The Instigator
Eav
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
kasmic
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

Self-improvement books do more harm than good

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
kasmic
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/13/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 758 times Debate No: 65071
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)

 

Eav

Pro

Self-improvement books do more harm than good
Let‘s talk about self-improvement books. I am going to argue that, they actually are not that helpful but in most cases can be rated as problematically to dangerous.

Society Debate | Shared BOP | 4 Rounds | 72 Hours Reply | 10.000 Characters | 7 Point Voting

Definitions and Limitations
The terms of self-help and self-improvement are sometimes/often used as synonyms but can be semantically a bit vague. This is not aimed at books on Technology and Crafts such as „How to knit“, „C Programming for Beginners“ as they might be categorized as self-help books but certainly not as self-improvement books.

Because these teach and deal with hard skill problems such as lacking the ability to kit or program and have nothing to do with soft skills such as fancy speaking or self-motivation.

Debate Structure
In terms of fairness, we will start with a round of arguments only and end with a round of rebuttal only. Which means my opponent can choose to have the last word with a first round of acceptance or open the debate immediately and end with a forfeit.

I don’t mind pictures as additional media, but I’d hope my opponent can restrain himself/herself from posting videos, as I don’t always have a stable connection as well as access boundaries due to different home countries may occur.

Looking forward to having an enjoyable debate I say welcome and good luck.
kasmic

Con

Intersting topic, I accept. Good luck!
Debate Round No. 1
Eav

Pro

Round 2 | Arguments | by Eav | 13/11/
In the following I used the more appropriate self-improvement as often as possible, but as self-help is the more enjoyable term to write and read and as the limitation of the topic have already been set, I use them now as synonyms, to make it bearable to read. No worries, I always write that much starting off, it get's less once I said everything that was spinning in my mind.

Overview
Aspect 1: Self-Improvement incapacitates the reader
1a: Necessary degrading
1b: Lowers ability to help yourself
1c: Analysis Paralysis

Aspect 2: Genre problems
2a: Relevance of scientific validity
2b: Ideologies in subtext
2c: Business Circle

Conclusion Round 2
Sources

A1: Self-Improvement incapacitates the reader
In this section I want point out, why self-improvement books do actually the opposite of what they aim to: they don’t teach you how to help yourself but offer pre-phrased solutions that, over time can easily harm your ability to address your problems without the help of self-help.

1a: Necessary degrading
Nobody buys a self-improvement on a topic of which they think they have nothing to improve. And nobody writes a self-help book on a topic of which one thinks nobody needs improving. This establishes from the very beginning a necessary hierarchy between reader and author: The reader is the inferior, less ideal individual, while the author is the superior one.
How hard an author might (even honestly) try, there is no way you can phrase an advice as the equal of the reader because the relevance of this advice is tied to the predominance of the advice-giver.

And self-help doesn’t only degrade the reader in the author-reader relationship but often also in comparison to the rest of the society. Best and saddest example is probably the sub genre of weight-loss-self-improvement. With catchphrases featuring famous people and/or unrealistically easy and short-cut methods in Product descriptions people get compared to representatives of their society and reminded of their visual inferiority and mental inferiority to grasp something supposedly so easy that you can fix it in less than two weeks. I spare us all the endless string of “Hugh Jackman got fit with this”-Quotes here, but I will provide them if requested.

1b: Lowers ability to help yourself

“f you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.” (A. I. T. Ritchie in Mrs. Dymond, 1885)

The concept of helping yourself or improving yourself imply that you find a method to resolve your issue. They do the opposite by giving you the (fishy) solution. You never learn how to help yourself nor how to develop a strategy to resolve your issues.
The more you rely on pre-phrased solutions the more you slip into a resolving strategy that doesn’t involve you doing any relevant thinking. That likely contributes to the explanation why 80% percent of the self-help-readers are repeat buyers {1}.

The semantic problem that what it seems to say and what it does are effective opposites makes it difficult for the reader to become aware of this process of increasing dependency. Meaning it’s not only harmful but also hard to identify as such.

