Professor W A Landman

Terug na titels van publikasies

Terug na Tuisblad




    1.1  Discussion and reasoning
    1.2  Arguments and reasoning
    1.3  Valid reasons and information
    1.4  Premises and conclusions


    3.1  Chattering
    3.2  Superficialness
    3.3  Simplicity
    3.4  Negativism
    3.5  Lack of illumination

    4.1  Fallacies of chattering
    4.2  Fallacies of superficialness
    4.3  Fallacies of simplicity
    4.4  Fallacies of negativism
    4.5  Fallacies of lack of illumination

    5.1  Elimination of chattering fallacies
    5.2  Elimination of superficialness fallacies
    5.3  Elimination of simplicity fallacies
    5.4  Elimination of negativism fallacies
    5.5  Elimination of lack of illumination fallacies



  1. A GUIDE TO REASONING (Makau 1990:43-118; Missimer 1986:15-52; Michalos 1970:1-24)

    1.1  Discussion and reasoning

    For any research report to be scientifically accountable, the author of such a report should discuss the relevant data and information collected during his research. In any discussion reasons should be presented in support of or against opinions, procedures, proposals, problem-identification, the formulation of hypotheses, data-collection procedures, recommendations, etc. Reasoning should be aimed at demonstrating the truth and validity of statements in support or against a plan of action, a proposal, an interpretation.

    1.2  Arguments and reasoning

    An argument is a form or type of reasoning in which a point of view, a claim, a deduction, an opinion or an interpretation, is stated with reasons to confirm the chosen stance. The reasons given should "prove" the validity of the claim, deduction, opinion or interpretation but at the same time it should also serve to persuade other researchers of its validity. Reasons are evaluated through the discussion of objections (opposition, disagreement). Objections should always be based upon information (knowledge, data) regarded as suitable for evaluating the validity and the soundness of the proposed reasons. Objections are, therefore, in fact reasons why a particular point of view, a claim, a deduction, an opinion or an interpretation is unacceptable, unsatisfactory, inadequate.

    1.3  Valid reasons and information

    Valid reasons are based on and supported by reliable relevant information (knowledge) and data (facts, essences) derived from research and/or experience. In other words an argument is a reasoned justification of a point of view, a claim, a deduction, an opinion or an interpretation that leads to a conclusion. Reasoning is the ability to state or to formulate and to consider seriously supporting as well as contradictory reasons in order to reach a conclusion. The implication is that an appeal is made to the researcher to acquire up-to-date information.

    1.4  Premises and conclusions

    A reason in logic is called a premise (or premis). This serves to emphasize that in an argument a succession of sentences should be divided in such a way that certain of the sentences supply the reason (justification, guarantee, warrant, support) for the rest of the sentences. The sentences containing the reason or the warrant are known as premises. The sentence or sentences warranted by the premises is called the conclusion (Michalos). As far as this process is concerned, the specific tasks of the researcher are to

    *  ascertain the validity (truth) of each premiss

    *  ascertain that a particular conclusion is sufficiently supported by the relevant premises. These premisses should supply reasons for believing or accepting the conclusion(s). Premises are motivations for those conclusions emanating from them. False premises lead to false conclusions. All premisses should always be supported by research.

    Good reasoning implies evidence strong enough to justify the conclusion, and to make the drawing of such a conclusion a warranted inference (Woods & Walton 1986:1-16; Michalos 1970:1-18).


    It is possible to detect certain errors or mistakes i.e.: one or more of the reasons or premises may be incorrect or contrary to the facts obtained by research. The relationship between reasons or premises and conclusions can be invalid, untrue or in conflict with reality. The result is misleading, deceptive, erroneous, false argumentation. False argumentation or fallacies due to incorrect reasoning, is deception. Fallacies should at all costs be identified and eradicated in order to promote the scientific status of a research report. A fallacy is a pitfall of reasoning exhibiting a general and recurring tendency to deceive and to deceive successfully. The fallacy represents the deceit of argument.

  3.  OBSTACLES IN THE WAY OF LOGICAL THINKING (Landman 1983:44-47; Landman 1977:43-110).

    3.1  Chattering

    To chatter aimlessly. Idle or trivial talk that tend to conceal meanings and reasons. Sometimes accompanied by an improper appeal to non-chatters, to tradition and to popular sentiments. Inclined towards pseudo-arguments and emotional language and to supply illicit contrasts as examples. OPPOSITE: TO CONCENTRATE ON MEANINGS AND VALID REASONS.

