Critical Thinking and Informal Logic Textbooks: Abstracts and Comments

The AILACT Textbook Review Committee (Jim Freeman and Blair Goodlin) have received abstracts on the following texts in Critical Thinking and Informal Logic.

Please also refer to Cate Hundleby’s CT textbook pages.


Sharon Bailin & Mark Battersby

2010, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, ISBN 0070073414

ABSTRACT: This text goes beyond the focus on the analysis and critique of individual arguments to focus more broadly on the practice of inquiry, which we define as the process of coming to a reasoned judgment on an issue based on a critical evaluation of relevant arguments and reasons. It deals with the various aspects that go into the process of inquiry, including identifying issues, identifying the relevant contexts, understanding the competing arguments and considerations, and weighing and balancing a variety of considerations in order to come to a reasoned judgment which will be comparative in nature.

This orientation gives rise to certain distinctive features of the text:

1) an emphasis on the dialectical dimension of critical thinking, including a focus on the current debate, on the history of the debate, and on the relevant aspects of the context of the debate;

2) attention to the dialogical aspects of inquiry with the extensive use of dialogues throughout the text;

3) examples of inquiry in specific contexts including in the natural and social sciences, the arts, ethics, and inquiry into extraordinary claims (such as conspiracy theories).


Robert H. Ennis

1996, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, ISBN 0-13-374711-5

Making and applying a reasonable decision about what to believe or do calls for a mix of critical thinking abilities, and the judicious application of a set of critical thinking dispositions or virtues. All of these have creative elements. Ennis’ critical thinking text is a comprehensive, practical, and rigorous treatment of deciding what to believe or do in context, with specific chapters and sections devoted to:

  • Argument analysis
  • Credibility of sources
  • Observation
  • Deduction (omitting material implication and its cohorts)
  • Assumption identification
  • Enumerative induction
  • Best-explanation reasoning
  • Causal inference
  • Value judging
  • Relativism
  • Definition (a comprehensive original treatment)
  • Verbal clarity and consistency
  • Fallacy labels
  • Discussion: asking and responding to questions
  • Presentation of one’s views orally and in writing

Critical thinking dispositions permeate the book. A simple acronym, “FRISCO”, for guidance in deciding what to believe or do is promoted: (Focus, Reasons, Inference, Situation, Clarity, and Overview). Because developing critical thinking abilities and dispositions and transferring them to new areas (including everyday life) require careful, extensive, and thoughtful practice, numerous examples and check-ups from various subject matter areas and everyday life are provided. Suggested answers are provided in the text for most of these check-ups, inviting some self instruction. An electronic copy of the handbook for instructors is available. Contact the author (rhennis@illinois.edu).

This text (black and white) is “Available on Demand” (“AOD”) in quantity. Time required is generally about two weeks from order to arrival. Call Pearson Customer Service at 1 800 922 0579. Discounts for quantity orders from book stores and institutions.


Donald L. Hatcher

4th ed. Jan 2004, 354 pages, $29.95, Boston: American Press, ISBN 978-0-89641-404-4

ABSTRACT: Science, Ethics and Technological Assessment is a text to help readers critically evaluate alternative public policies brought about by current developments in science and/or technology. The text explains the nature and value of scientific methodologies and evidence, various ethical theories that should be applied to policy decisions, and the challenge of assessing new technologies. All three of these areas combine to provide the proper tools for the intelligent evaluation of alternative policies connected to technological change.


Donald L. Hatcher & L. Anne Spencer

3rd ed., 2006, 422 pgs, $37.95, Boston: American Press, ISBN 978-0-89641-422-8

ABSTRACT: Reasoning and Writing is a college-level textbook designed for Critical Thinking classes that want to teach the relationship between critical thinking skills and good writing. It is also appropriate for English Composition and Communication classes. After first explaining the nature and value of critical thinking, defined as “The honest evaluation of alternatives with respect to available evidence and arguments,” the book focuses on three distinct skills: the ability to recognize and summarize arguments, the ability to evaluate arguments, and the ability to construct strong arguments that will provide the foundation for papers that have a thesis in need of support. Emphasis is placed on the value of being able to anticipate objections to one’s position and respond adequately. The approach to argument evaluation is deductive reconstruction. Students reconstruct arguments they have summarized in valid deductive patterns, then focus on the reasonableness of the premises.


