How to Think Clearly – A Guide to Critical Thinking


How to Think Clearly:

A Guide to Critical Thinking

by Doug Erlandson


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How to Think Clearly: A Guide to Critical Thinking is an easy-to-understand, lively, and at times lighthearted introduction to the serious issues of learning how to think clearly and how to spot the difference between good and bad reasoning in the spoken and printed word. Dr. Doug Erlandson has written a book that is clear and straightforward enough that those who are interested in learning how to think clearly can read and understand it on their own. At the same time the book possesses the content and intellectual rigor that one expects in a text appropriate for an introductory college-level course in critical thinking.

Drawing on many concrete examples of good and bad reasoning from the political and social realm as well as from day-to-day life, Erlandson explains the difference between an argument, an explanation, and a description, and then discusses the characteristics of good and bad deductive and inductive arguments. He follows this with three chapters devoted to spotting and avoiding various fallacies, including such common ones as ad hominem attacks, straw man arguments, red herrings, false cause arguments, equivocations, and the like.

In addition to the chapters on arguments and fallacies, How to Think Clearly devotes a chapter to explanations, in which Erlandson discusses the criteria for distinguishing between adequate and inadequate explanations. The chapter on probability, in addition to discussing the topic in general, emphasizes the relationship between probability and rational decision making in real life, an issue seldom discussed in books on critical thinking. The chapter entitled “Fun With Numbers” shows how easy it is to misinform and even lie with numbers, thereby providing the reader with tools to question claims that have an aura of objectivity because of the presence of quantified data.

The final chapter discusses ways in which loaded words and slanted descriptions can be used to create positive or negative attitudes toward individuals, institutions, and practices. The book closes with a plea for fairness and civility in discourse and challenges the reader to put the quest for truth above the desire to see one’s position triumph at all costs.

How to Think Clearly is based on Doug Erlandson’s nearly twenty years of teaching courses in logic and critical thinking as well as his observations of good and bad reasoning in many areas of life. This book will provide readers with the tools they need to critically assess the claims and counterclaims with which they are bombarded by politicians, pundits, commentators, and editors, as well as coworkers, friends and family. Finally, it will aid readers in developing skills to present their own views in ways that are clear, coherent, sensible, and persuasive….

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