    3.2  Superficialness

    To emphasise the trivial, the insignificant and the superficial, such as trivial objections and hasty generalisations. Inclined towards faulty analogies and the dissemination of false causes. OPPOSITE: RADICAL = FUNDAMENTAL = TO EXPOSE ESSENCES (ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS).

    3.3  Simplicity (to be naive)

    Lacking critical ability or insight characterised by a rejection of the necessity of the testing of own views against reality, by the propagation of middle views and by a stagnation in false dilemmas. These characteristics are intensified by an inclination towards oversimplification, by practising alleged continuity and exhibiting overconfident manners.

    3.4  Negativism

    A resistance to essences and a preference for nonsense strengthened by a preference for simple diversions, improper reference to sources of expert information accompanied by irrelevant appeals and rationalisation. OPPOSITE: PREFERENCE FOR ESSENCES. A POSITIVE ATTITUDE TOWARDS ESSENTIALS.

    3.5  Lack of illumination (intellectual clarification).

    A lack of suitable (appropriate) terminology. A lack of concepts that can throw light on essentials. Insufficient intellectual clarification and defective terminology. Concepts that are too vague (indefinite) and ambiguous to throw sufficient light on essentials (essences) intensified by a preference for jargon, false accentuation, overused expressions or ideas, value-laden adjectives and complex questions. OPPOSITE: SENSITIVITY FOR EXPLANATION AND INTERPRETATION OF RELEVANT CONCEPTS. Information must be interpreted to be meaningful.


    The following is a selection of errors in reasoning or argumentation:

    4.1  Fallacies of chattering

    4.1.1  Common practice (tradition): the claim must be true because it has been traditionally supported i.e. over the ages it has been accepted as a truth that ..... A practice is regarded as moral or a belief is regarded as correct because of conformation to tradition.

    4.1.2  Large numbers: a claim must be true because it is supported by many people i.e. thousands of children believe that mathematics is difficult. Thousands can't be wrong.

    4.1.3  Pseudo-argument: to come to a conclusion after talking around, beside, beyond, beneath and above a point.

    4.1.4  Emotional language: without increasing the supporting evidence, words (expressions) are added that are capable of stirring the emotions. Pure emotion can have a devastating effect. Pure emotions can be distinguished from an argument that contains an emotional appeal. An emotional argument is still susceptible to reason. An individual exerting pure emotion over another, in fact demands that these should respond because of feeling. Thus, discussion is impossible (Missimer 1986:9).

    4.1.5  Popular people: a certain claim (or reason, conclusion) must be true because some well-known person believes it. He (a certain person) himself said it, therefore it is true.

    Michalos (1970:38): Whatever the evidence fails to support, a popular name cannot support either.

    4.1.6  Popular sentiments: when in the absence of plausible (valid, acceptable) reasons, the feelings, prejudices and attitudes of people are appealed to in order to win acceptance. This is frequently the case when reasons are not supported by relevant information. Too much reliance on public opinion results in this fallacy (Makau 1990:194-199).

    4.1.7  Illicit contrast: if it is argued that an object (or person) has (or lacks) a certain property, any contrary or contrasting object must lack (or have) that property. E.g. if women are patient, men must be impatient. If young people are vigorous, old people must be lethargic.

    4.1.8  Valid contrasts: Much of the force of a qualitative argument comes from drawing attention to contrasts and highlighting paradoxes (Delamont 1992:161-162).

    4.2  Fallacies of superficialness

    4.2.1  Trivial objections: any objection to a view or argument is sufficient to overthrow it i.e. reject Einsteins theory of relativity on the ground that it is incomprehensible to the ordinary person.

    4.2.2  Hasty generalisations: after observing that a small number of the members of a certain group has a given property (i.e. the fear of maths, of a number of girls), it is inferred that the whole group has this property (all girls are afraid of maths). Generalisations unwarranted by the support provided on their behalf are considered hasty generalisations (Makau 1990:197).

    4.2.3  Faulty analogy: when two things with certain similarities, exhibit even more differences e.g. man-animal comparisons. This is especially true when the similarities are trivial and the differences important.

    4.2.4  False cause: when a certain event or happening is erroneously regarded as the cause of another event: i.e. Friday the 13th causes unhappiness. This occurs if the researcher observes that one event, B, follows another event, A, in temporal sequence, and then concludes that A causes B ( Woods & Walton 1986:76-77).

    4.3  Fallacies of simplicity

    4.3.1  Apriorism: Instead of testing his views against reality, the researcher fashions or try to fashion reality according to his views e.g. the aim of my research is to prove the following hypothesis.

