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Good Arguments summary

Bo Seo

How Debate Teaches Us to Listen and Be Heard

4.6 (457 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

'Good Arguments' by Bo Seo is a guide to critical thinking that teaches us to identify, analyze, and construct valid arguments. It provides insights, examples, and tools to help us better articulate our opinions and engage in productive debates.

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    Good Arguments
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    Bo Seo’s Journey

    Before we begin, we have to introduce the star of the show.

    Bo Seo was born in South Korea. But when Seo was just eight years old, his parents made the risky decision to uproot their lives; in search of greener pastures, they moved the family to Australia. 

    At this point Seo spoke no English – and, as one might expect, he struggled to find his place in his new home. At school, unable to communicate with his peers, or even understand his homework, Seo receded into himself and eventually gave up speaking altogether. He learned that to get by in this world, it was easier just to keep quiet and do as he was told.

    For several lonely years, Seo was your typical wallflower. He was never loud; he never asserted himself. He just kept his head down and studied, slowly getting a grip on the nasal Aussie English. But when he was in fifth grade, something happened that would change his life forever: his teacher invited him to take part in a debate competition.

    Competitive debate is like a formal game in which two rival teams participate in a verbal battle in order to persuade judges to join their side on some issue. It’s a sport that thrives in schools and universities around the globe, and a surprising number of presidents, CEOs, and civil rights leaders have competed. 

    The rules are pretty simple. The opposing teams are assigned a motion – the topic of the debate – 15 minutes to one hour beforehand so they have time to prepare. After that, the debate begins. Each team takes turns speaking in front of the judges for about five minutes. Once the debate is over, the team that’s spoken most convincingly is declared the winner.

    This is the world Seo had stumbled into. In his first-ever debate, he was asked to defend the motion, “All zoos should be banned.” On that stage, between the fearful walk up to the podium and the thrill of unbroken applause at the end, something happened to Seo – he found his voice.

    Over the course of the next decade, Seo entered one competition after another, gradually honing his skill and rising in the rankings. He didn’t just excel at debating either. It turns out that the skills he was learning in debate – logical thinking, composition, public speaking – all helped him to excel in his social and academic life as well.

    Eventually, his passion for debate carried him to places he never dreamed possible. First, he won the World High School Championship, and then he went on to study at Harvard, where he led the team to yet another victory at the World University Championship.

    Needless to say, competitive debate transformed Seo’s life for the better. Not only did it expose Seo to a mind-boggling range of ideas in everything from science and history to politics and philosophy; more importantly, it gave him a reason to care about learning.

    For Seo, debate was a powerful tool in his continued education – and it can be for you too. So, let’s shift gear and turn to the principles of good debate.

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    What is Good Arguments about?

    Good Arguments (2022) is one part memoir, one part guide to the art of speaking. It introduces us to the thrilling and eccentric subculture of competitive debate and distills its secrets into timeless principles for effective communication. If we can only learn to disagree better, it argues, we can improve our relationships and revitalize our democracies.

    Good Arguments Review

    Good Arguments by Bo Seo (2021) is a thought-provoking book that explores the art of persuasion and the power of effective arguments. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With insightful analysis and real-world examples, it teaches us how to construct compelling arguments that can win debates and influence others.
    • By delving into various rhetorical techniques and logical fallacies, the book equips readers with the tools to identify and deconstruct faulty arguments.
    • Through its exploration of critical thinking and the ethics of persuasion, it challenges readers to evaluate the arguments they encounter in everyday life.

    Who should read Good Arguments?

    • Couples who want to communicate more effectively
    • Introverts who want to climb out of their shell
    • Anyone who wants to speak more persuasively

    About the Author

    A two-time world champion debater and the former debating coach for the Australian national team, Bo Seo is one of the most recognizable figures in the competitive debate community. He’s written for many major publications, including the Atlantic and the New York Times, and he’s also a regular panelist on the Australian TV debate program The Drum.

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    Good Arguments FAQs 

    What is the main message of Good Arguments?

    Good Arguments emphasizes the importance of logical reasoning and effective communication.

    How long does it take to read Good Arguments?

    The reading time for Good Arguments varies. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Good Arguments a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Good Arguments is a valuable read for anyone looking to improve their critical thinking and debate skills.

    Who is the author of Good Arguments?

    The author of Good Arguments is Bo Seo.

    What to read after Good Arguments?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Good Arguments, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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