Being Logical a Guide to Good Thinking by DQ Mcinerny Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

logical errors one may make as discussed in Part Five of the book (1200-1500 words). Include in this paper precise definitions and your own example of the following logical errors: undistributed middle, begging the question, straw man, abusing tradition, democratic fallacy, ad hominem, uses and abuses of expertise, red herring, inability to disprove does not prove, false dilemma, and simplistic thinking,

The book Being Logical: A guide to Good Thinking (Random House, New York, 2004, pp.131) was authored by D. Q McInerny, a professor of logic to student s at Notre Dame, the University of Kentucky, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary. The author has written three previous textbooks on philosophy. This is his first book on logic, but as he writes, logic undergirds all thinking and goes to the core of what we mean by human intelligence.

Logic is the basis of all human thinking. It can be seen as science, art, and skill and goes to the very core of our abruptly to think, analyze, debate, and communicate. Written explicitly for the layman, McInerny shows that logic is a field that has profound bearing on our lives. McInerny has managed to make that field remarkably profound and lucid to the extent that the jacket pocket compares "Being Logical" to Strunck and White's Elements of Style.

A mastery of logic begins with an understanding of right reasoning. It involves a connection between the relationship between logical thought and logical expression, as well as knowledge of the basic terms of argument, and a familiarity with the pitfalls of illogical thinking. To that end, McInerny consequently structures his book as a series of brief chapters that build one on the other to provide a clear introduction to coherent reasoning.

The basic premise of the book is illustration of the characteristics of an argument - how an argument is created and elaborated upon. McInerny also shows how the argument differs from other forms of intellectual discourse, and how the argument contains the elements of logic. Many find logic, per subject, complex and in its mathematical subtleties. McInerny simplifies these complexities of different logical premises and conclusions. He distinguishes statements of fact from statements of value, and discusses the principles and uses of major types of arguments spanning the spectrum from syllogistic to conditional. McInerny also shows his readers the elements of illogical thinking, showing us how to recognize and avoid the common errors of logic.

Most books on logic are abstruse and heavy reading. This book differs in that McInerny breaks logic down to its fundamentals with clear analysis, relevant examples and focused insights. McInerny's tone is prosy and quaint. We feel he is talking directly to us. For instance, regarding Argument he says:

"Argument is rational discourse. It is not to be confused with quarreling. The object of argument is to get at the truth. The object of quarreling is to get at other people. There are any numbers of folk who, though happy to quarrel with you, are either unwilling or unable to argue with you. Don't waste your time and energy trying to argue with people who will not or cannot argue" (97-98).

And regarding the importance of clear communication:

"It is impossible to have clear communication without clear thinking. How can I give you a clear idea of something if it is not first clear in my mind" (14)?

The examples are relevant. Regarding the Principle of Contradiction, for instance, Dr. McInerny illustrates: "I could not explicitly say to myself "I tell many deliberate lies to Stephanie" and say 'I never lie to Stephanie" (29).

Any frontispiece quotation points, more than anything else to the author's objective in writing the book. McInerny quotes the famous Dr. Samuel Johnson as preface to his work:

"We may take Fancy for a companion,

But must follow Reason as our guide.

This, then, is the guideline that the Doctor has set both for himself and his readers.

Logic is rarely taught in school; McInerny considers it the missing piece of the American educational system. In order to attract students to the subject, he has made a concerted effort to present technical matters in as simple and direct a way as possible. He has also taken his readership into mind throughout, adopting a more informal, casual style in the manner of a tutor or coach and being directive when needed.

The book is not for everyone. There are numerous points of logic that are excluded. It is a bare introduction, but for the person who wants to brush up on logic, or for the student who wants to see what logic is about, it is an excellent introduction particularly since it achieves what the rare book on logic does: the actuality of enjoyable reading.

To make his book as 'logical' and clear as possible, McInerny divided the manuscript into five parts, each part building on the preceding one:

Part One is prefatory setting the groundwork for logic and providing the student with an appreciation of the need for logical reasoning

Part Two provides the foundational truths that govern logical thinking. Someone who desires to think clearly should exercise attentiveness when listening to someone present an argument; they should seek to get all their facts straight and they should avoid vague and ambiguous language.

Part Three deals with the stuff of logics; actual arguments. Some of the contents include the principle of identity (a thing is what it is) and the principle of the excluded middle (there is no middle state between being and non-being); the principle of sufficient reason (there is sufficient reason for everything) and the principle of contradiction (it is impossible for something to be and not be simultaneously). The author also instructs his readers to be aware of generalizing and the importance of defining one's terms.

Part Four discusses attitudes and frames of mind that promote illogical thinking

Part Five concentrates on the fallacies which are the elements of illogical thinking.

It is evident that the book was written by a college professor who is likely a skilled teacher who seems to be in touch with his students and with the contemporary needs and interests of his students. We receive this impression throughout. McInerny is practical: he advises his readers to be attentive, to get the facts straight; to be mindful of the origins of ideas; and to match words to ideas and ideas to words. In this way, logic too is the epitome of effective commination and rhetoric, as McInerny shows. Effective communication entails never assuming that the audience understands all that you say and making your words as explicit as possible. It also means speaking in complete sentences and backing any evaluative statement with fact as well as gearing language to audience. In this way, Logic too is the basis of effective writing.

Other recommendations in Part one tells us to avoid vague and ambiguous langue, avoid evasive language, and to strive for truth regardless of how difficult it is. Ipso facto then, we may conclude that the majority of people in our nation's government will profit from McInerny's manual.

Part Five covers various fallacies. Some of these are the following:

1. Equivocation

Where a term or word has more than one meaning. McInerny provides the humorous example of 'fans":

Fans make a lot of noise.

Mdme Butterfly was using her fan.

Therefore she was making a lot of noise (107).

2. Begging the question

This comes up so often. The debtor has to provide a valid reason for his argument but sometimes the conclusion is simply stated in alternate form. For instance:

Because Shirley prevaricates

Shirley is a liar (109)

The "arguing in a circle" or "vicious circle" commits the same fallacy.

3. The straw-man fallacy

Often perpetrated by politicians where one ridicules and deliberately…

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