1c: Analysis Paralysis
Lastly the whole genre can trap you in a state of “Analysis Paralysis” a term created to describe a state in which you are unable to actually resolve your problem because you can’t decide what guideline or strategy is best, due to the nature that the amount of information is overwhelming {2}.

This can be a bit worse than it sounds because it offers a way of avoiding the actual problem: “I don’t have to start my diet yet, because I don’t know which program to follow. That’s why I can still eat things that make me sick.”

And extending this problem, analysis paralysis covers also up, if the base problem is something you can’t resolve without professional help such as bankruptcy, mental illness or adiposity. Stuck in a circle of information gathering you avoid to face the seriousness of the problem and the need to see a professional for individual counselling.

A2: Genre problems
Self-help and self-improvement are an own genre. One of the most successful genre currently {3}. But there are some issues with this genre that the user is often not aware of and hardly able to detect, which makes him a likely victim of related side-effects.

2a: Relevance of scientific validity
Writing a scientific article or book is not attractive. You spent years on independent research, you’re work and sources are double and triple checked over a long time and when it’s finally published nobody outside the specific science community will significantly notice. Even Johannes Kepler decided that writing a novel was probably a good idea to make science semi-scientifically interesting for the public; his “Somnium” (1609/ 1938) one of the first SciFi novels ever {4}.

For self-improvement books you don’t need to work scientifically correct. And you don’t have to tell your reader that you’re book is not reviewed and edited in that way.

Which is obvious for every book that promises and sells fiction. Self-help doesn’t want to sell fiction, but valid life guidance. That there is no limit to what extend theories can be made up and intuitive or biased by a certain Ideology, is hard to comprehend for the reader. He is encouraged to believe blindly in some-thing that he should approach critically. That many bookstores nowadays place self-improvement books wildly within their store {5} likely close to topic related properly researched textbooks can’t be helpful to make this distinction clear.

A paper by Norah Dunbar and Gordon Abra in 2006 uncovered that from a sample group of 31 authors of 35 popular communication relationship self-help books none had a degree in said field and if they had achieved a higher university level education most had still non or rarely any acknowledged-edged publications in their specific field {6}.Those authors with master and doctor level education are technically able to approach the topic adequately, but do not have the required specific knowledge for it. Those with neither have no specific knowledge nor have they ever been taught how to acquire specific knowledge professionally. This makes their work highly controversial.

2b: Ideologies in subtext
As pointed out in 2a; there is no limit for an author on biasing his own text to support a certain ideology, religion or sect.
Especially if we consider the problem that people already approach the genre with self-doubts and obedience affinity (1a, b) it’s a great way to subtly use your readers trust to inflict a world view on him. I don’t like the word “Brainwashing” and I think it would be the wrong term here, because I don’t suspect any conspiracy theory here. But it’s enough that the author believes strongly in a certain (misguided) ideology so that he will have a hard time not automatically including it in one way or another.

In the softest case we have an author unaware of what he is doing and a reader unaware of what he is adapting. But that doesn’t change that this ideology transfer is as wrong as it is unprofessional and potentially harmful to vulnerable minds (leading to anorexia, depression …). And in the worst case we have a single black sheep author that intentionally covers a belief in self-help, with the intention of later making money from those believing in it.

Already the concept that only a productive and successful person is worthy person is a worldview that may cause damage (with its performance pressure) on those already depressed, young and/ or with self-esteem issues.

2c: Business Circle
At last for today, I want to point out that the self-improvement market has nothing from people that actually resolve their problem and learn how to transfer that method onto other personal problems. Because that would make them no longer customers.

To sell seminars, audio books and so on, you need the people to stay in a state of constant self-questioning and self-doubt. Which means that the publishers have an interest in publishing self-help books without proper quality inspection. The more they publish and the more valid they sound (not necessarily are) the better the genre keeps people hooked.

There is no financial benefit in a self-improvement book that fully lives up to what it promises. Self-help brings us to a point were being happy is not profitable.

