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Stop Being Reasonable: six stories of how we really change our minds

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  328 ratings  ·  46 reviews
What if you aren’t who you think you are?

What if you don’t really know the people closest to you?

And what if your most deeply-held beliefs turn out to be … wrong?

In Stop Being Reasonable, philosopher and journalist Eleanor Gordon-Smith tells six lucid, gripping stories that show the limits of human reason.

From the woman who realised her husband harboured a terrible secret,
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 11th 2019 by Scribe UK (first published May 1st 2019)
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Don Millar
I obviously misunderstood. I thought I was invited to dinner, but it turned out to be a late afternoon tea. Instead of a 3 course dinner I was given a cup of tea and a plate of Tim Tams.
Gordon-Smith's book 'Stop Being Reasonable" is jauntily presented, sweetly written and easily digested, but lacks substance. It identifies perceived anomalies in our behaviour around rationalism, but offers only specious explanatory hypotheses. But the greatest wasted opportunity is in not exploring the questions
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I must admit I had a hard time getting into this book at first. It just seemed to me that the author devoted far too much time to the issue of catcalling (I deducted one star for precisely this). Just as I was going to give up on this book, I found myself in a waiting room, so I decided to read on. I am glad I did! I soon found myself engrossed in the engaging narratives of the man who suddenly broke free of a cult he had been born into and happily living in and the reality-show contestant who e ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the greatest books I've had the pleasure of reading. Gordon-Smith's main idea is that our society idolizes "rational debate" as the gold standard of how to change minds. Sure, in practice, people are more convinced by emotional arguments, by what their peers think, by what it's convenient to believe - but we think they SHOULD be convinced by rational debate, ideally. Well, this book argues that, while rational debate has its place, it's not the only (or even the best) way to change minds ...more
Michael Livingston
Short, witty and clear look at what philosophy has to say about how people change their minds, illustrated with some fascinating case studies. It's a lovely little book that doesn't outstay its welcome while putting together a really compelling case that our idea of 'reason' is pretty problematic. ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Everyone I know is irrational, and I want to fix them. (c) An expo on rationality, its uses and misuses.
OR, why it's not best street practice to cat call a bona fide philosopher.

There is a bigger question underneath it all: when is it ever possible to know anything? Thousands of years before Descartes wondered what it was possible to know, Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus had already fathered scepticism by answering, ‘Nothing.’ This is a possibility so genuinely frightening that p
Giselle A Nguyen
Love the writing style of this book – very conversational and funny yet intelligent. I didn’t feel like it went as deep as I wanted it to, though – a lot of the reflections are pretty surface level, or not altogether convincing. But then again I also understand that the point is probably more to begin discussion, rather than provide an answer.
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this. Very highly recommend it to anyone.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway.
Thought provoking.
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philo-psy
More inclusive and applicable than I thought it would be, Stop Being Reasonable is a spark notes sampler plate of the different philosophies of thought. Gordon-Smith touches on the different fallacies of human thinking and provides little to no moral judgement on each. She does a good job of keeping things in laymen's terms, which made this easier to consume and digest.

I came out of this with more questions than answers, but alas, that is the (annoying) sign of a philosophy book that's done its
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting exploration of how people really change their minds, and how persuasion is possible told through six diverse case studies. Most significantly Gordon-Smith illustrates the limits of human reason and rationality as the gold standard for changing minds.
What made each of her case studies change their courses? How what can we learn from each about how we form our own opinions or how we can influence others? Fascinating stuff.
Lliam Gregory
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good stuff- and very readable. That last chapter (perfect emoji)
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll save some space on my first comments, since others say very similarly to my own initial impressions. I wanted to like this book more than I do, and there are parts in the middle that I find interesting. The interviews are certainly the more valuable and entertaining sections.

The version of the titular 'reasonableness' in the crosshairs at all times remains nebulous despite the philosophical namedropping (many such names themselves recognize that reason is not a mere logical monolith, but n
Paul Rosen
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I ordered this because an extract in the Guardian made it resonate with me. It's about rationality and changing one's mind. In the extract I read, the example used was a total change of identity. I'm finding myself gradually but firmly losing interest in much that used to matter to me, and taking more interest in now and the future than in the past. This is at a time when many of my contemporaries are getting nostalgic about - or at least reflective and protective of - our shared past. I did thi ...more
Stop Being Reasonable is both an intriguing and frustrating book. I've heard of Gordon-Smith's catcalling segment on This American Life (which is an amazing podcast for anyone wondering), so when I saw this book at the library I was interested enough to borrow it.

Gordon-Smith's book is all about the limits of "reasonableness", on the limits of rational discourse and the fetishisation of rationality and calmness, and how we are so eager to discard emotion and human behaviour when searching for "
Bob Churchill
This is a refreshing take on various questions about some of the presumed uses of reason and argument in everyday persuasion, self-persuasion and psychological processes. I enjoyed receiving input from sources as diverse as John Locke and David Hume, a deconverted Jehovah's Witness (though the "cult" in question is mysteriously not named), and the reality show Faking It, all within the space of a few short chapters.

I did feel it was lacking end-chapter conclusions, to really summarize and drive
Stephanie Byrne
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gordon-Smith outlines "the proper way to reason, at least according to our present ideal, is to discard ego and emotion" and then sets about to test its sufficiency with several, super interesting, real life examples. Reading this book made me want her job.

