168: The Art of Deception by Nicholas Capaldi

by Gerard

168: Capaldi, Nicholas. The Art of Deception: An Introduction to Critical Thinking. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1987.  204 pp. ISBN 0-87975-424-9.

Dewey Construction:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 160: Logic
  • 168: Argument and persuasion

So much of our discourse nowadays (and especially during an election year) is focused on convincing people that your point-of-view or opinion is better or more valid than someone else’s. The ability to break down an argument into its logical pieces and understand whether it is fundamentally sound is a precious one to have. Luckily, Nicholas Capaldi is here to help.

The Art of Deception starts with the premise that language needs to be understood at its fundamental levels in order to arrive at a concept of communicational logic. So, that part’s a little dry. But then, he goes into all the different ways that logic works in speech and how to accurately construct a valid logical argument. These parts are fun. Just saying the phrase “violation of the rule of the undistributed middle” makes you feel like you a better command of the language.

Then, things get weird. Apparently, the rest of this book is for debate club members or beginning lawyers because Capaldi starts to incorporate all the ways to deconstruct another person’s argument through various methods that seek to either discredit the opponent or, at the very least, make them seem more wrong than you. He also starts instructing the reader on how to combine theatrics and underhanded strategies in order to achieve some imaginary victory. The language takes on a very slimy tone in this section.

In short, the book offers good tips on how to critically read or listen to an argument. That part I liked. Everything after that left a bad taste in my mouth.