Health Mind

What Does It Mean to Be Reasonable?

Years ago I started writing “The Reasonable Person’s Guide to Strange Ideas” and this article was part of the research for that unwritten book. It is made available below now, November 8, 2019 in hopes that some will still find it useful. Not only can it make you a happier, healthier person, but the development of reasonable thinking can save your life.

Self Improvement: Mental Health

Created 12/28/2002 – Updated 11/8/2019

The Reasonable Person’s Guide to Strange Ideas next examines reasonableness itself and offers some mental health and logic tips to keep you grounded, positive and strong.


1. What is Reasonable? | 2. Orthodox vs. Reasonable | 3. A Healthy Mind Will … | 4. Logic Tools | 5. Ad hominem | 6. Ad Hominem Tu Quoque | 7. Appeal to Authority | 8. Appeal to Belief | 9. Appeal to Common Practice | 10. Appeal to Consequences of a Belief | 11. Appeal to Emotions | 12. Appeal to Fear | 13. Appeal to Flattery | 14. Appeal to Novelty | 15. Appeal to Tradition | 16. Appeal to Pity | 17. Appeal to Ridicule | 18. Bandwagon | 19. Begging the Question (Circular Reasoning) | 20. Biased Sample (Prejudice) | 21. Appeal to ignorance | 22. Confusing Cause and Effect | 23. Division | 24. False Dichotomy (Black & White Thinking) | 25. Genetic Fallacy | 26. Guilt By Association | 27. Omission | 28. Arbitrariness | 29. Red herring | 30. Middle Ground | 31. Misleading Vividness | 32. Poisoning the Well | 33. Slippery Slope | 34. Straw Man | 35. Two Wrongs Make a Right | 36. Relativist Fallacy

What is Reasonable?

One on line dictionary tells us reasonable persons possess the power of thinking in orderly rational ways. A reasonable person possesses sanity, defined as health of mind or soundness. A thing is sound when logically valid with true premises. A reasonable person, therefore, is of sound mind: free from error, logical fallacy, or misapprehension, well-grounded, relevant and meaningful.

Orthodox vs. Reasonable

Another definition of the word reasonable is: orthodox, that is “agreeing with accepted views.” This will contradict the earlier definition “free from error, fallacy, or misapprehension” when accepted views are in error (examples below.) Therefore, for clarity this guide will use orthodox apart from reasonable, favoring “logically grounded and free from error” as the definition for reasonable. How does one cultivate a sound healthy mind and logical foundations ( as opposed to superstition and magical thinking )?

A Healthy Mind Will …

Many focus on mental disorders ( non adaptive and/or disorganized mental activity ), but it is our philosophy that mental health is not mediocrity, not merely a lack of sickness. Instead, health is an exciting lifelong process of growth, discovery and exploration of one’s potentials.

The 18 ideas below are adapted from We get good at what we practice mentally, so focus on the positive as much as you can, and not so much on what is broken. Aim high. Don’t worry. everyone is a bit nuts. Keep improving. If you are reading this, you are already on the right path.


Feel free to check the boxes if you feel you are doing well in an area below. There is no score, nothing to submit, this is just for you.

1. Adapt. Replace familiar patterns of living and problem solving with new and more successful ones. Evolve. Avoid Ruts

2. Associate. Be accepted by at least one group as a member. Cultivate Friendships, Volunteer

3. Believe. Have a comprehensive system of meaning, set of values or spirituality. Explore Religions

4. Create. Express creativity, passions and interests. Try Some Art

5. Deserve. Expect that good things can be achieved and seek healthy pleasurable living. Exercise, Seek Healthy Physical Environments, Eat Healthy Foods

6. Feel. Experience a wide range of feelings deeply.

7. Heal. Soothe painful feelings, cope with loss or misfortune, find means to experience comfort and hope. Laugh: Seek Humor

