Rules of Mental Engagement

One of the best ways to sharpen your mind is to debate others.  Whether you do it formally or informally in written form or verbal form challenging the thinking of another person will give you a good mental work out.

But what are the rules of mental engagement? How can it be done in a civil way that maximizes its brain boosting effects?  One of the best suggestions I have seen comes from Daniel Dennett a well-known philosopher in his new book, Intuition Pumps and other Tools for Thinking.

He starts the book with a quote that very much reflects the philosophy of the Next Brain Blog:

“You can’t do much carpentry with your bare hands and you can’t do much thinking with your bare brain.”

His specific suggestion for engaging others is summarized in the section on Rapoport’s Rules and involves a four step process:

  1. First you summarize the other person’s point and have them confirm that you understand it.
  2. List all the points you agree with.
  3. List the new things that you have learned from studying the other person’s position.
  4. Finally offer an initial criticism or rebuttal.

An excellent way to positively provide feedback and engage others in discussion and debate.  It also gives your brain an excellent workout by requiring emotional control, replay, reflection and critical reasoning.

Rapaport’s rules are only one example of the many thinking tools Dennette reviews.  I will blog about several others later this month.

Next time you find yourself disagreeing with someone apply Rapaport’s rules and give your brain a workout.