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Good Arguments

What the art of debating can teach us about listening better and disagreeing well

Published by Simon & Schuster Australia
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

At a time when every disagreement turns toxic, world champion debater Bo Seo reveals the timeless secrets of effective communication and persuasion.

When Bo Seo was 8 years old, he and his family migrated from Korea to Australia. At the time, he did not speak English, and, unsurprisingly, struggled at school. But, then, in year five, something happened to change his life: he was introduced to debating.

Immediately, he was hooked. It turned out, perhaps counterintuitively, that debating was the perfect activity for someone shy and unsure of himself. It became a way for Bo not only to find his voice, but to excel socially and academically. He went on to win world titles with the Australian schools and Harvard University teams.

But debating isn’t just about winning or losing an argument: it’s about information gathering, truth finding, lucidity, organization, and persuasion. It’s about being able to engage with views you disagree with, without the argument turning toxic.

Good Arguments shares insights from the strategy, structure and history of debating to teach readers how they might better communicate with friends, family and colleagues. Touching on everything from the radical politics of Malcom X to Artificial Intelligence, Seo proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that, far from being a source of conflict, good-faith debate can enrich our daily lives. Indeed, these good arguments are more important than ever at time when bad faith is all around, and our democracy seems so imperiled.

‘From two-time world champion debater Bo Seo, a thoughtful, instructive and eloquent meditation on the art of debate and why its central pillars - fact-finding, reason, persuasion and listening to opponents - are so valuable in today’s alarming ecosystem of misinformation and extreme emotion. When Bo Seo’s family immigrated from South Korea to Australia, he was a shy, conflict-averse eight year old who worried about being an outsider, and in “Good Arguments,” he recounts how debate not only helped him to cross language lines, but also gave him confidence and a voice of his own’ - Michiko Kakutani, former chief book critic for The New York Times.
 

About The Author

Photograph © Jonah Hahn

Bo Seo is a two-time world champion debater and a former coach of the Australian national debating team and the Harvard College Debating Union. One of the most recognized figures in the global debate community, he has won both the World Schools Debating Championship and the World Universities Debating Championship. Bo has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN, and many other publications. He has worked as a national reporter for the Australian Financial Review and has been a regular panelist on The Drum. Bo is a graduate of Harvard University and has a master’s degree in public policy from Tsinghua University. He is currently a juris doctor candidate at Harvard Law School.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia (June 1, 2022)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781761104480

Raves and Reviews

‘From two-time world champion debater Bo Seo, a thoughtful, instructive and eloquent meditation on the art of debate and why its central pillars - fact-finding, reason, persuasion and listening to opponents - are so valuable in today’s alarming ecosystem of misinformation and extreme emotion. When Bo Seo’s family immigrated from South Korea to Australia, he was a shy, conflict-averse eight year old who worried about being an outsider, and in “Good Arguments,” he recounts how debate not only helped him to cross language lines, but also gave him confidence and a voice of his own’

– Michiko Kakutani, former chief book critic for The New York Times

‘In a world increasingly rent by division within and between nations, Bo Seo’s lucid and humane search for “better ways to disagree” could not be more timely or valuable.’ 

– Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia and author of The Case for Courage

'This is not just the electrifying tale of how Bo Seo won two world debate championships. It’s also a user manual for our polarised world. I can’t think of a more vital resource for learning to sharpen your critical thinking, accelerate your rethinking, and hone your ability to open other people’s minds. Good Arguments is the rare book that has the potential to make you smarter—and everyone around you wiser.'

– Adam Grant, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of Think Again and host of the podcast WorkLife

'Good Arguments is a book so timely and needed in this fraction-ing world we are living in. It assumes that a quarrel is something you first have with yourself, get it out of the way and start to respect and listen to the person across the room from you. Seo has written a book that forces us to think and then speak as the philosopher he knows is right on the tip of every tongue. This book is brilliant and a pleasure to read; in the end, he instructs us not to win but to convince and unexpectedly, it teaches how to persuade for words are deployed as weapons of love.'

– Jamaica Kincaid, author of See Now Then, Mr. Potter, and The Autobiography of My Mother

'I adore this beautiful story of a young person's journey from fear of conflict and altercation to embrace of wonderful disagreement and argument. In this touching memoir, debate is not a mere activity but a way of life that offers hope of a cure for a diseased society. Good Arguments is essential reading!'

– Jeannie Suk Gersen, John H. Watson Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and author of A Light Inside

'I had lots of conversations about political and social issues with Bo Seo when he was a student at Harvard, and I never felt even, for a second, that he was being disputatious or even argumentative. On the contrary, they were delightfully agreeable. Now I understand why: it was because Bo Seo is a debater, in fact, one of the best debaters in the world. If you want to learn how debating can help you become a more engaging conversationalist, a more broad-minded thinker, or even, maybe, just a better human being, you must read Good Arguments.'

– Louis Menand, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Metaphysical Club and The Free World

'Today, more than ever, we see the importance of navigating disagreements constructively. In his new book, Good Arguments, Bo Seo offers some tips we can all use in doing so, drawing on his deep experience as a champion debater.'

– Stephen A. Schwarzman, New York Times-bestselling author of What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence

'Good Arguments is an antidote to spin, fake news, "political correctness" and plain muddled thinking. Bo Seo teaches us how to listen and to be heard in both a healthy democracy and  around the kitchen table'

– Gillian Triggs, former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission

'This excellent book begins with the challenge faced by a schoolboy whose family moved from South Korea to Australia. From school debating to university dialogue and on to witnessing global political conflict, Bo Seo identifies how debate and argument are essential to human understanding.  Out of good arguments comes a synthesis.  It has been so from the time of Socrates, to the world of Khrushchev and Mandela, and of Putin and Zelinsky.  He argues that debate is central to human freedom even as our world faces dramatic challenges for human survival.  Distinguishing ‘good arguments’ from unconvincing rubbish, has never been more central to human survival and to achieving love for one another.'

– Michael Kirby, AC CMG

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    Photograph © Jonah Hahn
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