Critical Inquiry

The Process of Argument

Michael Boylan

First Edition • August 1, 2009 • 224 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813344522 • $32.00 USD$67.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780786751464 • $19.99 USD$22.99 CAN


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This informative book is a necessary companion for anyone seeking to uncover the secret of successful persuasion: to organize, construct, and communicate arguments. It is at once comprehensive and accessible, an authoritative guide to logical thinking and effective communication. First, the text defines the nature and uses of argument, explaining how to read argument carefully. Such analysis then requires the student to reconstruct arguments in his or her own words. Finally, the reader is taught how to create a critical, reasoned response, thus constructing his or her own argument. To increase its accessibility and expand its range of application, Critical Inquiry uses (in addition to textual examples) advertisements from print media as “texts” for applying its principles to subjects outside the traditional mode of academic presentation. Throughout, carefully selected reading questions and exercises pace the reader and ensure that the material is securely grasped and successfully applied.

Michael Boylan received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and is professor of philosophy at Marymount University. He is the author of The Extinction of Desire (2007) and A Just Society (2004) in addition to nineteen other books and more than ninety articles in philosophy and literature.


Part One: Reading the Text
1. Confronting the Text
2. Critical Reading: Worldviews, Fallacies, and the Common Body of Knowledge
3. Confronting Media

Part Two: Reconstructing the Text
4. Deductive Logical Outlining
5. Inductive Logical Outlining
6. Confronting Media

Part Three: Responding to the Text
7. Finding Out What You Believe
8. The Con Essay
9. The Pro Essay

Appendix: The Big Picture

“[An] excellent and practical introduction to critical thinking … Boylan doesn’t limit his analysis to academic writings but instead includes examples of critical inquiry to evaluate the arguments and claims in advertising, the media, and phishing emails. … Although the intended audience is students who need to write and understand argumentative essays, anyone interested in understanding and responding to claims they encounter through the media will find it highly rewarding.” —Library Journal

“Students asked to read and critically respond to an argumentative text now have a guide that is both informative and engaging. This is a book that I would recommend to anyone attempting to understand logical argument and prepare for a written assignment.”
—Shaun D. Pattinson, Durham University, UK

“Michael Boylan’s Critical Inquiry provides clear and concise explanations of critical thinking, critical reading, and argumentation. The interactive text encourages the reader to respond to and practice the concepts being discussed, most notably through the use of real world examples like advertisements and ‘phishing’ emails.”
—Chad Barbour, Lake Superior State University

Critical Inquiry offers an excellent introduction to the principles of good thinking and clear writing. Michael Boylan’s precise, witty prose reveals the shape of rigorous thinking in the context of everyday discourse. I highly recommend this book for teaching and for general readers interested in sharpening their skills in self-expression and persuasion.”
—Rich Halverson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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