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The Art of The Argument: Western Civilization's Last Stand Kindle Edition
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This is an valid argument. It has the same form as: All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is Mortal. That form is: All X are Y. Z is an X. Therefore Z is a Y.
The premises are arguably false, making it an arguably unsound argument, but it is logically valid.
If you are genuinely looking for an introductory book on logic, reasoning and arguments, don't buy this book.
This book is terrible. It reads like a collection of blog posts on similar topics, but does not follow a logical order. It lacks structure and arbitrarily sweeps from topic to topic. It constantly stops and starts, taking side-treks that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. Stefan is so keen to add lame jabs and quips he actually has to stop the conversation and explain the joke or comment. This book was advertised (for months) by Stefan as a guide on how to debate properly and why it is important in the current political climate. Throwing in jokes is ok, but Stefan is notoriously clumsy in his humor, it lacks any cleverness or grace. By trying to bring his sense of humor to writing, it fractures the gravitas of the subject matter.
It is difficult to articulate how poorly written this book is. It seems to have forgone any editing and reads like it was pushed out after one draft. This is a logical conclusion given the structure and the manner in which the text is presented. I feel that if someone other than Stefan had read the book before its publishing, they would have encouraged some major changes. The choice to bold and increase the font size of the phrase “THE ARGUMENT” is one of those things an editor would axe immediately for the purpose of easier reading and clarity.
I understand the intention behind this formatting choice. The book is trying to present the concept of "THE" argument, so that it can be treated with respect and caution. However, this concept of a singular, greater, “meta-argument” could have been easily be explored and explained in a less garish and haughty manner. For reference, see slide 7 in the book's preview.
Stefan somewhat stealthily is trying to tie “THE ARGUMENT” to his concept of “Universally Preferable Behavior" (UPB). There is a free ebook available on Stefan’s website on the subject matter. The purpose of UPB is to provide a basis for ethics in a society without religion. That is a very simplified but accurate summary. The Art of The Argument: Western Civilization's Last Stand was described to be purely about the process of debate and its importance. There is nothing wrong with trying to include UPB in the text, the problem is that the book is not forthright with its intention to do so. By not establishing this precedent early on in the book, the rest of the text lacks a momentum that may have been possible if the book was more focused and coherent. The whole concept (of UPB), much like a lot of the book, just comes across as disposable - which is a shame.
Throughout the book, concepts drag on giving little substance and sometimes are repeated in succession. In some cases, concepts are introduced then sidelined only to be revisited in their entirety a few "chapters" later. I put chapters in quotes due to how strange the formatting of the book is. A “chapter” can be anywhere from a few sentences to half of a page, or several pages. Had any of these ideas been expressed in a coherent manner they would only need to be deconstructed and explained once. When the reader is familiar with an idea you can then expand on it moving forward, which is the typical format of most books. Yet, The Art of the Argument reads nothing like a book and plays loose with its structure. "Chapters" being a few sentences followed by ideas that relate nothing to the topic in focus at the time. It truly is remarkable how absurdly this book is laid out.
I could put up with the arcane structure if the book had something to offer, and this is what makes me so frustrated. If you have listened to Stefan for any period of time you already have "read" this book. That is because Stefan brings forward nothing new to those who already are aware of his message. Which leads me to ask - Then who is this book for?
Stefan is a niche public speaker, his supporters are the ones most likely to pick up this book. What we have been delivered is a messy and pointless read that does less in 163 pages than what Stefan could do in a single 1-hour show. Being that I am familiar with Stefan, I was expecting this book to be his chance to go into more detail about techniques, with great examples of fallacies and how to generally deal with them. With a book, you can structure a more refined message than you could talking off the cuff, at least one would think.
This book has nothing to offer for fans of Stefan. As a book written for newcomers to his message and mission, it is an incomprehensible mess that is a disservice to the subject matter and Stefan himself.
The book features examples of various types of logic and some ideas surrounding philosophy, but it all feels like a preamble that goes nowhere. Page after page, word after word, nothing but introductions or surface level commentary. It is plagued with paragraphs relentlessly trying to take on too many subjects. The book is filled with paragraphs that are completely useless or totally irrelevant to any topic at hand. Jokes constantly needing to be explained in between paragraphs, as they work against the message. UPB is interjected into the text when the book never established its intent to connect the two.
It feels like an essay written by someone in high school who is trying to pad the length with unnecessary specificity, repeated ideas, increased font sizes and spacing. When the book finally begins to discuss how to "structure" an argument on page 123, it conveys nothing that had not been explained in those previous 123 pages. The chapter just before this "Part 2" (only 2 pages prior) features an actual essay Stefan had previously composed and decided just to throw in there because he wanted you to see it, and he needed to fill some space. With some editing and better wording the essay itself would be a great edition to the book!
This essay is essentially a summary and introduction to ideas that are expressed throughout the book and would have worked at lot better at-
Wait? Did you hear that? It's an electronic voice phenomenon! Let's hear what it says!
"...at the beginning of the book".
This essay Stefan wrote, it's important to him and he is proud of it. So reuse it! There is no problem with that. But its value is diminished when just haphazardly thrown into a book 120 pages in. This kind of baffling structure is the sort of thing that leads me to believe Stefan had no editor or second draft for this book. This type of flowery speech goes either at the beginning or at the end of a book, it is common sense.
The book is just packed with wasted space trying to come across as profound. Stefan is so in love with certain sentences he turns them into their own paragraphs to give them emphasis. This can be fine, but there are instances of entire pages composed of these "quotables". Page 103 stands out.
There are other books that breakdown how to debate and use logic available, they are straightforward and sharp. They are about one thing and pull it off. The Art of the Argument: Western Civilization’s Last Stand is a book that only sort-of showcases Stefan's worldview and how he supports his beliefs. It is not about how to debate but rather why Stefan feels it is important to do so and what it vaguely should look like. People who pick up this book will most likely already agree why it is important to debate and why definitions are important, etc. So again - who is this for?
Stefan tries to sound scientific but interjects with his voice constantly. He wants to push his worldviews but does so with only a half-effort. He wants to support open discussion but does little to teach you how. His frequent non sequiturs and bias pollute a book that feigns to be "objective". It is dishonest to claim objectivity then push an ideology. This is easily avoided by establishing intent and bias. There is nothing wrong with writing to express a bias.
You could derive lessons from the book but I would assume most interested parties already know how to get around the evil of emotion in a debate for "truth". What they (me) would like to know is why it is being used, the history of its use and where it falls in today. This book feels like Stefan wrote it for himself, not for other people. It is a frustrating waste of time and a disappointment as I learned only one thing:
Stefan can talk, but he cannot write.