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Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking Paperback – May 10, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"In logic, as in life, it is the obvious that most often bears emphasizing, because it so easily escapes our notice," McInerny argues in this pithy guide to applying logical thinking to everyday life. Modeled after Strunk and White’s indispensable handbook, The Elements of Style, McInerny’s primer offers valuable counsel on making a clear and effective point. He calls attention to the tremendous importance that language holds in the crafting and presentation of an argument, advising readers to "make your words as precise and sharply focused as possible" and to keep arguments, or at least their essential purpose, simple. Readers need not have a background in philosophy to follow McInerny’s remarkably comprehensible explanation of the methods used to construct a valid case, including the syllogistic argument, the conjunctive and disjunctive arguments and the conditional argument. The author also dedicates considerable discussion to the sources and the principal forms of illogical thinking, from such common ruses as begging the question and using tears as a diversionary tactic to the more ethically questionable ad hominem strategy, in which a person ignores an argument and attacks his opponent’s character instead. McInerny recommends that people hone their logical thinking skills by using them in real life situations, but perhaps one of the best ways his audience can learn to clearly express their views is by examining the crisp, articulate writing in this slender but richly informative guide.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

"Major Premise: Sixty men can do a piece of work sixty times as quickly as one man. Minor Premise: One man can dig a posthole in sixty seconds; therefore-Conclusion: Sixty men can dig a post-hole in one second." Ambrose Bierce's satire on the syllogism belongs to one of many species of specious reasoning that college professor McInerny takes to task in this precis on logic. Remarking that logic is rarely taught "as such" in American education, he presents this makeup course consciously modeled on Strunk and White's Elements of Style (1959). In concise language, McInerny's guide distributes the elements of logic among short, admonitory headings, such as "Avoid Vague and Ambiguous Language." McInerny also provides definitions of the tools of logic and their application in arriving at truth. Inculcating this noble and, in principle, attainable aim, McInerny's explanatory outline of sound thinking will be eminently beneficial to expository writers, debaters, and public speakers. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812971159
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812971156
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great book for the right audience. By design, it starts with the most basic concepts of logical thought in order to build a solid foundation. For a student beginning a study of philosophy, this will be very valuable.

If your interest in logical thought is more casual, however, you may find that about 2/3 of this book is so basic as to not hold your attention very well. In the final third of the book McInerny addresses the common pitfalls of logical thought and the book becomes interesting even if you are a non-academic reader.

For that reason, I'd recommend "Crimes Against Logic" by Jamie Whyte for the reader interested in day-to-day logical thought rather than this book. This is a great one, however, if you are beginning an academic study of philosophy.
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Format: Paperback
I'm on my way to grad school in the fall, and I picked up D.Q. McInerny's book with the thinking that since I never took an undergrad course in logic, it might be nice to learn the basics. Couldn't hurt to learn how to think in preparation for the most challenging time of your academic life, right?

As it turns out, I'm not sure this is the book that will help me do it. What I thought was going to be a primer on the ins and outs of rational thought read a lot more like the intro to a textbook. It's potentially interesting stuff, but the book ends too soon, before we get to the real meat of it all.

This is a short read -- 137 pages, including the index -- so it might not be a surprise that my main problem was McInerny trying to cover too much ground with too little space. There are issues with the format and pacing: Each chapter starts with a subject -- "The Basic Principles of Logic," for instance -- and moves through numbered subsections dealing with various aspects of that subject, like "Distinguish Among Causes" or "The Categorical Statement."

But the problem is twofold:

1) With usually only a page or less given to each subsection, the information itself is too brief to seriously mull over and usually simplistic enough as to border on the obvious (Example: One of McInerny's tips for effective communcation? "Speak in complete sentences."); and

2) Very often, there seems to be no correlation between subsections in a given chapter (or at the very least, the transitions need work).

What does this mean? Since the information is presented as it is (in list form), you're basically reading a glossary, only the terms in the glossary aren't specific enough to be of any real help to you.
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Format: Paperback
"Being Logical" is a fine book for those who wish to communicate coherent arguments either in writing or in debates. It reminds me of another fine (but much older) work, namely "The Art of Controversy," by Arthur Schopenhauer.

McInerny starts right out with recommendations on how to communicate. Avoid evasive language! Pursue truth! And he explains that truth is divided into ontological (existence) and logical (valid statements).

We then get to principles of logic. These are identity (a=a), excluded middle (a either exists or it does not, not both or neither), and sufficient reason (everything has a cause).

The author tells us some of the causes of illogical thinking. These include overskepticism, evasion, cynicism, naivete, narrowmindedness, emotion, insincerity, and lack of respect for common sense. And, of course, as in "The Art of Controversy," there is a section on forms of illogical thinking. One of the more interesting ones involves precedents. Obviously it is a fallacy to say that just because there is a precedent of something having been done before, it is a good idea to do it again. But the author shows how this fits in with the dubious claim that "two wrongs make a right." Of course, to claim that because it was wrong to do something in the past, it is wrong to do it now would be yet another fallacy. I think the author could have expanded on the question of precedents here.

I recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Maybe it's because this is an extremely partisan election year. But these days, a seeker of truth knows that reason, clarity, and honesty are in short supply.

How wonderful, then, to find these virtues and more in one resource. I'm alluding to D.Q. McInerny and his mighty mite of a book, "Being Logical."

Be assured that McInerny deftly covers the positive principles and the tempting pitfalls governing everyone's attempts to think logically. And he accomplishes this with quiet humor, with the patience of the best kind of teacher.

Although I wish I'd encountered him much earlier, I'm happy to discover him now.

Yet there's more to this book. Simply put, it places the force of inspiration in the reader's mind. Every day, now, in his congenial way, McInerny is there, exhorting me to think straighter and better. And he makes me want to do this despite the prospect of failure, which (for me) is usually lurking just around the corner.

What more could be asked of an author than that?

Robert Graves and Alan Hodge have asserted that "the writing of good English is...a moral matter." So is the practice of effective logic, as successfully demonstrated by D.Q. McInerny in "Being Logical."
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