- Paperback: 90 pages
- Publisher: Hackett Pub Co Inc; 3 edition (January 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0872205525
- ISBN-13: 978-0872205529
- Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 53 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #473,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Rulebook for Arguments 3rd Edition
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This volume is slim and lightweight, precisely sized for the outside pocket of a student's backpack. Though too big for a shirt pocket, it is hard to imagine a book-bag so overstuffed that this book couldn't fit in one corner. Combined with the fact that it is inexpensive, that might make this the one book Freshman Composition students will hang onto when the class is over.
Unlike many books on writing papers, which are redundant and use many words to prove they're serious, this one is written to be short and useful. The tone is excellent for students who have a lot on their plates. The writing is concise, with short chapters which use straightforward rules and uncomplicated language to explain the most common forms of argument. The arrangement starts from broad rules and moves into specific categories, before getting into three chapters on writing papers. Each chapter is separated into clear subheads, allowing students to find the information they need very quickly.
This book does not address every form of argument. Arguments from commonplaces are not mentioned, and arguments from form are subsumed under the category of deduction, which is a bit of a loss. However, the forms of argument from external evidence are laid out in clear, readable language that college freshmen or advanced high-schoolers can savvy.
What the book lacks is any rules on case construction and the arrangement of complex multi-part arguments. The three chapters on writing papers focus on pre-writing, outlining, and the act of writing. The author says that complex arguments are no more than single arguments connected together, without bothering to say how they can or should be connected. I have graded too many Freshman Comp papers where the individual arguments are stuck together haphazardly like Lego blocks to consider this a small oversight.
So it's up to you which is more important: the many good traits this book brings, or the one glaring omission that you as a teacher will need to fill in. It's a delicate balance, and one that rides on your own skill with students. Only you can decide whether this book's many virtues matter more than its one big vice.
The rulebook is concise and forceful in its language. It states important rules, the different arguments, the process for essay writing, and fallacies. It contains brief, easily understood examples that guide the reader to understanding the ideas within the rulebook.
The most relevant section of the rulebook for me is from page 53 forward as it guides the reader on the writing process. This book should serve well any one individual that has taken a critical thinking course at the college level; may be a very difficult read for those not familiar with the language employed in the rulebook.
While brief, the book explains in lucid text, readily grasped examples, and simple formulas the structure of logically valid arguments and also explains the nature of fallacies, and how to spot fallacious arguments.
I think that the most useful chapter in the book is chapter six, "Deductive Arguments." This chapter is mandatory reading for anyone who needs to understand logical reasoning, and is by far the most lucid and brief explanation of the six most common forms of deductive arguments that I have ever seen. The first three of these are fairly obvious, but the sections on hypothetical syllogisms, disjunctive syllogisms, and "reductio ad absurdum" (reduction to absurdity) constructions are somewhat less self-evident and should be thoroughly understood before proceeding with the remainder of the book. I also found the example of an advanced "modus tollens" (i.e., if p then q; not-q; therefore not-p) argument from astronomer Fred Hoyle regarding the origin of the universe and the one-way conversion of hydrogen into helium to be superior to (and more concise than) any other example of this construction I have seen in other books.
The final sections of the book deal with writing argumentative essays. This section is extremely useful to students, and I would recommend that students read this as early in their academic careers as possible (high school, possibly middle school for some students); certainly I recommend this to any college student: the lessons in the 87 pages of this book will enable a lifetime of discerning logic. Likewise, this book serves as an excellent introduction or review of basic logical argument construction for anyone, and is especially useful to people in careers such as law, labor negotiations, and journalism.
This is an excellent book. It is quick to read, but has powerful lessons. Keep it handy on your bookshelf.
I highly recommend this book.