Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

On Rhetoric

by rg Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:01:54 PM EST


Along with logic and dialectic, rhetoric is one of the three ancient arts of discourse. From ancient Greece to the late 19th Century, it was a central part of Western education, filling the need to train public speakers and writers to move audiences to action with arguments. [1] The very act of defining has itself been a central part of rhetoric: It appears among Aristotle's topoi, heuristics for rhetorical invention.[2] For Aristotle, rhetoric is the art of practical wisdom and decision making, a counterpart to logic and a branch of politics. [3] The word is derived from the ancient Greek eiro, which means "I say." In its broadest sense, rhetoric concerns human discourse.[4]

Do any of you know this card?

The happy chappie who has won the argument.  

You win, they lose.  They're dead, you survive.  You continue, they don't.  Them and You; Us and Them.

I'd like to ask you all: have you ever had a conversation where you had a position, and the other person had a position, and you came out with your position changed?

I'd compare it to the fresh mind that has no position, that searches for Truth and Tone....

....and finds the Tone and thinks it has found The Truth...

This fresh mind is influenced by rhetoric so, for me, rhetoric is the art of convincing the undecided...

Okay.  But isn't there a higher or larger or deeper or wider or....another set of tones that don't demand you agree or disagree, that are self-critical?

A tone that seeks to remove its own beam rather than focus on the beams (or motes) of the Other?

Display:
Ah, heuristic.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:10:58 PM EST
Oh, I meant to add: Let us ponder, too, as long as we approach with bated breath the classical paradigms of democracy, euhemerism.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:16:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah!  I can only--at one thirty am UK time, and in return, offer you this, a favourite youtube of mine, a crazy ride on the sax of John Coltrane--I don't know your musical tastes, hope you like:



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:30:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ellington and Coltrane (1962) on vinyl (stolen from a parent) is one of my most cherished possessions. Along that line, I'm mighty partial to Toots, too. I've got that E/C CD too somewhere... and I wish I could hear this YouTube track you selected. Alas, my machine audio of YouTube is out two weeks now. I suspect the GOOG has officially purged support of certain browsers. Assholes. (you. cannot. make. me.) I'm sure it's nothing IP personal.

Anyway, rg, it's the thought that counts. Thank you so much. And good night ;)

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 09:39:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I love the video .. thanks for posting.
by abarefootboy (richardbohn a ( in a cirlcle ) comcast dot net) on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 12:40:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes!

Migeru also offered me (us!) a good word:

Maieutics

I'm still stuck with thesis-antithesis-synthesis, waiting for synthesis to arrive...oh so slowly!  When, if synthesis is the aim, why not cut out the five and...oh...the ten..."I win, you lose; you're dead, I win"

Great care must be given when employing a heuristic algorithm. One common pitfall in implementing a heuristic method to meet a requirement comes when the engineer or designer fails to realize that the current data set doesn't necessarily represent future system states.

While the existing data can be pored over and an algorithm can be devised to successfully handle the current data, it is imperative to ensure that the heuristic method employed is capable of handling future data sets. This means that the engineer or designer must fully understand the rules that generate the data and develop the algorithm to meet those requirements and not just address the current data sets.

Those future data sets....

Hey, you found it in one!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:23:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like to ask you all: have you ever had a conversation where you had a position, and the other person had a position, and you came out with your position changed?

Occasionally. Very occasionally. But quite frequently I've come out with my position nuanced... even just a little bit. And with enough nuancings... you eventually end up with a quite different position.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:31:41 PM EST
Yeah, that's the sense I get.  I wonder, though, if one takes a non-adversarial approach, if the nuancings can't be speeded up...into synthesis!  (Ah!  I do enjoy synthesis!)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:38:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Synthesis may be useful and desirable, but not always. It may be relevant, it may not. It may be possible, it may not.

Reductio ad absurdum:

I am in favour of chopping rg into tiny bits.

My opponent thinks rg should remain whole.

Synthesis? OK, let's cut rg into quarters.

It's admittedly desperate as an example, particularly for rg, but there are positions that don't admit synthesis.

Oppositional debate can also serve as a means of setting out the arguments for and against, of adducing evidence, in other words, of providing information.

On the other hand, endless argumentativeness and logic-chopping, sophistry, eristic...

eristic a & n  (art or exponent) of disputation; (of argument or arguer) aimed or aiming at victory rather than truth [f. Gk eristikos (erizo wrangle f. eris strife)...] (Concise Oxford Dictionary)

is tedious and unproductive. (Meaning <scream raaaarggghh enough stop!>)

And it would be good if we developed other ways here of being productive in the way ideas are shared. Maieutics is one way; collaborative work towards a position and/or a text is another... Though it has to be said that these don't "draw" like a big fight; and that they suppose a fairly high degree of like-mindedness. And there we will get accusations of "groupthink" and "comfort zones", and calls for openness to contrary points of view... And therefore disputation and strife... The good ship ET has navigated between this Scylla and this Charybdis since the beginning.

