NUPSA Philosophy Sessions (c) William Pascoe, 2018 (independently written and produced, this content is not ownded by UON, Government or Commercial except externally sourced material)
Rhetoric and Logic
Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, usually in public speaking, but may be more broadly applied to writing or persuasion in any media.
Rhetoric is the art of persuasion regardless of the truth or falsity of the matter. For this reason it has earned a bad reputation for being associated with deception.
Yet rhetoric is equally useful to persuade people of the truth. This is especially important when another person is using it to deceive. How often do we wonder why people are so easily decieved, or people don't pay attention to science instead of 'rhetoric'? It is because science deals with only one small part of convincing ourselves and others of the truth.
"Socrates was perfectly right when he declared that there is a direct short-cut to winning a reputation: 'Make yourself the sort of man you want people to think you are."
Cicero, On Duties II, p142 On The Good Life
Aristotle formalised thoroughly most fields of philosophy in Ancient Greece. There was already much work done on rhetoric by his time, but Aristotle says it doesn't consider the subject thoroughly and concisely. We'll just look at his basic formulation. Like Socrates and Plato, Aristotle was also contemptuous of people who do not aim to clearly express the truth through rhetoric but he certainly accepted it's value and importance. Aristotle argues against those who try to influence the judge in ways that don't relate to the truth of the matter "It is not right to pervert the judge by moving him to anger or envy or pity - one might as well warp a carpenter's rule before using it." [Aris. Rhetoric, p1] He none the less acknowledges the importance of emotion and reputation, but his focus is on valid reasoning.
If you remember one thing about rhetoric it is the three basic aspects of persuasion that Aristotle sets out: Logos (reasoned argument), Pathos (appeal to emotion) and Ethos (reputation of the speaker).
We are here to discuss logic and rhetoric. We will begin with rhetoric. We will begin with logos, pathos and ethos, and of these ethos first.
I am not the best public speaker. I am not the best rhetorician. Why should you learn rhetoric from me, someone at a far remove from the court room and from politics where rhetoric is most at home? I can think of two reasons. Firstly, I hope through these sessions you have come to know me as an honest and truthful person, someone who has done their research, who provides it to you in good faith, and who is always willing to admit the limitations of their knowledge when there is a question I can't answer. I am a person who, due to various circumstances, as a youth, once was unable to utter a word, not only in public, but even to say hello to someone who greeted me. It has taken some time, but now, after 20 years or so, I am here before you speaking, I hope at least a little, convincingly. Regardless of whether you wish to make a career of rhetoric in law or politics, it is useful to anyone hoping to improve, as it has been to me. Secondly, you will not be learning from me but from the teachers I will make reference to. Philosophers who considered, systematised and wrote down the arts of rhetoric, such as Aristotle and Cicero, and from great speeches.
If there is one thing to remember about rhetoric, it is that to convince someone, a good argument should have these three parts: logos, ethos and pathos. Logos is the appeal to reason, pathos is the appeal to emotion, ethos is the reliability and respectability of the speaker.
Here I have begun with ethos. If at first you must convince your audience that you are reliable this can be tricky. Much depends on culture. In America it is expected to begin with fanfare and to declare without shame your own greatness and accomplishments, whether in commerce, politics or rapping. When Americans travel, they tend to seem arrogant and obnoxious (#notallamericans). In Australian culture, although it is changing, if you speak too much in favour of yourself you seem arrogant or toffy-nosed. We call it the tall poppy syndrome, where anyone who grows too tall must be cut down. We have many idioms for this, 'Don't get tickets on yourself.', 'Don't bignote yourself.','Pull your head in.' and so on. Australian's think their culture is very easy going and we don't have strict social rules, but we do and they are very subtle and hard to understand. Australians will typically depend on someone else, a 'mate', to talk them up, so they can remain bashful and self-effacing. If you don't have a 'mate' you need to find subtle ways to make your accomplishments known, or at to make it clear that although you have been successful, your true identity is humble. If pressed people might even begin by saying, "Look, I don't mean big note myself or nothing but I was the one who first..." So here, in the Australian context, I must begin by saying, I'm not so great, but I've fought to come from nothing to nothing more than anyone could reasonably ask for, and also defer to others, since it's ok to say they are great - my mates Aristotle and Cicero. There is one mistake in my speech - where I say I was once unable to utter a word, I have 'thrown myself a pity party.' Again, unlike Americans, we may not wallow in self pity or draw attention to our suffering, because we are strong and can silently bear anything - again it's up to our mates to clue everyone in.
