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Logic - Informal Logic First published Mon substantive...

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Informal Logic First published Mon Nov 25, 1996; substantive revision Wed Mar 21, 2007 Informal logic is the attempt to develop a logic to assess, analyse and improve ordinary language (or "everyday") reasoning. It intersects with attempts to understand such reasoning from the point of view of philosophy, formal logic, cognitive psychology, and a range of other disciplines. Most of the work in informal logic focuses on the reasoning and argument (in the premise-conclusion sense) one finds in personal exchange, advertising, political debate, legal argument, and the social commentary that characterizes newspapers, television, the World Wide Web and other forms of mass media. The development of informal logic is tied to educational goals: by the desire to develop ways of analysing ordinary reasoning which can inform general education. To this extent, the goals of informal logic intersect with those of the Critical Thinking Movement, which aims to inform and improve public reasoning, discussion and debate by promoting models of education which emphasize critical inquiry. Informal logic is sometimes presented as a theoretical alternative to formal logic. This kind of characterization may reflect early battles in philosophy departments which debated, sometimes with acrimony, whether informal logic should be considered "real" logic. Today, informal logic enjoys a more conciliatory relationship with formal logic. Its attempt to understand informal reasoning is usually (but not always) couched in natural language, but research in informal logic sometimes employs formal methods and it remains an open question whether the accounts of argument in which informal logic specializes can in principle be formalized. Some recent work in computational modelling attempts to implement informal logic models of natural-language reasoning. It suggests that defeasible (non-monotonic) logic, probability theory and other non-classical formal frameworks may be well suited to this task. 1. History Informal logic is a recent discipline. It has some precedents in those nineteenth century works on Logic and Rhetoric which aim to raise general standards of reasoning through public education (see, e.g., Whatley [1830], [1844]). But informal logic is a child of the 1960s. It is ultimately rooted in its social and political movements, which were characterized by a call for an education more "relevant" to the issues of the day. In logic, and especially the teaching of logic, this fostered the attempt to replace the artificial examples of good and bad argument that tended to characterize earlier logic texts (e.g., Copi [1957]) with instances of reasoning, argument and debate taken from
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newspapers, the mass media, advertisements and political campaigns (Kahane [1971] is a good example of this trend).
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