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We've all been in the situation where some smart-alec produces an argument, often as a joke, which everyone knows must be wrong but where nobody can quite see the mistake.

More seriously, I suspect most of us have seen debates where one side appears to have much more evidence to support their case, until someone comes along who presents the other side of the argument so much better that everyone is convinced - at least until after the superior speaker has won the vote/verdict/board or council decision, by which time it is too late.

Madsen Pirie's book is a masterly and very entertaining guide to the different tricks which people can use to make their argument sound much stronger than it really is, how to spot them, and what the holes in their logic are.

He lists the logical fallacies which, by accident or design, can lead people to support false conclusions.

Unfortunately, as Madsen Pirie points out, knowing why the argument you are listening to is wrong does not always make it easy to defeat the person advancing it. Arguments "ad baculum" (by threat of force) do not go away if you prove the person making the threat to be wrong, irrelevant humour, if it is funny enough, can carry away a valid argument on a gale of laughter, and emotional appeals can be extremely hard to stop with mere logic.

Nevertheless, to be able to understand why an argument is wrong is a useful start - if you don't know yourself you have little chance of persuading anyone else. And this book is really helpful at showing you how to see where faulty logic is in play.

This book is an updated version of a book published in the mid 1980's with the title "The Book of the fallacy - a training manual for intellectual subversives." The new text is about 95% common with the earlier version, although it has a few updated concepts such as "Thatcher's Blame."

Very sadly the new book does not include the highly amusing cartoons which illustrated the original version. That is almost the only fault I can find with it - a criticism which would be covered under the chapter of the book on "Trivial objections."
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on 2 April 2009
I got interested in fallacies and making valid arguments. I found lots of good material on the net, but wanted something a bit more portable and with more structure to it. This book sounds ideal, but it's more of a dictionary of all the types of fallacy such as ad hominem, red herring, straw man, and lots of others that I never knew existed - about ninety are defined. A few pages are devoted to each entry, explaining what they are, giving examples and how to try and use them successfully. I don't like that aspect - promoting the use of fallacies and how to get away with it. Looks like I did buy the wrong book; I would not have bought it if I'd known it was a dictionary. As a learning guide, there must be better books than this which break fallacies into groupings, such as logical, emotional and ethical. For me, this book will be reference only; I'll look for something better and refer to this one if I need further examples. Like me, you will find better for free on the net.
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on 15 August 2009
At first glance, the title will mislead you. This book should be called "The Abuse of Logic in Arguments". But I suppose the current title is designed by marketing people to sell more copies of it.

This book will not show you how to win every argument, but it will show you how logic is being abused in some of them (with real examples). It will also suggest in each case how you could get away with it if you were the one doing the abuse (although you get the feeling the author doesn't quite approve of it). It even has some clever ideas about how you could apply them with children.

It's impossible to win EVERY argument anyway, but this book will help skew the odds in your favour as you should be able to spot the specific abuses of logic that others are doing.
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VINE VOICEon 21 March 2012
Have you watched the news recently? I read this book and started spotting logical fallacies everywhere. Even last week opponents to gay marriage were saying "If we allow this then what next? Three people getting married?" My first reaction was "well that's not a logical argument, it is the slippery slope fallacy". I have started seeing these fallacies everywhere in adverts, political statements and some of the most audacious claims attached to things.

The book was originally reccomended to me in a Podcast by the Merseyside Skeptics and I find it invaluable in looking at spurious claims I now see. If you have a questioning mind or want to win debates, then read this book, it is brilliant.
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on 6 November 2011
The author views "any trick of logic or language which allows a statement of a claim to be passed off as something it is not..." as a fallacy. The author classifies a number of fallacies and explains them succinctly and in a sufficiently deadpan manner as to make this text very readable. One of the other reviewers touched on the fact that the names given to the fallacies are in Latin. This is true, however, I'd disagree with the view that any knowledge of Latin is actually required to read and enjoy this text. I know almost none and loved it.

I view this book as a well-written, fascinating and entertaining reference to the ways people knowingly (and unknowingly) twist, massage and manipulate the English language in order to make their point. You do need a solid grasp of English to fully appreciate the book - it does focus closely on the nuances of the language and if you're not fluent, you'll miss the point.

Communication is a vital skill. Like all skills, it can be learnt, honed and improved. Some people are born with the skill to persuade, convince, dodge and debate (e.g. politicians and sales people). Some need a little help.

This book has allowed me to more effectively spot from a distance when any of these fallacies are being applied to me by others and head them off before they take effect. I have noticed that I can now analyse what people say in a much more clinical manner which allows me to infer more correctly the real motivation behind the words and phrases used. I've also seen improvements in my ability to steer discussions and conversations towards my preferred agenda without antagonising others and by avoiding conflict.

This book certainly isn't a list of case studies to be memorised and regurgitated back in an attempt to win arguments. Nor is this book a self-help guide, as might be inferred by its title (though why people would buy and read a book purely based on its title is beyond me). If that's what you need, then buy something else. But, if you deal with people on a regular basis and need to be able to read and deal with political situations effectively, get this book.
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on 16 September 2015
In addition to the misleading title, I was rather disturbed to discovered that the book itself was written for nefarious application, though I can say, quite confidently, that the reading of this book alone will not transform an individual into faultless, victorious intellectual giant of verbal conflict. On a positive note, the content of the book is very informative and gives a wealth of insight to readers with no conscious knowledge of rhetoric. The author provides an exhaustive lists of fallacies through witty descriptions and examples that are often used in day to day conversation and argument, however it would be generous to say that the book explains how to actually 'win' an argument—The book should be titled "How to Spot an Argument". The only examples of counterarguments appear uniquely through what seem to be mere afterthoughts that lack substance and inspiration.

In brief, this book is a good place to start if you're seeking to become more perceptive of the world around you and in any case provides a good foundation for further learning, but it won't teach you how to win every argument.
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on 5 February 2009
Firstly, in case you don't already know, this is less a guide to winning every argument and more a guide to identifying fallacies.

This book is a great introduction to the fallacies prevalent in the modern world. There is great breadth to the examination, and each fallacy is explained well. However, note that each fallacy is covered in a couple of pages, so don't expect anything much depth. The humour is cringe-inducing at times, but hardly a reason to ignore this work.

If you have any interest in fallacies, this is a great introduction.
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on 3 March 2016
Disappointing and not worth the money.

This book does not do what it says on the tin. It does not tell the reader how to win arguments. As other reviewers noted it is repetitive and goes on a bit too much. I nearly gave up on it but found myself on a plane and just got to the end. Just wondering who I can give it to, someone I don't like very much probably.
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on 23 March 2013
Contrary to its title, this is basically a book detailing how NOT to argue. It catalogues an extensive range of fallacies ranging from the well-known (straw man) to the obscure (circulus in probando).

As fallacies are errors in reasoning, the claim of the book is itself one huge fallacy: how would erroneous techniques win arguments? More often, they simply serve to frustrate the opponent, which is not really a win and more like a wind-up.

I also echo the other reviewers' sentiments that the author tries embarrassingly (and often in vain) to craft some wit into the book via a series of awkward puns. If you purchase this book looking to win arguments or simply searching for entertainment, you will be disappointed in both instances.
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on 5 December 2006
Little do you realise how the wool is pulled over your eyes! This book mercilessly exposes every trick in the politicians/meida/relegious book, explaining clearly what is wrong with the logic, and how you have been deceived.

When I rule the world (any time now ...) this will be required reading.
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