It's worth bearing in mind that unashamed arrogance seems to me peculiar to America and when stating our credentials a careful balance with humility is required. Some way this is achieved by saying, that we do not wish to speak or tell everyone what to do, but that we are forced to do so by circumstances, or that we speak for many who cannot speak. On the other hand if you are oppressed and part of that is an expectation of humility, bragging can be a resistance to that, as in Hip Hop.
There is also a problem where, if someone thinks you are good at rhetoric, or even that you are smart, they sometimes mistrust what you say. Despite how convincing you may be, they suspect you might be tricking them. For these reason, leaders appearing to be simple minded can be convincing, such as Donald Trump or Pauline Hanson.
It is of great importance to understand that here we are speaking of the art of convincing, regardless of whether something is true or false - but this does not necessarily mean rhetoric is deceptive. We need it to tell the truth also, to convince people of the truth. Some of the techniques here can be used to figure out the truth, because even if we are thinking to ourselves, wondering what the truth about something is, we are seeking to convince ourselves. Nothing is true to us unless we are convinced of it.
So if I say someone is using the rhetorical technique of 'humility' it doesn't mean they are not humble. Indeed it is much easier to convince people if you are being honest. I hope that what we learn here will be used for good instead of evil.
Consider these examples of Ethos:
These two examples are from women. Because it is men who typically assume the authority to speak, women need to take extra steps to speak - just as Australians must be a little clever in how they establish their credentials. In these two examples they make analogies to masculine power - soldiers and kings.
I do not come here as an advocate, because whatever position the suffrage movement may occupy in the United States of America, in England it has passed beyond the realm of advocacy and it has entered into the sphere of practical politics. It has become the subject of revolution and civil war, and so tonight I am not here to advocate woman suffrage. American suffragists can do that very well for themselves.
I am here as a soldier who has temporarily left the field of battle in order to explain - it seems strange it should have to be explained - what civil war is like when civil war is waged by women. I am not only here as a soldier temporarily absent from the field at battle; I am here - and that, I think, is the strangest part of my coming - I am here as a person who, according to the law courts of my country, it has been decided, is of no value to the community at all; and I am adjudged because of my life to be a dangerous person, under sentence of penal servitude in a convict prison.
Pankhurst, The Freedom Or Death Speech
‘I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.’
Because Malala Yousafzai has been attacked by people claiming they work for God she established first of all that she is devout by making constant reference to God, and further demonstrates her humility by respectfully thanking everyone.
In the name of God, the most beneficent, the most merciful.
Honorable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, respected president of the General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, honorable UN envoy for global education Mr Gordon Brown, respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters: Assalamu alaikum.
Today is it an honor for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honorable people is a great moment in my life and it is an honor for me that today I am wearing a shawl of the late Benazir Bhutto. I don't know where to begin my speech. I don't know what people would be expecting me to say, but first of all thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me. I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me to get better and recover my strength.
These rap songs are especially focused on establishing 'Ethos' the credentials, authenticity, authority, and respectability of the speaker. NWA - Straight Outta Compton Beastie Boys, Pass The Mic
We have thus to deal with an empire whose ways are crooked. Ours is a straight path which we can tread even with our eyes closed. That is the beauty of Satyagraha.
In Satyagraha, there is no place for fraud or falsehood, or any kind of untruth. Fraud and untruth today are stalking the world. I cannot be a helpless witness to such a situation. I have traveled all over India as perhaps nobody in the present age has. The voiceless millions of the land saw in me their friend and representative, and I identified myself with them to an extent it was possible for a human being to do. I saw trust in their eyes, which I now want to turn to good account in fighting this empire upheld on untruth and violence. However gigantic the preparations that the empire has made, we must get out of its clutches. How can I remain silent at this supreme hour and hide my light under the bushel?
You see, in spite of a good deal that we hear about revolutionary methods not being necessary for American women, because American women are so well off, most of the men of the United States quite calmly acquiesce in the fact that half of the community are deprived absolutely of citizen rights, and we women, in trying to make our case clear, always have to make as part of our argument, and urge upon men in our audience the fact - a very simple fact - that women are human beings. It is quite evident you do not all realize we are human beings or it would not be necessary to argue with you that women may, suffering from intolerable injustice, be driven to adopt revolutionary methods. We have, first of all to convince you we are human beings, and I hope to be able to do that in the course of the evening before I sit down, but before doing that, I want to put a few political arguments before you - not arguments for the suffrage, because I said when I opened, I didn't mean to do that - but arguments for the adoption of militant methods in order to win political rights.
