The Ancient Art of Thinking For Yourself

The Power of Rhetoric in Polarized Times


By Robin Reames

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$24.99 CAD



  1. ebook $18.99 $24.99 CAD
  2. Hardcover $30.00 $39.00 CAD

How rhetoric—the art of persuasion—can help us navigate an age of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and political acrimony

The discipline of rhetoric was the keystone of Western education for over two thousand years. Only recently has its perceived importance faded.

In this book, renowned rhetorical scholar Robin Reames argues that, in today’s polarized political climate, we should all care deeply about learning rhetoric. Drawing on examples ranging from the destructive ancient Greek demagogue Alcibiades to modern-day conspiracists like Alex Jones, Reames breaks down the major techniques of rhetoric, pulling back the curtain on how politicians, journalists, and “journalists” convince us to believe what we believe—and to talk, vote, and act accordingly. Understanding these techniques helps us avoid being manipulated by authority figures who don’t have our best interests at heart. It also grants us rare insight into the values that shape our own beliefs. Learning rhetoric, Reames argues, doesn’t teach us what to think but how to think—allowing us to understand our own and others’ ideological commitments in a completely new way.

Thoughtful, nuanced, and leavened with dry humor, The Ancient Art of Thinking for Yourself offers an antidote to our polarized, post-truth world.

    New York Times Editors' Choice
  • "Liberals who dread Thanksgiving because it means speaking to people with different ideologies or none at all, and conservatives who prefer 'owning the libs' to agonistic engagement, should read The Ancient Art of Thinking for Yourself."
    Wall Street Journal
  • "This ancient art can help us stay sane in today’s polarized and post-truth world."
    Fast Company
  • “The history of rhetoric that the author presents is fascinating, and the parallels she draws to the modern world are sharp and sprinkled with both bluntness and wit. . . required reading for any thinking person.”
    Kirkus (Starred)
  • “In an age of fake news and spin, how ideas are packaged and sold is as important as the ideas themselves. In her latest work, Robin Reames traces the historical threads of rhetoric and rhetorical thinking to the modern day, shedding light on the age-old practices that can help us understand truth and persuasion in today's public discourse.”
    Yascha Mounk, author of The Identity Trap
  • "We’re not the first to suffer from fake news and conspiracy theories. The Greeks did as well--and they found an antidote. In this compelling deep-dive into ancient rhetoric, Robin Reames teaches us their lost art of argument. May it bring wisdom to our media-addled brains." 
    Martin Puchner, author of The Written Word
  • “I always thought rhetoric was important and needed to be taught, but Robin Reames’s book floored me for the clarity of exposition, the compelling arguments, and the accessibility of the ideas presented in it. Do yourself a favor and get this book. Do other people a favor and gift them copies of it.” 
    Massimo Pigliucci, author of How to Be a Stoic
  • “I kept thinking about this book after I finished it, and then one day I reached out to a friend I hadn’t spoken to in years—because of political disagreements—and a wound began to heal.”
    Ellen Jovin, founder of the internationally acclaimed Grammar Table
  • "If everyone always agreed with everyone else, we would not need rhetoric, as Aristotle once observed. Robin Reames’s new book takes that observation as its premise and presents new ways to think about an old but indispensable art: rhetoric, the art by which things—issues, values, beliefs—come to be held dear. When approached in this way, rhetoric becomes necessary equipment, not for reaching agreement, but for getting where people are coming from and, just as importantly, how they—how we—got here."
    Debra Hawhee, Penn State University

On Sale
Mar 19, 2024
Page Count
304 pages
Basic Books

Robin Reames

About the Author

Robin Reames is associate professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, specializing in rhetorical theory and the history of ideas. She lives in Chicago. 

Learn more about this author