Friday, September 30, 2016

Thoughts on Debate

 de·bate  dəˈbāt
noun a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward. 
a contention by words or arguments: as a:  the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure b:  a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”
Colin Powell

“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”
Nelson Mandela

“Those who cannot understand how to put their thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of debate.”
 Friedrich Nietzsche

"If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by clarity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason."

—G. K. Chesterton
Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane Co., 1909), p. 32

Chesterton wrote that a good argument is invigorating.  People argue because they care about the truth – even if they argue to hide it.  He stated there are three kinds of bad arguments.
1.     Arguments from an authority (the Bible, the Pope, the latest scientific discovery.)  An argument must stand on its own merit and logic.
2.     Arguments with loopholes or exceptions (“yeah, but what about this?”)   An argument must acknowledge the strength of the other side.
3.     Arguments that switches from head to heart (“don’t you care?”)  An argument is an affair of reason.

He also stated three techniques of a good argument.
1.     Agree with your opponent on some pivot point.
2.     Restate your opponent’s argument; know his or her case at least as well if not better than he or she does.
3.     Have your opponent restate your argument to make sure that he or she understands it.

The Difference between Argument and Persuasion

Argument                                                                             Persuasion
Gain legitimacy                      Purpose                                  Gain consent

Appeal to logic                       Method                                   Appeal to values, emotions

Formal                                    Language                               Formal or informal

Data                                        Characteristics                       Illustrations
Informed                                                                                Assertions
Sources                                                                                   Jargon
Definition                                                                               Euphemism

Summary                               Endings                                  Directional

Linear progression to a        Organization                          Build up to an
logical conclusion                                                                  emotional 

What about you?   What are your thoughts on debate, argument, and persuasion? 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fiction Books Review

“I admire anybody who finishes a work of art, no matter how awful it may be.”
            Kurt Vonnegut

Like Kurt Vonnegut, I admire anyone who writes a book and presents it to the public.  However, there are some books I prefer to others.  If I were to organize the books I have read on a continuum ranging from the worst to the best, they would form a bell-shaped curve.
                                          Bad                                               Good

The books I think are really bad are as rare as the books I think are really good; the majority of the books are in the median range.  They all contain the usual elements of a story:  setting, plot, characters, and conflict.  There is an additional element in the books I love, which I call the “gift.”

#1.  The Setting ~ When and Where
The book is written in one of my preferred genres:  fantasy, science fiction, detective mystery, society/culture, and young adult.

#2.  The Plot ~ What and How
The book’s basic conflict has a purpose:  a question to answer, a problem to solve, a mystery to unravel, a secret to reveal, a destination to reach, a goal to attain.
The story is not convoluted with excessive plot twists, side stories, tangential subplots, or trivial information.  It is not overpopulated with insignificant characters.  It does not contain scenes of graphic or gratuitous sex or violence.

#3.  The Characters ~ The Who
The book’s characters are interesting enough to justify making an emotional investment in them.  I can identify in them one of the nine personality types of the Enneagram.  There is at least one complex character.  I also prefer that the main character(s) operate out of the neocortex once in a while.  If all the characters operate out of the reptilian brain or mammal brain, they seem generic and predictable to me.

#4.  The Conflict ~ The Why
The story has an overarching goal and it addresses issues pertaining to life and human relationships.  It has an explicit or implied thesis statement that leads to critical thinking, metacognition, and/or inquiry.

#5.  The Gift ~ The Wonder
This is the book that tells Lucy’s story from Voyage of the Dawn Treader Reading it refreshes the spirit.  It stirs one’s intellectual honesty, emotional maturity, and volitional capacity.  It has a joie de vivre – a sense of humor, humanity, and the “homeliness” described by C. S. Lewis in his autobiography Surprised by Joy.

Amazon Star Rating   
 = I hated it.  The book promotes, justifies, and/or glorifies hatred, violence, anarchy, injustice, oppression, and any other evil.

★★ = I did not like it.  The book has tiresome characters, an uninteresting plot, graphic and/or gratuitous sex, violence, and profanity.  It is poorly written and evokes apathy.

★★★ = It’s okay.  The book has reptilian and/or mammal brain characters and the basic elements of its genre.  The plot and the writing are dutiful, familiar, and predictable.  (Note:  Most bestsellers are in this category.)

★★★★ = I liked it.  The book has enlightened characters and an interesting plot.  It is well-written for its genre.  It evokes sympathy and/or empathy and is emotionally mature and intellectually honest.

★★★★★ = I loved it.  The book is overflowing with magic, wit, wonder, and joie de vivre.  It engages, enlightens, encourages, empowers, and edifies. 

This is how I evaluate books when I write book reviews.  It is subjective in that the ratings are based on my taste and preferences.  However, I think that I can apply it objectively to any and all fiction books.