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on August 20, 2006
I found Asking the Right Questions (ARQ) to be a very balanced and thorough approach to critical thinking. I am an electrical engineer by profession... I am well-regarded by my peers as an careful thinker; however, I have found myself frustrated at times when discussing controversial issues with friends... some lines of thought don't ring true, but are nonetheless hard to refute. After reading ARQ, I found that these dilemmas are frequently either the result of not agreeing on the definitions of ambiguous terms (e.g. oppression, sexism, racism) or on some logical fallacy that was used. This has made a quite difference in my ability to discern the issues at hand.

ARQ uses a systematic list of questions to review the proposed thesis. These questions are designed to help you understand their conclusion, and evaluate their supporting evidence. Throughout the book, you are encouraged to set your own biases aside in favor of rationally evaluating the evidence. Furthermore, you receive some brief instruction on typical logical fallicies. In particular, Ad hominem attacks (i.e. attacks on the character of participants) are addressed; however, blatant character references are just beginning of an ad-hominem attack. Many times discussions get sidetracked by implicit accusations about a person's character. As an example, this statement (greatly simplified here) was used on me in the past, "you couldn't possibly be able to think critically, because your spiritual convictions make you biased." Until I read ARQ, I had a hard time realizing that this is actually a diversionary tactic used to sidetrack the discussion. If I accept this "evidence", the issue now becomes my credibility, instead of discussing my actual position on the issue.

Another good point the authors make is that that the mere existence of a logical fallicy should be not used as a means to halt discussion.

Finally, this book doesn't try to give you the "right answers" to controversial issues. They teach you how to find those answers on your own. In many cases, there are no right or wrong answers... simply a difference in the core values of the individuals.

I have been very pleased with the thoughtful approach that ARQ uses. I believe that every high-school and college student should be required to read it.
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on April 3, 2007
I strongly agree with the author on pg 13, that "by the end of the book, you should know when and how to ask these questions productively (elaborated through individual chapters):-

1. What are the issues and the concclusions?

2. What are the ressons?

3. Which words or phrases are ambiguous?

4. What are the value conflicts and assumptions?

5. What are the descriptive assumptions?

6. Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?

7. How good is the evidence?

8. Are there rival causes?

9. Are the statistics deceptive?

10. What significant information is omitted?

11. What reasonable conclusions are possible?

Of course, a compilation of good questions doesnt qualify it to be a good book. Indeed, the samples and stories well illustrate the principles and concepts behind. The discussions on various fallacies are marvelous, including:-

Ad hominem: An attack, or an insult, on the person, rather than directly addressing the person's reasons.

Slipperly Slope: Making the assumption that a proposed step will set off an uncontrollable chain of undesirable events, when procedures exist to prevent such a chain of events.

Hasty Generalization: A person draws a conclusion about a large group of based on experience with only a few members of the group.

Causal Oversimplification: Explaining an event by relying on causal factors that are insufficient to account for the event or by overemphasizing the role of one or more of these factors.

Confusion of Cause and Effect: Confusing the cause with the effect of an event or failing to recognise that the two events may be influencing each other.

Neglect of a common cause: Failure to recognize that two events may be related because of the effects of a common third factor.

Post hoc: Assuming that a particular event, B, is caused by another event, A, simply because B follows A in time.


In short, an excellent food for thought. Highly recommended!

p.s. I like the following story on pg 137 the most.

"After carefully conditioning a flea to jump out of a box following the presentation of a loud noise, the researcher removed the first pair of legs to see what effect this had. Observing that the flea was still able to perform his task, the scientist removed the second pair of legs. Once again noting no difference in performance, the researcher removed the final pair of legs and found that the jumping behaviour no longer occurred. Thus, the investigator wrote in his notebook, "When all the legs of a flea have been removed, it will no longer be able to hear."
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on March 8, 2007
An excellent book on the subject of reflective thought and criticism. Moreover, this book was more concise and illustrative than others I have read on the subject. This book includes many helpful case examples of short one and two paragraph essays which are analyzed critically for assumptions and fallacies in reasoning. If you needed to buy (and keep) just one book on the subject of critical thinking - this one should be it.
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on May 10, 2011
This is one of those books that I wish I had 20 years ago. For so long I have listened to people talk and knew there was something wrong in their logic or that there were assumptions being made, but I couldn't quite figure out how to break it down to explain or argue against it. This books very simply shows you how to do that.

For many years I wondered how lawyer knew what questions to ask and when. I wondered how politicians could even believe half of the nonsense they spewed out, but again, wasn't quite sure what was wrong with what they were saying. It was just a feeling. This book will help you to see clearly, argue in a direct manner, and may even help you to understand yourself and your friends better. A very good reference book to have.
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on January 8, 2015
I read the 6th edition. Very short and easy to read but still powerful; good examples throughout. If you can only read one book on critical thinking, this is it (at least it was when I read it some years ago). But, hopefully, you have more time for the advanced material of the subject ... and the psychology of decision making.
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on August 2, 2010
I think this book really helped my critical thinking skills. It gives you exercises to do at the end of each chapter which is wonderful because you are immediately able to put your newfound knowledge to work! Additionally, almost everything is carefully explained... (I had trouble with one or two later chapters, but maybe it was just me). I liked it!
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on February 15, 2014
I have ordered three different paperbacks within the last year on the subject of critical thinking. This is by far the most usable. I liked it so much that I gave it to my granddaughter (15) and told her that it just might be the most important little paperback that she ever reads
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on June 10, 2008
This book is very helpful at opening up ones mind to alternatives by asking questions. Not just a few questions, but question everything. Questioning leads to knowledge, and knowledge leads to wisdom.

Asking the right questions encourages a curious and open mind, analyzing issues from multiple viewpoints, thinking through questions and answers, doing needed investigation and intuitive and non-intuitive thinking. These key elements are the basis to sound critical thinking.

Asking the Right Questions has been around for many years and is still doing well. This says a lot for how many people have benefited from it. It is currently on the 8th edition. I read the 7th edition which came out in 2004. I liked the comment from the authors at the end of the preface which says they are constantly improving the book using advice and recommendations from students and others to make it better. Practicing what one preaches is an excellent sign of quality.

The Re-Discovery of Common Sense: A Guide to: The Lost Art of Critical Thinking
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on October 16, 2009
Here is a detailed account on how to think as one learns to reason through and ask the right questions. Take nothing for granted, observe your non-reasoned assumptions as you advance your intellectual life. Some nuanced epistemic issues were unargued and a bit of bias was presupposed, but this is a well done tome and should help all you enjoy it.
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on August 16, 2011
After a slightly bland first few pages, this becomes an excellent quick course on logical, illogical and emotion-ridden thinking. Really should be a required part of an educational curriculum -- at any level.
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