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Bad Thoughts: A Guide to Clear Thinking [Paperback]

Jamie Whyte
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

5 Oct 2003
‘It is only when someone cannot defend his opinion, and is not interested in believing the truth, that he will attempt to stifle discussion with good manners. Those who take religion, politics and sex seriously do not adhere to the general prohibition on discussing these topics. And they do not take offence when they are shown to be wrong.

If you start to feel during a discussion, that you are not so much incorrect as insensitive, then you are probably dealing with a respectable bigot.

Only a thug would expose him.’

Philosopher Jamie Whyte exposes respectable bigots, priests and politicians in his guide to spotting bogus reasoning. This book lists the crimes against logic used to gain our votes, money and devotion – or simply to change the subject – in a witty and contentious appeal for the application of reason to public and private debate.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Corvo Books (5 Oct 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954325532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954325534
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 261,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Review

...ruthlessly exposes logical flaws and sheer nonsense in likable angry and witty style. -- Guardian Review, November 1, 2003

An incisive philosopher. -- Sunday Telegraph

Attacks dodgy logic, bogus statistics and...idle cluttered thinking. -- Andrew Marr, Start the Week, BBC Radio 4

Whets a long knife of ultra-rationalism on the cold stone of logic. -- The Times

About the Author

Jamie Whyte is a former lecturer of Philosopy at Cambridge University and winner of Analysis journal’s prestigious prize for the best article by a philosopher under 30. He has published numerous articles - mainly on the subject of truth - in journals such as Analysis and the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. He is from New Zealand, and now lives and works in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I agree entirely with another review that said this is entertaining and insightful, but with sadly many mistakes. While agreeing with everyone elses quoted mistakes, I thought I would add to the catalogue.

Homeopathic dilutions. The general statement that Whyte makes that homeopathic dilutions can be so dilute they are extremely unlikely to contain even a single molecule of the solute, is correct, but the specific example he gives is arithmetically wrong. In an X20 solution, 1cc of solution would contain 10 to 100 molecules of the solute, if we take the solute to have a molecular weight of 60 to 600g/mol, a plausible range for a nature-derived chemical. Although for a macro-molecule like a protein, with much larger molecular weight over 6000g/mol, then there would be on average fewer than one left in 1cc. 1cc is a small quantity; if we are interested in proving none left in larger quantities, then rather larger dilutions are required.

The Trinity. Whyte argues that the Trinitarian Christians' doctrine that God is Three and God is One must be false, by appealing, it appears, to axiomatic set theory. I think it is actually just a pedant's joke. I think Trinitarians are guilty of no more than Humpty-Dumpty-speak ("a word means what I say it means"). There are plausible alternative interpretations of what Trinitarians mean when they say that, which are consistent with axiomatic set theory, and reflect more closely what they actually mean. In other words, Whyte is forcing on them a kind of "contractual interpretation" of their metaphorical words to impose upon them a belief they don't in fact have. A classic straw man argument that he so deplores.

Popper and the falsity of God.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By Marty J
Format:Paperback
This is a nice little introduction to logical thought, which is in itself none too taxing. After reading it, you'll be spotting logical mistakes in no time. However, as noted by a previous reviewer, Whyte does go on about religion quite a bit, which to my mind is the weakest aspect of the book.

The main problem is that he never really goes very indepth (which would have been interesting), preferring instead to take pot-shots, and then move quickly on. His assertion that there can't be an all-powerful God if evil exists is particularly poor, presented as it is without any sort of discussion about what "all-powerful" means (many if not most Theists do not believe God to be "all-powerful" in the way Whyte suggests), or what "evil" means. Instead, he blithely states that people who believe this have been "convinced by one of the many bogus theological attempts to show this belief consistent with the existence of evil", and then pretty much leaves it there. This, and Whtye's other attacks on religion are generally straw man arguments, and so are bad form for a book on logical fallacies. Admittedly, the book is short, and so it would be hard to give a detailed examination of the religious themes, but this is the very reason the book would have been stronger without them; if when writing a book on logical fallacies you can't mention something without it sounding like a logical fallacy, you should probably not mention it at all.

