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Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders 1st Edition

169 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 063-9785416821
ISBN-10: 0071446435
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"He ruthlessly exposes logical flaws and sheer nonsense. . . in likably angry and witty style." -- The Guardian

"Philosopher Jamie Whyte is waging war on sloppy thinking, logical errors, and fallacies--and he's taking no prisoners." -- New Scientist

"[Whyte] whets a long knife of ultra-rationalism on the cold stone of logic." -- The Times

About the Author

Jamie Whyte (London, England) is a past lecturer of philosophy at Cambridge University and winner of Analysis journal's prestigious prize for the best article by a philosopher under 30.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 157 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education; 1 edition (October 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071446435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071446433
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jamie Whyte (London, England) is a past lecturer of philosophy at Cambridge University and winner of Analysis journal's prestigious prize for the best article by a philosopher under 30.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

766 of 791 people found the following review helpful By Gulley Jimson on October 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book deserves the widest possible exposure in America, especially so close to the election, because it an excellent primer on how to guard yourself against the faulty reasoning that governs so much modern political discourse - and avoid adopting it yourself. I first heard about the book because one of its points was mentioned in an essay. The point was basically that just because someone has a motive to hold a certain position doesn't necessarily mean that the position is false. This seemed pretty obvious, but as I turned to the media I was amazed at how often politicians use this method, and how easily I had accepted their claims if they lined up with my political preferences.

Any damaging report against either side, for example, would frequently be denounced as a "partisan" attack, with occasional documentation of how the person who presented the report was tied to one party or another, as if this were the issue at hand. No attempt was made to address whether the report was true or not, the assumption being that exposing a bias - a motive for the potentially false information - was conclusive evidence.

Some of the things Whyte discussed in the book - for example, sample bias in statistics - are going to be familiar to many people, but just as frequently he comes up with something that all of us have probably used in an argument. For example, in the chapter "begging the question," he quotes a common pro-choice argument: "If you believe abortion is wrong, that's fine, don't abort your pregnancies. But show tolerance toward others who don't share your beliefs."

He points out that this ignores that actual position of anti-abortionists, that abortion is murder, morally equivalent to killing a live human being.
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94 of 98 people found the following review helpful By T. Wyman on April 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Whyte brilliantly exposes the Motive Fallacy in Chapter 2, then occasionally slips into using it throughout the rest of the book, He doesn't descend to using it to refute arguments, but does use it to undermine credibility, e.g. "It gives them a thrilling fit of the cosmic heebie-jeebies."

Others did not detect smugness. I did, but am not bothered by it. It comes with the territory when writing about unclear thinking. As he invites the reader to share in it if one can but follow along, I doubt many people will be put off by it. He chooses some surprising examples to illustrate his points; some groups will be pleased at encountering a rare acknowledgement of their reasonableness.

There is a second weakness. Some questions are decided according to different standards of proof, as in the varieties of legal evidence: "beyond a reasonable doubt" vs. "clear and convincing" vs. "preponderance of the evidence." Whyte notes this accurately in some places, but neglects it in others, requiring proof where reasonableness might be enough.

Still, it's good. Amusing, instructive, and clear.
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348 of 404 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on March 31, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is much about this book that I like very much. Mr. White's ability to see the logical flaws in an argument is impressive and there are few things that would benefit this world more than if more people had the ability to see if they were being misled by their politicians, pundits and religious leaders. A serious reader of this book would certainly gain more tools in this difficult task.

On the other hand, in my opinion this book does have one weakness: its dismissive tone. There is a subtle air of superiority that Mr. White projects in his prose that I find disheartening. Though he pays lip service to the fact that it can be very difficult to spot certain logical fallacies, particularly as we are bombarded by opinions disguised as fact 24 hours a day through the media, he does not seem very sympathetic the fact that many people do try their best to work there way through the morass of opinions despite being hampered by media overkill, prominent positions demanding action, their own strongly held opinions and the lack of a prestigious education. Mr. White has much to teach but it is difficult to swallow when the student is made to feel small and foolish.

I am particularly disappointed by Mr. White's dismissiveness towards religion. Though I agree completely with his assertion that religious tenets (like the existence of God, etc.) cannot be proved logically and that many religious leaders misuse logic severely, I do not agree that this is sufficient to dismiss religious experience out of hand. Granted, I am a person of religious belief, but I am also a mathematician and I would argue that there are things that are true that cannot be proved. But I'm sure Mr. White, chuckling sadly and looking down his nose at me, would disagree.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Tin Tin on August 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a very entertaining little book about bad reasoning. I laughed out loud on several occasions and have found myself reading sections to friends who I knew would enjoy them (or wouldn't, in some cases!).

I was already familiar with some of the fallacies, but a few were new to me, such as the fallacies of equivocation and begging the question.

Once explained, most of the fallacies Whyte highlights are easily understood. Which only makes it more incredible that they are so common, as shown by the incredibly wide range of examples Whyte draws on. I now find myself playing "spot the fallacy" when reading the paper or watching the news. It's fun for a while, until you start to get angry.

Whyte is pretty harsh on religion and some readers won't like it. But let's be honest, there is a lot of bad reasoning about religion. It would be ridiculous for a book on common fallacies to avoid the topic.

Apart from his apparent atheism, Whyte's substantive views are difficult to discern. He usually does a good job of sticking to the logic of arguments rather than the truth of their conclusions. And his occasionally angry tone, which some reviewers don't like, is usually appropriate and often very funny. I can highly recommend this book.
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