Thursday, January 31, 2013

How to Read Well

We'd all be well-served to remember what, I think, was Howard Zinn's advice about reading well: before arguing with what we read, taking it apart for how the author's argument fails or how we disagree with it, we'd do better to try understanding it, first. We're better served by first testing for an argument's possible insights or possible truths, for its validity or soundness, and then, only after that, taking it apart for its errors or failures. When I was a grad student in philosophy, I saw several of the better students spontaneously discover this for themselves, in the first semester. Those who didn't figure it out (spontaneously or not) remained not only contentious, but also failed to grow as thinkers. The worst habit that social media enforces is our habit of premature disagreement. Disagreement is a step, but we too often miss the EARLIER step of, so to speak, 'provisional agreement.'

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