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How to Speak and How to Listen

Continuing my streak of self-help indulgence, I decided to re-read Mortimer Adler’s less known work, the one about speaking and listening. The best-known one being How to Read a Book, which is good despite itself and its author’s pretentiousness. Parts of the book aged rather poorly.

Lamenting the decline of liberal arts colleges — decline of the 1980s, not the deep dive that was yet to come — he offers some words of self-praise about teaching marketing executives on the importance of ethos, pathos, and logos in controling people’s actions and minds. Oh, how professioral he must have looked — my mind brings up images of a bespectacled jowly professor in a tweed suit; the internet agrees with my assessment and even adds a pipe — educating these know-nothings on the works of Demosthenes. Oh, how tragic is the path to which he led them, and the world.

But I kid. Mortimer Adler the man had little to do with the attention economy of days present, but his ponderings on how to be a good dinner host, impress CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and rile up a crowd to do your bidding are a good example of the tango mortale that academia played with industry in the mid-to-late 20th century. And we are all worse for it.

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