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on 17 February 2017
Incisive, insightful and gloriously skeptical...I really enjoyed the way this book pushes past the surface structure of BS. Great read, recommended for thinkers...
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I really enjoyed this book. It addresses various logical fallacies and shows where the fallacy may - or may not, on closer inspection - lie.

There are 100 brief chapters. Each starts with a quote which forms the basis for discussion. Take, for example, chapter 28:

"Cow's milk is meant for baby cows. Which helps explain why this foodstuff is a leading cause of unwanted reactions to foods that can give rise to a variety of health issues such as nasal congestion, sinusitis, eczema and asthma". Dr John Briffa, Observer Food Monthly.

It was a shock to read that as I agree with it. So where's the logical fallacy? The author writes:

"...By Briffa's logic, a chicken thigh is meant to help it stand up and walk. Does that mean we should be wary about eating it because it wasn't meant for eating?..."


"...The point is simple and obvious: the fact that something did not evolve as a human foodstuff does not mean we shouldn't eat it. In fact, if we ate only what was unambiguously meant for us to eat then we'd starve to death as soon as we stopped breast-feeding...".

His point is not that Dr Briffa is necessarily wrong but that the way he states it is wrong - it contains on the face of it a logical fallacy. Now, had Dr Briffa said there was evidence that some people are allergic to cow's milk and there is evidence of that then that would be another matter. Maybe Dr Briffa meant that but it is not what the quote states.

Perhaps the author has accidentally committed one of his own errors - taking Dr Briffa's words out of context - see chapter 22 for that (hey, it's a seamless link, like on TV). The author starts the chapter with Dr Johnson's well known "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life" quote but he quotes the words immediately before and after that too which reveal that Dr Johnson was talking solely about "intellectual men" in London. The quote that we are familiar with has been taken out of context.

The author points out the harsh realities of London in Dr Johnson's era, and that there would be plenty of people outside this narrow circle (e.g. intellectual women, the poor etc.) who would have had very good reason to be tired of London.

The author also points out that the quote is also 200 years old and Dr Johnson would not recognise much of London today, so he would not be in a position to judge whether London now is the best place in the world to live.

One chapter I really liked was chapter 14 which starts with a quote from a magazine called 'Spirit and Destiny':

"Julie (she's open to spiritual stuff) and Kate (the cynical one) continue their voyage of discovery through the world of the New Age. This month our testing twosome try colourpuncture".

I am embarrassed to say that I couldn't see the logical fallacy in that. That's where the book is helpful - it opens your eyes to how your mindset can be influenced without you realising. The logical fallacy is that the author plants a seed in our minds - before we have even read the body of the article in that magazine - that Julie is better than Kate (because they are described as "open" and "cynical" respectively). The author has predisposed you to favouring Julie over Kate.

Which brings me nicely on to the "mind projection fallacy" - just because I like this book doesn't necessarily mean that you will. And beware of the "argument from authority" fallacy - just because Amazon rates me as a top something-or-other reviewer does not mean that my opinion is anything special or should be given more weight.
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on 21 December 2014
I can understand people feeling hurt after seeing their words examined in such thorough way. However I don't understand them complaining about it as if they were wrongly accused of a logical fallacy. My advice: live and learn (especially from someone who is bang on right about the questionable matter). Would give 5 stars if the examples used were more challenging. All in all a great idea for a book.
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VINE VOICEon 26 August 2010
This book does for politics and the media what Bad Science did for quack medicine. The book is divided into 100 short articles - some of which are related to each other (this is a similar format to 30 second philosophies). This looks at what people say and if their rhetoric actually holds water. There are some excellent examples and I particularly liked the one about Donald Rumsfeld which made me laugh out loud until I found out he was right and my assumptions were wrong!

This is how philosophy and critical thinking should be taught. This is how to make sure that we are all part of an informed public. It is no use giving citizenship classes in schools and looking at science in society or the impact of the media when you can actually have concrete examples from everyday life, presented in an interesting and dynamic way.
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on 24 March 2014
I like the structure of the book. Each short chapter highlights some interesting observations and each can be read in about 10 minutes. I found most of the arguments interesting and, in some cases, entertaining. I do not believe that the author is claiming any moral high ground, but is simply pointing out obvious examples of illogical or fallacious arguments.
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on 2 January 2013
A book for mental exercise I think. Julian has a real knack of getting to the heart of the matter and I enjoy his ramblings on the many topics in this book. Being someone who is frequently annoyed by advertising claims and argumentative tricks I found this book both enjoyable and helpful.
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on 21 December 2010
This brilliant stroll through logical fallacies, using real live examples is exactly how logical fallacies should be taught. After reading many good books on dissecting arguments, looking at logical fallacies and fallacious arguments, I have found this to be one of the most interesting books for the layman to learn about bad arguments.

