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How to Win an Argument

Gilbert, Michael A.
Publisher:  McGraw-Hill, New York, USA
Year Published:  1979  
Pages:  153pp   Price:  5.95   ISBN:  0-07-023215-6
Library of Congress Number:  BC177.G54   Dewey:  160
Resource Type:  Book

Michael Gilbert sets out to show how to identify and defend oneself against tricky and flawed arguments.

Abstract:  Michael Gilbert sets out to teach readers how to listen and respond to arguments critically and persuasively. And having grown up on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, he knows how to argue. He purports that if the general public were to arm itself with logical reasoning skills, invalid arguments would be rendered ineffective against them and would not be able to be used in fields such as politics to marketing.

Gilbert is quick to clarify that the primary purpose of his book is to teach readers to identify and defend themselves against bad or "tricky" arguments. The way to do so is simple: "Assume everyone is out to get you." Every arguer's goal is to get their opponent to agree with them. Thus, always being suspicious and critical and believing nothing without proper support makes it less likely for one to believe a tricky argument. His defensive stance on argumentation is further shown in his opinion concerning when to concede defeat: never, unless one is completely convinced. Even then, he states, one should "keep [one's] mouth shut and wait till Monday" to retains the possibility of coming up with better arguments in the interim.

Emphasis in the book is placed on the importance of always knowing about what one is arguing, which cannot be done unless one follows another rule: "Listen!" Gilbert also identifies several common forms of bad arguments, such as circular (in which one of the reasons used to support a conclusion assumes the conclusion to already be true), and ad hominem (in which the arguer, as opposed to the argument, is criticized) arguments. One could find oneself in an argument at almost any time, but Gilbert believes that one should never have to lose.

[Abstract by Oliver Mao]

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