Review: How to become a really good pain in the ass

    After reading the title to Christopher DiCarlo’s book How to become a really good pain in the ass : a critical thinker’s guide to asking the right questions I really wanted to read it, I wanted to like it. I have been working on my critical thinking skills for years so this is not my first exposure to it. I was hoping that DiCarlo’s style, judging from the title, would put a new spin on the things.


    DiCarlo divided the book into three sections, the first, which until I looked back at the table of contents I felt was the shortest, looks at the nuts and bolts concepts involved in critical thinking. It was wonderful, the explanations were fresh and relevant and most important, clear. The second sections was a brief look at the founders of critical thinking, DiCarlo calls them “the best damn pains in the ass in history.” I think Socrates deserves better but I am not an undergraduate anymore and that is the audience DiCarlo is writing for. The third section, well, that is where things started to go wrong.


    In the introduction DiCarlo discusses what he calls the 5 Big Questions, What can I know, why am I here, what am I, how should I behave, and what is to come of me? Interesting questions that DiCarlo examines in great detail in the final section of his book. Very soon it is obvious that the book has changed into a long, long argument against superstition. Specifically the superstitions that many people call religions. I have two problems with this tactic.


    First, DiCarlo wasted both his and the readers time as well as a small forest of trees. Early in the section he said all that needs to be said, there is no evidence supporting any claims of any supernatural creator, it is strictly a matter of faith.There is no way to prove the existence of a creator and there is no way to prove that there is no creator. There you go, the argument is a logical stalemate, why waste time on it?


    Second, if moving superstitious thinkers to adopt critical thinking is your goal, alienating them is not the way to do it. The book would have been much better if it had included examples of diagramming arguments and practice detecting fallacies and building strong arguments. Teach a man to fish and all that. Teach a man to think critically and one day he will turn it on his superstitions.


    I find that I have to give each section its own recommendation, the first is wonderful, if you are at all interested in the topic read this. The second is an adequate introduction to the founders of critical thinking. I recommend you avoid the third, all I can say about it is that it is a waste of time. Book cover


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