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Bad Thoughts: A Guide to Clear Thinking Paperback – 5 Oct 2003


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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: 12.9 x 1.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 245,669 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By I. Viehoff on 31 Aug. 2007
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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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Marty J on 1 Jun. 2007
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 By A Customer on 28 Jan. 2004
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 By Bobby Elliott VINE VOICE on 8 Aug. 2004
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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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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.

The most interesting thing is how it exposes human imperfection in the area logic and reason. None of us are consistently perfect in our thinking and so get caught out using fallacies. No matter how educated or intelligent we think we may be. The author is no exception! He is seeking absolute truth around the question of God - if there is one. As early as the second chapter the book falls prey to its own authority fallacy when commenting on mystery and then begs the question when providing opinion about the meaning of faith. Later, on p25 the author rips apart a religious opinion and replaces it with an assertion about intellectual honesty which is itself open to question. After this I found the book mundane because it lost objectivity while promoting the author's opinions in so many examples - an author's prerogative perhaps.

In all it exposes the relative pluralism basis of thinking which most of us use to be inadequate to solve big questions. Explaining fallacies and logic errors is just stating the obvious. The final sentence is an honest summing up.
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