Navigating Information Fatigue: Making Good Arguments

Jessica Staff Image

The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased our reliance on social media and the Internet for information. This development, combined with underlying political partisanship, has created a breeding ground for disinformation, conspiracy theories, and information overload. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has long provided resources for the best-quality information in the service of the public in Pittsburgh and beyond.

These titles were reviewed and vetted by CLP librarians as well as Calum Matheson, PhD – Assistant Professor of Public Deliberation and Civic Life and Director of Debate (University of Pittsburgh). For more books on topics of civic engagement, visit our staff picks page.

NOTE: This list is a supplement to the Navigating Information Fatigue: 3-Part Series webinar series. 


Additional titles and articles not available in the Library Catalog:


 

The Art of Rhetoric

With the emergence of democracy in the city-state of Athens in the years around 460 BC, public speaking became an essential skill for politicians in the Assemblies and Councils – and even for ordinary citizens in the courts of law. In response, the technique of rhetoric rapidly developed, bringing virtuoso performances and a host of practical manuals for the layman. While many of these were little more than collections of debaters’ tricks, The Art of Rhetoric held a far deeper purpose. Here Aristotle (384-322 BC) establishes the methods of informal reasoning, provides the first aesthetic evaluation of prose style and offers detailed observations on character and the emotions.

Hugely influential upon later Western culture, The Art of Rhetoric is a fascinating consideration of the force of persuasion and sophistry, and a compelling guide to the principles behind oratorical skill.

Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion

Thank You for Arguing is your master class in the art of persuasion, taught by professors ranging from Bart Simpson to Winston Churchill. The time-tested secrets the book discloses include Cicero’s three-step strategy for moving an audience to action as well as Honest Abe’s Shameless Trick of lowering an audience’s expectations by pretending to be unpolished.

But it’s also replete with contemporary techniques such as politicians’ use of “code” language to appeal to specific groups and an eye-opening assortment of popular-culture dodges, including: The Eddie Haskell Ploy, Eminem’s Rules of Decorum, The Belushi Paradigm, Stalin’s Timing Secret and The Yoda Technique.

Whether you’re an inveterate lover of language books or just want to win a lot more anger-free arguments on the page, at the podium, or over a beer, Thank You for Arguing is for you. Written by one of today’s most popular online language mavens, it’s warm, witty, erudite, and truly enlightening. It not only teaches you how to recognize a paralipsis and a chiasmus when you hear them, but also how to wield such handy and persuasive weapons the next time you really, really want to get your own way.

Bad Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Fallacies in Western Philosophy

A timely and accessible guide to 100 of the most infamous logical fallacies in Western philosophy, helping readers avoid and detect false assumptions and faulty reasoning. You’ll love this book or you’ll hate it. So, you’re either with us or against us. And if you’re against us then you hate books. No true intellectual would hate this book.

Ever decide to avoid a restaurant because of one bad meal? Choose a product because a celebrity endorsed it? Or ignore what a politician says because she’s not a member of your party? For as long as people have been discussing, conversing, persuading, advocating, proselytizing, pontificating, or otherwise stating their case, their arguments have been vulnerable to false assumptions and faulty reasoning. Drawing upon a long history of logical falsehoods and philosophical flubs, Bad Arguments demonstrates how misguided arguments come to be, and what we can do to detect them in the rhetoric of others and avoid using them ourselves.

Fallacies–or conclusions that don’t follow from their premise–are at the root of most bad arguments, but it can be easy to stumble into a fallacy without realizing it. In this clear and concise guide to good arguments gone bad, Robert Arp, Steven Barbone, and Michael Bruce take readers through 100 of the most infamous fallacies in Western philosophy, identifying the most common missteps, pitfalls, and dead-ends of arguments gone awry. Whether an instance of sunk costs, is ought, affirming the consequent, moving the goal post, begging the question, or the ever-popular slippery slope , each fallacy engages with examples drawn from contemporary politics, economics, media, and popular culture. Further diagrams and tables supplement entries and contextualize common errors in logical reasoning.

At a time in our world when it is crucial to be able to identify and challenge rhetorical half-truths, this book helps readers to better understand flawed argumentation and develop logical literacy. Unrivaled in its breadth of coverage and a worthy companion to its sister volume Just the Arguments (2011), Bad Arguments is an essential tool for undergraduate students and general readers looking to hone their critical thinking and rhetorical skills.

