Free books!

A range of free texts turn out to be available on the web.  Of course there is the risk that they’ll be pulled off line, so before adopting contact the authors to make sure that’s not a prospect.  There is also a cognitive prejudice against the quality of free things that may discourage you or your students, but hopefully we’re becoming accustomed enough to finding good free resources on the web to think past that bias.

Here are some I’ve skimmed for you, and list in the order of estimated utility:

  1. University of Oklahoma philosopher Chris Swoyer’s Critical Reasoning: A User’s Manual v.3 (2002).  A large and comprehensive book that I will give a whirl next time I teach a general CT class, and from which I will lift chapter 24 on “reasoning in groups” for my social epistemology course.  This book seems to offer great flexibility and the assurance of being authored by a well-established scholar in the relevant fields.  This book covers a great number of approaches and is one of only three philosophy CT textbooks I know of that addresses cognitive biases (the others being Tim Kenyon’s Clear Thinking in a Blurry World, Nelson, 2008 and Diane F. Halpern’s Thought and Knowledge Taylor & Francis, in several editions).
  2. Steve’s Primer of Practical Persuasion by blogger Steve Booth-Butterfield whose experience in policy and academics provides a lively and useful read.  Although philosophers traditionally disdain persuasion because of how it can undermine good reasoning, it can also be a force to encourage good reasoning; and understanding how it works is a valuable general form of critical thinking.  The brevity of Booth-Butterfield’s Primer also recommends it as a supplement to other texts. Revised in 2007?.
  3. Ed Brandon’s Argument Analysis, a very brief on-line introduction to many dimensions of argumentation. Chatty and accessible, with an emphasis on understanding each other and how our exchanges of reason can go wrong. Revised in 1988.
  4. Research Methods Knowledge Base on-line from a Cornell University social scientist, revised in 2006.  If you are teaching social science students, this may be useful as its all directed toward social research methods and seems quite comprehensive, including research ethics too.  It may also aid understanding of a perspective on “critical thinking” quite different from those common in philosophy.
  5. Introduction to Probability, second edition, by Charles M. Grinstead and J. Laurie Snell.  A downloadable pdf that looks like a good resource if you want to teach probability or numeracy. No date evident.