Download How to Think Study Guide

Subscribe Now


In How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds, author Alan Jacobs argues that people have thoughts affected by their surroundings and explains how people can remove some of the problems resulting from a lack of individual critical thought. He focuses on recent American trends, paying particular attention to how people fall for the prevailing notions of their fellows. In Jacobs's view, most humans behave emotionally instead of thinking.

Jacobs argues that thinking has gone out of fashion. Attributing this to the desire to fit in with social groups, he sees modern people as akin to herd animals. Technology such as the internet has increased this problem, as social media users jump on board trending bandwagons. Rather than improving thinking, the flood of information can worsen it.

Jacob also explains the many merits of critical thinking. For example, social and economic developments such as democracy and technology derive from careful thought. As such, Jacobs argues that people should think more, as he writes that previous generations did.

For Jacobs, thinking requires objectivity. This contrasts with the subjectivity that runs rampant in popular discourse. Many modern people feel such attachment to their social groups that they pay more attention to the feelings that arise from such belonging than to any objective facts. By separating oneself from one's affiliates, one can see a more accurate picture.

Jacobs attributes political divisions in the United States and elsewhere to this lack of thought. If people thought more honestly, they would see each...

(The entire section is 384 words.)