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Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments 4th Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0534551339
ISBN-10: 0534551335
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

T. Edward Damer received his Ph.D. from Boston University and currently teaches at Emory and Henry College.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 209 pages
  • Publisher: Wadsworth Publishing; 4 edition (June 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0534551335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0534551339
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is one of the first texts on critical thinking to incorporate traditional logical fallacies in a unified theory of fallacies and arguments. Damer lists four criteria of a "good argument," then defines a "fallacy" as a violation of one or more of these criteria. He then groups all of the traditional fallacies by the criterion that they violate. Thus, the readers are not just learning a list of fallacies in an intellectual vaccuum; they are learning a holistic system that makes sense intuitively and logically, and will enable them not only to critique flawed arguments, but to construct logically sound arguments of their own.

Damer also includes "A Code of Conduct for Effective Rational Discussion," twelve principles for civilized, intelligent discussion of issues. These twelve principles include the four criteria of a good argument, thus connecting all the ideas of the book in one logical and easily understood structure. It's noteworthy that the author includes a discussion of ethics, and the "right" and "wrong" way to argue. He even has strategies on how to point out flawed arguments without being judgemental or intellectually condescending. Knowledge is power, after all, and intellectual might doesn't necessarily make right.

It's refreshing to see a critical thinking text acknowledge the ethical responsibility that comes with superior critical thinking skills. Damer takes this responsibility very seriously, and encourages readers to seek truth over victory. This is apparent in the Code of Conduct, which includes "The Fallibility Principle," "The Truth-Seeking Principle," and "The Principle of Charity.
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Damer pulls off a next to impossible task-naming, describing, exampling, and attacking 60 fallacies while structuring them neatly within four criteria of a good argument: relevance, acceptability, sufficient grounds and rebuttal. The last chapter discusses the specifics of "A Code of Conduct for Effective Rational Discussion." I used this test as a key element of my Ph.D. research and continue to use it in my later work. This should be required study for every politician and philosopher. A simpler version should be required study for every middle school and high school student. Discovering what is true would be so much easier with good arguments absence of fallacy. Be the first to rid your "neighborhood" of polemics. Study this book.
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Format: Paperback
I like the *idea* of this book - the book it *could* be, if you will - very much. But actually using it to teach a critical thinking course last year revealed serious flaws.

According to the ad copy and the first chapter or so, the overall goal is to present a coherent theory of argumentation, and of fallacies as failures to meet the obligations that theory imposes. A good argument has feature X, while a deviation from X is a type of fallacy, basically. This is a good idea for a way to structure a critical thinking textbook, and particularly for a way to work the fallacies into it so that they don't feel like an afterthought. Another feature I liked was the incorporation of that theory of argument into a larger theory of argumentative *conduct*, where we have obligations, not just to do our best to make our arguments as good as possible, but to be charitable and fair-minded toward our opponents as well. This is a point that needs to be stressed in any CT course and it's very good that Damer makes sure to do so at the outset.

However, the book has a number of serious flaws. For one thing, the "theory" of argumentation it's supposedly built around really isn't. The theory is little more than a list of five features a good argument should have (except when it doesn't; the Structural criterion doesn't apply to all arguments, at least not in a uniform way). Actually, more like eight features or so, since some of his five criteria are themselves bundles of distinct, only loosely related concepts. The reader expecting Damer to tie these features together in some way - to tell us what it is they have in common that allows them to play this role - is going to be disappointed; there is no serious, non-circular attempt to do this.
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Although I gathered that this book was written primarily as a text for logic and critical thinking courses, it helped me immensely in terms of learning how to make sense of argumentative quality in everyday life, not only the classroom. I did not read this book for a class as I have graduated college, but I found it to be a real help in determining the strengths and weaknesses in arguments and other forms of persuasive speech that we encounter daily.

The book uses clear and familiar everyday examples to make the points, instead of presenting things in an abstract and think-tank way, and most people will find themselves realizing that they have had arguments or debates exactly like those described in the book. The book clearly demonstrates how much reason and critical thinking can be diminished or overlooked by laziness or unwillingness on the part of people to care enough to think well.

The chapters follow a clear course and almost every logical fallacy I have ever encountered in the classroom or the real world is covered in the book. It explains the fallacy, gives examples, and shows how to expose the fallacy for being a poor argument, as well as demonstrating ways to combat and point out to the other person (in a nice way) the flaw in the reasoning. The tone of the book is pleasently informal, as it attempts to create familiar dialouge and situations to which the reader can easily identify. I highly reccommend the book and think that anyone who cares enough to want to think more maturely would benefit greatly.
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