“Bad Arguments” (a book by Ali Almossawi)

I received a new book today as a present[i]: “(An illustrated book of) Bad Arguments” (Ali Almossawi 2013) [ii]. I wish I’d had it for the critical thinking class I just completed! Here’s the illustration it gives for “hasty generalization”.

hasty 001

The author allows it to be accessed here, I just discovered.

But it’s not just a clever book of cartoons: it does a better job than most texts in its conception of bad inductive arguments. Recall my post, “A critical Look at Critical Thinking”–prior to the start of my class–in which I explained why critical thinking is actually a sophisticated affair that philosophers have never fully sorted out. (We may teach it before “baby (symbolic) logic”, but it’s really very grown-up.) I gave my recommendation there as to where probability ought to enter in understanding bad (inductive) arguments, and Almossawi’s conception is in sync with mine[iii]. The inductive qualification is on the mode of inferring, rather than on the conclusion (or inferential claim H) itself*. The difference might seem subtle, but I swear it’s at the heart of many contemporary controversies about statistical inference, and the most serious among them.

[i] From Aris Spanos—thanks Aris.

[ii] Ali Almossawi, whom I never heard of before, has masters degrees in engineering/CS from MIT and CMU, and is a data visualization designer. The illustrator is: Alejandro Giraldo
[iii] I haven’t read all of it, but I doubt I’ll find any howlers.

*About the mode of inferring: What’s its capability to have avoided (alerted us to) the ways it would be wrong to infer H (from the data).


Categories: critical thinking, Statistics

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One thought on ““Bad Arguments” (a book by Ali Almossawi)

  1. A slightly shorter cartoon alternative: http://existentialcomics.com/comic/9

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