Donald Lazere

2005; Brief Edition, 2009, Paradigm Publishers, http://www.paradigmpublishers.com/books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=208952

ABSTRACT: This rhetoric with readings addresses the need for college students to develop critical reading, writing, and thinking skills for self-defense amid the arguments that inundate them in American public discourse. The approach to argument here is based on the principles of critical thinking—a term that has all too often been used as a vague, catch-all concept in textbooks but that is used here with specific reference to the definitions developed by specialists in the discipline over the past three decades. This conception of critical thinking avoids technical terminology, complicated schemas such as “the Toulmin model” or “stasis theory,” and elaborate classification of types of arguments, all of which have limited practical use outside of artificial classroom assignments. Instead, it emphasizes commonsense reasoning about familiar controversies in everyday life, along with analysis of cultural influences and psychological dispositions that lead to open-minded or closed-minded reasoning. To put it another way, what distinguishes this book from most other textbooks is that it asks, What do we need to know, in terms of both factual information and aspects of rhetoric, to understand the information and arguments we read or hear every day about current events and controversies, in news and entertainment media, political statements, the classroom, the local bar or salon—and what skills do we need to apply to every particular case in critically evaluating it? So rather than focusing at the outset, deductively, on abstract principles and contriving examples to illustrate them, the approach is to begin inductively or empirically, with actual arguments in the public sphere, and then to enable students to determine what rhetorical or critical thinking issues they pose and what measures we need to take in evaluating them. Thus this approach is based on the process through which we all have to deal with arguments as we encounter them in public media every day.

The approach to critical thinking and argumentation also incorporates principles from the philosophy of general semantics—emphasizing the role in argumentation of definition of terms, connotative language, verbal slanting and the need to concretize verbal abstractions, and perceiving the complexity and diversity of possible viewpoints on, -controversial issues. The book provides distinctively in-depth examination of stereotyping and prejudice, polemics and invective, rebuttal, conflicting causal analyses, the use and misuse of statistics and emotional appeal, and logical or rhetorical fallacies like special pleading, stacking the deck, double standards, plain folks, straw man, ad hominem, and ad populum in public controversies. An emphasis on developing extended lines of argument through recursiveness, cumulation, and levels of meaning in reading, writing, and reasoning is reinforced in the structure of the book itself, which develops cumulatively and contains many cross-references forward and back among text sections and readings, in order to highlight different rhetorical issues within each segment.


Kevin Possin

ISBN 0-9712355-1-1 CD version

ABSTRACT: Includes Critical Thinking [etext], the Critical Thinking Software, and Self-Defense: A Student Guide to Writing Position Papers [etext]. Topics in the Critical Thinking etext include: argument identification, anatomy of an argument, cogency conditions, use and abuse of definitions and language, informal fallacies, applied categorical logic, and applied propositional logic. The conversational style of this text is overwhelmingly preferred by students. The Critical Thinking Software has 16 practice/exam modules, accompanying the Critical Thinking etext, with over 4000 exercises, more than any other textbook, software, or Website. It scores all practice sessions and exams, and provides the user with immediate feedback. Exams are timed, and scores can be printed out or emailed, making Critical Thinking perfect for online courses. The CT Software provides 24/7 accessibility for the students and permits faculty to increase class size without sacrificing academic quality. Both Mac and PC versions are on the CD, with easy drag-and-drop installation.

“Critical Thinking is the best intro to logic software around. I think the exercises are wonderful…so good, so deep,…and the course as a whole looks great,” Patrick Grim, The Group for Logic & Formal Semantics, SUNY at Stony Brook.

Also on the CD is the Self-Defense writing guide, a step-by-step guide to writing argumentative essays and critical reviews, discussing the essential parts of a position paper, the various ways to organize one, how to discover and defend one’s position on an issue, and how to do “anatomy of a position paper” exercises to hone those critical thinking, reading, and writing skills. Also included on the CD is the CT Student Aids folder, containing 18 exercise worksheets. Critical Thinking is proven effective, by means of various CT assessment tests, at enhancing student’s reasoning skills. Critical Thinking is also available as a compressed, downloadable file, at the lowest possible price for students. For more information, and a free exam copy, visit http://www.critical-thinking-lab.com or email kpossin@winona.edu.

ISBN 0-9712355-0-3 Paperback version

Includes the same Critical Thinking CD as described above but with both etexts, Critical Thinking and Self-Defense: A Student Guide to Writing Position Papers, also in paperback. For more information, visit http://www.critical-thinking-lab.com or email kpossin@winona.edu.


Kevin Possin

ISBN 0-9712355-2-X Paperback version

ABSTRACT: Available separately. A step-by-step guide to writing argumentative essays and critical reviews, discussing the essential parts of a position paper, the various ways to organize one, how to discover and defend one’s position on an issue, and how to do “anatomy of a position paper” exercises to hone those reading and writing skills. A very efficient and affordable way of introducing critical thinking, reading, and writing skills into the curriculum of a critical thinking or introductory logic course, philosophy course, or any course whatsoever. Proven effective at enhancing student’s results on writing and reasoning projects and assessment and placement tests. For more information and a free exam copy, visit http://www.critical-thinking-lab.com or email kpossin@winona.edu.


Gary Seay & Susana Nuccetelli

2008, 592 pgs., Pearson Higher Education, ISBN 0321337778

ABSTRACT: How to Think Logically is a guide to the analysis, reconstruction, and evaluation of arguments. It is designed to help students learn to distinguish good reasoning from bad. The book is divided into four parts. The first is devoted to argument recognition and the building blocks of argument. Chapter 1 introduces argument analysis, focusing on argument recognition and the difference between formal and informal approaches to inference. Chapter 2 offers a closer look at the language that makes up an argument and examines such topics as logical strength, linguistic merit, rhetorical power, types of sentences, and uses of language. Chapter 3 considers epistemic aspects of the statements that are the components of an inference. It explains the assumption that when speakers are sincere and competent, what they state is what they believe, so that the epistemic virtues and vices of belief may also affect statements. Part II is devoted to analyzing deductive and inductive arguments. In addition to a standard treatment of these types of argument, it includes discussions of the principles of charity and faithfulness, extended arguments, enthymemes, and arguments with evaluative premises. In Part III, students are shown how some very basic confusions may lead to defective reasoning, and they learn to spot twenty of the most common informal fallacies. Part IV, which comprises Chapters 11 through 14, offers a feature many instructors will want: a detailed treatment of some common elementary procedures for determining validity in propositional logic and traditional syllogistic logic. Here students will be able to go well beyond the intuitive procedures learned in Chapter 5. The strengths of this book include:

  • Each chapter ends with a “Philosopher’s Corner” feature that enables students to learn about key areas of philosophy while they study informal logic. In this way, they may become interested in studying more philosophy.
  • Throughout the book, the writing style is clear and engaging. Students find that learning critical thinking skills can be fun.
  • Each of the book’s four parts is a self-contained unit. The topics are presented in a way that permits instructors to teach the chapters in different sequences and combinations, according to the needs of their courses.
  • There are abundant pedagogical aids in the book such as exercises, study questions, and lists of key expressions. At the end of each chapter is a chapter summary and a writing project. The book also has a detailed glossary of important terms.
  • The book contains only about as much material as could be covered in a 15-week semester, so students are not paying for extra material they’re unlikely to use.
  • The book is less expensive than any of its competitors, a feature that will appeal to students hit by the high cost of education in the current economy.
  • There is an extensive test bank and solutions to all exercises at the publisher’s website: http://www.pearsonhighered.com/product?ISBN=0321337778
  • Instructors can request a password and access that Instructor’s Manual for their classes or exams. The site is password protected.


Peg Tittle

2011; 442p; $59.95 pbk, $120.00 hardcover, Routledge, ISBN: 978-0-415-99714-0 pbk; 978-0-415-99713-3 hardcover

This book covers all the material typically addressed in first or second-year college courses in Critical Thinking: Chapter 1: Critical Thinking 1.1 What is critical thinking? 1.2 What is critical thinking not? Chapter 2: The Nature of Argument 2.1 Recognizing an Argument 2.2 Circular Arguments 2.3 Counterarguments 2.4 The Burden of Proof 2.5 Facts and Opinions 2.6 Deductive and Inductive Argument Chapter 3: The Structure of Argument 3.1 Convergent, Single 3.2 Convergent, Multiple 3.3 Divergent Chapter 4: Relevance 4.1 Relevance 4.2 Errors of Relevance Chapter 5: Language 5.1 Clarity 5.2 Neutrality 5.3 Definition Chapter 6: Truth and Acceptability 6.1 How do we define truth? 6.2 How do we discover truth? 6.3 How do we evaluate claims of truth? Chapter 7: Generalizations, Analogies, and General Principles 7.1 Sufficiency 7.2 Generalizations 7.3 Analogies 7.4 General Principles Chapter 8: Inductive Argument – Causal Reasoning 8.1 Causation 8.2 Explanations 8.3 Predictions, Plans, and Policies 8.4 Errors in Causal Reasoning (Three additional chapters – categorical logic, propositional logic, thinking critically about ethics – are available on the companion website.)

