Introduction To The Fourth Edition (1948)
Clear Thinking by R W Jepson

IT is now nearly twelve years since Clear Thinking first appeared. It was the result of an experiment tried out with a Lower Sixth Form, comprising boys drawn from every 'side,' during the time devoted to the consideration of Current Affairs. It was designed primarily to prepare pupils for the intelligent and responsible exercise of their duties and rights as citizens. I had in mind the words of Sir Ernest Simon (now Lord Simon of Wythenshawe) in Training for Citizenship: "The citizen of democracy also needs certain intellectual qualities. It is not enough to love truth; he must learn how to find it. It is easy to teach students to reason correctly in the physical sciences; it is much more difficult to teach them to reason correctly in the social sciences where their own prejudices and passions are involved. They must be taught habits of clear thinking in order that they may acquire the power of recognising their own prejudices and of discussing political and economic questions with the same calm, the same desire to understand the other person's position, the same precision and absence of overstatement, as they would bring to the discussion of a problem in mathematics."

And I adopted the method of approach recommended by Professor Field in Education for Citizenship, in which he said: "It is probably more helpful to consider typical instances of the lack of clear thinking than of its presence: very often the best way of clearing up a general notion is by consideration of its opposite. If we are trying to teach our pupils how to think and to express their thoughts it is essential to remember always that we are trying to teach them to think for themselves. It is desirable to avoid, therefore, as far as possible, laying down any positive rules about how they are to think. The teacher can be more useful by warning them against obvious errors and pointing these out when they are committed, while leaving the pupils to make the positive effort for themselves."

In thus emphasising the negatively critical and destructive sides of reasoning, there was an obvious danger that the positive contributions of constructive reasoning might be lost sight of. Moreover, I found that in my pupils little transfer in reasoning powers seemed to take place from one 'subject' to another, and that one cause at any rate of this was failure to realise that the fundamental processes of constructive reasoning were common to all knowledges.

In this new edition, therefore, I have included a chapter entitled "What is thinking? ", in which I have analysed what might be called a unit of constructive thought, with the aim of demonstrating not only that clear thinking is a necessary preliminary to creative thinking, but also that the basic methods are common to all 'subjects.' Clear Thinking can, in fact, be made a means of correlating and integrating the school curriculum on the logical plane. In my own experience I have found it to provide a satisfactory common ground on which the various VIth form specialists can meet with mutual advantage. No opportunity should be neglected to show pupils that all knowledge is one, that the common aim of it is the furtherance of human welfare, and that clear and purposeful thinking is a common instrument for the achievement of that aim.

The chief reasons for failure to think clearly appear to be three: inadequate training in the use of words, the tendency to succumb to irrational influences, and the inability to grasp the essential structure of an argument. The portions of the book which deal with these have been greatly enlarged and re-arranged in a more appropriate order. The first three sections of the chapter on Deduction have been entirely re-written: the object has been to give some help towards the acquisition of a technique by means of which the essential structure of a deductive argument can be laid bare and its validity or invalidity more easily discovered.

Questions and examples have been multiplied and brought up to date. In the School Edition I have reprinted in the Appendix an article on the use of the newspaper in school which originally appeared in The Times Educational Supplement.


The book was intended originally for use in the upper forms of grammar schools; but it has also been used with success by first-year students in University philosophy classes, in Teachers' Training Colleges, in W.E.A. classes, in Discussion Groups, in Continuation classes, by the Services' Educational Units, and by various youth organisations. It is hoped that the new Adult Colleges will find in it useful material not otherwise available.

I am glad to repeat my obligations to Dr Thouless's Straight and Crooked Thinking, Creighton's Introductory Logic, and Professor Field's Prejudice and Impartiality, and my indebtedness to Mr B. A. Howard and his publishers, Messrs Ginn & Co. Ltd., for permission to reprint a passage from The Proper Study of Mankind, to Dr W. H. S. Jones and the Cambridge University Press for allowing me to use a passage from How We Learn, and to the Editor of The New Statesman and to Mr Hubert Phillips for permission to quote some of his problems which have appeared in that journal.

Acknowledgments are also due to: the author and Messrs Watts & Co. for a passage from The Mind in the Making by J. H. Robinson; the author and Messrs Win. Collins & Co. Ltd., for two passages from Potterism by Miss Rose Macaulay; the Oxford University Press, for extracts from Training for Citizenship and Education for Citizenship; and the Rt. Hon. Lord Elton and the Editor of The Times for the letter from Lord Elton headed The Press and Democracy, appearing in The Times on February 14th, 1935.

I am particularly indebted to my former colleague, Mr. G. C. Allen, for much valuable advice, and to my old pupil, Mr. R. G. G. Price, for many pertinent suggestions, of which I have made generous use.

R. W. J. ( July 1947).

NOTE TO FIFTH EDITION (5th July, 1954)

Before his lamented death on 29th March, 1954, the author was fortunately able to prepare the material for this new edition. Although his book had been largely rewritten for the fourth edition in 1948, he felt that Chapter V was already badly out of date, and that it did not do justice either to the modern attitude to Propaganda, or to the post-war Press. In this fifth edition, therefore, he has provided a new chapter on Propaganda and an additional Appendix II on "Reading the Newspaper".

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