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Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders Paperback – 1 Oct 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional; 1 edition (1 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071446435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071446433
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 598,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"[Whyte] whets a long knife of ultra-rationalism on the cold stone of logic, and death by a thousand cuts is inflicted on prejudice, statistics, morality, religion, weasel words, and seductive sirens such as politicians, New Agers, advertising executives, and, of course, journalists who expect you to be persuaded by anything other than facts." The Times 20031129 "He ruthlessly exposes logical flaws and sheer nonsense... in likably angry and witty style." The Guardian 20031101

About the Author

Jamie Whyte (London, England) is a past lecturer of philosophy at Cambridge University and winner of Analysis journal's prestigious prize for the best article by a philosopher under 30.

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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
Please be aware that this book is the US version of "Bad Thoughts" - same book with US focused examples.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Little hair man on 6 May 2009
Format: Paperback
I logged on specially to make this review.

Someone beat me to it: yes, this is the US version of "Bad Thoughts: A Guide to Clear Thinking".

I started reading "Crimes" and thought the arguments were familiar. I checked with my copy of "Bad Thoughts" and saw that, yes, the two books are the same (practically) (a few tweaks: "outraged of Hampstead" becomes "Outraged of London" in the US version).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr Neil MacNeill on 6 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
Jamie Whyte: Crimes against logic.

Jamie Whyte has written a very interesting and engaging book about logic and fallacies. In an inexpensive, easy-to-read text he has managed to provide a topical and pertinent coverage of issues that influence everyday conversations.

I was particularly impressed with Whyte's ability to use examples to which most people can relate. His father's repetitive after-dinner statement in New Zealand- "You won't get food like this in England", although probably correct, was clearly grating to others. Then his Mum interjected with a question about Bistro gravy mix. Ahhh, the analysis of the inter-change is the real stuff of logic!

In bringing an essentially dry subject (logic) to the ordinary folk, Whyte uses a variety of successful strategies. I thought that his development of provocative labels was a master stroke. Hooray words, weasel words, and boo words are now accepted in conversations.
If you are interested in philosophy, linguistics or just thinking about conversations, this is a great book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Whyte's book is as entertaining as it is insightful. While it is seeped in militant intellectual condescension and right-wing stances are nonchalantly given the high ground, this book no doubt is worthwhile intellectual fodder for your critical faculties.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 172 reviews
767 of 792 people found the following review helpful
Read it and give it to everyone you know 29 Oct. 2004
By Gulley Jimson - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book deserves the widest possible exposure in America, especially so close to the election, because it an excellent primer on how to guard yourself against the faulty reasoning that governs so much modern political discourse - and avoid adopting it yourself. I first heard about the book because one of its points was mentioned in an essay. The point was basically that just because someone has a motive to hold a certain position doesn't necessarily mean that the position is false. This seemed pretty obvious, but as I turned to the media I was amazed at how often politicians use this method, and how easily I had accepted their claims if they lined up with my political preferences.

Any damaging report against either side, for example, would frequently be denounced as a "partisan" attack, with occasional documentation of how the person who presented the report was tied to one party or another, as if this were the issue at hand. No attempt was made to address whether the report was true or not, the assumption being that exposing a bias - a motive for the potentially false information - was conclusive evidence.

Some of the things Whyte discussed in the book - for example, sample bias in statistics - are going to be familiar to many people, but just as frequently he comes up with something that all of us have probably used in an argument. For example, in the chapter "begging the question," he quotes a common pro-choice argument: "If you believe abortion is wrong, that's fine, don't abort your pregnancies. But show tolerance toward others who don't share your beliefs."

He points out that this ignores that actual position of anti-abortionists, that abortion is murder, morally equivalent to killing a live human being. The argument for tolerance takes for granted that the fetus is not really a person, and that therefore it should be possible for everyone to only be concerned with their own behavior. But as Whyte points out, anyone that actually wishes to confront the issue will have to address the question of whether the fetus is a human being. So many pleas for tolerance between certain feuding religions, he points out, have the same problem, because they skirt the genuine issue that is giving rise to the outrage - that, by the tenets of some religions, only one of them can be true.

I suspect Whyte's positions on religion will offend the most readers. He has no sympathy for familiar arguments about the un-knowable nature of god, or that the intricacy of life on earth necessarily implies a god (already taken apart by Hume in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion); he also presents a simple and conclusive refutation of Pascal's gambit that I've never come across before. Luckily, he does not exhibit the most annoying characteristic of many rationalists, smugness; instead, he seems to have a deep desire to get at truth, which I think we are more in need of today than any amount of vague piety.