The chapters are short enough to keep the interest of any reader, the lack of technical jargon is a dream and allows you to fully enjoy and appreciate the range of expose' as well as relax with the authors words, even allowing for the odd chuckle here and there, something not often found in a philosophy book.

No deep thinking required, no hard slog trying to retain hundreds of minutiae details, just learning made fun, lots of fun as Baggini exposes the fallacies in peoples arguments and we learn both not to make the same mistakes as well as being able to point these errors out to others the next time they argue their case from pure fallacious logic.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 November 2010
This is a book that exposes fallacies in arguments - using actual statements by prominent persons as examples. The book is made up of 100 chapters with 99 examples each making a short chapter; the 100th chapter is not an example but a summary and last word. Bagginni's first chapter examines the statement by a NASA astronaut, Eugene Cernan who was reported as having stated: "No one in their right mind can look in the stars and the eternal blackness everywhere and deny the spirituality of the experience, and the existence of a Supernatural Being." Calling it an "argument from incredulity" Baggini explains why this statement "manages to pack three dubious, but persuasive, punches." This is a book that will help develop clear thinking, but as the author warned, some of his arguments might deserve the same flaws he sees in those he analysed. In mitigation, he explains that a player might commit infringements that he might have called "foul" had the player been the referee instead. This is a fine, readable book partly because it carries mostly contemporary examples although there are some historical ones such as one made by Samuel Johnson (chapter 22). The examples spread over many subjects, from politics to religion, to science, philosophy and literary criticism.
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on 6 February 2012
I picked this book up because I'm fascinated and appalled by the misuse of logic, by the misrepresentation of opinions, by the way people in power (in the media as much as in politics) abuse their power through their astute and clever dishonesty.

`Do They Think You're Stupid?' is the title of the book, but its implied subtitle is Baggini asking `Do You Think I'm Clever?' Well, yes, I admit, I do think he is clever. He cleverly takes a series of texts which his reader is unlikely to know directly. He cunningly selects the slenderest of phrases. And then his book mocks and scorns the writers in question. Well, as it happens, some time ago, I had read `No Logo', one of the books he attacks, and his interpretation seemed peculiar, and wholly at odds with my memory. Puzzled, I took the book off my shelves and looked again. And I was disgusted at the way Baggini misrepresented it, in a way which is not only illogical but profoundly deceptive. I went on to look at a few other writers Baggini attacks: over and over again, Baggini twists their words, cherrypicks their arguments, to make flat-footed generalisations which the original text do not warrant. He also, incidentally, lambasts Thom Yorke's praise for George Monbiot. I doubt very much that the world would be a more intelligent place with a Baggini but without Radiohead, Monbiot and Klein. But the reasons for Baggini's disapproval of Yorke are interesting. Baggini says that Thom Yorke is a musician, and therefore has no authority whatsoever to comment on any political subject. The crassness of this view speaks for itself, but Baggini's hypocrisy is also striking, for Baggini offers us his opinion of Thom Yorke's musical skills. Baggini is rather hoist by his own petard, here, for (according to his own crude intellectual model) being a philosopher Baggini therefore has no authority whatsoever to comment on music.

I would suggest that if any reader wishes to buy this book, the real intellectual discovery lies in reading it alongside the actual texts: to see how the deceits lie not in those texts but in Baggini's work. People in the media often abuse the power that they have: Baggini here upholds that ugly tradition in book form.
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on 8 January 2013
Baggini has a way with words and can help you understand how people/governments/companies can conspire to confuse you with fallacious arguments and false analogies. However sometimes his choices of example can irritate and lend you a view as to Mr Baggini's own thinking, political leaning and other convictions which can detract from the object lessons. I have read a number of books on logic and fallacies in argument and, while lending some clear examples, the author does a reasonable job in explaining them this is not the best book and sometimes the arguments muddy the water. That being said, his clever use of the duck symbol (canard) is used to show some of the deliberately misleading aspects of those fallacies. However not enough for me to overlook some of his more laboured and incorrect examples
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