How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

Alan Jacobs. Convergent, $23 (160p) ISBN 978-0-451-49960-8
Thinking is “the power to be finely aware and richly responsible,” and this handbook by Jacobs (The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis), a Baylor University English professor, represents an erudite attempt to tap into that potential. For those who share Jacobs’s values—thinking self-critically about one’s own beliefs and being willing to empathize with those with whom one disagrees—this guide on how to navigate an intellectual landscape dominated by snap judgments and polarization will be a delight. Jacobs initially focuses on C.S. Lewis’s concept of the “Inner Ring,” which describes how the urge to belong to groups can promote conformity, but then branches out across the philosophical spectrum, tying in the ideas of Thomas Aquinas, Søren Kierkegaard, John Stuart Mill, and David Foster Wallace, among others. Interspersing the intellectual nuggets are colorful anecdotes, including on basketball great Wilt Chamberlain’s sex life, the Westboro Baptist Church and its abandonment by member Megan Phelps-Roper, and the landmark social-psychology book When Prophecy Fails, about the groupthink of a 1950s UFO cult. Witty, engaging, and ultimately hopeful, Jacobs’s guide is sorely needed in a society where partisanship too often trumps the pursuit of knowledge. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/24/2017
Release date: 10/17/2017
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