Truth or Consequences: Building Stronger Arguments for Sensible Living

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Abstract

Reviews the book, Arguing to Better Conclusions: A Human Odyssey by W. Peter Robinson (see record 2006-08558-000). Robinson's work stems from his increasing awareness that his government's claims of progress in many institutionalized social orders contrast significantly with the realities experienced by the majority of the populace. On reflection, Robinson ultimately concluded that governments are either hopelessly ill informed or deliberately pursuing policies to the advantage of the very few and to the disadvantage of everyone else. In the preface, Robinson wonders why so many mistaken beliefs, false claims to knowledge, and inadequate arguments pervade today's “everyday talk, the media, and the output of the organizations and institutions of societies” (p. xiii). He believes that if there is any hope of changing this unfortunate state of affairs, it will grow from a greater collective understanding of terms such as belief, knowledge, and logical; an improved ability to identify the characteristics of inadequate arguments; and the ability to argue for more sensible conclusions based on readily available evidence. The remainder of the book is dedicated to that end. Robinson divides this rather formidable task into two major sections; the first is to develop a “sensible and useful conceptual framework” (p. 12), and the second is to explore the question “Who are the victims of mistaken beliefs and weak and invalid arguments, and why?” (p. 12). Each section contains chapters replete with historical, epistemological, ontological, and psychological points of view along with sociopolitical examples and intriguing studies that support Robinson's observation that, throughout history, the strong few (later characterized as the predatory few) have often misled the many less informed and less strong to maintain their position of power and meet their own personal interests. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)

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