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Perhaps the way to approach this would be to collect recommendations of *good* (critical thinking and other) text books? I haven't used many myself, but would be interested to hear suggestions as well.

David Morrow

First you should find out whether the reader is talking about my critical thinking textbook.... Just kidding. If the reader thinks there are serious problems with my critical thinking textbook, I'd want to know about them.

I think that discussions of textbook could be helpful and seem appropriate for the blog. I share your concern about avoiding a negative vibe. Maybe we could run a series of posts along the lines that Tuomas recommends, each devoted to textbooks for different kinds of courses. You could provide some guidelines, like the ones you provided for the Working Paper post, on maintaining a constructive discussion.

Mark Alfano

I agree with the Tuomas that it's better just to focus on the good stuff. Critical thinking textbooks tend to be skull-crushingly bad. No need to pick out a particular one. The three that I'd recommend are: 1) Morrow's "A Workbook for Arguments," 2) Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow," and 3) Abelson's "Statistics as Principled Argument." I realize that only one of these is by a philosopher, but who cares?

Brad Cokelet

"Understanding Arguments: An Introduction to Informal Logic," by Sinnott-Armstrong & Fogelin is solid, esp if you want to expose students to the fun of philosophy while teaching critical reasoning

Rob Gressis

Hi Mark,

Would you mind saying a word about what is good about those three books?

Mark Alfano

Sure, Rob.

1) Morrow's workbook has tons of real-life examples in it, which are integrated nicely with the existing rulebook for arguments. The rulebook was already quite good, so with the examples you've got everything you need.

2) Philosophers have identified many fallacies of informal reasoning, but the identification has been haphazard and based mostly on anecdotal observation. Kahneman developed a whole theory of both the extraordinary successes people sometimes have when reasoning (e.g., expert firefighters) and also the appalling, nearly incorrigible mistakes they make. His presentation is sobering but humane. Each chapter ends with a few examples.

3) Abelson's book is good for people who are especially interested in mounting good and resisting bad statistical arguments. He realizes that stats isn't the be all and end all, and he's very critical of certain uses of statistics (e.g., naive null-hypothesis significance testing, religious devotion to t-tests).

David Morrow

Thanks, Mark, for the one and only time anything I do will ever be recommended in the same breath as Kahneman's work. But it's only fair for me to say that the Workbook is Morrow & Weston, not just Morrow. Not only is the book an expansion on Weston's Rulebook, but Weston played a very active role in developing and improving it.

Rob Gressis

Thanks Mark!


Since we're on this topic... many logic classes combined some informal and formal logic, as well as inductive and deductive. Does anyone have recommendations on good textbooks that cover all of this? Also, of course, it would be great if they came with assignable problems sets. Last time I tried Harry Gensler's Introduction to Logic, and it was pretty good in some respects, but too brief on informal thinking, presented Gensler's own test for checking syllogisms for validity (it's a fine test, but pedagogically seems like a mistake to present in place of a serious test because it's completely mechanical and doesn't show students WHY syllogisms are valid or invalid), and came with nice problem-testing software that didn't run on macs (which meant that half my class didn't do the assignments).

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