8. Know. Acknowledge self esteem, have awareness of one’s sense of self-worth. Know Yourself

9. Lean. Utilize the support of others when needed.

10. Learn. Seek information to understand one’s world and self. Use Your Mind, Keep Learning

11. Locate. Find the unified “self” that is you in the midst of all of your conflicting parts. Consider Meditation

12. Love. Experience intimacy by expressing the real self fully in a close relationship even through difficult times while keeping healthy boundaries. Seek Healthy Love

13. Persist. Make and stick to commitments, persist in the face of obstacles.

14. Plan. Assertively and autonomously pursue, protect and promote one’s individuality with wishes, dreams and goals.

15. Play. Accommodate and enjoy being alone and being preoccupied with worthwhile pursuits.

16. Rejuvenate. Recognize the need and take breaks when needed. Get Enough Sleep, Relax, Laugh: Seek Humor, Stop Numbering and Alphabetizing. Stop making sense.

17. Thrive. Improvise ways to achieve financial and material security.

18. Value. Have one or more roles in which one performs with a feeling of self-respect and dignity.

19. Avoid. Avoid toxic situations, people and experiences.

Adjust the above to suit your needs. Add or subtract at will. There is not a solution to every problem, but having a healthy mind can give you options that you would not otherwise have. Cultivate your potential.

Logic Tools

By definition a reasonable person is free of logical fallacies, that is s/he uses reasons which correctly support his or her conclusions. Awareness of faulty logic people use can make you immune to much deception and manipulation. Cultivate a healthy skepticism by matching the logical fallacies below to statements you hear and see around you.

Below are some logical fallacies you should understand if you want to become a more reasonable thinker.

Ad hominem argument

The person making the claim is criticized and the argument itself is ignored. Example:

A: I say 1 + 2 = 3. How about you?

B: You're an idiot, a moron and a wacko!

Amazingly, some people listening to this debate will immediately believe that A is wrong simply because B has attacked.

The key is that those who use this trick may be wrong or right, but the reasonable person will recognize that ad hominem attacks make no progress in finding correct answers. This tactic is often used by those who are unable to back their position with facts. Watch for phrases like “you need to seek professional help.” P

Personal attacks are best ignored or deflected, depending on who is attacking and other circumstances.

A: Ridicule is not helpful. When I add 1 and 2, 
I always get the same result: 3. What is about that?

B: You are a frigging Froot Loop! I don't need any 
#*$& facts because you are a freaking Loony Toon! 
Your idea is not even worthy of a response.

It takes considerable skill to continue discussing something with a hostile person, but there can be rewards if you master this ability. Just beware of potential escalation and have an escape route planned.  Sometimes it is better to break off all communication early.

A: (Ignoring the attack) Are you saying my 
addition is wrong when I add 1 and 2 to get 3?

B: Look, all I see is a crazy person who needs 
to get a life! Now take your 2 + 1 and #@&$ off 
you pathetic loser.

A: That was 1 + 2 = 3. Sorry you seem to be 
having a bad day. Bye.

In this example, B may be arguing from a position of dogma or avoiding a factual discussion because s/he knows s/he is wrong. On radio talk this may also be done simply for shock value to increase ratings. In either case, progress is unlikely. Don’t take it personally. Move on.

Ad Hominem Tu Quoque

The person’s current claim is denounced because it contradicts his previous claim.

A: I think 0 + 0 = 0.

B: You previously claimed 0 + 0 is 
undefined, so you must now be wrong.

A: If I said that I was wrong, but I 
now think 0 + 0 = 0.

B: You keep changing your mind. You're 
inconsistent. You were wrong then, so 
why would you be right now?

Appeal to Authority

Arguing that a claim is true based on someone’s expertise; dogma.

A: I think 0 + 0 = 0.

B: An expert with three Ph.D.'s in 
Mathematics from Harvard's Academe 
of Science says that 0 + 0 = 100, so 
you are wrong.

A: Even experts can be wrong and 
different experts often disagree. Do 
you have any details on why the experts 
are making this claim?

B: Do you think you know more than 
the experts? Do you think you're some 
kind of genius or something? I told 
you the experts agree and you are wrong.

Appeal to Belief

Most people believe it, so it must be true.

A: I think 0 + 0 = 0.

