About the Book

Among the distinguishing features of this book are several elements that are often absent in other texts:

  1. Comprehensive coverage of inference to the best explanation. This textbook gives considerable attention (three chapters) to inference to the best explanation because (i) it is probably the type of inference that students use most, (ii) it can be especially fertile ground for diverse cases and examples that students are likely to find intriguing, and (iii) it implies a framework for thinking about claims and theories as well as a method for assessing their worth. Step-by-step instructions and plentiful examples show students how to use this kind of inference to assess theories and claims in science, pseudoscience, ethics, medicine, the media, popular culture, and many other arenas.

  2. Extensive treatment of scientific reasoning. Almost all of the reviewers of this book expressed strong approval of the broad coverage of science and scientific reasoning. The text offers a chapter each on inductive reasoning and causal arguments (Chapter 8), scientific theories and inference (Chapter 9), and scientific method and theory evaluation (Chapter 10). Extended examples show how scientific reasoning can be applied to a wide range of questions in many scientific fields, everyday life, and even the realm of extraordinary phenomena.

  3. Across-the-curriculum learning. A deliberate strategy of this book is to help students apply critical thinking principles across a broad spectrum of disciplines and subjects and, in the process, to show them that such skills are broadly applicable to their lives and useful in a wide variety of interesting, real-world contexts. So the book’s examples, exercises, and discussions are purposely skewed toward material drawn from politics, pop culture, philosophy, ethics, the news media, the Internet, pseudoscience, the paranormal, science, medicine, and more.

  4. Emphasis on evaluation of evidence, authority, and credibility. Throughout this text (and especially in Chapter 4) considerable ink is expended to show students how to assess the evidence and claims proffered by experts, science, the news media, and personal experience. In each case, the relevant principles or procedures are explained and illustrated.

  5. Progressive, stand-alone writing modules. Here you will find a different strategy for getting students to write intelligibly. Rather than relegating material on writing to a separate chapter (the usual practice), this text introduces the rudiments of argumentative essay writing in five end-of-chapter writing lessons, or modules. Each one is designed to help the student think about, plan, and write good argumentative essays—and to do so with a minimum of instructor input. The modules are progressive, starting in Chapter 1 with a few fundamentals of the writing process and then later (in Chapters 2, 3, and 4) covering basic guidelines and concepts that can help students think critically and write intelligently about arguments and issues. The module in Chapter 5 contains an annotated student paper illustrating many of the points made in earlier modules. Though the modules are linked in some fashion to material in their corresponding chapters, they are meant to serve as a stand-alone (though cumulative) tutorial to be used as the instructor sees fit, and at any point in the course. The main idea behind the modules is to help instructors get students writing quickly and progressing rapidly to more challenging writing assignments—without stopping the course to teach a chapter on writing.

  6. Large and diverse collections of exercises. There are hundreds of exercises, drawn from a wide range of sources and configured in a variety of forms, with selected answers given at the back of the book (Appendix B). For the most part, within each chapter the exercises are presented progressively, from simple to complex, elementary to more advanced, and familiar to unusual. The exercise types vary widely. The following are some of the more ambitious ones:

    • Field problems—exercises that ask students to apply their new skills to claims, arguments, and essays found outside the classroom, on the Internet, and in newspapers, magazines, books, and other sources.
    • Integrative exercises—exercise sets that overlap with material in previous chapters, reinforcing not only the current lessons but earlier ones as well.
    • Writing exercises—writing assignments that ask students to write argumentative essays on selected topics or on arguments presented in the short essays found at the back of the book (Appendix A).
    • Self-assessment quizzes—end-of-chapter tests that allow students to gauge their understanding of the material.

  7. A chapter on the “environment” of critical thinking. In Chapter 2 students will find a review of many of the factors that may impede critical thinking—bias, habit, tradition, emotion, skewed perceptions, rationalizations, and certain philosophical outlooks. Along with explanations of how these factors affect thinking, there are suggestions on how to avoid or minimize them.

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