Still, Whyte is frequently humorous, and he does write in a lively, engaging style. If you don't mind putting up with Whyte's personal religious opinions being presented as gospel (pun intended), I'd recommended this book as a good starting point, with the proviso that those interested will progress to something a bit more substantial.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A man of letters 28 Jan 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Jamie Whyte admits to being an inveterate writer of outraged letters that never get published. "Bad Thoughts" reads a little like an expanded version of those letters, being in parts a little disjointed as he moves from one subject to another. But it is always entertaining as the combative Mr Whyte gets stuck into various kinds of sloppy thinking. It's worth the money for the section on "Begging the question" alone. I have found the book to be of surprising practical value whenever I find myself in debate with people with whom I disagree - and now examples of the kind of dismal thinking which he highlights jump off the pages of newspapers all the time. Don't let them get away with it!
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42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable little book 8 Aug 2004
By Bobby Elliott VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a short, easy, entertaining read. It's about errors in logic and irrationale arguments. And the writer sounds like he's been in more than his fair share of arguments. You can almost feel his anguish!
I really enjoyed his attack on the "I have the right to my opinion" brigade. You don't according to Mr Whyte - unless you have researched your opinion. Brilliant! The book is instructional. You will definitely learn something from it - even if you only learn about the flaws in your own beliefs. Highly recommended.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little gem.. 7 Jan 2004
Format:Paperback
I got given this for christmas and was initially reluctant to read yet another "how to think" book. But this is a very well written and easy-to-read example. Each chapter starts with a seemingly plausible premise along the lines of "everyone is entitled to their opinion" which is then analysed for its rational basis and then dissected along with lots of examples of how irrational ideas are commonly used in arguments (especially by politicians). The author also has a wry sense of humour which helps you to feel less nerdy while reading it.
The answers to life aren't here, but I did finish feeling like a better thinker than I was before I started it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Even the author can't escape!
This is an easy read if you are interested in how we all use reason and logic. It classifies fallacies and errors in reasoning while providing examples of how to spot them. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Steve Norris
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read...
This is a fantastic book for anyone who desires to persuade using clear and coherent arguments...and for those not persuaded by certain arguments made by others yet cannot quite... Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2011 by Kate
5.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction to logical though - Much needed
Jamie Whyte has given a much needed introduction to logical thought.

As the book points out with several examples, most people seem adverse to thinking logically. Read more
Published on 29 Dec 2008 by Gavin Morrice
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, funny, true
I love this book and go back to it again and again.

I suppose religious readers may find his atheism troubling. Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2008 by Dylan
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick witty read
It's witty and well written. It is not a rulebook for logics, or even anything close. It doesn't try to be either. Read more
Published on 30 Dec 2007 by Theis Egeberg
1.0 out of 5 stars Badly thought out
My main problem with this book was that so many of the arguments were badly thought out; A serious deficiency in a book that proclaims itself to be "A Guide to Clear Thinking. Read more
Published on 31 Aug 2006 by J. Fraser
5.0 out of 5 stars a pedant is just someone who prefers to be right
This an engrossing book, I was hooked from page one. The writer demolishes any loose arguments in the absolute pursuit of truth. Read more
Published on 23 Mar 2005 by tofuburger
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be Compulsory
I ordered this book having seen Jamie Whyte interviewed in New Scientist. I was not disappointed. It is short, witty, and to the point. Read more
Published on 7 Oct 2004 by Avidreader
4.0 out of 5 stars You may never read newspapers in the same way again!
This book is a really enjoyable romp through many of the rhetorical devices and vague claims that populate popular journalism in particular (and also popular science books). Read more
Published on 10 Jun 2004 by S. Marks
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be compulsory reading in schools.
Imagine that you were unjustly thrown in jail as a small child and grew up thinking that your cell is the entirety of the world. Read more
Published on 15 Mar 2004 by Ross Brooks
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