B: Most people believe that 
0 + 0 is -1. The majority would 
not be wrong, therefore, you are.

A: The majority is sometimes wrong, 
I can name a dozen examples if 
you'd like. (1. alchemy, 2. geocentric 
universe, 3. slavery, 4. circular 
planetary orbits, 5. heavier objects 
fall faster, 6. time is a constant 
7. germs spontaneously generate 
8. continental drift 9. witchcraft 
10. Nineteenth-century craniology 
11. Mesmerism 12. Flat earth.) Why do 
most people today think 0 + 0 is -1?

B: Whatever. You're just one person,
 everyone else says you are wrong.

Appeal to Common Practice

Most people do it, so it must be safe / right / justified / moral, etc.

A: When I add 0 and 0, I get 0.

B: Most people add 0 and 0 while 
eating spotted mushrooms and they 
get all kinds of other answers, like 
92 or 21. Your method must be faulty.

Appeal to Consequences of a Belief

X is true (or false) because it has good (or bad) consequences if true (or false.)

B: A nuclear war is not being 
planned to reduce the world's 
population. If I believed it was, 
I would not be able to get up 
in the morning. It's too depressing.

Appeal to Emotions

X is true because people feel good about it.

B: Everyone feels good about 
milk, so it could not contain 
anything dangerous.

Appeal to Fear

Y is frightening, therefore X is true. (Creating fear in people does not constitute evidence for a claim.)

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: I've just murdered someone 
who looked like you, and by the 
way 0 + 0 = 15.

A: You are right, of course.

Appeal to Flattery

Person A is flattered by Person B, therefore Person B’s argument is correct.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: I'm very impressed with 
your use of the "+" sign and 
I'll be sure to mention your 
skills in my new book, but 
first we need to clear up 
the fact that 0 + 0 = 984.

A: Me, in a book? How flattering! 
My Mistake.

Appeal to Novelty

Something is new, therefore it is better or correct. New things are not necessarily better. Sometimes they are, but novelty itself is not a logical reason to believe a claim.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: The latest work in this area, the breaking news is that 0 + 0 = 3.

Appeal to Tradition

Something is old or traditional, therefore it is better or correct. This is a simple but powerful fallacy that you will find in many places. In fact, it seems to rule many people’s lives.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: It has been known for many years, even before I was born that 0 + 0 = 5.

Appeal to Pity

Feelings of pity or sympathy that are substituted for evidence.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: I have a deadly disease and 
only one week to live. My dying 
wish is that you agree that 0 + 0 = 6.

Appeal to Ridicule

Mocking a claim to show that it is false.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: 0 + 0 = 0?! Nothing against 
you personally, but that's the 
most ridiculous absurd load of 
unsubstantiated bullpucky horse-
feather poppycock that I have 
ever heard! 0 + 0 = 4.


A threat of rejection by one’s peers (or peer pressure) is substituted for evidence in an “argument.”

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: If you say so, but no other 
reasonable person will be seen 
talking with you if you continue 
with this unpopular view.

Begging the Question (Circular Reasoning)

Something is true because it is assumed to be true. The term “begging the question” is often misused to mean “prompts one to ask the question”, but that is not the correct usage. Begging the question is a form of circular reasoning. It may not always be easy to spot circular reasoning. It is any argument where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: Clearly, 0 + 0 = 8 because 8 
is what you get when you add 0 
and 0. As you can plainly see 8 
is the result and 0 are the 
things added. What more proof 
do you want?

Biased Sample (Prejudice)

Some % of observed A’s have trait X, therefore all A’s do.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: 0 + 1 = 1, right? Also 0 + 0 + 1 = 1 
and 1 + 0 + 0 = 1, right? Finally 1 + 0 
= 1 SO 0 + 0 must also = 1! All the 
other examples = 1, right? It's so obvious.

Appeal to ignorance

X has not been disproved, so it must be true.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: You cannot disprove that 
0 + 0 = a kangaroo, so you must be wrong.

Confusing Cause and Effect

Y and Z regularly occur together, so Y is the cause of Z.