Conclusion Round 2
So how do I get this all together for the resolution? I’ve shown that said books are confusing the reader by doing the opposite of what the intuitively buys them for. It furthermore hinders skills that would help to make the reader overcome his problems and can lead the reader into not realising that a problem has reached a point of being a threat for the reader.

I’ve discussed that the genre needs and fosters low self-esteem. It has interest in making the reader believe in something he will never have or achieve and to have the reader constantly circling a negative/ flawed self-image. The average self-improvement has barely educational quality, be-cause it attracts people who can’t or don’t want to put effort in high quality writing.

And for now that’s all lot to indicate that this genre is making more people miserable than actually successful. Though rarely it might does both.

Sources
{1} http://www.theguardian.com...
{2} http://www.investopedia.com...
{3} http://publishingperspectives.com...
{4} https://frostydrew.org...
{5} http://nymag.com...
{6} http://citation.allacademic.com...
kasmic

Con

Rebuttals: I will respond to my opponent within their existing format.

Overview

A1: Self-Improvement incapacitates the reader

Incapacitate: “to make (someone or something) unable to work, move, or function in the usual way”(1)

As people we are creatures that have the ability to act or to be acted upon. Inanimate objects such as books, rocks, beds, etc do not act upon us. Therefore a book cannot “make” a reader do anything. Or keep them from doing something. Therefore a self-improvement book cannot incapacitate a reader.

1a: Necessary degrading

Pro says “Nobody buys a self-improvement on a topic of which they think they have nothing to improve.”

This is a truism… is there a person that could not improve?

Pro says “nobody writes a self-help book on a topic of which one thinks nobody needs improving.”

Sure, also a truism.

“self-help doesn’t only degrade the reader in the author-reader relationship but often also in comparison to the rest of the society.”

Acknowledging that one needs help or improvement is not inherently degrading.

Degrading: “to treat (someone or something) poorly and without respect”(2)

If acknowledging a weakness is degrading, than everyone is degraded. Thus nobody is degraded.

This argument includes the word Necessary.

Necessary: “so important that you must do it or have it : absolutely needed” (3)

My opponent suggests that it Is “degrading” to say improvement is needed. If that were true it must be more helpful than harmful.

1b: Lowers ability to help yourself

Pro says “They do the opposite by giving you the (fishy) solution. You never learn how to help yourself nor how to develop a strategy to resolve your issues.”

I invite pro to show the difference between teaching a man to fish, and a self-help book.

Pro says “The more you rely on pre-phrased solutions the more you slip into a resolving strategy that doesn’t involve you doing any relevant thinking. That likely contributes to the explanation why 80% percent of the self-help-readers are repeat buyers .”

I contend that an 80% repeat buyer rate is an indication that those who buy and read these books must feel that the books have done more help than harm.

Pro says “The semantic problem that what it seems to say and what it does are effective opposites makes it difficult for the reader to become aware of this process of increasing dependency.”

I invite pro to substantiate this claim and show a correlation of reading self-help books and dependency.

1c: Analysis Paralysis

Analysis Paralysis is not directly linked to self-help books. This is the paradox of choice argument. “The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less is a 2004 book by American psychologist Barry Schwartz. In the book, Schwartz argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers.” (4)

This would indicate that too many choices can cause anxiety, or that too much information can cause stress. This is an independent problem not related to Self-help books themselves.

A2: Genre problems

Pro says “Self-help and self-improvement are an own genre. One of the most successful genre currently.”

This would indicate, again, that those buying the books feel that more good than harm is done.

2a: Relevance of scientific validity

“For self-improvement books you don’t need to work scientifically correct. And you don’t have to tell your reader that you’re book is not reviewed and edited in that way.”