Special Features:

  • The book takes a practice approach to learning how to think critically, so there are LOTS of exercises (within each chapter, focusing on discrete skills, and at the end of each chapter, focusing on more global skills in a cumulative fashion – thinking critically about what one sees, hears, reads, writes, and discusses).
  • There is an extensive “Answers, Explanations, and Analyses” section that provides not just ‘the right answer’ but explanations as to why the right answer is right and why wrong answers are wrong; when the exercise is not a matter of providing an answer but of analyzing material, a detailed analysis is provided in this section; this feature is intended to help the student fully understand why some arguments are better than others (and why it’s not ‘just a matter of opinion’!).
  • The regularly-appearing end-of-chapter “Thinking critically when you discuss” exercise is carefully graduated throughout the text, to gently lead students from sounding like a bad tv talk show to being able to hold an intelligent discussion.
  • The regularly-appearing end-of-chapter “Thinking critically about what you write” exercise assumes almost no skill at the beginning and leads up to, in the last chapter, writing a 2,000 word position paper.

Texts Reviewed and Commented Upon

The AILACT Textbook Review Committee (Jim Freeman and Blair Goodlin) have received comments and reviews on the following texts in Critical Thinking and Informal Logic.


Leo Groarke and Christopher W. Tindale

4th ed. 2008, 488 pages, Oxford University Press, $59.95

Reviewed by: David Hitchcock

Appropriate courses: undergraduate service courses aimed at developing reasoning skills in students with no previous course in critical thinking

General Format: The book has 15 chapters. The first three focus on argument analysis: chapter 1 on finding arguments, chapter 2 on diagramming them, chapter 3 on making their implicit components explicit. There follow two chapters on semantic clarity (chapter 4) and identifying bias (chapter 5). The authors then turn to their framework for evaluating arguments as strong or weak, a framework described sketchily at first (in chapter 6) and in more detail later (chapter 11). In between come four rather technical chapters, two on categorical syllogisms (chapters 7 and 8) and two on propositional logic (chapters 9 and 10). Once the evaluative framework is introduced, more specific forms of argument are treated through the device of argument schemes, with a chapter each on empirical schemes (chapter 12), value schemes (chapter 13) and ethotic schemes (chapter 14). A final chapter (15) gives advice, with examples, on writing two types of argumentative essays: a critique of someone else’s argument and an argument of one’s own.

Exercises: Each chapter is divided into several sections, most of which are followed by useful exercises in applying the skill introduced in the section. There are answers to some exercises in the back of the book. Instructors can access answers to some but by no means all of the other exercises in a page on the Web accessible only with a password supplied to instructors.

Strengths: The book has lots of good and varied real examples, both in the instructional components and in the exercises. Its theoretical framework attends throughout to the rhetorical context of arguments: the arguer, the audience and the opponents of the arguer’s view. There is attention throughout to use of the skills in constructing one’s own arguments as well as in understanding and evaluating the arguments of others. The book integrates in a nice way the traditional view that conclusions can follow either deductively or inductively with the conditions introduced by Johnson and Blair in their Logical Self-Defence that a good argument has premisses that are separately acceptable and relevant and jointly sufficient. There is detailed discussion of many common argument schemes, such as generalization, polling, causal reasoning, hypothetico-deductive reasoning, arguments from analogy and arguments from authority.

Weaknesses: The framework for evaluating arguments is not fully articulated until chapter 11. The example in chapter 11 used in introducing the concept of a deductively valid argument is not in fact deductively valid. The chapters on propositional logic are inadequate as an introduction to formal propositional logic and unnecessarily introduce artificial symbols. The linked-convergent distinction is introduced as relevant to the evaluation of arguments, but it is never made clear how it is relevant. The division of non-deductive argument schemes into empirical, value and ethotic schemes is artificial and forced. In giving advice about writing an argumentative essay, the authors strangely fail to make use of their acceptability-relevance-sufficiency framework for evaluating arguments.

General evaluation: This book has valuable strengths. But it also has weaknesses, which may be remedied in the next edition.

The Adversarial Presentation of Fallacies of Argumentation

at Catherine E. Hundelby’s blog Critical Thinking ²

The Adversarial Presentation of Fallacies of Argumentation

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