How to think: A survival guide for a world at odds - AEI

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Event Summary

On Tuesday, AEI and Baylor University welcomed Alan Jacobs of Baylor University to discuss his latest book, “How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds” (Currency, 2017).

Dr. Jacobs noted that his inspiration for “How to Think” began with the realization that animosity toward people with differences — “the out group” — seemed increasingly visible and prevalent. This animosity, he noted, obfuscated thoughtful, reflective thinking and led individuals to caricaturize those with differences as a “repugnant cultural other.” Dr. Jacobs stressed that thoughtful and patient thinking should be seen as desirable.

The panel discussed the limits of thinking, noting that it is fundamentally impossible to “think for yourself,” as thinking is a collaborative act in which thoughts and ideas are cultivated and shared through others. Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution stressed the benefits of “thinking less” and training more, noting the advantage of culture and traditions to ameliorate human weaknesses in thinking. Pete Wehner of the Ethics & Public Policy Center noted the value of epistemological moderation — the awareness that we only know some part of the truth. The panel also discussed the future of university campuses and liberal thinking in American institutions.

— Douglas Lewis

Event Description

Our digital environment floods Americans’ daily lives with news updates, editorial commentaries, Facebook posts, tweets, and retweets — many of which carry strongly partisan messages and demand responses along yes or no lines. Without patient and careful thinking, many tend to follow the emotional flow of their digital neighborhoods, accentuating division and confusion.

In today’s digital world, how can we discover, or rediscover, strategies and practices of good thinking? And how can we learn to better process and understand information to overcome disagreement?

AEI and Baylor University invite you to the launch panel of Alan Jacob’s new book, “How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds” (Currency, 2017), a guide to thinking productively and avoiding traps of bad thinking in polarized times.

Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


9:45 AM

10:00 AM
Ryan Streeter, AEI

10:10 AM

Alan Jacobs, Baylor University; author, “How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds”
Jonathan Rauch, Brookings Institution
Yuval Levin, National Affairs
Pete Wehner, Ethics & Public Policy Center

11:00 AM

Yuval Levin, National Affairs

11:15 AM
Book signing

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Doug Lewis at, 202.828.6027.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact, 202.862.5829

Alan Jacobs is distinguished professor of the humanities in the honors program at Baylor University. In addition to “How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds” (Currency, October 2017), he is the author of a dozen books, including, most recently, “The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography” (Princeton University Press, 2013) and a critical edition of W. H. Auden’s long poem “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio” (Princeton University Press, 2013). He has written for a wide range of periodicals, including The American Scholar, Books & Culture, Harper’s, and The Oxford American. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama, and he earned his doctorate from the University of Virginia. After teaching at Wheaton College in Illinois for 29 years, he came to Baylor in 2013.

Yuval Levin is the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center (EPPC) and the editor of National Affairs magazine. His essays and articles have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Commentary. He is a contributing editor of National Review and The Weekly Standard, a senior editor of EPPC’s journal The New Atlantis, and the author of “The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism” (Basic Books, 2016). In 2013, he received the Bradley Prize for intellectual achievement. Before joining EPPC, he served on the White House domestic policy staff under President George W. Bush. He has also been executive director of the President’s Council on Bioethics and a congressional staffer. He holds a B.A. from American University and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is the author of six books and many articles on public policy, culture, and government. He is a contributing editor of The Atlantic and recipient of the 2005 National Magazine Award, the magazine industry’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. He also received the 2010 National Headliner Award, one of the industry’s most venerable prizes. In 1996 he was awarded the Premio Napoli alla Stampa Estera for his coverage in The Economist of the European Parliament. In 2011 he won the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association prize for excellence in opinion writing. His articles appear in The Best Magazine Writing 2005 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004 and 2007. He has appeared as a guest on many television and radio programs. He graduated in 1982 from Yale University.

Ryan Streeter is the director of domestic policy studies at AEI, where he oversees research in education, American citizenship, politics, public opinion, and social and cultural studies. Before joining AEI, he was executive director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Streeter has had a distinguished career in government service, which includes being deputy chief of staff for policy for Indiana Governor Mike Pence, special assistant for domestic policy to President George W. Bush at the White House, and policy adviser to Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. Outside of government, he has served as a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and as a research fellow at the Hudson Institute. He is the author of “Transforming Charity: Toward a Results-Oriented Social Sector” (Hudson Institute, 2001); the editor of “Religion and the Public Square in the 21st Century” (Hudson Institute, 2001); the coauthor of “The Soul of Civil Society: Voluntary Associations and the Public Value of Moral Habits” (Lexington Books, 2002); and a contributor to the Stephen Goldsmith book, “Putting Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work Through Grassroots Citizenship” (Hudson Institute, 2002). Dr. Streeter has a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Emory University, an M.A. from Northern Illinois University, and a B.A. from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center (EPPC), the director of EPPC’s Faith Angle Forum, a fellow at the Bush Institute, and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. He has also appeared as a commentator on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and C-SPAN. Mr. Wehner served in the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations before becoming deputy director of speechwriting for President George W. Bush. In 2002, he was asked to head the Office of Strategic Initiatives, where he generated policy ideas, contacted public intellectuals, published op-eds and essays, and provided counsel on a range of domestic and international issues. Mr. Wehner is author of “City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era” (Moody Publishers, 2010), coauthored with Michael J. Gerson, and “Wealth and Justice: The Morality of Democratic Capitalism” (AEI Press, 2010), coauthored with Arthur C. Brooks.


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