Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking
Matthew Van Cleave, Lansing Community College
Pub Date: 2016
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This is a review of Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, an open source book version 1.4 by Matthew Van Cleave. The comparison book used was read more
This is a review of Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, an open source book version 1.4 by Matthew Van Cleave. The comparison book used was Patrick J. Hurley’s A Concise Introduction to Logic 12th Edition published by Cengage as well as the 13th edition with the same title. Lori Watson is the second author on the 13th edition. Competing with Hurley is difficult with respect to comprehensiveness. For example, Van Cleave’s book is comprehensive to the extent that it probably covers at least two-thirds or more of what is dealt with in most introductory, one-semester logic courses. Van Cleave’s chapter 1 provides an overview of argumentation including discerning non-arguments from arguments, premises versus conclusions, deductive from inductive arguments, validity, soundness and more. Much of Van Cleave’s chapter 1 parallel’s Hurley’s chapter 1. Hurley’s chapter 3 regarding informal fallacies is comprehensive while Van Cleave’s chapter 4 on this topic is less extensive. Categorical propositions are a topic in Van Cleave’s chapter 2; Hurley’s chapters 4 and 5 provide more instruction on this, however. Propositional logic is another topic in Van Cleave’s chapter 2; Hurley’s chapters 6 and 7 provide more information on this, though. Van Cleave did discuss messy issues of language meaning briefly in his chapter 1; that is the topic of Hurley’s chapter 2. Van Cleave’s book includes exercises with answers and an index. A glossary was not included.
Reviews of open source textbooks typically include criteria besides comprehensiveness. These include comments on accuracy of the information, whether the book will become obsolete soon, jargon-free clarity to the extent that is possible, organization, navigation ease, freedom from grammar errors and cultural relevance; Van Cleave’s book is fine in all of these areas. Further criteria for open source books includes modularity and consistency of terminology. Modularity is defined as including blocks of learning material that are easy to assign to students. Hurley’s book has a greater degree of modularity than Van Cleave’s textbook. The prose Van Cleave used is consistent.
Van Cleave’s book will not become obsolete soon.
Van Cleave’s book has accessible prose.
Van Cleave used terminology consistently.
Van Cleave’s book has a reasonable degree of modularity.
Van Cleave’s book is organized. The structure and flow of his book is fine.
Problems with navigation are not present.
Grammar problems were not present.
Van Cleave’s book is culturally relevant.
Van Cleave’s book is appropriate for some first semester logic courses.
This textbook is quite thorough--there are conversational explanations of argument structure and logic. I think students will be happy with the read more
This textbook is quite thorough--there are conversational explanations of argument structure and logic. I think students will be happy with the conversational style this author employs. Also, there are many examples and exercises using current events, funny scenarios, or other interesting ways to evaluate argument structure and validity. The third section, which deals with logical fallacies, is very clear and comprehensive. My only critique of the material included in the book is that the middle section may be a bit dense and math-oriented for learners who appreciate the more informal, informative style of the first and third section. Also, the book ends rather abruptly--it moves from a description of a logical fallacy to the answers for the exercises earlier in the text.
The content is very reader-friendly, and the author writes with authority and clarity throughout the text. There are a few surface-level typos (Starbuck's instead of Starbucks, etc.). None of these small errors detract from the quality of the content, though.
One thing I really liked about this text was the author's wide variety of examples. To demonstrate different facets of logic, he used examples from current media, movies, literature, and many other concepts that students would recognize from their daily lives. The exercises in this text also included these types of pop-culture references, and I think students will enjoy the familiarity--as well as being able to see the logical structures behind these types of references. I don't think the text will need to be updated to reflect new instances and occurrences; the author did a fine job at picking examples that are relatively timeless. As far as the subject matter itself, I don't think it will become obsolete any time soon.
The author writes in a very conversational, easy-to-read manner. The examples used are quite helpful. The third section on logical fallacies is quite easy to read, follow, and understand. A student in an argument writing class could benefit from this section of the book. The middle section is less clear, though. A student learning about the basics of logic might have a hard time digesting all of the information contained in chapter two. This material might be better in two separate chapters. I think the author loses the balance of a conversational, helpful tone and focuses too heavily on equations.
Terminology in this book is quite consistent--the key words are highlighted in bold. Chapters 1 and 3 follow a similar organizational pattern, but chapter 2 is where the material becomes more dense and equation-heavy. I also would have liked a closing passage--something to indicate to the reader that we've reached the end of the chapter as well as the book.
