As pretty much every other review of this book says, it’s not about winning arguments. Who knows who decided on that title, because it’s not what this book contains. Instead it’s a descriptive book. And I mean this in the sense of descriptive versus prescriptive language, an idea that I probably apply too liberally to various concepts based on whether something seeks to draw a large circle around something, and then explain what that circle contains, or whether someone wishes to write out what a circle should contain, and draw the circle only around that prescription, to the exclusion of everything else.
Here, writing from 2016, Stanley Fish is mostly drawing a large circle and then explaining from there. One of the through lines of this book is to try to de-emphasize the desire (however correct and noble it may or may not seem) to lament the loss of critical engagement of ideas and forms of argument. For one, he makes clear that the ways in which people argue have not actually changed all that much since theories defining it have emerged (with Aristotle, I’d suggest), but merely the seriousness and tone of those definitions. So that lamentation, which might be warranted, is not all that helpful. And it’s especially not helpful, if your goal is to actually do some arguing.
The bulk of the book is more about understanding the various realms of arguing that we see public discourse, how those realms are defined, how arguments within them function, and the limits to overlapping those different realms. Specifically he lays out political discourse, academic discourse, and interpersonal (with a focus on romantic relationships). And so while you won’t really learn a lot about how to win arguments, this book does a pretty good job of setting the terms of the various arguments and suggests reasons why attempts to engage arguments with the wrong orientation are doomed.