How to Win an Argument
AN ANCIENT GUIDE TO THE ART OF PERSUASION
by Marcus Tullius Cicero; translated by James May; read by Simon Vance
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox - sent from Tantor Media
Humans communicate constantly. We inform. We educate. We question. We also try to persuade. Persuasion is the most difficult communication. We need to persuade. We need to bring people around to our way of thinking, to agree with our beliefs. This need to persuade has gone on since humans began to communicate. Which animal are we going to hunt? How many hunters need to go? What is the best way to kill the animal? Who gets the best parts of the meat? Somehow we have lost the ability to persuade. We now just confront, not communicate.
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC) is one of the fathers of the art of persuasion. In the democratic society that he was a part of verbal persuasion or rhetoric was an important part of daily life. He wrote several important books that helped teach his fellow citizens to, “Plan and execute a successful speech in public, in other words, to win an argument”. Cicero has been studied by students of rhetoric down through the ages. If you studied Latin, at some point you were probably translating Cicero.
Dr. James M. May, Professor of Classics at St. Olaf College, has done the translating for those of us who never studied Latin. He combed through Cicero’s many works on rhetoric and put together the most useful sections. He has Cicero’s own words followed by his commentary. The book starts with a short biography of Cicero. The next section is “The Origin of Eloquent and Persuasive Speech”. Next is “The Parts of Rhetoric or Activities of the Orator”. The rest is “The Value of Imitating Good Models of Speech”, “The Value of Writing to Prepare Effective Speaking”, “The Requirements and Education of the Ideal Speaker” and finally “A Ciceronian Cheat Sheet for Effective Speaking.” That is the end of the audio book. The physical book also has a section that shows the Latin text that was translated to create the book. It also contains Further Reading and Glossary sections.
Simon Vance was fantastic as always. His pronunciation was crystal clear. His pacing was wonderful. I did not miss a single word because his reading was smooth and consistent.
I was interested in this title because I believe it can help improve my writing of reviews by teaching me to better construct my arguments. I was also interested to educate myself on Rhetoric to better understand what my son, who is a graduate student at Miami University of Ohio in Rhetoric and Composition, is talking about when he tries to explain his master's thesis to me. The audiobook was great to listen to but I felt like I needed to take notes. Having essential tremor precludes note taking. Having the physical or Kindle book, I could have highlighted the passages I felt I would need to reference often. What I did do was put a ton of bookmarks with a short description for each book mark like “cheat sheet” or “argument arrangement”.
I would recommend this audiobook. At three hours running time, it can be listened to during commutes or while doing other tasks. Simon Vance’s voice is so pleasing that listening to it repetitively would be enjoyable. If you can take notes, you will probably only need to listen to it once but you will want to listen to it again and again.