Reading Summaries

Winning Political Arguments

Have you ever gone through a month, a week, or even a day without having a single argument or disagreement? Throughout Stanley Fish’s book, Winning Arguments, it is claimed that argument is inevitable and inescapable. He specifically focuses on four types of arguments: political arguments, domestic arguments, legal arguments, and academic arguments. Most prevalent and controversial today, however, are political arguments due to the political unrest in the United States. In his chapter two of Winning Arguments, Fish argues that political arguments are a never ending circle of back and forth through the use of “talking points”, however there is a rare chance of conversion. More specifically, he uses modern day examples such as the Washington Redskins or same sex marriage to demonstrate the regularity of political arguments, and the difficulty to reach a verdict. For example, he writes, “Being convinced  of  either  of  these  views  of  the  responsibilities  and  limits  of government renders you incapable of hearing arguments from the other side as anything but the progeny of error.” (Fish, Chapter 2).  In other words, once a person has formulated their opinion on a political issue through educating themselves on the topic, they view their opinion as the right opinion. A famous quote by Daniel Patrick Moynihan states, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Once both sides of an argument generate their evidence and facts as to why they believe what they believe, it is not a matter of who has the best facts, rather who can present the most skilled argument. In sum then, Fish suggests that the difference between fact and opinion becomes hazy during political arguments and causes the inability to be convinced.

Fish, Stanley Eugene. Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn’t Work in Politics, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the Classroom. Harper Paperbacks, 2017.

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