Friday, December 30, 2005

Book Review: The Logic of Real Arguments

Most books that teach the principles of evaluating arguments do so with examples that are very short. But, in real life, arguments that we are interested in often occur in sustained texts such as books, journal articles, or speeches. A few books I have read do include some sample longer arguments. But, essentially, short arguments are used for teaching purposes. Alec Fisher's excellent book, The Logic of Real Arguments stands out from the rest of the crowd because the author specifically deals with real arguments that have actually appeared in speeches or long writing. Real arguments are notoriously difficult to identify and evaluate. Fisher's book is a wonderful resource for dealing with this issue. The first two chapters introduce a general method of argument analysis. The remainder of the book's chapters (except for Chapter 11) are devoted to Fisher actually identifying, analysing, and evaluating real, long arguments in great detail using his approach. The examples cover the natural world, society, policy, and philosophy. The final two chapters deal with evaluating 'scientific' arguments and the philosophical assumptions underlying Fisher's method. There is an appendix introducing elementary formal logic and section of exercises for the reader. It's a meaty book and one which bears careful study. Fisher's writing is clear, precise, and his method provides an approach to argument analysis that can be learned by anyone without knowing formal logic. In particular, it will be very useful to students across a range of disciplines including philosophy, law, and the social sciences because it introduces an approach that deals with the sort of arguments they are likely to come across in their studies. Highly recommended! Related Links

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