A Change of Mind

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    • $25.99

Publisher Description

This is an unusual book—in many respects. It's born out of a frustration teaching Critical Thinking courses over the years and feeling that the most interesting issues raised in those courses are typically either ignored altogether, or quickly brushed aside, by the 'normal' Critical Thinking text. The effect was that a Critical Thinking course was a smattering of Baby Logic, some very simple Intro to Statistics and Probability, add in the usual Informal Fallacies and some beating up on the Media and Politicians, and you've got the course. If, as a teacher, one sticks to this ordinary canon, one can quickly become either stupefied (taking with oneself a good portion of the students) or one can take flight into invigorating tangents relating to real philosophical meat, but in so doing, leave the text long behind.

The goal of this book is to avoid the former predicament by never losing sight of the latter opportunity. The subject of becoming a more rational thinker should be treated as a coherent project, with a coherent theme. The central theme of the book, its organizing thought, is that Critical Thinking and Rationality more generally can be resolved down to the question of when, where, and in response to what should one change their mind. With that as the guiding concern, all of the typical issues addressed in a normal Critical Thinking course (The Analysis of Arguments, Validity, Induction, The Basics of Probability, A Smattering of Formal Logic, Informal Fallacies, etc.) find their natural place. But where that place requires taking a stand on something of philosophical interest (what is Probability?, are there Real Essences?, what is Science?), stands are accepted, or at least not hidden.

The basic outline of the book is a dialogue between two students interested in enrolling in a Critical Thinking course and a professor who teaches it. The question is really one that I had heard often before I started this: What is a Critical Thinking course about? With that as the narrative drive, the book proceeds, via 10 dialogues, to try to answer that question. In answering it, en passant, the content of the course is presented as a coherent and flowing concern.

The Table of Important Topics above gives a running outline of each dialogue with each of those topics marked in the text by a marginal note. Dialogues can be hard to navigate so it's hoped that those notes, along with a searchable Table of Contents and the Control-F function, can help both instructor and student find their way through the text. Because of that wondrous function, there's no need for an Index either.

For the instructor, as unusual in format as it is for this kind of a course, it probably needs reminding that this is used as a text. It's obviously not the typical text, with homework questions in each section, study guides, and the like. As valuable as all of that can be, I prefer, when using this work as a text, to ask students to provide their own examples of the concepts treated, rather than present examples and have them guess as to what concept is in play. This may generate more work for the teacher, but, in my experience, it asks more of the student and gets more out of them.

For the student, it's important to note that no one character in these dialogues has the answer. All three interlocutors are earnestly trying to make these ideas come out in a clear and coherent fashion. It all comes back to the central question: When and how should one change one's mind? In that quest, all three contribute and none is working against each other.

December 9
Stephan F. Johnson
Draft2Digital, LLC

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