Believing and Doubting Games in Reading
When one thinks of reading the first thing that pops into mind is a person holding a book sitting in an easy chair in front of a fire lost in the author’s world, sailing the sea with captain Ahab, roaming the south with Faulkner, floating down the Mississippi with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, reading as a kind of vacation from the real world. Reading is an escape into our imagination and the words and sentences of the writer. We are not tested on this reading or expected to argue about its literary merits. It is not work or pragmatic, it is pleasure, entertainment.
We read now from phones, computers, Nooks, wide screen color televisions, and movie screens as well as books and journals and much of our reading in school is for a pragmatic purpose. For the purpose of this composition course we will use reading for inquiry (truth seeking) and persuasion (rhetoric).
Methods of Reading
Skimming is valuable when you are choosing your sources. It involves reading the abstract, the first paragraph, the last paragraph, and gliding or passing quickly through the body paragraphs.
Reading to find the truth about an issue
A good way of reading to explore and find the truth about an issue (inquiry) is by playing the believing and doubting game developed by Peter Elbow.
Close Reading and Summary Writing as a Way to Play the Believing Game
a. A says statement summarizes the content of the paragraph or main idea of the paragraph in your own words.
b. A does statement summarizes the paragraphs function. Does the paragraph state the main claim or present reasons or evidence? Does the paragraph address the opposition or conclude the argument? Does it use humor or quote another author?
The doubting game seeks truth by indirection – by seeking error. Doubting an assertion is the best way to find error in it. You must assume it is untrue if you want to find its weakness. The truer it seems, the harder you have to doubt it. Non credo ut intelligam: in order to understand what’s wrong, I must doubt.
To doubt well, it helps if you make a special effort to extricate yourself from the assertions in question – especially those which you find self-evident. You must hold off to one side the self, its wishes, preconceptions, experiences, and commitments. (The machinery of symbolic logic helps people do this.) Also, it helps to run the assertion through logical transformations so as to reveal premises and necessary consequences and thereby flush out into the open any hidden errors. You can also doubt better by getting the assertions to battle each other and thus do some of the work: They are in a relationship of conflict, and getting them to wrestle each other, you can utilize some of their energy and cleverness for ferreting out weakness.
Dialectic or dialectics (Greek: διαλεκτική, dialektikḗ), also known as the dialectical method, is a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned arguments.
Because it’s so hard to let go of an idea we are holding (or more to the point, an idea that’s holding us), our best hope for leverage in learning to doubt such ideas is to take on different ideas. Peter Elbow
Questions to Ask
2. How are their beliefs, values, and assumptions different?
3. Do they have shared beliefs, values and assumptions?
4. How have my own beliefs, values, and assumptions changed? Have I been exposed to new ideas? How have my views changed?