I liked the overall structure of this book. If I'm teaching an argumentative writing class, I could easily point the students to the chapters where they can identify and practice identifying fallacies, for instance. The opening chapter is clear in defining the necessary terms, and it gives the students an understanding of the toolbox available to them in assessing and evaluating arguments. Even though I found the middle section to be dense, smaller portions could be assigned.
The author does a fine job connecting each defined term to the next. He provides examples of how each defined term works in a sentence or in an argument, and then he provides practice activities for students to try. The answers for each question are listed in the final pages of the book. The middle section feels like the heaviest part of the whole book--it would take the longest time for a student to digest if assigned the whole chapter. Even though this middle section is a bit heavy, it does fit the overall structure and flow of the book. New material builds on previous chapters and sub-chapters. It ends abruptly--I didn't realize that it had ended, and all of a sudden I found myself in the answer section for those earlier exercises.
The simple layout is quite helpful! There is nothing distracting, image-wise, in this text. The table of contents is clearly arranged, and each topic is easy to find.
Tiny edits could be made (Starbuck's/Starbucks, for one). Otherwise, it is free of distracting grammatical errors.
This text is quite culturally relevant. For instance, there is one example that mentions the rumors of Barack Obama's birthplace as somewhere other than the United States. This example is used to explain how to analyze an argument for validity. The more "sensational" examples (like the Obama one above) are helpful in showing argument structure, and they can also help students see how rumors like this might gain traction--as well as help to show students how to debunk them with their newfound understanding of argument and logic.
The writing style is excellent for the subject matter, especially in the third section explaining logical fallacies. Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this text!
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Reconstructing and analyzing arguments
- 1.1 What is an argument?
- 1.2 Identifying arguments
- 1.3 Arguments vs. explanations
- 1.4 More complex argument structures
- 1.5 Using your own paraphrases of premises and conclusions to reconstruct arguments in standard form
- 1.6 Validity
- 1.7 Soundness
- 1.8 Deductive vs. inductive arguments
- 1.9 Arguments with missing premises
- 1.10 Assuring, guarding, and discounting
- 1.11 Evaluative language
- 1.12 Evaluating a real-life argument
Chapter 2: Formal methods of evaluating arguments
- 2.1 What is a formal method of evaluation and why do we need them?
- 2.2 Propositional logic and the four basic truth functional connectives
- 2.3 Negation and disjunction
- 2.4 Using parentheses to translate complex sentences
- 2.5 “Not both” and “neither nor”
- 2.6 The truth table test of validity
- 2.7 Conditionals
- 2.8 “Unless”
- 2.9 Material equivalence
- 2.10 Tautologies, contradictions, and contingent statements
- 2.11 Proofs and the 8 valid forms of inference
- 2.12 How to construct proofs
- 2.13 Short review of propositional logic
- 2.14 Categorical logic
- 2.15 The Venn test of validity for immediate categorical inferences
- 2.16 Universal statements and existential commitment
- 2.17 Venn validity for categorical syllogisms
Chapter 3: Evaluating inductive arguments and probabilistic and statistical fallacies
- 3.1 Inductive arguments and statistical generalizations
- 3.2 Inference to the best explanation and the seven explanatory virtues
- 3.3 Analogical arguments
- 3.4 Causal arguments
- 3.5 Probability
- 3.6 The conjunction fallacy
- 3.7 The base rate fallacy
- 3.8 The small numbers fallacy
- 3.9 Regression to the mean fallacy
- 3.10 Gambler’s fallacy
Chapter 4: Informal fallacies
- 4.1 Formal vs. informal fallacies
- 4.1.1 Composition fallacy
- 4.1.2 Division fallacy
- 4.1.3 Begging the question fallacy
- 4.1.4 False dichotomy
- 4.1.5 Equivocation
- 4.2 Slippery slope fallacies
- 4.2.1 Conceptual slippery slope
- 4.2.2 Causal slippery slope
- 4.3 Fallacies of relevance
- 4.3.1 Ad hominem
- 4.3.2 Straw man
- 4.3.3 Tu quoque
- 4.3.4 Genetic
- 4.3.5 Appeal to consequences
- 4.3.6 Appeal to authority
Answers to exercises
About the Book
This is an introductory textbook in logic and critical thinking. The goal of the textbook is to provide the reader with a set of tools and skills that will enable them to identify and evaluate arguments. The book is intended for an introductory course that covers both formal and informal logic. As such, it is not a formal logic textbook, but is closer to what one would find marketed as a “critical thinking textbook.”
About the Contributors
Matthew Van Cleave, PhD, Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, 2007. VAP at Concordia College (Moorhead), 2008-2012. Assistant Professor at Lansing Community College, 2012-2016. Professor at Lansing Community College, 2016-