How to Think

How to Think

A Survival Guide for A World at Odds

Book - 2017
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"Absolutely splendid . . . essential for understanding why there is so much bad thinking in political life right now." --David Brooks, New York Times

How to Think is a contrarian treatise on why we're not as good at thinking as we assume--but how recovering this lost art can rescue our inner lives from the chaos of modern life.

As a celebrated cultural critic and a writer for national publications like The Atlantic and Harper's , Alan Jacobs has spent his adult life belonging to communities that often clash in America's culture wars. And in his years of confronting the big issues that divide us--political, social, religious--Jacobs has learned that many of our fiercest disputes occur not because we're doomed to be divided, but because the people involved simply aren't thinking.

Most of us don't want to think. Thinking is trouble. Thinking can force us out of familiar, comforting habits, and it can complicate our relationships with like-minded friends. Finally, thinking is slow , and that's a problem when our habits of consuming information (mostly online) leave us lost in the spin cycle of social media, partisan bickering, and confirmation bias.

In this smart, endlessly entertaining book, Jacobs diagnoses the many forces that act on us to prevent thinking--forces that have only worsened in the age of Twitter, "alternative facts," and information overload--and he also dispels the many myths we hold about what it means to think well. (For example: It's impossible to "think for yourself.")

Drawing on sources as far-flung as novelist Marilynne Robinson, basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, British philosopher John Stuart Mill, and Christian theologian C.S. Lewis, Jacobs digs into the nuts and bolts of the cognitive process, offering hope that each of us can reclaim our mental lives from the impediments that plague us all. Because if we can learn to think together, maybe we can learn to live together, too.
Publisher: New York, New York : Currency, ©2017.
ISBN: 9780451499608
Characteristics: 157 pages ;,20 cm.


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Aug 27, 2018

A splendiferous book, but very difficult. It requires strong thinking. Wonderful non-point-form guide on how to become a stronger, more democratic thinker. My favourite ideas: don't talk for victory, talk and listen and think for learning. Be willing to change your mind. Gravitate to people who value genuine community and can handle disagreement. And many others. A book I'd consider buying.

Jun 16, 2018

Mildly interesting and thankfully a quick read. Jacobs is an academic who is a Christian and draws heavily from C.S. Lewis and the bible for guidance. By his own admission he deals with the art rather than the science of thinking, arguing that reason alone is an insufficient guide to action, and that emotion is needed. He claims that "thinking for yourself is impossible", and that we can only think with others. He talks a lot about our emotional needs, particularly to belong to and identify with a group (or several groups), and our subsequent tendency to believe what these groups believe, and consider outsiders to be "Repugnant Cultural Others" (RCOs), whom we can vilify and discredit without having to justify ourselves (how true, how sad). In the end he admits that there is no easy solution, but he does offer a 12-point "thinking person's checklist" which has some excellent advice. Read that and you'll get the gist of his book.

Apr 18, 2018

It's just okay. Each chapter is broken up into small sections that make it a good nightstand book if only because it's easy to get a small reading win in before falling asleep. Megan Phelps-Roper makes many, many appearances in this short book - where the author attempts to expand on ideas using previous examples. Maybe it's an attempt to weave continuity into what, at times, felt like a disjointed narrative. Again, just okay, you'll get a sufficient ROrI given the length of the book.

Mar 17, 2018

A better title may be How Not To Think. A lot is written about the blinders, emotional resistance, and peer group pressure that keep us from giving serious consideration to what and why we believe what we do. The answer: stop doing it. Okay, do that right after you achieve Buddhist "enlightenment" and have given up all attachments. Like loosing weight you really know what to do, so why aren't you doing it? I'm "just human, don't you know".

Feb 04, 2018

the book got me thinking about my thinking but I didn't reach a final conclusion - still thinking.

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