitive resource in this regard. The so-called informal fallacies, which include the arguments from ignorance and authority, serve as cognitive heuristics that facilitate reasoning when knowledge is limited or beyond the grasp of reasoners. The results of an investigation into the use of these arguments by the public are reported in Louise Cummings's recent piece published in the journal Informal Logic

Cummings, L. (2014) ‘Informal fallacies as cognitive heuristics in public health reasoning’, Informal Logic, 34 (1): 1-37.

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