New Humanist

Here’s a short Q&A with Samira Shackle of the New Humanist:  ‘It would be good if we could learn to listen to reason again.’  Here’s a bit from it (I got the words ‘dick measuring’ in, so obviously I’m very happy).

What’s the overall effect on society of the dominance of “the persuaders”?

I hate it when an author tells you the world is falling apart because of a single thing that happens to be the subject of their book, but I really do think we’re in the middle of a revolution in persuasion, a shift away from giving reasons to something that operates outside reason. As a result, we’re starting to lose the ability to argue, as a culture. Listen to Prime Minister’s Questions or the literal dick measuring going on in debates between Republican presidential candidates. The ability to argue, to think critically, spot fallacies and work together towards the truth is a kind of intellectual self-defence at the heart of democracy. If we lose that, we lose what it protects. We’re also less able to get along with one another if all we can do is shout back and forth. Modern persuasion undermines not just democracy, but our chances of living happy lives in a peaceful, interconnected world. It would be good if we could learn to listen to reason again. A lot hangs on it.



Filed under persuasion

3 responses to “New Humanist

  1. Hi James. I am reading your book, and finding it excellent. Thanks for taking the time to write on the subject, as I believe it is a taboo, possibly one of the most dangerous taboos of our times. So, thanks for the inspiration. Keep up with the good work!

  2. CM

    Thank you for your excellent work — buying the book. Heard your interview on CBC, which was great. Would question one assertion that is in your quote above and repeated on the Current. You seem to imply that there was a time when humans were more rational, and/or that public policy was dictated more my rational discourse. It’s not clear to me that this was ever the case.

  3. I’ve just finished an initial read of your book. Thank you so much for fleshing out so much stuff that I had vaguely worked out for myself. The final chapters particularly resonate with me. It is heartening to know that my attempts to identify and react against persuasion and manipulation are not down to some kooky personality trait (as many friends/colleagues think) but are entirely reasonable. Thanks again.

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