Straight and Crooked Thinking

Straight and Crooked Thinking is a practical book for ’the man in the street’ and everyone who has occasion to discuss controversial topics either in the course of business or merely in talking with friends will benefit from reading it.

The author writes as a psychologist, believing that what usually interferes with correct thinking is the tendency to be dominated by psychological factors. He shows, for instance, how the use of words with emotional meanings can obscure the real facts, and how fallacies in argument can mislead an unwary audience.

He points out how diverse are the meanings attached by different people to such words as democracy, religion, freedom, etc.

After chapters on definition, suggestion, habits of thought and prejudice, etc. he lists 38 dishonest tricks commonly used in argument and the methods of overcoming them, and ends with an imaginary discussion between a businessman, a clergyman, and a professor which he has invented to illustrate the various kinds of crooked thinking.

Book Contents

  • Preface
  • 1 Emotional Meanings
  • 2 All And Some
  • 3 Some Dishonest Tricks In Argument
  • 4 Some Logical Fallacies
  • 5 Tricks Of Suggestion
  • 6 Habits Of Thought
  • 7 Tabloid Thinking
  • 8 Pitfalls In Analogy
  • 9 On Drawing The Line
  • 10 Vagueness And Related Evils
  • 11 Prejudice
  • 12 The Need For Straight Thinking
  • Appendix I. Thirty-four Dishonest Tricks Which Are Commonly Used In Argument, With The Methods Of Overcoming Them
    • 1 The use of emotionally toned words
    • 2 Taking a statement in which ‘all’ is implied but ‘some’ is true
    • 3 Proof by selected instances
    • 4 Extension of an opponent’s proposition by contradiction or by misrepresentation of it
    • 5 Evasion of a sound refutation of an argument by the use of a sophistical formula
    • 6 Diversion to another question, to a side issue, or by irrelevant objection
    • 7 Proof by inconsequent argument
    • 8 The recommendation of a position because it is a mean between two extremes
    • 9 The use of a syllogism with undistributed middle term or other argument of unsound form
    • 10 Argument in a circle
    • 11 Begging the question
    • 12 Suggestion by repeated affirmation
    • 13 Suggestion by use of a confident manner
    • 14 Suggestion by prestige
    • 15 Prestige by false credentials
    • 16 Prestige by the use of pseudo-technical jargon
    • 17 Affectation of failure to understand backed by prestige
    • 18 The use of questions drawing out damaging admissions
    • 19 The appeal to mere authority
    • 20 Overcoming resistance to a doubtful proposition by a preliminary statement of a few easily accepted ones
    • 21 Statement of a doubtful proposition in such a way that it fits in with the thought habits or the prejudices of the hearer
    • 22 The use of generally accepted tabloids of thought as premisses in argument
    • 23 “There is much to be said on both sides; so I shall make no decision either way,” or any other formula leading to academic detachment from practical life
    • 24 Argument by imperfect analogy
    • 25 Argument by forced analogy
    • 26 The use of a dilemma which ignores a continuous series of possibilities between the two extremes presented
    • 27 The use of the fact of continuity between them to throw doubt on a real difference between two things (the ‘argument of the beard’)
    • 28 Illegitimate use of or demand for definition
    • 29 Ambiguity, vagueness, or meaninglessness in the terms used in argument
    • 30 Speculative argument
    • 31 Angering an opponent in order that he may argue badly
    • 32 Special pleading
    • 33 Commanding or condemning a proposition because of its practical consequences to the hearer
    • 34 Argument by attributing prejudices or motives to one’s opponent
  • Appendix II. A Discussion Illustrating Crooked Thinking
  • Copyright Notice

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