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on 14 August 2002
If you're looking for something in the same style as Warburton's Philosophy: The Basics (which is highly recommended) you may be a bit disappointed in this book. The style is very much more like a dictionary of thinking. Each entry describes a kind of argument or thought pattern and is cross referenced to others. This makes it a bit difficult to read in a lineary fashion but does aid in it's use as a reference tool. 5 stars for content, 3 stars for format.
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on 19 August 2000
Being able to spot poor reasoning and diversionary tactics such as fallacies, gobbledegook, jargon, pseudo-profundity and smokescreens will put more clout behind your arguments and sharpen your thinking. As an introduction to critical thinking, this delightfully concise little book provides some of the basic tools for clear thinking on any issue. The techniques and topics discussed are transferable and can be applied to any area in which clear thought is required: they have direct applications in most academic disciplines and in any facet of life in which people present reasons and evidence in support of conclusions.
Now in its second edition, this book is a set text for the Open University A211 Philosophy and the Human Situation course. It will give you the power to tell a good from a bad argument. Using witty and topical examples, author Nigel Warburton will enable you to distinguish with confidence between a red herring and a straw man. This new edition updates the whole text and includes many new entries, all listed in alphabetical order. However, the next edition should include the following suggested entries: * ergo et sum * I think, therefore I am * Rene Descartes * logic * Betrand Russell * Lateral thinking * Six Thinking Hats * tautology
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on 19 August 2009
This book may bill itself as an "Introduction to Critical Thinking." But if that is the case, then by applying this book's own definition of 'Reductio ad Absurdum,' an ordinary dictionary must also be an "Introduction to Writing Novels."

I must admit of course that the ONLY reason why I purchased this book was that it's a required text in my upcoming degree. And when I'm arguing philosophical points in my essays, it will be vital for me to understand and to use the appropriate terminology. But having been 'thinking critically' since I was 17-years-old, forming what I believe are valid and well-reasoned conclusions in a variety of fields, I can say for certain that this book is simply a reference text, nothing more.

By definition, having listed all of the various types of argument, explained them in reference to one another and given several useful examples, ANY book that claims to be an "Introduction to Critical Thinking" must then pose philosophical questions for the reader to consider. Something along the lines of:

"Boxing is a Dangerous Sport Which Should be Banned. Discuss."

The author would then list all of the arguments in favour and opposed to this statement, requiring the reader to try and spot the flawed, biased and emotive arguments, weigh the valid arguments against one another and come to a logical conclusion.

After that, the author would spend the next few pages dissecting all of the arguments with the reader, checking to see if they did indeed define them correctly and give them appropriate weight. So in this sense, by listing all of the definitions in alphabetical order, Mr Warburton even fails to group the arguments by their similarities or to create a loose 'Hierarchy of Validity,' with sophistry, rhetoric, circular reasoning and emotive language at the very bottom of the pile. Because even though there is no such thing as a 'Perfect' argument in any situation, it is always vital for any student to be able to 'weigh' the relative validity of any opposing statements.

However, even accepting that this is only a mislabelled 'Dictionary of Debating Terms,' like any other dictionary, this book also gets on my nerves by defining 'Absurd,' 'Hypocrisy' and many other common words.

In conclusion then, unless like me you will be required to use terms like 'Non Sequitor' on a regular basis, you almost certainly will never need to buy or to even read this book. Because wishful thinking and bias aside, just like you don't need to be an architect to spot a gaping whole in the ceiling, you don't need to understand the proper terminology to realise that an argument is flawed.
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on 14 September 2000
This book should be compulsory preparation for anyone who has to read the output of politicians, consultants, journalists, pundits or experts in any field.
I have not come across a more accessible guide the the rhetoric, sloppy thinking, and pure sophistry that is evident in much factual analysis and opinion today.
Buy at once!
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on 26 March 2009
Excellent brain food! You get all those little insights that make a difference. An extremely readable accessory to pick up beside the bed to give the grey cells something to work on before you snuggle down to sleep. Buy it, it's well worth the money and can slip in the pocket too when you're on campus.
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on 19 May 2009
This is a very good book. I am an International Relations (IR) student and was looking for a book that would aid my argumentation skills. This does far more than I intended it for; in actual fact, it has actually opened up a new interest for me that I thought I'd never be interested in, and that is the manipulation of words and argumentation itself.

Each term is explicated in a very legible manner and each term contains an example of how the argument is implimented. This is vital since it would be virtually impossible to realistically retain the meaning of the term, in addition to how the term must be used/interpreted within a given context.

Within each term, it gives the name of other terms which bears resemblance with other terms in the book. This is good because you can fully master the area of argument/manipulation you wish to in the sense that you grasp the term in question and surrounding terms to which it is related.

