Out to Win an Argument? Think Again.

Disagreements among people have existed as long as humans have, but the inability of opposing sides to compromise with one another seems epidemic today. Think Again: How to Reason and Argue, a new book by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor in Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, reveals the benefits that sound, fair arguments grounded in mutual understanding can have.

Particularly on social media platforms such as Twitter, arguments seem to increasingly function as a means to both satisfy one’s allies and jab one’s opponents publicly. In contrast, “reasonable arguments” says Sinnott-Armstrong, “can create more mutual understanding and respect, and even if neither party is convinced by the other, compromise is still possible.”

His MOOC course of the same name, co-taught by Ram Neta, professor of philosophy at UNC-Chapel Hill and offered through Coursera, has attracted more than 900,000 registered students from over 150 countries.

In Think Again, Sinnott-Armstrong also teaches the reader how to argue and how not to argue. “This book is not about winning arguments or beating opponents,” he says. “Instead it is about understanding each other and appreciating strong evidence. It teaches logic instead of rhetorical tricks.”

Think Again is now available in the UK from Penguin Random House and will be available in the United States on July 2nd from Oxford University Press. Duke community members may borrow a copy of the book at the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ Robert and Sara Pickus Library, 102 West Duke Building.

— Emily Bowles