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Rational Episodes: Logic for the Intermittently Reasonable

Keith M. Parsons
Prometheus Books
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Underwood Dudley
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This book is a text for a course that may not be often offered. It is the analogue in logic of those courses called, informally or formally, “Physics for poets” — that is, it is a terminal course for students who have to satisfy a requirement. The catalog description of Philosophy 3231 at the University of Houston, Clear Lake, where the author teaches, matches the content of the text; no further courses on logic are offered. The requirements for the degree of bachelor of arts in humanities at UHCL include one course in philosophy.

The first six chapters of the book treat symbolic logic and include two-column proofs. The next two go into probability and Bayes’ theorem. The last seven deal with informal logic, fallacies, rhetoric, and the like and, unlike the first eight, have few or no exercises. The author says that “the instructor may wish to assign short papers or essays.” Their chapter titles are

  • Probability illusions: why we are so bad at inductive reasoning
  • “Studies have shown” … or have they?
  • Inference to the best explanation
  • Rhetoric: the art of persuasion
  • Won’t get fooled again (fallacies and other foibles)
  • Spin, spin, spin (or how not to be a sucker)
  • Everything you know is wrong! Pseudoscience and bogus scholarship

In the seven chapters the author explains, among other things, that a store advertising a sale with “up to 70% off” may not offer anything whose price has been reduced by 70%. Citizens should have such knowledge, but I am not sure that courses are needed to impart it.

I would have a difficult time teaching from this text, though I am sure that there are many who have no such disability. They should consider it if they need to teach a course that covers its material.

The publisher hints that the book is also for general readers, but I think it is too textbooky to appeal to them.

Woody Dudley taught his last class in 2004 and so will not be adopting this text. He doesn’t even need to think logically anymore.

The table of contents is not available.