    4.3.2  Golden mean: to argue that the mean or middle view between two extremes must be true or correct simply because it is the middle view i.e. the middle of the road is not the best place to drive.

    4.3.3  False dilemma: this is encountered in any erroneous assumption or arguement that one of two views must be true and that there can be no third possibility e.g. Those who are not for us, are against us. There is a third possibility: neutrality (Insufficient alternatives e.g. alternative hypotheses).

    4.3.4  Alleged certainty: To present a view or to make a statement or to provide a reason as if it represents a certainty or is entirely beyond question. The effect of persuading (without proof) that a claim or a reason is beyond doubt, is to commit the fallacy of alleged certainty.

    4.3.5  Confident manner: when, in the absence of legitimate (valid) reasons, someone behaves as if he has a conclusive demonstration of his own view, ("Bluffing").

    4.3.6  Oversimplification: failure to take into account all the complexities of a problem or to overlook potentially relevant considerations that leads to distortion when presented in too simple a form. E.g. to assume that a single admirable characteristic of a person is the cause of his success.

    4.4  Fallacies of negativism (Michalos 1970:50-69)

    4.4.1  Red herring (simple diversion. Insistence on irrelevancies). Something that draws the attention away from the matter or the issue at hand. OPPOSITE: TO THE POINT.

    4.4.2  Improper appeal to authority: A certain claim must be true because an authority accepts it. Whatever the evidence (essences) fails to support, no popular name can support.

    4.4.3  Irrelevant authority: when a reputable authority in one area is presented as an authority in an entirely different area, e.g. this educational theory is true because the Minister of finance has said it is true.

    4.4.4  Misrepresenting authority: if the claims of a reputable or trustworthy authority are substantially changed. It is possible to change the meaning of a sentence, a reason, a conclusion) by taking it out of its context, by changing certain of its terms, or by emphasising originally inessential parts. A representation in which an author's views (reasons, conclusions) are deliberately exaggerated or distorted (caricaturism), or underestimated. Straw arguments present weak versions of opposing views. They are often used to avoid refuting more difficult opposition arguments. Researchers reading or hearing the misrepresentation of their views are likely to become hostile (Makau 1990:191).

    4.4.5  Irrelevant appeals:

    (a)  Appeal to force: when some kind of force or violence is used to bring about the acceptance of a particular view.

    (b)  Appeal to pity: any attempt to persuade someone to accept a particular view by arousing his sympathy or compassion (a feeling of pity).

    (c)  Appeal to ignorance: when it is argued that the absence of evidence for (or against) a claim (reason, conclusion) should be counted as evidence for it. Because it is not known whether a specific claim (reason, conclusion) is false (or true), therefore, it must be true (or false).

    (d)  Abusing the man: when the defender of an issue (claim, reason, conclusion) is attacked instead of the issue itself reasoning challenges claims on the basis of the person responsible for their making (Makau 1990:199). E.g. His arguments cannot be accepted because he is a phenomenologist and a phenomenologist is an existentialist and existentialists are atheists. Speaking of the man, not his argument (Woods & Walton 1986:9-10).

    (e)  Appeal to faulty motives: when it is argued that because someone's motives for defending an issue (claim, reason, conclusion) are improper (i.e. is censurable, condemnable, objectionable), therefore, the issue is unacceptable. His motive to propagate Christian Science is not the promotion of science, but to be accepted by the christian community.

    (f)  Appeal to friendship: when it is argued that a certain view (argument, claim, reason, conclusion) must be acceptable because it is that of a friend.

    (g)  Appeal to fear: Fear is used to persuade someone to accept some view (argument, conclusion). Someone can appeal to fear without appealing to force i.e. the fear of being considered stupid if a particular conclusion is not accepted.

    (h)  Rationalisation: A more or less acceptable reason is substituted for the real reason. Researchers are inclined to rationalise their failures. Real reason: weak questionnaire. Substituted reason: non-caring respondents.

    4.5  Fallacies of lack of illumination (insufficient intellectual clarification)

    4.5.1  Jargon: when a claim is in fact made to appear stronger by the use of bombastic or unexplained technical-sounding language. Argumentation (reasoning) that relies on overly complex sentence structure, unnecessary jargon or other needlessly obscure terminology leads to obscuration (Makau 1990:187).

    4.5.2  Ambiguous language: when a term, an expression or an interpretation that plays a critical role in an argument, has more than one distinct interpretation. Ambiguity invites confusion and sometimes even encourages misleading interpretation (Makau 1990:185-186).

