A circular argument is not something you’d want in your reasoning process, as it can instantly void its validity. What makes circular arguments so dangerous is the fact that, while they don’t have any real arguments to support them, they usually look like they do, thus making it hard for some to identify and avoid them.
This article will focus on teaching you how to identify, understand and avoid circular arguments, but if you want to make your whole reasoning process infallible, check out this online course.
Understanding Circular Arguments
The typical argument consists of one or more premises that lead to a conclusion, and if the bond between these elements is logical and strong, the argument is considered to be valid. A circular argument puts the conclusion at the beginning of the reasoning process, using it as a premise, thus reversing the whole process; however, the main problem with circular arguments is that they give the false impression that there is a bond between elements and that the reasoning is correct, thus making people ignore some genuine elements that could back up an argument and make it valid in the favor of what it is basically just an illusion.
While arguments rely on multiple premises that support each other in order to define whether the conclusion is valid or not, circular arguments start with that conclusion as valid right from the start, and build the entire reasoning process on that assumption, which automatically makes the whole process invalid because there is no proof that the conclusion is indeed valid or not.
The good news is that it only takes little effort and a bit of analytic thinking to figure out if you’re dealing with a circular argument or not. Nick Gibson wrote a very interesting blog post on analytic thinking, presenting 5 simple tips to improve your thinking process.
Circular Arguments – Wrong, Deceiving and Potentially Harmful
One of the aspects that define a reasoning process as logical is the fact that it is objective, and can be replicated easily, the unknown element (the conclusion) being deducted by piecing together the known elements (the premises). Because circular arguments start with the assumption that the conclusion is valid, they are no longer objective, and thus cannot be generally accepted. However, considering them to be correct can have negative effects.
Take for example the case of a student that has very high grades, but happens to get a bad grade; his reasoning may be something like “I cannot get a C because I’m a straight A student”, which may seem logical at first, except that it starts by defying the facts – he actually got the C, which essentially cancels his statute of a straight A student. In this case, instead of remaining objective and facing the facts, that he actually got a bad grade and that he must study harder, circular reasoning will have him thing that he was mistreated, thus preventing him from working on improving his situation. In such scenarios, taking an online course on improving thinking skills can be of great use.
Another aspect that can make circular arguments harmful is the fact that they do not bring any useful elements on the table, but rather just use one claim over and over again, in multiple forms. Especially when you’re trying to get an idea across, coming up with as many supportive arguments as possible and good reasoning is a must, and these are exactly the elements that circular arguments lack, so instead of establishing yourself as authoritative, you will most likely establish yourself as careless or even ignorant.
One of the fields that make heavy use of circular arguments is marketing, and you’d be amazed of just how many people fall for it. I’m sure you have seen an ad along the lines of “This product is so awesome that you got to have it. Millions of people have it because it is so awesome!”, which is basically a circular argument in its purest form – it tells you nothing about why the product is awesome, just that millions of people have it, and the reason they have it is because it is awesome. But what if it’s not?
Since that’s not something you would want, you should definitely leave circular arguments out of your reasoning, but you could also take some additional measures to make sure you get the results you want, such as taking an online course on compelling communication to learn how to express your ideas better.