Tools of Thinking: Understanding the World Through Experience and Reason

Everyone has to think in order to function in the world, and this course will equip you with the tools to reason effectively in your pursuit of reliable beliefs and useful knowledge. Whether you are a budding philosopher searching for ultimate truths, a science student grappling with the nature of scientific proof, a new parent weighing conflicting child-rearing advice, or a concerned citizen making up your mind about today’s issues, Tools of Thinking will help you cut through the deception and faulty reasoning to get closer to the essence of a matter.

Logic: The Ancient Art of Reason

How do you tell what’s right from what’s wrong? Can you always? What’s the difference between deduction, induction, and abduction? What are the best techniques for making an argument logically sound? In this fascinating little book, the smallest on its subject ever produced, philosopher Earl Fontainelle explores the ancient art of discursive Logic and demonstrates some of the techniques that have long been used to triumph over the debates and deceptions that assail us every day. Filled with helpful examples of good and bad reasoning, Logic is an invaluable introduction to a defining human characteristic.

Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments : A Stone Reader

A necessary companion to the acclaimed Stone Reader , Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments is a landmark collection for contemporary ethical thought.

Since 2010, The Stone–the immensely popular, award-winning philosophy series in The New York Times– has revived and reinterpreted age-old inquires to speak to our modern condition. This new collection of essays from the series does for modern ethics what The Stone Reader did for modern philosophy. New York Times editor Peter Catapano and best-selling author and philosopher Simon Critchley have curated an unparalleled collection that illuminates just how imperative ethical thinking is in our day-to-day life.

Like its predecessor, Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments explores long-standing ethical and moral issues in light of our most urgent dilemmas. Divided into twelve sections, the book opens with a series of broad arguments on existence, human nature and morality. Indeed, “big” questions of the human condition are explored by some of our best-known and most accomplished living philosophers: What is the meaning of our existence? Should we really “do what we love”? How should we respond to evil? Is pure altruism possible?

Along with these examinations of timeless moral conundrums, readers will find arguments in the more contentious areas of religion and government: Can we have a moral life without God? Does it really matter if God exists? Is patriotism moral? Accessible and provocative, these pieces expose the persistence of the most basic themes and questions of moral and ethical life. Many of the essays stress the crucial importance of directly engaging the most pressing moral dilemmas in modern life. Should we be the last generation, knowing all the harm we’ve done to our planet? Should we embrace our inner carnivores, or swear off all animal products? From gun control and drone warfare to the morals of marriage and reproduction, readers will view familiar debates in new, surprising lights.

The editors have meticulously arranged this book to reflect a wide range of perspectives, voices and rhetorical strategies. By directly addressing some of the most complex and troubling issues we face today–racial discrimination, economic inequality, immigration, citizenship and more–the volume reveals the profound power of ethics in shaping our perceptions of nearly every aspect of our lives.

A jargon-free, insightful compendium, Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments offers a panoramic view of morality and is a critical addition to The Stone Reader that will energize and enliven the world of ethical thought in both the classroom and everyday American life.

Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning

Reasoning, tested by doubt, is argumentation. We do it, hear it, and judge it every day. We do it in our own minds, and we do it with others. This is equally a course in argument and in reasoning. This course teaches how to reason. It reaches how to persuade others that what you think is right. And it teaches how to judge yours.

The Art of Debate

Learn to make better decisions using the elements of debate.

The Edge of Reason: A Rational Skeptic in an Irrational World

An urgent defense of reason, the essential method for resolving–or even discussing–divisive issues

Reason, long held as the highest human achievement, is under siege. According to Aristotle, the capacity for reason sets us apart from other animals, yet today it has ceased to be a universally admired faculty. Rationality and reason have become political, disputed concepts, subject to easy dismissal.

Julian Baggini argues eloquently that we must recover our reason and reassess its proper place, neither too highly exalted nor completely maligned. Rationality does not require a sterile, scientistic worldview, it simply involves the application of critical thinking wherever thinking is needed. Addressing such major areas of debate as religion, science, politics, psychology, and economics, the author calls for commitment to the notion of a “community of reason,” where disagreements are settled by debate and discussion, not brute force or political power. Baggini’s insightful book celebrates the power of reason, our best hope–indeed our only hope–for dealing with the intractable quagmires of our time.