    4.5.3  Vague terminology: The use of obscure, imprecise terms e.g. undefined and unclear terms such as liberal, democracy, even education.

    4.5.4  Accent: when an improperly accented, false or misleading sentence is inferred from a sentence which is true if properly accented. The practice of emphasising certain words in a quotation by means of italics or underscoring even though this is not the case in the original text, is a fallacy of accent (Michalos 1970:72).

    4.5.5  Aphorisms (Clichés): A cliché (a trite or overused expression or idea) is used as a substitute for a valid (good)reason (Michalos 1970:43).

    4.5.6  Complex questions: The fallacy of complex or leading questions is committed whenever a question is phrased in such a manner (usually in questionnaires or interviews) that a person is forced to answering in a preconceived manner. Eg. do you still assault your wife? (Michalos 1970:29).

    4.5.7  Value-laden adjectives: In the description of an issue, certain terms are used that not only describe it but evaluate (judge, appraise) it. This is usually achieved by bestowing praise or by using harsh and abusive language (Makau 1990:62-63).


    5.1  Elimination of chattering fallacies

    (i)  Eliminate deadwood i.e. all words and expressions that do not contribute to meaning. Redundancy (excess) violates the principle of economy in writing (word economy). Emphasis should fall on relevant information and interpretation should be based on evidence and should lead to the refinement of judgements (including reasons and conclusions). Verification of interpretation through critical intersubjectivity (discourse) is necessary (Burgess 1988:117).

    (ii)  The researcher should seek to use a sample as small as possible because of time and cost, at the same time keeping it large enough to insure its representativeness. Large samples is no guarantee for valid conclusions drawn from research data.

    (iii)  Long, desultory sentences obscure the aims of any research project.

    (iv)  The scientific attitude is violated as soon as a researcher disregards evidence contrary to his personal beliefs and feelings.

    (v)  The researcher should apply the following criteria for judging whether or not a person ought to be considered an authority (Sax 1979:3-4).

    *  the individual judged as authority, should be identifiable.

    * *nbspThe authority should receive recognition by other educationists. Woods and Walton (1982:88-90) describe the following conditions:

    1. The authority must be interpreted correctly.

    2. The authority must actually have special competence in an area and not simply glamour, prestige or popularity.

    3. The judgement of the authority must actually fall within the required special field of competence.

    4. Direct evidence must be available in principle (the authority must base his judgement on actual, relevant and objective evidence).

    (vi)  The goal of a research report is accurate and concise communication. Anything that interferes with this goal, i.e. an appeal to sentiments is to be avoided.

    (vii)  The estimation of similarities and differences not sanctioned by proper research, is deception.

    5.2  Elimination of superficialness fallacies

    1. Formulate hypotheses i.e. the forming of clear tentative explanations after a thorough review of relevant literature, that could serve as a basis for investigation, for the planning of research actions and to activate a sensitivity for essentials.

    2. Inference from a quantitatively (insufficiently large) or qualitatively (peculiarly selected) unrepresentative sample for a whole population, is an example of superficialness. It is a fallacy that averages describe individuals. Averages conceal individuality.

    3. The superficial (uncritical) mind treats a new idea in the same way the body treats a strange protein; it rejects it. This analogy points to the automatic rejection of the new. The researching mind is sensitive and appreciative of the new (and the original).

    4. A reason for expressing opposition or disagreement should be supported by relevant information. Reasons (based on research) are necessary to afford most claims (opinions, proposals, deductions, interpretations) substance. Relevant questions help to recover relevant information fundamental to problem solving (Makau 1990:10-12).

    5. Correlations do not imply causal relationships. Any correlation only indicates a certain association between two variables (possibilities). Strong correlations are important when pointing out possible causal relationships but they are not sufficient evidence of a causal relationship.

    5.3  Elimination of simplicity fallacies

    1. Development (by the researcher) of the questioning habit is fundamental for critical thinking (Makau 1990:10-11). Provide for critical thinking activities: explain the meaning of a statement, judge whether there is ambiguity in a line of reasoning; judge whether a statement is specific enough; judge whether an observation is reliable; judge whether the problem has been identified; judge whether something is an assumption; judge whether a definition is adequate; judge whether a statement by an alleged authority is acceptable; judge whether a reason is valid (McPeck 1981:45).

