Tripping over logic

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments

Interested in a quirky picture book for grown-ups? Take a look at An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi, with woodcut-style illustrations by Alejandro Giraldo. In a bold attempt to fill a gap in the popular literature on critical thinking, Almossawi uncovers 19 errors of reasoning in a series of appealingly-presented vignettes.

Well-produced and charmingly illustrated, An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments presents itself as an accessible entrée into critical thinking for the uninitiated: a gift book or whimsical collectible for a thoughtful readership. The popularity of the online version of the book is a testament to how unusual and exciting it is to see material on critical thinking presented in a genuinely creative way. The often idiosyncratic examples in Bad Arguments – and the logical fallacies themselves – are thought-provoking teasers that whet my appetite for a deeper understanding of where arguments go wrong.

Pervading the book is a sincere attempt to draw out the practical relevance of informal logic to our everyday lives. It’s part of a larger mission to improve reasoning skills in the general public. And that mission is motivated by a belief that broader and more intelligent participation in public debates, more subtle articulation of arguments and more sensitive consideration of alternative views will eventually lead to more sophisticated and civic-minded policy positions. As a step in this direction, Almossawi seeks to improve his readers’ skills in critical thinking and cogent reasoning by drawing attention to the various characteristics of good arguments: precision, rigour, clarity, consistency, coherence, relevance and completeness.

Where Bad Arguments aims high, however, I think it misses the mark in several respects. My in-depth review at Metapsychology Online Reviews sets out a critique. But whatever the book’s shortcomings, I want to celebrate its success in stimulating curiosity – and I look forward to seeing many more books on critical thinking designed in such an innovative and attractive way.

You can take a look at some illustrations from the book below and read my full review over at Metapsychology.

Slippery slope fallacy

Slippery slope fallacy

Appeal to the bandwagon

Appeal to the bandwagon

Circular reasoning

Circular reasoning

Argument from consequences

Argument from consequences

Appeal to hypocrisy

Appeal to hypocrisy

Causal fallacy

Causal fallacy

The Philosophy Club runs co-curricular and extra-curricular workshops for children in Australia.



6 responses to “Tripping over logic

  1. Thank you for this nomination, Norah. I really appreciate your generosity and interest in my blog. I hope you’ll understand if I decline the award since I have a personal policy of not perpetuating chains. Still, I’m grateful for your encouragement and very pleased to belong to a supportive community of educational bloggers with an interest in improving thinking. I’m confident that together we can help a wider public see the potential for philosophical enquiry to enrich and deepen learning.

    I always learn a lot from reading other people’s blogs, and I often quote from them on The Philosophy Club’s facebook page.

    A few posts on other people’s blogs that have recently caught my attention are Relevance in education: Part of the solution by Harry Fletcher-Wood (on the blog Improving Teaching); Should teachers of controversial issues disclose their opinions? by Harry Brighouse (on the blog In Socrates’ Wake); Critical thinking skills for civic participation by Gabriela Martínez Sainz; a guest post by Rory Kraft (editor of Questions: Philosophy for Young People) on the blog Kids Think About It; and Raising a critical thinker in a gullible country by a humanist parent in the USA.

    I’ve discovered quite a few great blogs about philosophy for children and young people, including: The Philosophy Foundation (and its previous incarnation, The Philosophy Shop); Thinking Space; PLATO Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization; Story Philosophy; Wondering Aloud; Philosophy for Children Seville; and Philosophy as a Way of Life. Another excellent blog (not specifically related to philosophy for children) is Philosophy Strikes Back, which pithily applies philosophical logic to the analysis of public debates.

    It’s a privilege to be part of this relatively small but thriving international community of philosophy practitioners and activists! Thank you for your recognition.

  2. Another book I like that is in a similar vein is “The Phantom Tollbooth”. Exploring issues of knowledge and touching on the ethical it can be enjoyed by children (and adults) of all ages.

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