Book – Think Again, How to Reason and Argue (Summary)
Author – Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
Genre – Self-help Book
Published in – 2018
Word Argument has a very negative connotation to it. Like is quoted by many famous authors.
“I have concluded that there is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an Argument: to avoid it. Avoid it as you would avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes” – Dale Carnegie
“Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing” – Oscar Wilde.
Many theories have evolved with arguments, and Argument is not good or bad; however, how we conduct an idea, its purpose, and its participants direct its connotation.
About the Book –
The author of Think Again differs and claims that “although we cannot always reason with everyone, that limitation does not show that arguments and reasoning are not useful.”
Most of our arguments are about converting people to our way of thinking or proving a point. Think Again teaches us to argue for understanding others’ positions and give the reason for our position rather than converting them.
He adds that many people have stopped giving their reasons and looking for reasons for opposing positions. To broaden perspective, One should assert less and question more.
The Book is divided into three parts. 1) Why argue? 2) How to Argue? 3) How not to Argue?
The Book goes into many details, though the author’s claim details in the Book about Argument are only a scratch of the surface.
PART I – Why to Argue
The author claims that unless we argue (discuss) with people with beliefs contrary to ours, we will not know more than we know and limit our growth.
1) So close So Far –
- How many people do you get along with different opinions on most things? We prefer to hang out with people with the same views and beliefs and get uncomfortable among people with other ideas or don’t open up much.
2) Polarization –
It means different groups of people have different views. Even in the same group, people vary enough on many things. Hence, many other factors need to be considered for polarization, like,
- Distance: Groups are more distant when their views are farther apart on some relevant scale.
- Homogeneity: Groups are more internally homogeneous when there is less variance among members of each group,
- Antagonism: Groups are more polarized when they feel more hatred, disdain, fear, or other negative emotions toward people on the other pole.
- Incivility: Groups are more polarized when they talk more negatively about the people at the other pole.
- Rigidity: Groups are more polarized to the extent that they treat their values as sacred rights and refuse to compromise.
- Gridlock: Groups are more polarized because they cannot cooperate and work together toward common goals.
3) Toxic talk –
- We make it hard to cooperate with people of different views. Instead of listening and trying to understand our opponents, we interrupt, caricature, abuse, and joke about them and their opinions.
- This toxic way of talking exemplifies the aspect of polarization that the author labeled “incivility.”
4) Civility –
- Interruption is the paradigm of incivility. When I interrupt and say the same thing you wanted to say, you won’t still be satisfied as you tried to tell them yourself.
- Refrain from interrupting as it says I am not interested in what you have to say, or what I say is more important than what you say.
5) Judging instead of clarifying –
- We often judge quickly instead of asking and trying to understand why someone thinks in specific ways. If I tell my friend that her position is wrong, she can ask me why it is wrong, and then we can still have a fruitful discussion in many cases.
- However, if I tell her her position is ridiculous, it should be ridiculed instead of reasoned. And with that, I leave no room for further discussion and create animosity.
6) Eco – Chamber –
- We often argue about things with information obtained through sources supporting our beliefs and ideas.
- The author calls the restricting self into an eco-chamber, i.e., obtaining ideas and information that support our biases and leave us in the wrong spot as we don’t have the viewpoint of the other side to consider.
What We Can Gain from Argument
1) Learning –
When we are open to reason with someone holding opposite views, we can learn a new perspective, and then it’s up to us whether to change our position. But if we focus on winning or beating someone, we are close to reason and won’t know anything more than we know.
2) Respect –
When we are open and ask for the reason, we respect other people and their views, and others will be more considerate to listen to our cause. All of us like to be heard and ask reasons for our position.
3) Humility –
Apart from showing and gaining respect, we learn humility if we are open to reason and ask appropriate questions. The author suggests asking ‘HO” rather than ‘WH.”
‘e claims that when people are asked ‘HO,” ‘like how their proposal works, it requires them to lay out the mechanism, and while doing that, many realize their position may not be as strong as they like to think and become open to alternative views with humility.
4) Compromise –
As both parties have a reason for their position and what they value most, it will be much easier to draw the middle path. Though no compromise is perfect, in most cases, well-reasoned compromise can be more constructive and suitable for all affected.
PART II – How to Argue
What is not an argument is good to point out to start understanding what an Argument is.
What Argument is not –
The author explains through the Monty Python video what Argument is not. It’s abuse, physical or verbal fights, and denials. We can not simply deny someone’s self without reasoning.
What is Argument –
Reason is required in all arguments; however, which kind or kind of logic is a feature, not a bug? Reasoning can be related to believing something after knowing facts we didn’t think about before.
Here are a couple of points one may consider about arguer to pursue any argument-
- Is the arguer citing authority correctly?
- Can the authority be trusted on the subject?
- Is the cited authority an expert on the subject?
- Are there agreements with different experts on the subject?
- What are the motives of the arguer?
There are a couple of points one may consider for constructive Argument –
- Do declare what you believe. Give reason.
- Ask questions or reasons for others’ positions.
- Listen attentively with an open mind.
- Understand what one values, which becomes clear from the reason one gives.
- Be critical of your reasoning. Don’t think that you have all the answers. Be humble.
PART III – How Not to Argue
As much as we think or are sure of our position, there are things we must avoid to blow any arguments out of proportion.
There are a couple of points one may consider not to say or show-
- Don’t others merely announce their positions? Ask questions about their reasons.
- Don’t interrupt. Listen carefully to their answers.
- Don’t attack opponents too soon. Interpret their reason charitably.
- Don’t insult or abuse opponents.
- Be civil and respectful—don’t admit fallacies.
Whether we like it or not, we must discuss whether to convey our idea or explore other perspectives and facts about something and knowing how to argue is of great significance. Think again will turn you into a good arguer.
If you like this Book, you may also want to read Think Straight.
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I wish you a great outcome with all your arguments.