    2. The researcher is guilty of oversimplification if he assumes that the formulation of a single hypothesis is sufficient for research purposes. Alternative hypotheses should be stated and it is the responsibility of the researcher to appeal to the professional judgment of practitioners (Burgess 1986:103).

    3. The researcher should accept that it is necessary for him to judge whether or not prejudices, biases and stereotypes are interfering with his ability to make clear and rational judgments. Research requires a willingness to modify personal beliefs should the evidence so demands. The scientific attitude is violated when the researcher disregards evidence contrary to personal beliefs or arranges conditions so that only the favoured or desired outcome is likely to occur (Sax 1979:4-6).

    4. The researcher verifies hypotheses. He can also confirm or disconfirm hypotheses by attempting to prove that alternative hypotheses are or are not supported (Kerlinger 1973:388-389). Chamerlin (Kerlinger 1973:389) states: The effort is to bring up into view every rational explanation of new phenomena, and to develop every tenable hypothesis. The investigation thus becomes the parent of a family of hypotheses; and, by his parental relation to all, he is forbidden to fasten his affections unduly upon any one.

    5. Researchers commit oversimplification (sometimes aggravated by alleged certainty and confident manners) when they overlook potentially relevant considerations i.e. when they fail to recognise essential characteristics.

    5.4  Elimination of negativism fallacies

    1. Preferences for essentials can be promoted by describing

      1. need for the investigation (Why is the study important? What contribution will it make?)

      2. review of relevant literature with emphasis on essential conclusions,

      3. research hypotheses should be written in statement form expressing definite expectations.

    2. The researcher can avoid diversions, improper and irrelevant appeals and rationalisation by a disclosure (through research) of real essences (essential characteristics as meaningful variables) with their meaningful relationships by mobilising the revealing functions and the characteristics of research procedures and techniques.

    3. There is a need to study human activities for flexible observation to generate useful perspectives and hypotheses as well as for systematic observation to provide precise descriptions and to test hypotheses (Hammersley 1993:23).

    5.5  Elimination of lack of illumination fallacies

    1. Definition of terms: All vague, ambiguous or unusual terms should be defined. Research will suffer from conceptual confusion (Hammersley 1993:21-23). Focus the attention upon the necessity of a definition of terms (Clarification of concepts). Good arguers do a lot of defining (Missimer 1981:106).

    2. Carefully scrutinise the appropriateness and adequacy of the selected methods (procedures, techniques) and remember that technological sophistication is no substitute for conceptual vigour (Hammersley 1993:38).

    3. Adjectives should be used sparingly in a research report.

    4. The researcher ought to grasp scientific language (i.e. language of Education as a form of science) and the scientific approach to problem-solving. There are good reasons for this specialised use of language (Kerlinger 1973:2).

    5. Problem-solving: For the researcher solve means to answer a question, work out a problem or confirm a hypothesis. The word solve can refer to explaining and understanding a phenomenon that has been formulated in question form. The steps of a research design are in actual fact problem-solving steps. The aim of a research project is usually to solve a problem (Landman 1988:76).


    Research embodies a system of multi-faceted logic. The logic of valid research necessitates the evaluation and elimination of the effect of obstacles and fallacies in the way of logical thinking.


    1. Burgess, RG (Ed) 1988. Strategies of Educational Research. Qualitative Methods. London: Falmer.

    2. Delamont, S 1992. Fieldwork in Educational Settings, Methods, pitfalls and perspectives. London: Falmer.

    3. Hammersley, M (Ed) 1993. Second Edition. Controversions in classroom research. Buckingham: Open University Press.

    4. Kerlinger, FN 1973. Second Edition. Foundations of Behavioural Research. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

    5. Landman, WA 1977. Fundamentele Pedagogiek en Onderwyspraktyk. Durban: Butterworths.

    6. Landman, WA (red) 1983. Navorsingsmetodologie vir Onderwysstudente. Durban: Butterworths.

    7. Landman, WA 1988. Navorsingsmetodologiese grondbegrippe/Basic concepts in research methodology. Pretoria: Serva.

    8. Makau, JM 1990. Reasoning and communication. Thinking critically about arguments. California: Wadsworht.

    9. McPeck, JE 1981. Critical thinking and education. Oxford: Robertson.

    10. Michalos, AC 1970. Improving your reasoning. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

    11. Missimer, CA 1986. Good arguments. An introduction to critical thinking. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

    12. Sax, G 1968. Foundations of educational research. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

    13. Woods, J & Walton, D 1982. Argument: The logic of fallacies. Toronto: McGraw-Hill.

    --- oOo ---