22 November 2007

Straight & Crooked Thinking

Following a request from Dylan Dog, I thought I would post a short bit about one of my favourite books of all time. Yes, The God Delusion is good. Yes, Moby Dick is sublime. Yes, the Bible is lots of fun (as long as you don't take it too seriously). But this book is a concise work of supreme genius.

What book?

Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert Henry Thouless.

It's pretty difficult to get hold of these days - inexplicably it is no longer available in cheap paperback. The edition I have was £1.95 in 1974 (by Pan Books), but the heritage of this treasure goes back to the 1930s, when the rise of crooked thinking was poisoning Europe, and indeed copies of the original edition were distributed to British troops to help them counter Nazi propaganda. There followed significant revisions in 1953 and 1974, and Thouless's son Christopher published a revised and edited edition in the 1990s (which I haven't read).

If you are a publisher, buy the rights to this book, and put it back on the mass market, where it belongs!

It is neither a dry nor weighty tome, but is jam-packed with raw rational sense. It will give you techniques for identifying fallacies and false arguments. It will help protect you from the devious subterfuges of politicians and preachers, journalists and jingoists. It is sweet manna from a rational heaven. Thouless describes 38 dishonest tricks that are commonly used in arguments (there may be more). You can have a look at the list here: http://www.246.dk/38tricks.html - see how many you can spot the next time you're listening to a creationist (or anyone, for that matter).

I am serious. Someone really needs to mass-produce this book again, and get it on every bookshelf on the planet.


  1. Amenhotep

    thanks for that-will try and get a copy and thanks for the link to the fallacious arguments.

    One book which had a profound effect on me was Carl Sagan s 'Demon Haunted World'-don't know if you have read it but I found it excellent and one of the few(if only) books that I have read 3 times.

    His kit for spotting horseshit is...




  2. Yes indeed - DHW is a favourite of mine too. A very good book. Buy it here, folks!

    I recently stumbled across another funny blog that people might enjoy: http://questiondarwin.blogspot.com - see how many fallacious arguments you can spot (how high can you count??)

  3. Hi Amenhotep,

    Goodness there are a LOT of fallacies in that link! Hitler/Darwin etc

    Was having another think about books that aid critical thinking and I liked 'How Mumbo Jumbo conquered the World' by Francis Wheen-which can be bought here...


    And I am a recent subscriber to sceptical inquirer magazine which can be subscribed to here...


    (Think I have given up on PB-a complete lost cause)



  4. Not sure if this is legal or not but:


  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Uncle BobSquatch said...

    I just had dinner last night (Monday, Aug 22 2011) with David (Robert's Wolfe prize-winning Physicist son).

    He assured me that his younger brother is going to ensure that the new release of this book will be unsuccessful, since he hasn't promoted it at all.

    I'm going to share info for his brother to get help in promoting the book, and I sincerely hope it does well.

    - rkrii
    Missoula, MT

  7. http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Clear_Thinking/Informal_Fallacies/Tricks/tricks.html

    since http://www.246.dk/38tricks.html is gone(?)

  8. Thanks Analyst - that website looks like a really interesting resource! I would strongly encourage everyone to get at least some level of grounding in Semitic languages, of which Hebrew and Arabic are the most important.

    The Thouless book is great - it has been re-released, so I need to do a re-review :-)

  9. (The theology is somewhat nutty however, but then that is arguably a tautology)

  10. wonderful book, read it many times as a ebook of the old edition. There are many books on logic more comprehensive but few if any as readable and memorable. finally available as a hard copy.
    helps me defend Catholicism against heresies, false religions, and atheists.
    nothing contrary to reason in the Catholic faith rightly understood.

  11. I just bought a Kindle copy on Amazon.

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