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A 'Dictionary of Debating Terms.' Nothing More
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.