Examples of book-length arguments?
November 17, 2015 9:36 AM   Subscribe

In my last question I asked how to structure long, intricate arguments. Now I'm specifically asking for book-length examples that make the argument explicit.

In my last question, this book was the best example. Can you point me to books that are at least this explicit or, ideally, even more so?

I'm hoping for explicit premises, metadiscourse and "signposting," perhaps chapters or even the entire book building up to final "therefore"'s, maybe an explicit deductive hierarchy in the front matter or table of contents (though that is not necessary), and hundreds of pages long, where the whole thing is as flowing and painless as one could hope for.

Basically, I'm looking for example books that (explicitly?), persuasively (though not necessarily successfully, in your opinion) guide the reader through an explicit [sic], intricate, lengthy, non-watered-down argument.

Thank you!
posted by zeek321 to Writing & Language (25 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates. It's not precisely an argument, but it's an argument.
posted by Etrigan at 9:40 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by means of natural selection. Darwin himself wrote at the beginning of chapter 14, which recaps the previous chapters and concludes, that "this whole volume is one long argument."
posted by brianogilvie at 9:46 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond.
posted by yankeefog at 9:47 AM on November 17, 2015

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:52 AM on November 17, 2015

In One People, Two Worlds, a Reform rabbi and an Orthodox rabbi argue for the whole book about why one is better than the other.
posted by Melismata at 9:53 AM on November 17, 2015

The Communist Manifesto

Capital (Das Kapital)
posted by melissasaurus at 9:54 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Shop Class as Soulcraft (The Case for Working With Your Hands, in the UK) by Matthew B. Crawford fits, and is excellent.
posted by Kreiger at 9:57 AM on November 17, 2015

Seconding The Origin of Species. Darwin knew he was throwing a bombshell and so he structured the book very, very carefully to walk you through his argument, marshaling evidence as he went.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:02 AM on November 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Noam Chomsky, Syntactic Structures

Plato, virtually any of the dialogs.
posted by Herodios at 10:07 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Why Things Bite Back by Edward Tenner, a book-length argument about how. in the pursuit for the advancement technology and medicine, unintended circumstances ("reality") bites back. Good read.

Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam is a book-length argument about the disconnectedness of today' American society and its subsequent effects.
posted by singmespanishtechno at 10:10 AM on November 17, 2015

Newton's Principia Mathematicia
posted by grobstein at 10:17 AM on November 17, 2015

Oh actually the argumentative structure is not that explicit to a modern reader sorry
posted by grobstein at 10:17 AM on November 17, 2015

Your question reminded me of Why I am not a Christian by Bertrand Russell. It's long though not book-length.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:18 AM on November 17, 2015

The Question of Palestine by Edward Said fits this.
posted by OmieWise at 10:26 AM on November 17, 2015

Best answer: Reasons and Persons by Derek Parfit. Very dense analytical philosophy.
posted by matildaben at 10:29 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ronald Dworkin, Law's Empire.
posted by Aravis76 at 10:43 AM on November 17, 2015

Seconding Diamond and Piketty. I'd throw in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft - older prose style but certain a long detailed argument.

Also if you want to just pick an interesting subject and look for long detailed structured arguments, why not read people's doctoral theses? There's a ProQuest database of them (ProQuest Dissertations & Theses) you can probably get through a library. Pick a subject that interests you and go to town.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:25 AM on November 17, 2015

Best answer: I came in here to say Reasons and Persons. You can find hundreds of these types of books--most social science dissertations that have been turned into books fit this mold: theory, quantitative study, 3 case studies, conclusion.

But Reasons and Persons is simply a masterpeice of simple, logically connected and deducted statements in persuity of an argument.

I love Marx but the manifesto was a manifesto, and Capital was terribly edited and disjointed.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:32 AM on November 17, 2015

A Theory of Race, Joshua Glasgow
posted by cat potato at 12:27 PM on November 17, 2015

Quentin Skinner's Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (1996) stands out, for me, for the clarity and elegance of its structure. The contents page is a thing of beauty in itself: the book is divided into two parts, each part is divided into five chapters, and each chapter is divided into four or five sections, giving the book a structural symmetry which I find very pleasing, like cutting open an orange to reveal the pattern of segments. The introduction breaks down the argument into a sequence of logical steps, each of which is then developed at greater length over the course of the book, with plenty of signposting to guide the reader along.
posted by verstegan at 12:41 PM on November 17, 2015

Godel's proof by Ernest Nagel and James R Newman
posted by coleboptera at 12:49 PM on November 17, 2015

How Democratic is the American Constitution? (which should be subtitled, "not very") is a very persuasive multi-chapter argument for changing our constitution to increase democracy.
posted by latkes at 1:54 PM on November 17, 2015

Isn't this describing a tremendous proportion of narrative non-fiction in general? I'm just running down the length of my bookshelf and asking if they fit the bill: chapters that are structured to illustrate parts of an argument with evidence in support of a question that is posed and ultimately answered (in one way or another). Bad Pharma? Yep. Anti-intellectualism in American Life? Yep. Probably a lot of Chomsky. Much academic scholarship published in book form. I feel like I could fit a lot of books here.

I'm not pretending to know how to evaluate which one did it best. Are you looking for the best crafted argument (e.g. its structure and content) or the most persuasive argument regardless of it's length and complexity?
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:05 PM on November 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt makes a book-length argument that morality is really more about instinct than about logic and laws, and Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene is a book length rebuttal, contending that humans do have moral instincts, but that moral reasoning is vital for resolving conflicts among the moral instincts of different groups.
posted by OnceUponATime at 2:28 PM on November 17, 2015

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