The Power of Critical Thinking: Effective Reasoning About Ordinary and Extraordinary Claims / Edition 4

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The Power of Critical Thinking: Effective Reasoning About Ordinary and Extraordinary Claims explores the essentials of critical reasoning, argumentation, logic, and argumentative essay writing while also incorporating important topics that most other texts leave out, such as "inference to the best explanation," scientific reasoning, evidence and authority, visual reasoning, and obstacles to critical thinking.

The text integrates many pedagogical features, including hundreds of diverse exercises, examples, and illustrations; text boxes that apply critical thinking to student experience; step-by-step guidelines for evaluating claims, arguments, and explanations; a glossary of important terms; and many reminders, summaries, and review notes.


The text is supplemented by an Instructor's Manual and Test Bank in print and an Instructor's Manual with Computerized Test Bank on CD. The Computerized Test Bank is a completely customizable bank of questions to aid in the creation of exams and quizzes. Both versions of the Instructor's Manual feature notes on using the text effectively, sample syllabi, links to websites of interest, lectures in PowerPoint format, chapter summaries, and answers to the exercises in the text.

A Companion Website at includes all of the information found in the Instructor's Manual. It also offers a student study guide featuring a summary of the main points of each chapter, study questions, short review quizzes, flashcards, web links, and additional chapter exercises.

Course Cartridges for a variety of e-learning environments allow instructors to create their own course websites with the interactive material from the instructor and student companion websites.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Power of Critical Thinking is unique with its diverse collection of exercises—including field problems, writing exercises, and quizzes—which facilitate students' digestion of the material. I love the design. Both the photos and the art are helpful."—Stephen K. Ma, California State University, Los Angeles

"This book is very successful in its presentation of inference to the best explanation. It also does an excellent job of teaching writing skills along with critical-thinking skills. I highly recommend this text for its engaging writing style, clear layout, and variety of possible in-class and online exercises and assignments."—Carol McGury, DePaul University

"This is a very good text that covers the material clearly. So far this is the best such text I've seen."—Joseph Monast, Modesto Junior College

"Most importantly, this book provides well-organized skill-building exercises and resources that are essential to any critical-thinking class."—Marlisa Moschella, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199856671
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/31/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 624
  • Sales rank: 60,890
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lewis Vaughn is the author or coauthor of several books, including Philosophy Here and Now: Powerful Ideas in Everyday Life (2012), Contemporary Moral Arguments, Second Edition (2012), Great Philosophical Arguments (2011), Philosophy: The Quest for Truth, Eighth Edition (2011), and The Moral Life, Fourth Edition (2010), all published by Oxford University Press.