The book will only take a couple of days to read, and is very clearly written. I remember an article that dealt with similar material that I read in high school, forgotten now because it ended up as an exercise in memorizing the Latin names of various fallacies. Whyte is conscientious about calling things by their common names. Buy the book, give it to your friends, and try to get at the bottom of why you believe what you do (and whether you still should).
95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
Good, but uneven 17 April 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Whyte brilliantly exposes the Motive Fallacy in Chapter 2, then occasionally slips into using it throughout the rest of the book, He doesn't descend to using it to refute arguments, but does use it to undermine credibility, e.g. "It gives them a thrilling fit of the cosmic heebie-jeebies."

Others did not detect smugness. I did, but am not bothered by it. It comes with the territory when writing about unclear thinking. As he invites the reader to share in it if one can but follow along, I doubt many people will be put off by it. He chooses some surprising examples to illustrate his points; some groups will be pleased at encountering a rare acknowledgement of their reasonableness.

There is a second weakness. Some questions are decided according to different standards of proof, as in the varieties of legal evidence: "beyond a reasonable doubt" vs. "clear and convincing" vs. "preponderance of the evidence." Whyte notes this accurately in some places, but neglects it in others, requiring proof where reasonableness might be enough.

Still, it's good. Amusing, instructive, and clear.
350 of 406 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Summary Despite Its Tone 31 Mar. 2005
By Timothy Haugh - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is much about this book that I like very much. Mr. White's ability to see the logical flaws in an argument is impressive and there are few things that would benefit this world more than if more people had the ability to see if they were being misled by their politicians, pundits and religious leaders. A serious reader of this book would certainly gain more tools in this difficult task.

On the other hand, in my opinion this book does have one weakness: its dismissive tone. There is a subtle air of superiority that Mr. White projects in his prose that I find disheartening. Though he pays lip service to the fact that it can be very difficult to spot certain logical fallacies, particularly as we are bombarded by opinions disguised as fact 24 hours a day through the media, he does not seem very sympathetic the fact that many people do try their best to work there way through the morass of opinions despite being hampered by media overkill, prominent positions demanding action, their own strongly held opinions and the lack of a prestigious education. Mr. White has much to teach but it is difficult to swallow when the student is made to feel small and foolish.

I am particularly disappointed by Mr. White's dismissiveness towards religion. Though I agree completely with his assertion that religious tenets (like the existence of God, etc.) cannot be proved logically and that many religious leaders misuse logic severely, I do not agree that this is sufficient to dismiss religious experience out of hand. Granted, I am a person of religious belief, but I am also a mathematician and I would argue that there are things that are true that cannot be proved. But I'm sure Mr. White, chuckling sadly and looking down his nose at me, would disagree.

Still, this does not change my opinion that this is a very powerful book that should be widely read. Much of his analysis--begging the question, coincidence, statistical analysis--I have seen expounded upon more widely in other books but Mr. White's book is concise and ranges much more widely. Anyone trying to get a handle on our world today would benefit from reading it.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Funny and informative 10 Aug. 2005
By Tin Tin - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a very entertaining little book about bad reasoning. I laughed out loud on several occasions and have found myself reading sections to friends who I knew would enjoy them (or wouldn't, in some cases!).

I was already familiar with some of the fallacies, but a few were new to me, such as the fallacies of equivocation and begging the question.

Once explained, most of the fallacies Whyte highlights are easily understood. Which only makes it more incredible that they are so common, as shown by the incredibly wide range of examples Whyte draws on. I now find myself playing "spot the fallacy" when reading the paper or watching the news. It's fun for a while, until you start to get angry.

Whyte is pretty harsh on religion and some readers won't like it. But let's be honest, there is a lot of bad reasoning about religion. It would be ridiculous for a book on common fallacies to avoid the topic.

Apart from his apparent atheism, Whyte's substantive views are difficult to discern. He usually does a good job of sticking to the logic of arguments rather than the truth of their conclusions. And his occasionally angry tone, which some reviewers don't like, is usually appropriate and often very funny. I can highly recommend this book.
56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
By Denis Benchimol Minev - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jamie Whyte follows in a long tradition of writers that focus on flaws of logic that most people seem to fall into. His predecessors include Richard Dawkins (of a more scientific tone) and Gary Becker (of a more economics tone). Dr Whyte, by training a philosopher, focuses on pure reason and the ways people violate it.

The book is divided into major types of logical flaws to which the author gives specific names, such as Morality Fever, Right to Your Own Opinion, Mexploitation and Prejudice in a Fancy Dress. Examples include using words with bad conotations to contaminate an argument, staking moral high ground and drawing ridiculous parallels to make an argument and cultural relativism about things that are either true or not; these are some of the strategies employed to support arguments oftentimes devoid of logic.

The tone of the author is sometimes sarcartic and arrogant, which may put off a few readers at time, but overall it is well written and clear, a good entertaining read. It does leave one with the lingering "Aha" memory whenever one meets the fallacies presented here. Unfortunately, they are much more common than logic would expect.
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