I am reading this book named "Asking the right questions" by M. Neil Brown. I am unable to comprehend the meaning of the bold text below.

While absorbing information provides a productive start toward becoming a thoughtful person, the sponge approach has a serious disadvantage: It provides no method for deciding which information and opinions to believe and which to reject. If a reader relied on the sponge approach all the time, he would believe whatever he read last. The idea of being the mental puppet of whomever one happens to encounter is horrible imagery for a person and a community. Decisions become accidents of association, instead of reflective judgments.

Could anyone please explain it using some form of grammar jargon, that will help in future to tag the question more appropriately,

Edit- Can you help me in understanding the below text too. Supposing the reason(s) were true, is there any way in which the conclusion nevertheless could be false?

  • Decisions are not based on an informed analysis, and understanding of the problem. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '16 at 8:07
  • The entire passage is extremely badly-written. The highlighted phrase is an exemplar of confused writing, where an author is trying to generate a certain rhythm and style, but (a) has no clue what he is doing so completely fails in the style exercise as such, and (b) all-but fails to communicate anything at all (you have to sort of "guess at what he probably meant"). – Fattie Jun 10 '16 at 12:15

I'd almost finished my answer when I saw @Rathony had provided one already. But it can't hurt to offer an alternative way of explaining your words in bold.

Absorbing information like a sponge results in our decisions being based on an incidental association with whatever we've read most recently, instead of on information selected through reflection and judgement.


I don't think any grammar jargon is necessary to explain this construction which is X becomes Y.

X: Decisions (that you have to make about whether what you read is something to believe or reject while reading something)

Y: accidents (random events or happenings that are not intended) of association (a feeling, memory, or thought that is connected to what you read)

The sentence means

While you have to make a decision or judgment on whether to accept what you read or not when reading, those decisions are not made when they should be made (and they become random events whenever there is any association with what you read). Those decisions should be made on a regular basis (not randomly) when it is necessary. Do not just try to read and absorb everything without thinking whether they are acceptable or not. You have to make such a decision along the way so that decisions can be reflective judgments.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.