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Table of Contents

*=New to this Edition
1. The Power of Critical Thinking
Why It Matters
How It Works
Claims and Reasons
Reasons and Arguments
Arguments in the Rough
Key Words
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Writing Assignments
2. Obstacles to Critical Thinking
Psychological Obstacles
The Almighty Self
The Power of the Group
Philosophical Obstacles
Subjective Relativism
Social Relativism
Key Words
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Integrative Exercises
Writing Assignments
3. Making Sense of Arguments
Argument Basics
Judging Arguments
Finding Missing Parts
Argument Patterns
Diagramming Arguments
Assessing Long Arguments
Key Words
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Integrative Exercises
Writing Assignments
4. Reasons for Belief and Doubt
When Claims Conflict
Experts and Evidence
Personal Experience
Innumeracy and Probability
Fooling Ourselves
Resisting Contrary Evidence
Looking for Confirming Evidence
Preferring Available Evidence
Claims in the News
Inside the News
Sorting Out the News
Advertising and Persuasion
Misleading Comparisons
Weasel Words
Key Words
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Integrative Exercises
Writing Assignments
5. Fallacies and Persuaders
Fallacies: Irrelevant Premises
Genetic Fallacy
Appeal to the Person
Appeal to Popularity
Appeal to Tradition
Appeal to Ignorance
Appeal to Emotion
Red Herring
Straw Man
* Two Wrongs Make a Right
Fallacies: Unacceptable Premises
Begging the Question
False Dilemma
* Decision-Point Fallacy
Slippery Slope
Hasty Generalization
Faulty Analogy
* Persuaders: Rhetorical Moves
* Innuendo
* Euphemisms and Dysphemisms
* Stereotyping
* Ridicule
* Rhetorical Definitions
Key Words
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Integrative Exercises
Writing Assignments
6. Deductive Reasoning: Propositional Logic
Connectives and Truth Values
Checking for Validity
Simple Arguments
Tricky Arguments
Streamlined Evaluation
Key Words
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Integrative Exercises
Writing Assignments
7. Deductive Reasoning: Categorical Logic
Statements and Classes
Translations and Standard Form
Diagramming Categorical Statements
Sizing Up Categorical Syllogisms
Key Words
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Integrative Exercises
Writing Assignments
8. Inductive Reasoning
Enumerative Induction
Sample Size
Opinion Polls
Analogical Induction
Causal Arguments
Testing for Causes
Causal Confusions
Necessary and Sufficient Conditions
Key Words
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Integrative Exercises
Writing Assignments
9. Inference to the Best Explanation
Explanations and Inference
Theories and Consistency
Theories and Criteria
Telling Good Theories from Bad
A Doomed Flight
An Amazing Cure
Key Words
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Integrative Exercises
Writing Assignments
10. Judging Scientific Theories
Science and Not Science
The Scientific Method
Testing Scientific Theories
Judging Scientific Theories
Copernicus Versus Ptolemy
Evolution Versus Creationism
Science and Weird Theories
Making Weird Mistakes
Leaping to the Weirdest Theory
Mixing What Seems with What Is
Misunderstanding the Possibilities
Judging Weird Theories
Crop Circles
Talking with the Dead
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Integrative Exercises
Writing Assignments
11. Critical Thinking in Morality and the Law
Moral Arguments
Moral Premises
Moral Theories
Evaluating Moral Theories
Two Important Theories
* Legal Reasoning
A Coherent Worldview
Key Words
Field Problems
Self-Assessment Quiz
Integrative Exercises
Writing Assignments
Appendix A: Essays for Evaluation
1. "Death Penalty Discriminates Against Black Crime Victims," USA Today
2. "Marine Parks," Bill Daly
* 3. "A Feminist Defense of Pornography," Wendy McElroy
* 4. "A Defense of Homosexuality," John Corvino
5. "More Innocents Die When We Don't Have Capital Punishment," Dennis Prager
* 6. "What's Wrong with Adultery?" Bonnie Steinbock
* 7. "A Pat-Down Is Better than a Blow-Up," Caroline Baum
8. "The Cohabitation Epidemic," Neil Clark Warren
* 9. "Not Being Vaccinated Is Not Acceptable," David Ropeik
* 10. "Women and the Afghanistan Peace Process," Ann Jones
11. "A Deviance from God's Norm," Richard Land
12. "Marriage Still Evolving, as Ever," Buffalo News
13. "Slouching Toward Chimeras," Jeremy Rifkin
* 14. "Fighting Islamic Extremists Who Stifle Free Speech," Ayaan Hirsi and Daniel Huff
* 15. "Is Sluttishness a Feminist Statement?" Wendy Kaminer
16. "Torture: Time for Congress to End the Debate," USA Today
17. "Torture: Severe Interrogations Work," Trent Franks
18. "Freedom of Expression: Protect Student Speech—Even 'Unwise' Bong Banner," USA Today
19. "Freedom of Expression: Policy Reflects Common Sense," Kenneth W. Starr
* 20. "It's Irresponsible to Spread Fear of Vaccine," USA Today
21. "Flag Amendment: Flag Needs Protection," Dianne Feinstein
Appendix B: Answers to Exercises
Appendix C: Answers to Self-Assessment Quizzes
Appendix D: Critical Thinking and Writing

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