So: when ideas are antithetical or at least very different, how do you discuss them productively without confronting them? Propositions welcome.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:32:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Synthesis may be useful and desirable, but not always

As I understand it, synthesis is the creation of a higher level agreement from two seemingly irreconcilable positions; so the agreement about chopping moi to pieces wouldn't (as I understand it) be about how big the bits I'm chopped into might be, but rather--"Hey, why don't we keep him as a slave?"  Solving both needs.  

Oppositional debate can also serve as a means of setting out the arguments for and against, of adducing evidence, in other words, of providing information.

Yeah, I think this is its role; making sure the nuances (as Jake had it) have been dealt with; but I suddenly had a doubt--it sounds good in principle, but I wondered: has anyone here ever had an opinion that was changed by this setting out of the arguments, with evidence, etc?  It seems that those who believe homosexuality is an illness, or that there were WMD, or that nuclear power is dangerous, or whatever the position might be....just on the internets there must be the same arguments argued a hundred thousand different ways, but I don't think people are changing their minds...

Although--having said that, for the undecideds or the "I never knew about this topic, didn't realise there were issues, tell me more", a well worded and researched argument may win out against something less well argued, or researched--

--David Icke comes to mind, all his pages of information--have you read Them, by Jon Ronson?  He discovers the Bilderberg group really does exist; that there really is a large stone owl, that there really is a ceremony where they burn an effigy of...etc....

heh!  Maybe I'm thinking of myself, trying to tidy the intellectual map, shaking off the crumbs, see what's been mapped, see better where the irreconcilables lie...

...and yes, a good fight draws the attention, so we'll all keep throwing sticks at each other....!

So: when ideas are antithetical or at least very different, how do you discuss them productively without confronting them? Propositions welcome.

I do like the idea of a person studying the weakest part of his or her own side's argument--it's sorta anti the "We need guns because they have guns" logic--

So...I think ideas can be confronted, positions stated.  I like the idea of finding agreement on specific issues (as opposed to a strange agreement that it's best not to discuss some issues, which as you say reduces an argument to "me and my mates agreeing about things we agree about"...

Ach zo, senor afew!  I have proposed ze thesis, you have proposed an antithesis, and now--

hey, I've learned some great new words already!  Gotta love euhemerism!

So...synthesis: I get to learn some new greek words that lead me to new concepts from which I can better view the terrain....a tweaking of ze mental map!

But yeah, the danger is that all discusssion reduces to, "Well, let us define is--and then we can go from there!"

On t'other hand, I have my moments where I think that if we really did all stop and ponder what is is (do all cultures have it? What are its roots?  It's one of our oldest concepts, maybe--How has its function changed over time....)--er....

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:42:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, it does occur to me as well that some people simply enjoy shouting at each other--whose skin crawls when everyone around them puts on their shiny happy faces--a good argument clears the tubes.

But, as King Neptune had it, "Wands!  Wands!"

--using a wand, though, to fight a person with a sword....heh...

Do you know this one?



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:14:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
rg:
I do like the idea of a person studying the weakest part of his or her own side's argument--it's sorta anti the "We need guns because they have guns" logic--

OK, good idea. But one that requires (like maieutics or collaborative research and editing) a certain degree of like-mindedness or at least of shared good faith. I'm all for it. But it's like the photo negative of trying to put forward the strong points. It can still be an argumentative fight, unless everyone involved plays the game in a positive spirit.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:00:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You make me think of the competition to be the humblest:

"You're the humblest."
"Oh, no!  You're much more humble than me!"

Heh...Yack yack!  The danger with any such approaches is, as you say, bad faith--

But I do like the idea that before we (of course I include moi!) open our blowholes to expel mighty spouts of what we believe to be the case--by God!--onto the heads of our enemies...

I dunno, if we go about pointing out the structural weaknesses in each others houses, when and how do we go about making our own ever more pleasantly habitable?  (I suppose another line of thought would be that we should fix the structural weaknesses in the other person's house--"Hey, in your argument you're missing a key point: if you add this detail, my word!  It becomes formidable!")

yes, yes!

And with those another series of propositions....heh....

Back to reality!

TG: Well we had it tough.  We used to have to get up out of the shoebox
    at twelve o'clock at night, and LICK the road clean with our tongues.
    We had half a handful of freezing cold gravel, worked twenty-four
    hours a day at the mill for fourpence every six years, and when we
    got home, our Dad would slice us in two with a bread knife.
EI: Right.  I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night,
    half an hour before I went to bed, (pause for laughter), eat a lump
    of cold poison, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill
    owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home,
    our Dad would kill us, and dance about on our graves
    singing "Hallelujah."
MP: But you try and tell the young people today that... and they won't
    believe ya'.
ALL: Nope, nope..



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:57:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
has anyone here ever had an opinion that was changed by this setting out of the arguments, with evidence, etc?

