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Learning How to Think Rationally... Suggestions?

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7 replies to this topic


  • 108 posts

One theme that I have noticed recurring throughout the FDR podcast is the concept of thinking properly.  For all that many people take that skill for granted, most of them either never learned how or were taught (deliberately or otherwise) ineffective or incorrect methods of thinking.

I am often impressed by Stefan's ability to find empirical evidence to back up his theoretical findings, as well as pull out the essential concepts from opponents' arguments.  I don't always agree with his conclusions (I'd hate be be accused of being patronizing, after all :P), but I am always fascinated by his methods.

About 21/2 years ago, I listened to Barbara Branden's course, "Efficient Thinking".  By the end of the course, I had noticed such amazing changes in my methods of thinking that I purchased the entire course for myself (some 20 CDs) and listened to it a second time.  It has been a tremendous help, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to train his thinking skills.

The course was until recently sold through Audio Forum, which is now out of business, so unfortunately, I do not know where one might acquire a [licensed] copy of it.

I've recognized some areas where my skills could use some improvement, especially when it comes to maintaining focus and recognizing when an argument is being made from false premises (I still have a nasty habit of assuming any piece of information that I hear is true until/unless I can find evidence to the contrary rather than the other way around).

Have you come across any resources for learning how to think/reason more effectively that you can recommend?



  • 14136 posts

If you can find a community college or something like that, that has a debate team, or a decent course in logic, that may help.

I've read lots of books on logic, but really, the best way I've found for honing my own reasoning skills, has been open conversation with others interested in the same things.

Maybe we could start a skype group here, focused on helping people achieve some confidence/mastery at argumentation and logical thinking, in a social setting?

What do you think?



    Cheryl Hulseapple

  • 484 posts

Listening to the Complete Liberty podcast has helped me a lot. Wes Bertrand, the host, is very good at pointing out contradictions and logical falacies. I won't claim to be a pro at it myself--as I'm only a few months into learning--but between CL and FDR, reality is definitely making a lot more sense now!

I purchased a course on logic and debating from The Teaching Company (www.teach12.com). They offer college-level courses on CD, DVD, and mp3. They always have courses on sale, and once or twice a year, they offer every course in their catalog at a discount. (I paid $20 for a $130 downloadable course). I didn't get through more than two of the eighteen lectures because I didn't think the professor really "struck the root" of truth. (He didn't seem to believe there was an objective truth.) You might find it useful (and I may give it another shot eventually).



  • 698 posts

Logic books. Calculus.

I am also interested in this topic as I find a lot of my logic skills were crippled from early childhood collective "education" training.



  • 48 posts

In the recent Sunday show, Stef briefly mentioned "How to Think, An Introduction" that someone had posted in the chat.

This reference is to an online course that is currently in session at the new Mises Academy.  It looks pretty cool.  I just signed up for the course--$135 for a 7 week session.  There have already been 3 sessions but they have an mp4 of the class.  I'm watching the first session.  The instructor is a bit flat.  The video quality is mediocre.  However, the subject and the approach of the course is great.  I would recommend this course and checking out the academy.

This course uses the text Principles of Logic by George Hayward Joyce.  Here's a link to the course:  http://mises.org/daily/4925  

The following is from the Mises Academy site:

Classes include forums, readings, video and audio, study questions,
quizzes, forums, chats, live interaction with the professor, office
hours, grading, transcripts, and more (tests and grading are optional).
Students enjoy access to blogs and class-specific forums, providing
opportunities to get to know fellow students. Papers can be uploaded,
corrected and commented upon. Students have permanent access to their
records. A complete support staff is here to help you. See this video introduction.

The weekly live video-broadcast lectures will be Thursdays at 7pm EST.
Each lecture will last one hour, and after this there will be a
30-minute question-and-answer period. Live attendance is not required;
recordings of all live sessions will be made available to students.

The platform is the same as used by U.K. Open University (Moodle) and
many other famous institutions. It has within it the capacity to enroll
hundreds of thousands of students learning under professors around the
world. The tuition schedule is based on the idea that the teaching is
the value, not the software (and not the sports program, or dormitories,
or the bureaucracy) and so the classroom grants great scholars an
opportunity for a global classroom and compensation to make this effort
worth their time.


Tomas Johansson

Tomas Johansson
  • 157 posts

A great topic! Thinking independently is one of the hardest things to do... I have been struggling to do it for about two years now and still have a long way to go, thoughts are limitless! I think that the best method is to play the "why" game. Ask yourself why regarding every action you take, every opinion you hear etc etc. until you've broken in down to the final stage, casua finalis. It's extremely hard, most people would fail at the first why, after the twentieth it's very abstract and you really have to use all your cognitive faculties to find a logical answer. You'll receive a lot of other boons from this; the logic, evidence and reason behind everything will make you aware of everything you do, if it's anchored in reality or that you're just doing it because you were taught so. It also removes ambivalence to a high degree, because if you really understand why things that you do are good for you, then you should be able to determine what will be the best course of action (based on reason and evidence) and enriches your life in so many other ways!

An example: Why am I on the computer writing on this forum? Because I want to share my thoughts on the subject since I have some. Why do you want to do that? Because if I help someone to think more rationally then he will perhaps later come up with something that I haven't thought of? Why would I want to learn that? Because it might be something that might that will help me make my life better by for example removing an illusion. Why are illusions bad? etc. etc.     This was only a minute subject, but applying the same principle to more abstract topics will surely lead to a lot of value. How much time do you spend in actively thinking without any stimulus like books, television, podcasts or a computer? If one doesn't practice, it's impossible to get good at anything. Personally I walk for more than 2 hours each day and meanwhile try to reflect on things that are really important to me.   I'm a bit skeptical to reading a book where a guy is telling you how to think. Obeying others is the opposite autonomous thinking, so I think that it might be a strange way to start. But if one really asks why and try to see what reason and evidence a person puts forth while one is being lectured it might be to a great help.  

And as Sebastian said, all things like math, literature, language etc. trains and thereby increases your capacity for abstract thought, so if you're interested in anything like that go ahead! I spend enormous amounts of time reading poetry and literature. 

Greg I think that the Skype group seems like a great idea! 

Cody Dodd

Cody Dodd
  • 113 posts

I would also participate in a skype group! :)

Alan Forrester

Alan Forrester
  • 7 posts

One of the big traps for people trying to be rational is bad ideas about justification. See