B: Your dog is always barking 
when cars go by. Obviously, your 
dog's barking is bringing the cars.


What is true of the whole must be true of the parts.

B: My watch can tell time 
24 hours a day. If I cut 
it in half, I'll be able to 
tell time only 12 hours a day.

False Dichotomy (Black & White Thinking)

You are presented with two alternatives, such as owls or jobs, the economy or the environment, when there are really more than two alternatives.

B: The Dempublicans are wrong 
when they say 0 + 0 = 8, so 
the Republicrats are therefore 
right when they say that 0 + 0 = 7.

Genetic Fallacy

The origin of a claim makes it true. I was brought up to believe X therefore it is true.

A: I say that 0 + 0 = 0.

B: I was raised to know 
right from wrong and that 
I was ALWAYS taught that 0 + 0 = 87.

Guilt By Association

A claim is rejected because it is accepted by people disliked by others.

A: I say that 0 + 0 = 0.

B: I reject this because 
evildoers all over the world 
make this same exact claim.


Failure to consider alternative explanations.

B. There are three possibilities 
0 + 0 = 1, 0 + 0 = 9 or 0 + 0 = 13.


Claim that a definition or rule is arbitrary.

A: I say that 0 + 0 = 0.

B. Addition is an arbitrary 
construction with no real meaning.

Red herring

Information irrelevant to the discussion; changing the subject of a debate.

A: I say that 0 + 0 = 0.

B: Numbers are derived from 
symbols written in clay. The 
important thing here is the clay!

Middle Ground

A moderate opinion may be correct, but when used as a weapon, this fallacy says the middle of any two extremes must be true.

A: I say that 0 + 0 = 0.

B: Well, Bob says that 
0 + 0 = 100, therefore, I 
must be right that 0 + 0 = 50. 
The moderate opinion is 
the most reasonable.

This example may sound unlikely and absurd, but some day you may find yourself being part of a group making a decision where you are outvoted using this type of broken logic.

Misleading Vividness

A dramatic or vivid event which makes a strong impression on the human mind but is not in accord with the majority of the statistical evidence occurs, and will therefore happen again.

A: I say earthquakes are rare.

B: I remember one vividly, so I 
say they are very common.

Poisoning the Well

A personal attack before evidence is presented.

B: Hey everyone, A is about to 
tell some math lies.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: Just like I said. I called it! 
Just as I said, A is wrong.

Slippery Slope

Assertion without proof that one event must inevitably follow from another.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: Look, 1 + 0 = 1 and 
2 + 0 = 2 and 3 + 0 = 3 
and if we do one more 
addition, say 0 + 0 we'd 
find that 0 + 0 = 4.

Straw Man

Ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: Everyone, A claims that 
everything adds to 0! A is 
a zero freak!! Obviously I'm 
correct that 0 + 0 = 16 
because A's thinking is so 
distorted on the issue of zero.

Two Wrongs Make a Right

Justifying an action by asserting another would do the same thing to you.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 4.

B: You are wrong! Therefore, 
I am right when I say 
that 0 + 0 = 3.

Relativist Fallacy

A person rejects a claim by asserting that the claim might be true for others but is not for him/her.

A: I say 0 + 0 = 0.

B: That's true for you, 
but for me 0 + 0 = 6. It's 
not that I just have a 
different belief. For me, 
0 + 0 = 6 is my reality. 
The rules of what is true 
and right are different 
for each person or group.

A Tool Chest of Logical Thinking

I hope you’ve enjoyed these. There are many more logical fallacies, but the above are some important ones. Luckily, you don’t need to know the name of a fallacy to detect and reject faulty logic. You will start noticing them everywhere. (Politicians are a great source of if you want practice.)

Work on eliminating them from your own thinking and communication. Now that you have some new tools, you can use these to look at various mysteries, even complicated messy debates.

Is the Earth flat? 

Were Moon Landings faked?

Go forth and look at specific arguments. One place to see and take part in debates is On that site you will find people calling each other out for using logical fallacies and based on voting you can see which views rise to the top as the most reasonable.

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