Thursday, November 23, 2006

Book Review: Why Good Arguments Often Fail

It is a well known fact that people are rarely persuaded to change their point of view on something just because an argument is good. Why is this the case? James W Sire tackles this important issue in his book Why Good Arguments Often Fail: Making a More Persuasive Case for Christ. Sire is an apologist for the Christian faith so this book has as its ultimate goal helping Christians to think more carefully about their own beliefs and about the ways they persuade others. Despite this, it is valuable, in a general sense, for the perspective it brings on persuasion and argument. The book is divided into three parts: 1) Common Logical Fallacies; 2) Good Arguments that Often Fail; and 3) Good Arguments that Work. In the first part, Sire shares a brilliant story that makes the point that logic is not always as useful in real life as it is alleged to be! He then surveys some of the most common logical fallacies committed by people, giving real life examples. He makes the important point that everyone can commit these fallacies, including Christians about their own beliefs. The second part of the book examines the role that arrogance, aggression, cleverness, misreading the audience, worldviews, relativism, and moral blindness play in arguments not working. The last section looks at two good arguments that work -- the Apostle Paul's presentation in Athens to non-believers and an argument that Sire himself has frequently given - and draws out practical principles for making arguments more persuasive. It's an excellent little book, superbly and simply written, excellent examples illustrating the points the author makes, and full of profound insight about human nature and the way it often prevents us from discovering or accepting the truth. The book concludes with an extensive annotated reading guide for further study. All Christians should read this book - even if it is only to get our own thinking in order and to promote intellectual humility in our own approach to thinking. Related Links

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