I can name a very simple one: I used to think that deposing Saddam Hussein was a good idea, because he was a Bad Guy. Then somebody pointed out that Bush the Lesser had started pushing the smaller members of the UNSC around by blackmailing them with threats of withdrawing foreign aid, and I went "hey, waitaminnit - you don't get to do that! You've got a case, why do you have to bribe and blackmail to make the other guys come around to your point of view."

Similarly, I used to think about Afghanistan "well, it worked fine enough for Kosova..." Until some kind chap pointed me to a declassified MI6 analysis that said that the official British story about Kosova (which the Danish press had plagiarised wholesale) was basically a load of crap. Now, if the Russian spies say that the official British version of events is full of crap, I take that with a grain of salt. But when the British spies say it...

Of course, when you have a position that you've spent a long time thinking through, spent a lot of energy nuancing and spent a lot of debating hours refining, the chance that a single argument will shatter it wholesale is much smaller. No doubt it's partly because you have a greater emotional attachment to the idea and the narratives you use to justify it. But I think it would be silly to discount the fact that the position has already been changed and refined quite a lot.

In principle it's possible that someone can point me to an argument that completely justifies slavery. In principle, it is also possible that someone will provide me with data that conclusively proves that Maxwell's equations are wrong. But it has to be really, really good, because there's rather a lot of data and theory to support Maxwell's equations, and slavery violates most of my principles. So proving Maxwell's equations wrong would entail finding another model that describes all these volumes of data, and convincing me that slavery is right, would involve convincing me that most of my principles are wrong.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:09:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Of course, when you have a position that you've spent a long time thinking through, spent a lot of energy nuancing and spent a lot of debating hours refining, the chance that a single argument will shatter it wholesale is much smaller. No doubt it's partly because you have a greater emotional attachment to the idea and the narratives you use to justify it. But I think it would be silly to discount the fact that the position has already been changed and refined quite a lot.

I agree, so it's not just that one becomes more dogmatic as one gets older (though that can happen of course :-)), but that one has reviewed a lot more evidence, countered a lot more oppositional arguments - a bit like an experienced chess player.

As Popper pointed out there is value in a certain amount of what might seem like dogmatism in order to ensure that a theory is adequately defended; one shouldn't just abandon a theory due to the first bit of counter evidence without considering that supposed evidence critically.  I think he cited Newton as having rejected some observations which seemed to contradict his theories, explaining them as due to abberations in lenses, etc. - correctly.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:35:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bush the Lesser had started pushing the smaller members of the UNSC around by blackmailing them with threats of withdrawing foreign aid

Yes. Authorization to do this was part of the American Servicemembers Protection Act, introduced as an amendment to an important appropriations bill by Jesse Helms. Bush's "coalition of the willing" is more likely termed the "coalition of the coerced/bribed." Or how we got international powerhouses like Costa Rica, Georgia, Romania, Iceland, Thailand, Honduras and Mongolia to give some sort of half-assed diplomatic cover for his war of aggression.

It has been pointed out (by a Russian, btw) that the lack of support for the war by any continental European country pretty much predicted how disastrous this was would turn out. Which speaks volumes about the international perception that Britain merely follows in Washington's footsteps.

"Coalition of the Willing." Rhetoric at its worst.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:12:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
Similarly, I used to think about Afghanistan "well, it worked fine enough for Kosova..." Until some kind chap pointed me to a declassified MI6 analysis that said that the official British story about Kosova (which the Danish press had plagiarised wholesale) was basically a load of crap.

And this would be why I generally spend quite some time trying to understand why people believe what they believe. If that kind chap had not understood the reason behind your thinking about Afghanistan, he might have delivered a thousand reasons why invading Afghanistan would be wrong, that you would not have accepted as they would not have been relevant to your reasoning.

You can always heap arguments of why something or another is wrong, but to convince you need first to understand. And if you can convince then you can change stuff.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 04:47:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, the debate where it came up was about the Kosova crisis, not the invasion of Afghanistan, so the psychological analysis wasn't quite as convoluted as might appear - I made the jump from Kosova to Afghanistan more or less myself...

But the wider point is well taken, and applies just as well to the kind of evidence that I would find acceptable in the Kosova case. It's certainly true that if he'd argued solely that it was A Bad Idea from a geostrategic point of view, I would have been less (read: Not at all) persuaded. Whereas I suppose for others it's their analysis of geostrategic advantage that matters.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 05:33:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the dialectical process, Hegelian, Marxian, etc., a synthesis is not simply the mid-point between antithetical positions, but their resolution at a HIGHER levl, transcending the apparent opposition. So a synthesis of your "desperate example" might be agreement that neither of you had a right to decide what should be done with rg (though he might be assigned a bit more homework to inform his diary :-))

"how do you discuss them productively without confronting them?"

As you might have guessed, I'm not against confrontation :-) and don't see it as necessarily unproductive. Confrontation happens in science very often and can be fruitful and science indicates how most discussions can be made more productive. That is one doesn't just state one's opinions, but, where appropriate (e.g. not in cases where one is just reporting one's feelings) one also supports them with evidence, an indication of how they fit into a rational understanding of the issue in general (which would at least imply what would count as refutation), provides citations so one's evidence and its context can be checked. Such argument might lead to minds being changed, if not ValD's :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:03:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah yes, can you believe it passed me by on first read through?  No?  heh....!

Eristic!  A new word to me--I think it was what I meant when I wrote "rhetoric".

These are great words I'm learning!

And...Eris!

Eris Nancy Discordia (Born -9900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, Died Tomorrow) was a 'Big Ol' Dyke' deity, and became e=]4tyg1st President of the United States after st75e3kig Cthulhu in a closely fought game of go-moku. She was sometimes known as a Sacred Chao. Her Vice President (President of Vice) was J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. She is also widely known for Her authorship of the humorous text, The BibleFNORD, the creation of Golden Delicious apples, and the defeat of the Illuminati in ancient Atlanta. Many statues in the Britains, known as Sheelanagig, depicting a hideous woman pulling open her vagina, are based on the impression Eris left in the minds of the Human Race.

Eris works part time as the Greek Goddess of Confusion and Chaos, or She What Done It All, and part time at a Dairy Queen in Towson, MD. In traditional Greek mythology, she created Forgetfulness, Lies, Quarrels, and lots of other things the ancient Greeks weren't particularly fond of. The Principia Discordia states:

"One day Mal-2 consulted his Pineal Gland and asked Eris if she had really created all of those terrible things. She told him that She had always liked the Old Greeks, but that they cannot be trusted with historic matt -]#['p098h7yfdt86561/8+fz cbi7rs. 'They were,' She added, 'victims of indigestion, you know.'" However, Eris isn't really malicious and evil, but she tends to be mischievous and at times, a bit bitchy. It was the Goddess Eris who threw the Golden Apple and started that silly little war... you know, the one with the Trojans and such.

Heh....Eris.

Eris (Greek Ἔρις, "Strife") is the Greek goddess of strife, her name being translated into Latin as Discordia. Her Greek opposite is Harmonia, whose Latin counterpart is Concordia. Homer equated her with the war-goddess Enyo. Eris, the solar system's largest known dwarf planet, is named after the goddess.

[...]

The most famous tale of Eris recounts her initiating the Trojan War. The goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite had been invited along with the rest of Olympus to the forced wedding of Peleus and Thetis, who would become the parents of Achilles, but Eris had been snubbed because of her troublemaking inclinations.

She therefore (in a fragment from the Kypria as part of a plan hatched by Zeus and Themis) tossed into the party the Apple of Discord, a golden apple inscribed Kallisti - "For the most beautiful one", or "To the Fairest One" - provoking the goddesses to begin quarreling about the appropriate recipient. The hapless Paris, Prince of Troy, was appointed to select the most beautiful by Zeus. Each of the three goddesses immediately attempted to bribe Paris to choose her. Hera offered political power; Athena promised skill in battle; and Aphrodite tempted him with the most beautiful woman in the world: Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta. While Greek culture placed a greater emphasis on prowess and power, Paris chose to award the apple to Aphrodite, thereby dooming his city, which was destroyed in the war that ensued.

Eristic!  Excellent!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:27:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
But quite frequently I've come out with my position nuanced... even just a little bit. And with enough nuancings... you eventually end up with a quite different position.

That's almost exactly my experience. Giant world-changing epiphanies are rare, although they do happen occasionally. But it's not so rare to find positions changing with counter-arguments.

It also works from the other side. Trying to put together a coherent argument takes some thought, and often I'll find that my beliefs and positions change, or at least become clearer, as I try to do that.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 12:33:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pirsig's view - underpinning his Metaphysics of Quality - is that Rhetoric precedes everything else in the way it expresses our response to Reality.

Dialectic, which is the parent of logic, came itself from rhetoric. Rhetoric is in turn the child of the myths and poetry of ancient Greece. That is so historically, and that is so by any application of common sense.

The poetry and the myths are the response of a prehistoric people to the universe around them made on the basis of Quality. It is Quality, not dialectic, which is the generator of everything we know.

Quality! Virtue! Dharma! That is what the Sophists were teaching! Not ethical relativism. Not pristine virtue. But aretê. Excellence. Dharma! Before the Church of Reason. Before substance. Before form. Before mind and matter. Before dialectic itself. Quality had been absolute.

Those first teachers of the Western world were teaching Quality, and the medium they had chosen was that of rhetoric. He has been doing it right all along. . . .



"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:13:37 AM EST
Just....got to...find....the right....words!

:7)

You know, did it start with maths?  You teach quality by training a person how to do things accurately, correct use of the correct tools, correct movements, build up a praxis built on specific foundations.  If you wish to plane a piece of wood, then....

How does that sound?  The more tools and techniques you learn, the better--if they're put to the correct use....you create quality?

Rhetoric (as I understood it) was the art of putting over one's thoughts on a subject.  I've simply held it in my head erroneously that it somehow sat in contradistinction with Veritas.  That Veritas (=quality, I think, in your model) is just....there....hey, you give me a chance to quote a Shakespeare sonnet!

My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still,
While comments of your praise, richly compiled,
Reserve their character with golden quill
And precious phrase by all the Muses filed.
I think good thoughts whilst other write good words,
And like unletter'd clerk still cry 'Amen'
To every hymn that able spirit affords
In polish'd form of well-refined pen.
Hearing you praised, I say ''Tis so, 'tis true,'
And to the most of praise add something more;
But that is in my thought, whose love to you,
Though words come hindmost, holds his rank before.
Then others for the breath of words respect,
Me for my dumb thoughts, speaking in effect.

But, I think I'm thinking educatively--that we need to educate each other as we can and when asked if possible--so the art of getting one's message across (of creating conviction = trust?  So there is some connection...bad faith, as afew wrote...curdles the cream, poisons the well...so find lots of wells and find a person whose cream is tasty!)  ...rhetoric is a tool to speed...?  To speed the transmission of the quality, the mindful quality--but I think that's only part of rhetoric.  There is also rhetoric for funerals, parties...well, that's what I've got so far from my look at the site papicek has given us--well...

If you need to translate a quality, maybe how to plane a piece of wood, here's the wood, maybe there's a workshop, and the person over there is explaining it all wrong--but that's okay; you're going to train your students, and they'll learn well....

But we all have to learn it all, whether we like it or not...because if I fail to produce quality, yet I still produce!  And maybe that guy over there, he got the bad teacher, the one who wouldn't know quality if it licked his ears--this teacher is insensible, it seems--and yet manages to have the worst teaching style, always shouting at the kids, blaming them if they fail to meet some standard of perfection he himself is far from....heh!

There is a refusal to learn, yet I believe--I think this has been demonstrated, but only in bursts--that humans can be brought to a level where "You don't have to do it.  It's okay!  Just find something you want to do, and try and get good at it."

And they do, because they believe completely in the support they are being offered...ah, 'tis rare, and fragile--  

Ach aye, ze dreamers....

Not just how to plane a piece of wood, but...everything....and as you learn how to add quality...I must be in Chrisland now...you turn a dreamy, fuzzy, vague, unreal map into an ever more accurate map, with positive (let's not this time ponder the quality of current nerve gasses) effects in ...tonight I'll call it "the outside world"...the effects are there, for good or ill...my buddhist moment...we choose how and if we deal with them, but we choose from a limited palate if....if we haven't been taught quality--or if we are blocked in our attempts to transmit it, such that we are maybe endlessly denied the space and/or the time--both of which (learning--and creating enough time and space in which to learn) are exacting for maybe the majority of humans--you have to be able to give up, basta, enough!  Okay!  Time off!  I need some quality time....away from these exacting and often repetitive processes....

Forty minutes, an hour and a half, an afternoon, a week, a year, a decade....and then....off!

But always adding quality--does that sound like part of what you mean by quality?

Heh!  Chris!

And...ah, I can't resist!  You gotta give this one two minutes.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:24:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like to ask you all: have you ever had a conversation where you had a position, and the other person had a position, and you came out with your position changed?

Yes, I've had my mind completely turned around on a number of thing, though usually this happened over more than one conversation.

Still more conversations where I've been eventually met in the middle, or found a way to agree to disagree. Most conversations still don't end up like that. And I'm not doing nearly as much of the adversarial style of debating that I did, as I found it increasingly a waste of time.

No such things as completely fresh minds, though, with all due respect ;-)

But rhetoric is often about playing to the audience as there are a lot of people (not on this blog, I think, but in general there are) whose opinions are impervious to informal logic. Mr. Klaus was a fun example where I think that worked out, personally.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:46:37 AM EST
Same here, but  I am not sure if there is a name from rhetoric (other than a derogatory one) for the 'arguments' I often get involved in: they are usually creative brainstorms whose kinetic force is in the direction of the outlandish. In other words the 'debaters' run with ideas, building on each others crazier ideas until a point of total impracticality is reached. Then take one or two steps back from that point and there's your concept ;-)

But that's marketing communications...

As I have noted before, I am fascinated by a First Nation notion of debate in which 12 elders sat in a circle. Depending upon their position in the 'compass', they had to argue from the point of view of their position in the compass, not from their own view. Also one could only talk when in possession of the 'talking stick' which was passed around. These positions represented different polar aspects of tribal life and decision-making. For example, the person at North position would argue from the tribal view, opposite would be a person who would argue from a view from outside the tribe etc.

I've never tried it, and I assume that it wouldn't work in our culture, because most people wouldn't be able to get their heads around the idea of arguing another point of view. And it is not the same as playing Devil's Advocate.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:11:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I assume that it wouldn't work in our culture, because most people wouldn't be able to get their heads around the idea of arguing another point of view."  

School, university debaters, lawyers, people in most forms of advertising/marketing ? :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:49:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wrote 'most'.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:36:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The list was not meant to be exhaustive, and already includes a lot of people, and if all these can do it, why couldn't many others if asked to do so?  So there's no reason to suppose "it wouldn't work in our culture".

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:15:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was speaking of the 'compass' method of discussion. I have never seen it in operation. But from what I understand of how it is conducted, it is not a rhetorical form of discussion.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:29:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This seems to be a rhetorical reply - confuse the issue :-) I know what you were referring to - the issue was not whether or not it was rhetorical, but whether or not you were justified in claiming it wouldn't work in our culture.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:29:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cows can certainly fly, if taken as freight on an airplane.

Our w*estern culture - for want of a better description - has not used such a multidimensional fixed position structure of equals in formal decision-making, as far as I know. Naturally that lack of use does not mean that such a structure be forever incapable of being tested or adopted. It just hasn't been yet.

Thus my doubts that it could work in our culture, where decision-making has been practiced in various adversarial forms for several millennia. It's a different mindset, like the difference between an axonometric or perspective proscenium view.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:03:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Despite the waffle :-)  - it comes back to this: "It's a different mindset". I gave just some examples showing that it wasn't, and if those people can do it in our culture, others can too. Simple point really. Want to go round again - without the irrelevant similies ? :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:37:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Going by the spirit of debate, I suspect you and Sven have a difference on what 'it' is. Arguing the other side is something that I could see being manageable for a lot of people. Certainly those who actively engage in politics. But it doesn't necessarily get you out of the two dimensional style of adversarial debating.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:07:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
wiki, "hermeneutic circle" (Westworld varieties). Note also in cosmology, "trickster" figures such as Hermes (Trismegistus), Es(h)u, Coyote and Rabbit that represent the necessity of interpretation.

Opposed to "rule of thumb."

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 02:23:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the interesting link ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 08:16:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I picked up somewhere that before Sweden entered the 30-years war, the king arranged a series of debates where he issued roles (though I think it was mainly pro et contra) to his advisers. It ended in entering the war, which probably was the right decision from their pow.

To take more recent and similar activities I have participated in role-playing exercises where the goal was to better understand a situation through assigning different positions. In some ways that resembled the compass.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 04:56:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting...

I think it would be very interesting to try the compass method in a workshop. I'm happy to hear of your experiences, because we need more of this imo. Empathy is a casualty of capitalism - any method for experiencing and understanding empathy is useful and evolutionary.

My own baseline for consulting on communications with different companies always, as far as possible, stands on their particular audience. There are always perceptual people at the other side of the dialogue, and empathy is a very important method of communicating with them - if it is genuine.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 05:53:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same here also.

I actually remember ending conversations quite embarrassed.

But not anymore. When I engage conversation I now know that I am not the owner of the truth. Many times I engage conversation precisely to have ideas challenged.

And I think I am far from being alone (although in my personal case I am very conscious about the process).

The idea of having an argument to win should be challenged. Although sometimes there is a need to enter to win, most times it could be seen as a way for mutual progress: One discusses to exchange viewpoints with the other and maybe (or maybe not) change a little bit our own view of the world (or at least be aware of weaknesses in our own reasoning that need to be addressed)...

by t-------------- on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:05:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
perhaps there's a way to present arguments unargumentatively...

very interesting discussion, ta, rg for getting this snowball rolling!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:11:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"I'd compare it to the fresh mind that has no position"

It's important to remember that in general no such mind is possible. "that searches for Truth and Tone" - to do so involves having a position about "Truth" and its value, what would count as searching, evidence, etc.

"for me, rhetoric is the art of convincing the undecided"

Or changing the mind of the decided. As in the quotation you used, it's quite general, "rhetoric concerns human discourse" - it can also just entertain: "It was a very amusing speech - and I didn't believe a word of it".

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:46:07 AM EST
After years of hunting, I found one, and only one, comprehensive guide to classical rhetoric. Happily for us here, it is online. I invite you all to wander through The Forest of Rhetoric, which for many years was my homepage.

Enjoy :)

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:16:27 AM EST
That's a great link!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:48:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like I say, and I've searched for years, there's nothing out there to compare.

Have fun :)

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 11:48:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some points which may or may not be useful:

  1. Rhetoric is a tool of persuasion, not of factual analysis. It was originally developed by lawyers and philosophers who wanted to know how best to sway crowds, judges and juries.

  2. Arguing with people isn't rhetoric, it's arguing. Debate isn't necessarily rhetoric, although anyone who's skilled at debate will use rhetorical techniques - not always consciously.

  3. You can be good at rhetoric and useless at arguing, and vice versa. You can win a debate with rhetoric and have no idea what you're talking about otherwise. You can be totally clued-in and in posession of an accurate picture of the facts, but still lose a debate to someone who's better at rhetoric than you are.

  4. It's very hard to find classes in rhetoric now. It was once taught as a formal skill, because it was so useful. I assume politicians still learn it somewhere and somehow, because pols do rhetoric for a living. But if you're looking for useful rhetoric and not just a list of obscure grammatical constructions, it's not so easy to find that.

  5. Rhetoric is mostly dishonest slight of mind. It doesn't do substance, it does appearances. E.g. one example of a simple rhetorical technique is that you can sometimes appear to invalidate a general position by apparently invalidating a small and inconsequential part of it.

  6. Rehtoric is based on narrative logic, not on scientific logic. Narrative logic creates stories which sound plausible, but the connection between facts and conclusions can be anywhere on a scale from approximately plausible to ridiculous and non-existent. In narrative logic everything is confused and out of proportion, and connections don't stand up to scrutiny. But it feels convincing, so it can seem persuasive.

  7. Neo-liberal economic theory is mostly rhetoric. The Laffer curve, trickle down, deregulation - these are all rhetorical positions supported with narrative logic.

  8. Rhetoric works because people mostly think in narrative terms, not in scientific terms. Thinking scientifically, in a truly reality-based way, is hard. It's even harder not to slip back into rhetorical positions even when you've made a scientific start.

  9. Narratives rely on unconscious ethical positions. The reason some rhetorical points are 'obvious' is because they're based on a moral - i.e. emotional - argument. If you can sway an audience emotionally by appealing to its prejudices, it doesn't matter how silly - or not - your facts are.

  10. Everyone has prejudices. No one is immune to rhetoric.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 12:30:16 PM EST
5 people so far are persuaded that this merits a 4. Time for a critical look :-)

Let's look at this as a piece of rhetoric, e.g. first limit the definition of the subject to suit one's attitude towards it:

1. Rhetoric is a tool of persuasion, not of factual analysis. It was originally developed by lawyers and philosophers who wanted to know how best to sway crowds, judges and juries.

But let's look at the very useful site linked above and we find the broader defintion I suggested was more appropriate in an earlier comment:


Rhetoric is the study of effective speaking and writing. And the art of persuasion. And many other things.

In its long and vigorous history rhetoric has enjoyed many definitions, accommodated differing purposes, and varied widely in what it included.
...
Because rhetoric examines so attentively the how of language, the methods and means of communication, it has sometimes been discounted as something only concerned with style or appearances, and not with the quality or content of communication. For many (such as Plato) rhetoric deals with the superficial at best, the deceptive at worst ("mere rhetoric"), when one might better attend to matters of substance, truth, or reason as attempted in dialectic or philosophy or religion.

Rhetoric has sometimes lived down to its critics, but as set forth from antiquity, rhetoric was a comprehensive art just as much concerned with what one could say as how one might say it.

http://rhetoric.byu.edu/

Then let's look at the Higgins article recommended by TBG:


In English, when we use the word "rhetoric", it is generally preceded by the word "empty". Rhetoric has a bad reputation. McCain warned lest an electorate be "deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change". Waspishly, Clinton noted, "You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose." The Athenians, too, knew the dangers of a populace's being swept along by a persuasive but unscrupulous demagogue (and they invented the word). And it was the Roman politician Cato - though it could have been McCain - who said "Rem tene, verba sequentur". If you hold on to the facts, the words will follow.

Cicero was well aware of the problem. In his book On The Orator, he argues that real eloquence can be acquired only if the speaker has attained the highest state of knowledge - "otherwise what he says is just an empty and ridiculous swirl of verbiage". The true orator is one whose practice of citizenship embodies a civic ideal - whose rhetoric, far from empty, is the deliberate, rational, careful organiser of ideas and argument that propels the state forward safely and wisely.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/26/barack-obama-usa1

This has implications for the correctness, or should I say "persuasiveness", of 2, 5, 6, 9 and 10 at least.

2. Arguing with people isn't rhetoric, it's arguing.

Am I arguing or engaged in rhetoric ? Perhaps both ? In the broader sense, argument is indeed a form of rhetoric.


7. Neo-liberal economic theory is mostly rhetoric. The Laffer curve, trickle down, deregulation - these are all rhetorical positions supported with narrative logic.

These examples hardly justify the term "mostly" - the criticism is more appropriate to some simple political and journalistic defenses of neoliberal economic theory - the latter has a BIT more substance (which is not to defend it).

In fact isn't this an example of 5. ... "a simple rhetorical technique is that you can sometimes appear to invalidate a general position by apparently invalidating a small and inconsequential part of it." :-)

 Hayek is usually seen as a key figure in neoliberal economics, cf. "Friedrich von Hayek, the father of neo-liberalism." http://www.voltairenet.org/article30058.html

But, even if one rejects his ideas, they were not just simplistic narratives:


Hayek may have believed at this early point that the economics profession had or soon would understand the full significance of Mises's book. His own efforts, then, could focus on the intertemporal coordination made possible by unhampered credit markets and the intertemporal discoordination caused by misguided bank policy. If anything, the 1937 article marks Hayek's realization that the profession had in fact not absorbed Mises's insights at all. Hayek's fellow economists could not appreciate Prices and Production because they lacked a fundamental understanding of the market economy. In an attempt to overcome this obstacle, Hayek began to deal in a more explicit way with the coordination of individual plans on the basis of dispersed and incomplete information.

      With this alternative interpretation, Hayek's "technical economics" and his subsequent political philosophy can be seen as exhibiting a certain continuity of thought--the later phase involving more fundamental and even remedial concerns.

http://auburn.edu/~garriro/amagi.htm

 Hayek himself complained about over-simple approaches, so it's rather unfair that by association, his work is condemned for their inadequacies (whatever his own might have been):


The libertarian economist Walter Block has observed critically that while the The Road to Serfdom makes a strong case against centrally-planned economies, it appears only lukewarm in its support of pure laissez-faire capitalism, with Hayek even going so far as to say that "probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rules of thumb, above all of the principle of laissez-faire capitalism" [9]. In the book, Hayek writes that the government has a role to play in the economy through the monetary system, work-hours regulation, social welfare, and institutions for the flow of proper information.[10]


9. ... The reason some rhetorical points are 'obvious' is because they're based on a moral - i.e. emotional - argument. If you can sway an audience emotionally by appealing to its prejudices, it doesn't matter how silly - or not - your facts are.

This slips in another narrow definition - that moral arguments are emotional ones - they may be, but also may not be - as arguments (cf. Kant), though some premises will involve basic values. At the same time this reinforces the general, narrow, rather cynical view of rhetoric.

10. Everyone has prejudices. No one is immune to rhetoric.

This example from TBG seems to have been persuasive for some. In this case I'm immune  :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:25:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ted Welch:
This example from TBG seems to have been persuasive for some. In this case I'm immune  :-)

That part I maybe don't understand. I think we agree that there are no blank slates. As for the 10 point list, it is adequate for purposes of narrative, but not science, and in that sense it has a loveable recursivity.

Philosophically, the differences are overdrawn, there are differences between a narrative logic and a scientific logic but they are not opposites; establishing concordance is not only possible but highly conducive to science and at a certain level you might say the use of narrative is inevitable.

As for 'neo-liberal economic theory', that term alone is an admirable rhetorical feat, which identifies the theory with the political programme and thereby does validate the claim TBG makes.

To spoil the fun, of course that's no field a sizeable share of academics would identify with; they'd say they are neoclassical or Austrian school or new institutional economists, if they can be bothered to identify with a research programme at all.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 05:47:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rhetoric is mostly dishonest slight of mind.

LOL, best freudian pun today!

if you meant _sleight.

here's an interesting slant i've not seen here yet.

when someone says 'i was speaking rhetorically', or 'it was a rhetorical question', there is a whiff of insincerity, or self-indugence implicit in that. something fictive, ersatz.

just to further highlight the intense moral ambiguity in the word's dna.

it's pretty much a noble-sounding antique term for what they call 'spin' these days. it used to often come with 'flowery' appended to it...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:21:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
4. It's very hard to find classes in rhetoric now. It was once taught as a formal skill, because it was so useful. I assume politicians still learn it somewhere and somehow, because pols do rhetoric for a living. But if you're looking for useful rhetoric and not just a list of obscure grammatical constructions, it's not so easy to find that.

In Sweden at least, formal greco-roman rethoric fell out of style in the late 19th century with the advance of the mass movements. The formal rethoric become a suspect marker of a trained liar and replaced with a very dull style marketed as sincere. The a very common start in the latter tradition is "I am not a speaker, but ..." to build up your ethos as a person to be trusted. Very little use of pathos, though that does not guarantee it is factual, only that it is dull.

The learning of this dull rethoric style is made in-house in the political parties and sharpened through years of training in faction battles in youth organisations, student politics etc.

An interesting note is that the US seems to have a more continous tradition from the greco-roman style, in particular the tradition of debate clubs. Viewed from the lens of the dull swedish rethoric, the US political rethoric seems rather over the top, and not seldom quite silly.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 05:15:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And coincidentally:

Charlotte Higgins says one of the most interesting aspects of Barack Obama's speeches is the enormous debt they owe to the oratory of the Romans | World news | The Guardian

Barack Obama's speeches are much admired and endlessly analysed, but, says Charlotte Higgins, one of their most interesting aspects is the enormous debt they owe to the oratory of the Romans.

Worth a read.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:39:59 PM EST
... argument later with a different position as the result of having the previous argument.

When I argue, I normally argue to see how much weight a particular position will bear ... not backing it to the full in the course of an argument is testing the limits of how far I was willing to go in support of the position rather than testing how strong the position itself is.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 02:44:31 PM EST
excellent insight, bruce!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:24:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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