Sure this is true… depending on the sub-genre. Self-help books tend to have a disclaimer. Here is an example “The information provided in this book is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects discussed. This book is not meant to be used, nor should it be used, to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis or treatment of any medical problem, consult your own physician. The publisher and author are not responsible for any specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision and are not liable for any damages or negative consequences from any treatment, action, application or preparation, to any person reading or following the information in this book. References are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute endorsement of any websites or other sources. Readers should be aware that the websites listed in this book may change.”(5)

“With a society that is often prone to rush to litigation, the use of legal disclaimers in books have grown in popularity and are often strongly recommended. These disclaimers are suitable when your book offers health, fitness, diet, or financial advice. They also serve to protect the author and the publisher against liability when their book’s topic might invade someone’s privacy or result in a claim of defamation. In addition, when you provide instructional information or advice, it’s a good idea to protect yourself and your product from being held liable for the results achieved from their use or implementation.”(5)

Pro says “He (the reader) is encouraged to believe blindly in some-thing that he should approach critically.”

Again books do not make people do anything. I book cannot make someone believe blindly, or dismiss their own critical thinking. They, themselves, as readers may make that decision. Such a decision is not a books fault, nor could it be.

2b: Ideologies in subtext

Pro says “Already the concept that only a productive and successful person is worthy person is a worldview that may cause damage (with its performance pressure) on those already depressed, young and/ or with self-esteem issues.”

Contrary to the “harm” my opponent wants to pin of self-help books, Studies have shown self-help books to be helpful in treating depression. (6)

2c: Business Circle

Pro argues that “the self-improvement market has nothing from people that actually resolve their problem and learn how to transfer that method onto other personal problems. Because that would make them no longer customers. “

This is an appeal to motive and as such is a fallacious argument. (7)

My opponent is suggesting that because Self-help authors have a vested interest in selling books, they do not really want to help their readers and only write books to make money.

“A common feature of appeals to motive is that only the possibility of a motive (however small) is shown, without showing the motive actually existed or, if the motive did exist, that the motive played a role in forming the argument and its conclusion. Indeed, it is often assumed that the mere possibility of motive is evidence enough.” This argument is dismissed as a fallacy.

Conclusion Round 2 Rebuttal:

Aspect 1: Self-Improvement incapacitates the reader

1a: Necessary degrading: Negated.
1b: Lowers ability to help yourself: Needs sources, and clarification
1c: Analysis Paralysis: Negated.

Books, or any inanimate object cannot incapacitate anything. If something is necessary, it must be more helpful than harmful. I contend that an 80% repeat buyer rate is an indication that those who buy and read these books feel that the books have done more help than harm. Analysis Paralysis is an independent problem not related to Self-help books themselves.

Aspect 2: Genre problems

2a: Relevance of scientific validity: true but negated as not harmful due to disclaimers.
2b: Ideologies in subtext: Negated
2c: Business Circle: Negated

Self-help books tend to have a disclaimer due to possibly being liable for application of the authors work. Self-help books have been known to help treat depression. The business argument is a logical fallacy and dismissed as such.

Arguments:

Burden of proof: My opponents resolve is “Self-Improvement books do more harm than good.”

As my opponent is pro it is his burden to prove
1. Self-Improvement Books do harm
2. Such harm is greater than the good.

Thus far no harm has been substantiated. Sources have shown that self-help books are effective at treating depression. With an 80% repeat buyer rate, it is clear that those buying the books feel the good far outweigh any potential harm. According to my opponent’s source Self-help is the bestselling genre of book sells. This suggests such books are good for the economy.

(1) http://www.merriam-webster.com...
(2) http://www.merriam-webster.com...
(3) http://www.merriam-webster.com...
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org...
(5) http://www.aliciadunams.com...
(6) http://www.bbc.com...
(7) http://en.wikipedia.org...

Debate Round No. 2
Eav

Pro

Eav forfeited this round.
kasmic

Con

extended.
Debate Round No. 3
Eav

Pro

Eav forfeited this round.
kasmic

Con

Bummer, well BOP is not entact. Vote con!
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Eav 2 years ago
Eav
Glad to be back, I did not expect that this debate would be accepted so quickly but I am really looking forward to this; and I will post my arguments within the day (well, 'day' considering the usual timezone issues)
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by lannan13 2 years ago
lannan13
EavkasmicTied
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture