Sunday, April 3, 2011

Four Levels of Reading

Reading is an activity largely of the mind, but reading well is an exhausting effort of one’s mental faculties. One of my own teachers said that reading has four levels: 

  1. understanding the outline of the piece; 
  2. coming to terms with the author’s terms (meaning that one understands terms as the author intended);
  3. understanding the propositions, their arguments, and evidence supporting them; and finally, 
  4. responding with the appropriate etiquette. 

This last phase, which Mortimer Adler describes as “talking back” to the author, is the most difficult level of reading. It is the ability to criticize with understanding, giving your reasons for dissent, and supporting them with counter arguments, but this last and problematic phase of reading is entirely predicated upon the mastery of the first three. At this level, criticism means disagreeing with all or part of an author’s assumptions, logic, or conclusions based upon an accurate and contextual reading of his work.

Reference: Yusuf, H. (2011, March 26). The Sin Tax of Ignoring Syntax. Sandala Productions. Retrieved March 31, 2011, from http://www.sandalaproductions.com/Blog/26-the-sin-tax-of-ignorning-syntax.aspx