The ancient art of thinking for yourself The power of rhetoric in polarized times

Robin Reames

Book - 2024

"For most of the 2,000-plus years since its foundation as a discipline by ancient Greek thinkers, rhetoric-the art of using language to persuade-was a keystone of a Western education. But in the early 20th century, studying rhetoric fell out of fashion. In The Ancient Art of Thinking for Yourself, Robin Reames, one of the world's leading scholars of rhetoric, argues that it's high time to bring it back. Drawing on examples ranging from the Sophist Alcibiades, whose speeches in favor of war led ancient Athens to destruction and defeat, to modern-day conspiracists like Alex Jones, Reames breaks down the major techniques of rhetoric, pulling back the curtain on how politicians, journalists, and "journalists" convince u...s to believe what we believe-and to vote and act accordingly. Understanding these techniques helps us avoid being manipulated by modern-day sophists who don't have our best interests at heart. But it also grants us rare insight into our own beliefs, and the values that shape them. Learning rhetoric, she argues, doesn't teach what to think but how to think - allowing us to understand our ideological commitments, and those of others, in a completely new way. Thoughtful, nuanced, and leavened with dry humor, The Ancient Art of Thinking for Yourself offers an antidote to our polarized, post-truth world"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor New Shelf 808/Reames (NEW SHELF) Due Jul 18, 2024
Nonfiction novels
New York : Basic Books 2024.
Main Author
Robin Reames (author)
First edition
Physical Description
297 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 273-284) and index.
  • Introduction: A Bible Belt Upbringing
  • 1. A Tale of Two Truths: Past and Present
  • 2. Facts and Language: Gorgias on How (and Why) Conspiracy Theories Work
  • 3. How Rhetoric Shapes Reality: Protagoras on What Language Can Do
  • 4. Deep Ideology: What's Buried in Alcibiades's Words?
  • 5. Rich Little Poor People: The Language That Fooled Callias
  • 6. How to Disagree: Aspasia's Questions
  • Conclusion: Thinking Rhetorically in Polarized Times
  • How to Think Rhetorically
  • The Rhetorical Thinker's Cheat Sheet
  • Glossary
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A scholar of rhetoric makes the case that reviving the teaching of rhetoric and language can help bridge our destructive political and social divide. Reames, a professor of English at the University of Illinois--Chicago, breathes life into the study and technique of rhetoric, specifically why words are selected and how they can be used to change one's thinking about delving below the surface of ideology in order to yield more civil and productive interaction. The author aptly demonstrates her expertise about the development of rhetoric in Athenian democracy, especially how the Sophists cleverly exploited language to manipulate public opinion, and she compares and contrasts the rhetorical strategies of Greek demagogues such as Gorgias and Alcibiades to modern-day use and abuse of language by politicians and public figures. Reames also poignantly leans on her own difficult and frustrating rhetorical relationship with her late father to illustrate how ideological assumptions and an unwillingness or inability to break free from our own "hermeneutic circles" can establish and deepen division and misunderstanding, a story that's painfully relatable. The history of rhetoric that the author presents is fascinating, and the parallels she draws to the modern world are sharp and sprinkled with both bluntness and wit. Reames concludes the book with several practical and useful tips for thinking rhetorically in such a contentious era. Unfortunately, the people who most need to read this book--political and media demagogues, fearmongers, and keyboard warriors who amplify our polarized society--probably won't. Even if they did, it's difficult to say if they would heed the author's advice or double down on their sophistry. Nonetheless, the rest of us should seriously consider the wisdom Reames offers, eschew the comfort of ideological reinforcement that she outlines, and, most importantly, think for ourselves by holding our beliefs to rigorous questioning. Required reading for any thinking person. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.