A Rulebook for Arguments (Fourth Edition) by Anthony Weston

A Rulebook for Arguments

Anthony Weston encourages the use of representative examples and counterexamples, warns of the hazards of statistics (like I recently have), imparts the importance of impartial and reliable sources, explains the correlational relationship between cause and effect, presents deductive reasoning in the words of Sherlock Holmes, preaches the value of librarians, and can teach a thing or two to Badly Behaving Authors.

Criticisms and suggestions, as always, are welcome. ~ Page x, from the Preface

Writers –at all levels–need feedback. It is through others’ eyes that you can see best where you are unclear or hasty of just plain implausible. Feedback improves your logic too. Objections may come up that you hadn’t expected. Premises you thought were secure may turn out to need defending, while other premises may turn out to be more secure than they seemed. You may even pick up a dew new facts or examples. Feedback is a “reality check” all the way around –welcome it. ~ page 64, Rule 38

The Some Common Fallacies chapter is excellent. The examples I run into the most:

ad hominem

On the Big Benefits Row Live, Katie Hopkins (a vile woman) responded to Annabel Giles’s well-reasoned argument with a personal insult instead of refuting the argument: “All I hear is somebody that wanted to be a model, but didn’t make it.” (Er, she was the face of Max Factor, I think she ‘made it’.)

ad misericordiam

One word: X-Factor. The sob stories ‘appealing to pity as an argument for special treatment.’

ad populum

“Everyone’s doing it!” Sex (for teenagers). Brazilian waxes. iPhones. ‘…appealing to a person to go along with the crowd.’

As the author invites criticism, I have only one complaint: No forms of cognitive bias were included. Bias is explicitly mentioned once, during the introduction of section IV on Sources. I’ve tried to find a book that does include them and this was, in the end, the most likely candidate to cover this topic, so I’m a tad disappointed.

A Rulebook for Arguments really is what it says, a short and concise, but easy to understand, list of rules on how to construct a solid argument.

Recommended to everyone 12+, including authors of both fiction and non-fiction, for everything from a short and simple discussion to essays, oral presentations, and dissertations.

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