In essence, this book is an extremely good introduction. For a real in-depth guide to logic/argumentation, I recommend Harry Gensler's "introduction to Logic"; this book also has a detailed section on Fallacies.

Have a good day.
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on 16 June 2010
Reasoning is like driving. We all think we're above average, and woe betide anyone who suggests otherwise. We all want to be reasonable, or at least to appear reasonable (often less work and as effective as actually being reasonable). No one likes to admit their reasons are poor and their arguments more fudge than forensic. Our only hope is that, just as few of us would claim to be infallible drivers, few of us would claim to be cognitively perfect (and those that do can be discouraged from flying planes and becoming surgeons). For most of us, there's room for improvement, and Nigel Warburton is the perfect mind mechanic and this book the perfect pocket-sized manual.

A glance at the first few entries - peppered with Latin phrases like "ad hoc" and "ad hominen" and odd-sounding activities like "affirming the antecedent" - might make you wonder whether this is all going to be a little too technical, pretentious even, hardly useful outside of the classroom. As for more familiar words like "argument", "assertion" and "assumption", surely we already know what they mean? (Actually, for many of them, we don't, at least not precisely.) Warburton's style is clear and straightforward, always beginning with a crisp definition and following up with a short discussion and simple examples from everyday life. In fact, there are very few arcane entries - the vast majority are ordinary phrases that crop up all over the place, often without the slightest regard to their philosophical meaning.

For example, consider the common or garden "argument". Not an altercation in a pub car park but "Reasons supporting a conclusion". (Just as the word itself has two very different meanings, arguments themselves are often marred by "equivocation" - where the meaning of a word is surreptitiously switched midway through.) Terms that have their own entries elsewhere are in bold, and so from this one simple word can be assembled a more complex set of concepts, including "deduction", "induction", "validity", "sound argument", and so on. (These last two terms are fascinating, and good examples of the importance of precision: a valid argument with true premises guarantees a true conclusion. A valid argument may also contain one or more false premises, in which case the conclusion is not necessarily true, although false premises may sometimes lead to a true conclusion. Only a sound argument guarantees a true conclusion. "Validity should not be confused with truth. Validity is always a quality of the structure of arguments; statements are true or false. Arguments can never be true or false, statements never valid or invalid...")

One of my favourite entries is "humptydumptying" - not an illegal pastime, but giving "private meanings to words in common use". Some people think winning an argument involves confusing their opponent into silence, and humptydumptying along with ambiguity and equivocation are very often their weapons of choice. Clarity, of course, is no guarantee that sense is being made. There may be no argument at all, just a string of assertions (unsupported statements of belief). As Warburton drily comments, "Merely asserting something, no matter how loudly, doesn't make it true."

The "no hypotheticals move" is a clumsy phrase describing a very common tactic, used all the time by politicians who don't want to answer a question. If elected, will you raise the rate of VAT? We're not in government yet, so let's wait and see what the blah blah blah. Such evasiveness is given short shrift by the likes of Paxman but the more cognitively vulnerable will be lulled by its superficial plausibility.

In light of the message of this marvellous little book - Be reasonable! - one surprising absence is "reason" itself. Warburton does use the word, but not as often as you might think in a book that could have been called, less catchily and more pompously, "Reasoning from A to Z". In an important sense, however, the whole book is an account of reasoning and all its ramifications, with the crucial fact always in mind that human reason is fallible. We are often motivated to connect the ideas we want to be true in any way we can. Creationists expend huge resources and energy in putting forward reasons and arguments for their beliefs (think of the millions of dollars behind the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum and Harun Yahya's "Atlas of Creation"), it's just that their reasons and arguments are not very good. And there's the rub. What is a good reason? What makes a good argument? Who says? Fortunately, logic and experience provide the basis for an objective standard of truth, and we don't have to rely on any single person. Having said that, Nigel Warburton and this book are a reliable starting point. While most of us get by on our intuitive reasoning, with little idea how bad our arguments sometimes are, he's rather more rigorous and professional. Whether you think human reason is a gift from the gods (unreasonable) or a result of a billion years of evolution (reasonable), it's still something rather special, and well worth tuning up.
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on 27 July 2011
If like me you want to learn critical thinking seperately from philosophy, this is a very good book to buy...have no doubt about that. But it does feel incomplete: in the introduction the reader is told that the entries split into four categories, but the author does not lay out how that happens. It would have been very easy for somebody with his expertise to create a chart showing which categories all the entries went into, but he left it for the reader to work out alone.
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on 29 September 2010
This is a really well written and clear. However, I bought it because its given as a set book for the Open university A211 course and its just not necessary - I have barely used it all year and you can just look up the same definitions on the internet. I suspect that the author has some connection to the course and just made it a set book because he could! (BTW If I could rate the A211 course I would give it 6 stars)
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on 17 September 2016
received quickly and would order again
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