I have long been a believer that if only I could leapfrog over emotion could I be an unstoppable powerhouse for progress. The social constructs laid out as the foundation of this book suggest I am not alone. It is this thinking that reason is
Peter Geyer
Towards the end of this book, the author laments "turning on the TV and finding a climate of public argumentation that treats changing minds as combat or worse, entertainment – by trading on the lucrative fiction that being reasonable is just being really good at arguing" To me, this sounds a fair thing, particularly as at the start of the book she identifies herself as a debater in her oyuth.

The point here (which can be readinl seen in what passes for political debates across much of the Wester
chantel nouseforaname
Incredibly insightful. Eleanor Gordon-Smith’s mind is sharp as a knife.

Stop Being Reasonable is infinitely readable, opened up my views and made me consider the moments that I overly engage in being rigid or reasonable (and even agreeable) to an absolutely unnecessary degree. It highlights when we should all be a little more critical of situations that would hope or seek that we suspend belief when shit is actually crazy. For example, the attempted rewriting of truth/reason/logic through the sp
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book checks all the boxes for interesting: good topic (people aren’t “reasonable” duh), written by a philosophy student, not too academic, not too pop-sci/Malcolm gladwell, real life situations. But it turned out to fall flat. My guess is that Ira Glass told Gordon-Smith to write a book after doing a thoughtful NPR show, and she tried to come up with material to fill up a whole book.

The book consists of six stories I didn’t find relatable to one another, and an epilogue where she says she
S.R. Győry
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book contains Six illuminating case studies on decision-making.

Not that I would ever get the opportunity, but I don’t think I could walk around Kings Cross, Sydney, confronting the people who cat-called me.

That, in itself, is reason enough to read this book, because the author actually did this. The results are sad, funny and illuminating.

But, more importantly, this book shines an inquisitive light on the question of whether or not reason is always the most reasonable way to make decisions.
3.5 stars. Oh for that ten point scale! An interesting short book that turned out not to be what I was really expecting. The subtitle: How We Really Change Our Minds, led me to expect that there would be clues as to how in fact, as to how we could better be prepared to move people from their mistaken views to our own more rational and reasonable ones. I'm being a little tongue in cheek here. But in fact I was left with the idea that I already had, that really it's impossible to get people to cha ...more
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful and witty, infusing some ideas about the philosophy of knowledge into real, human struggles and situations.

Downside is that the book's main message wasn't delievered coherently. Even in the intro and conclusion, the author covers a variety of ideas related to rationality, persuasion, and knowledge, but sums them up only awkwardly into a vague thesis.

However, the thesis is important and would benefit from more development, I think: We must give more consideration to the dynamics of rel
Tanya Ehlert
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: highly-recommend
One of the best books I have read this year. 6 stories about how people change their minds- or don’t. You will be challenged about how you face off with those who hold unshaken belief systems. You will question your own position- or you should. Either way you won’t finish this book without seeing logic and reasoning in a new light.

From introduction:

“So why, when we know that changing our minds is as tangled and difficult and messy as we are, do we stay so wedded to the thought that rational deb
Marles Henry
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have just finished this on this book on the train. What is reasonable ? What is perspective? Can we rely on our thoughts? Can we rely on the knowledge and authority of others? Can we rely on evidence? How is our own concept of reality created and how much is it really influenced by others, our environment or from the little voice gnawing away in our head ... is that really your voice? I loved this book. Anything that can encourage me to question what I question and think, and what I don't, gets ...more
Giovanna Walker
Didn't love it, didn't hate it. A bit academic for me, and the first chapter was way too long. Don't think it needed to be a book, a few short articles, yes ok. That's just me. I'm no philosophy student, and I do struggle between academic and what real life is. Interesting stories, especially about 'hearing all voices', very topical. Changes the debate a bit. Writer does also try some humour. She shouldn't. Didn't quite resonate with me. Again, interesting concepts, but a novel? No. ...more
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some stories were better than others but overall it was an interesting book. I don’t think it’s really cohesive but I don’t think that’s a problem: there is something to be taken from each nugget.

Sometimes the conversation tails off on the authors on thoughts when really you want to get back to the personal story at hand. In truth, I would have liked more stories as I did find them fascinating and are the glue to the book.
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is about much more than how people come to change their minds, which the blurb might have led you to believe. It also looks at how they shape their identities, deal with uncertainty in their lives and how they react when new knowledge appears which undermines their view of themselves and those around them. It’s very well written and poses some very deep questions, which ultimately we have to answer ourselves, although the author gives us plenty of food for thought for the journey.
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We're all rational, reasonable beings, right? Given sufficient evidence, even the most skeptical of Doubting Thomases will see the light and change their minds. Well, no, not really. Gordon-Smith shows that empathy is the key. Who knew such a thing would be so important to a social species like ourselves? ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Promotes further reflection

I enjoyed this book .There were conclusions that I will think about and carry with me. For example: we only know, after we are committed. There are some conclusions that seem obvious like the suspension of disbelief. Overall a interesting and thought provocativing read.
DJ Sandals
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is essential reading for everyone. It presents ideas that need to be addressed if we are to rise up above the chaos that exists in the world today.

It takes more than logic and reason to convince someone they are wrong. This book won't definitively tell you how to change minds, but it will give you some good ideas on how to try.
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