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Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict

Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict

by Bruce N. Waller, Bruce N. Waller

Readers learn to analyze, understand, and construct the sound arguments that are vital to our lives as citizens and consumers, jurors and voters. The author also explains how to detect argument errors and deceptions.

The Fourth Edition features:

  • extensive new material throughout
  • an entirely new chapter on thinking


Readers learn to analyze, understand, and construct the sound arguments that are vital to our lives as citizens and consumers, jurors and voters. The author also explains how to detect argument errors and deceptions.

The Fourth Edition features:

  • extensive new material throughout
  • an entirely new chapter on thinking critically with statistics
  • dozens of exercises from criminal and civil trials, Supreme Court decisions, and contemporary social debates.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Excellent: explanations are very clear; end of section exercises reinforce the material in the text very effectively; diagrams and inset examples are also helpful” —Victoria Rogers, Indiana University- Perdue University Indianapolis

“I really liked the way Waller uses a court of law to organize this text.” —Eli Kanon, University of North Florida

“I have been using Waller's book (4th and 5th editions) for years and I find it is an excellent way to introduce critical thinking to students and to show the importance of it in daily life. I especially like how he reasons out in words truth table reasoning rather than simply teaching it as a plug and chug methods.” —Jean Miller, Virginia Tech

“I like the pedagogy of the book. Having used it in the past, it worked quite well.” —Glenn Sanford, Sam Houston State University

“The first half of the text focuses on how to recognize and construct a good argument, while the second half of the text deals with how to recognize and avoid bad arguments." —Chris Clayton, Portland Community College

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Older Edition
Product dimensions:
7.03(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.87(d)

Read an Excerpt

Critical thinking is a valuable skill: whether you are deciding what toothpaste to use or what stocks to buy; which job to pursue or which courses you should take; what candidate to vote for or what cause to support; or which reports to believe and which claims to reject. But one of the most important places for careful critical thinking is in the jury room. Serving on a jury is one of the most significant and basic ways that citizens actively participate in their government, and effective jury service requires a great deal of citizens. Jurors must set aside any biases and judge the issues fairly; they must reason carefully about what laws are involved, and how those laws apply to the particulars of the case at hand; they must evaluate testimony, and weigh both its accuracy and its relevance; they must give a fair hearing to both sides, distinguish sound from erroneous arguments, and ultimately reach a just and reasonable conclusion.

The courtroom demands a high level of critical thinking skill, and it is also a fascinating place for studying the key elements of critical thinking: determining exactly what the conclusion is and who bears the burden of proving it; separating false claims from reliable information; and distinguishing between erroneous and compelling arguments. The skills that make you an effective juror will also make you an intelligent consumer, an effective planner, and a wise citizen.

Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict, Fifth Edition uses the jury room as the focus for developing basic skills in critical thinking, but it does not stop there. Those skills are also applied to the various arguments and issues that arise in our daily lives as consumers, students, investors, planners, and citizens. Thus, while the courtroom provides the overall framework, most of the exercises and examples are drawn from advertisements, social debates, political campaigns, and editorials. Critical thinking skills are valuable in the jury room, but they are also valuable in the classroom, the boardroom, the laboratory, and the shopping mall.

This book provides a solid and substantial introduction to critical thinking, and Chapters 8 and 9 offer instruction in symbolic logic. Chapters 8 and 9 are se contained, and you may do either or both at any point. If you wish to concentrate on informal logic, you may skip Chapters 8 and 9 altogether. The boxed exercises and examples scattered throughout the text are not essential to understanding the chapters, but they do present some interesting material and challenging questions. You can skip them, but you'll miss a lot of the fun.

Meet the Author

In This Section:

I. Author Bio

II. Author Letter

I. Author Bio

Dr. Bruce N. Waller is Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University. He received his Ph.D. in 1979 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His other works include Consider Ethics: Theory, Readings, and Contemporary Issues, Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict, You Decide! Current Debates in Criminal Justice, You Decide! Current Debates in Contemporary Moral Problems, You Decide! Current Debates in Introductory Philosophy, You Decide! Current Debates in Ethics, Coffee and Philosophy: A Conversational Introduction to Philosophy with Readings, and Against Moral Responsibility.

II. Author Letter

Dear Colleagues,

I’ve taught a wide range of philosophy courses, including Intro to Philosophy, Bioethics, Logic, and Ethical theory. All those courses are fun and I’ve been lucky to have students who seem to genuinely enjoy studying philosophy. The course I teach most often, Critical Thinking, is the course my students usually enjoy the most. It’s a course in which you can actually watch students become significantly more confident and more effective in critical thinking. Above all, it is a course in which students never pose that dreadful philosophical query: Is this course really relevant to my life?

It’s no accident that courtroom dramas dominate popular television. The courtroom an ideal setting for the careful study of critical thinking: first, because students find the setting interesting and have no doubt of its importance; and second, because so many key issues in critical thinking are played out in jury deliberations. Jurors must be able to detect misleading and ambiguous statements, separate relevant from irrelevant material, keep in mind who does and does not bear the burden of proof, understand the judge’s instructions, weigh the strengths and weaknesses of appeals to authority, and not only identify fallacies but also understand and appreciate legitimate arguments.

The 6th edition of Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict, like the previous editions, uses the courtroom and the jury room as a laboratory for work on critical thinking. But as in earlier editions, it is clear that the critical deliberations of the courtroom are not the only place that critical thinking is important, and they are certainly not the settings in which most students will use their critical thinking skills most of the time. Critical thinking is also important in evaluating commercials, deciding how to vote and considering major social issues. Thus while Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict, 6th editionuses the courtroom and the jury room to study and exercise critical thinking skills, the great majority of the examples and exercises come from other sources: advertisements, political campaigns, letters to the editor, editorials, and ordinary discussions.

There are new exercises and examples in every chapter of the new edition, but the most significant change from earlier editions is more attention to cooperative critical thinking. The adversarial system that dominates legal proceedings and drives political campaigns is often valuable. Adversarial argument is by no means the only type of argument, discussion and inquiry we pursue, and even the legal process has in many cases moved toward more cooperative proceedings. And of course, in discussions among friends and family and colleagues, we often find a cooperative discussion, which seeks shared benefits and emphasizes common goals, more valuable than an adversarial process which results in winners and losers.

I would be delighted to hear from anyone reviewing, teaching, or studying this book, and am always happy to receive suggestions for improvements as well as new examples for analysis. My email is bnwaller@ysu.edu.


Bruce N. Waller

Youngstown State University

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