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The Arab Mind

by Alexander Abdennur, Ph.D.

A fundamental principle of effective interpersonal negotiation is that each party must seek
to acquire understanding (not necessarily acceptance) of the other's position – what they
think. In his newly released book, "The Arab Mind", Dr. Abdennur argues that negotiation
between the West and the Arab-Islamic world requires something more fundamental –
understanding not only what they think, but how they think.

Dr. Abdennur argues that the resolution of the clash of Western and Arab cultures requires
not only understanding the different, often contradictory positions that each culture holds on
moral, religious, territorial, and political issues but also understanding the different styles of
thinking that underlie the different positions they take on such issues.

There is abundant evidence that styles of thinking are in large measure shaped by one's
language and culture. Abdennur's penetrating analysis of the literature on Arab thinking and
his own original empirical research provides evidence that a predominant characteristic of
the thinking of Arab cultures is a "rational epistemic style" – a thinking style at both the
individual and the social/political level that is characterized by a fundamental, overriding
drive for abstraction that is reflected in a pervasive, ever-present and affect-laden drive for
conceptual integration.

This thinking style underlies the Arab demand that political administration be based not on
pragmatism but on ideology. He argues that if the Arab's abstract thinking, that is often
viewed as radical in western cultures, is compromised by demands for empiricism and
compromise, the Arab world will regress into self-centered utilitarianism and demoralization.

2008, Ottawa: Kogna Publishing Inc. $38.00 softcover. Cognitive Centre of Canada: Email: