As I wrote in my short introduction to rhetoric, it consists of three parts according to Aristotle, credibility (ethos) the emotion and psychology of the audience (pathos) and the patterns of reasoning (logos). Out of those three aspects, one is focused on the message being conveyed from the speaker to the listener, Continue reading
In occasional debates you end up in an axiomatic Mexican stand-off, where both parties are fundamentally disagreeing on topic, because of the axioms that influence their perception. You may also find yourself in a line of work you hate, yet you keep being in for year after year. Maybe you want to get laid more, but buying flowers and dinners isn’t working. It could be that you want to be in better shape, or perhaps get more education. Your success or failure in these endeavors come from Continue reading
I touched on grounded theory as a research method in my short introduction to research methodology. To expand on it, grounded theory is an approach that turns the research paradigm on its head. Where a positivist and phenomenologist tend to start by reading exhaustively on a topic, selecting a theoretical framework and then performing experiments to see if the framework applies in the specific case they are studying in. Grounded theory starts with a question or qualitative observations.
In my post on rhetoric I went through Aristotle’s breakdown of Logos, Ethos and Pathos. Where logos is the argument, or reasoned argument. Pathos is the emotional wrapping and ethos is the character of the speaker. Propaganda is rhetoric with a heavy focus towards pathos and ethos, while logos is manipulated for a purpose.
Propaganda utilizes a range of logical fallacies, fallacious statistics, misrepresentations and most importantly, it seeks to influence using emotion, rather than argument. The representation can be illustrated with the difference of “information communicated for it’s own sake” and “information communicated with an agenda behind it“.
If you understand the agenda, you can deconstruct the propaganda. In politics they call this spin. Not acting militarily and relying on diplomacy can spun as being a “advocate for peaceful solutions and limiting human casualties” and “A weak man, who fails to act decisively and relies on words.” The same facts ending up in two very different places.
Logic and facts communicated is informing.
Logic and facts communicated with a weight towards rhetoric is marketing.
If you get the feeling that someone is marketing to you, become immediately suspicious, because numbers, facts and logic can be spun just as easily through rhetoric, through cherry-picking and many other means. To frame truth as a lie and a lie as truth, lies in the cornerstone of propaganda. To mix truth with lie, empowers the lie, as it may be viewed as true by repetition or association.
I’ll end on a quote
“Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”
This article is on Kant and research philosophy after ontologicalrealist asked me if I knew of the revolution that Kant had brought to research philosophy. You can read his take on it here
My primary challenge was that I hadn’t read Kant in quite a few years and even when I did, my primary focus was on his ethics, not on his work to unite the objective and the subjective.
The core of Kant’s argument (which ontologicalrealist also speaks of) is a statement that what perceive to exist in the outside world, is interpreted and influenced by our own perspective. In embryo it is an argument that is echoed by Thomas Kuhn in that even in the pure sciences, every researcher will interpret evidence based on their subjective view of a topic. A computer without software is a paperweight, once we add an operating system, we can tell the computer to do things, the things we can tell a computer to do, depends on the software.
Kant’s argument is that human beings through existing develop a software that is similar enough that we can see that a certain atomic structure, in linear time perception and using the English language is a chair.
So, to Kant nothing can be objective because everything is interpreted by the subjective. So to Kant my argument in this post is not sound because when I describe the objective what I’m really talking about is a subjective perception of something that exists.
To structure Kant as a syllogism:
Major premise: Objective reality exists regardless of perception
Minor premise: Human perception is always subjective
Conclusion: Therefore, human beings can never observe objective reality.
My subjective perspective on this is that we have to accept that humans are subjective creatures, we are the sum of our experiences, our knowledge and our biology. However, in order to make progress, mind-independent standards of epistemology have to exist. I agree with Kant, we will never know if our way of perceiving the world is the only one, or if there are beings that perceive reality in a different manner.
True objectivity is not attainable, but objectivity in this is defined as “A view of reality that is entirely perseption-independent”. Objectivity as used in my post, is taken as being “Human-mind independent” as in “can be proven by logic and evidence”. This is the human standard of objectivity. There are 2 definitions, beware of which is used.
Kant’s argument is in a sense the opposite of “cogito ergo sum”. Descartes statement “I think therefore I am” is the statement that lays the foundation for metaphysical solipsism. In many ways Kant’s argument is solipsism in epistemology.
This is inspired by a comment I got from Ontologicalrealist who asked me about the quote:
“for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” (Our discussion in the comments)
The quote is often attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi head of propaganda, and thus a brilliant rhetorician. The major difference between logic and rhetoric, is that the purpose of logic is to explore ideas, find new truths, remain rational and objective in your reasoning, and contributing to knowledge. The purpose of rhetoric is to communicate ideas, persuade and to “sell”.
Aristotle breaks rhetoric into 3 parts:
- Logos – meaning “discourse” or “reasoned discourse”
- Pathos – emotional appeals to the audience
- Ethos – the character of the speaker
Rhetoric is a highly studied field, and has been broken down by many and there are many explanations and breakdowns that differ from the one I’ve used here, however my opinion is that this breakdown gives the clearest picture of what rhetoric is at it’s core.
Logos, or reasoned discourse, can be said to be logical and fact based. However, it doesn’t have to be. It can be valid but not sound, it can suffer from logical fallacies, or many other problems. It is therefore always important to apply critical thinking to any argument made.
Pathos, or the emotional appeals, very often make up the core of the rhetoricians overall communication. Emotional appeals in various forms, from anecdotes, appeals to emotion, identity plays, are effective because they add familiarity and makes the speaker likable to the audience. It is much easier to convince someone who likes you, and they are less likely to engage their critical thinking.
Ethos, or the character of the speaker, adds legitimacy to the pathos and logos. For instance, by having the title “Dr.” adds to credibility, so does having experience and/or education within the field that you are speaking within. However, “Ethos” to some extent has a transitive property. This is frequently seen when famous people take up causes outside of their field, such as Emma Watson for women, or Matt Damon for clean water. Their opinions and words are more credible because the person is famous, despite not having any qualifications and little experience on the topic.
Some key tips for telling rhetoric from logic:
- Look for qualifying words, rhetoric very rarely has qualifying words (some, maybe, opinion, etc) logic is full of them.
- Look for the emotional appeal, is the speaker actively trying to play on people’s emotions through voice use, loaded words, appealing to “romanticism” or identities.
- Would the speech be effective regardless of who speaks or is it effective because of who speaks?
Now, when I tell most people that I’m very much into philosophy, after their eyerolls subside, I start explaining to their blank faces. How philosophy still has value after what was called “natural philosophy” started being called “science”. There are 4 branches of philosophy, in order of importance:
Aesthetics: The study of beauty and ugliness, this is an entirely subjective branch that I will agree has little value, what is beautiful and what is ugly? That is in the eye of the beholder and quite frankly who cares?
Ethics: The study of what is permissible. A field to which I have devoted a lot of study, only to find that it is an emotionally ruled filed. I have found that people who have authoritarian leanings tend to be more deontological and people who like me have more libertarian leanings tend to be more consequentialist.
Metaphysics: The study of existence. What exists. Typically used a lot in religious debates.
Politics: The study of force. How should you organize society.
Epistemology: The study of knowledge, or rather theory of knowledge. What can we know, how do we know, can we know.