Cicero, here asserts his own humility, indicates he is speaking for others, that it is only the dire circumstance that compels him to speak against his enemy Catiline. In the Roman senate, life and death might depend on rhetorical skill. Catiline, in the senate, risks being killed, and vice versa, if Catiline assumes power, he will kill Cicero.
I wish, O conscript fathers, to be merciful; I wish not to appear negligent amid such danger to the state; but I do now accuse myself of remissness and culpable inactivity. A camp is pitched in Italy, at the entrance of Etruria, in hostility to the republic; the number of the enemy increases every day; and yet the general of that camp, the leader of those enemies, we see within the walls—aye, and even in the senate— planning every day some internal injury to the republic. If, O Catiline, I should now order you to be arrested, to be put to death, I should, I suppose, have to fear lest all good men should say that I had acted tardily, rather than that any one should affirm that I acted cruelly.
I have said that much greater sacrifice will have to be made this time in the wake of our struggle because of the opposition from the Muslim League and from Englishmen. You have seen the secret circular issued by Sir Frederick Puckle. It is a suicidal course that he has taken. It contains an open incitement to organizations which crop up like mushrooms to combine to fight the Congress. We have thus to deal with an empire whose ways are crooked. Ours is a straight path which we can tread even with our eyes closed. That is the beauty of Satyagraha.
In Satyagraha, there is no place for fraud or falsehood, or any kind of untruth. Fraud and untruth today are stalking the world. I cannot be a helpless witness to such a situation. I have traveled all over India as perhaps nobody in the present age has. The voiceless millions of the land saw in me their friend and representative, and I identified myself with them to an extent it was possible for a human being to do. I saw trust in their eyes, which I now want to turn to good account in fighting this empire upheld on untruth and violence. However gigantic the preparations that the empire has made, we must get out of its clutches. How can I remain silent at this supreme hour and hide my light under the bushel?
They say we should not let our judgment be clouded by emotion. I ask, should we let our emotion be clouded by reason? At what cost are all the achievements of science if feeling is absent? If the young may not fall in love for the first time, if a parent is unable to love their child, if each of us may not share in some common care and consideration? Happiness shared is happiness doubled, fears and sorrow shared are fears and sorrow halved. What measure do we have for what is right and wrong if not our emotion? How can we say that some action is right if it causes only misery? Certainly, we should not hide from any truth merely because it is unpleasant, but we are speaking here of action. What are we to do about this state of affairs, how can we change this present truth, to something better - and why change it if is not to change misery to happiness?
Why scientists frustrated: logos without ethos and pathos.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification – one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”
Dr Martin Luther King
I observe, gentlemen, that when I would lead you on a new venture you no longer follow me with your old spirit. I have asked you to meet me that we may come to a decision together: are we, upon my advice, to go forward, or, upon yours, to turn back?
If you have any complaint to make about the results of your efforts hitherto, or about myself as your commander, there is no more to say. But let me remind you: through your courage and endurance you have gained possession of Ionia, the Hellespont, both Phrygias, Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, Lydia, Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia, Phoenicia, and Egypt; the Greek part of Libya is now yours, together with much of Arabia, lowland Syria, Mesopotamia, Babylon, and Susia; Persia and Media with all the territories either formerly controlled by them or not are in your hands; you have made yourselves masters of the lands beyond the Caspian Gates, beyond the Caucasus, beyond the Tanais, of Bactria, Hyrcania, and the Hyrcanian sea; we have driven the Scythians back into the desert; and Indus and Hydaspes, Acesines and Hydraotes flow now through country which is ours. With all that accomplished, why do you hesitate to extend the power of Macedon–yourpower–to the Hyphasis and the tribes on the other side ? Are you afraid that a few natives who may still be left will offer opposition? Come, come! These natives either surrender without a blow or are caught on the run–or leave their country undefended for your taking; and when we take it, we make a present of it to those who have joined us of their own free will and fight on our side.
For a man who is a man, work, in my belief, if it is directed to noble ends, has no object beyond itself; none the less, if any of you wish to know what limit may be set to this particular camapaign, let me tell you that the area of country still ahead of us, from here to the Ganges and the Eastern ocean, is comparatively small. You will undoubtedly find that this ocean is connected with the Hyrcanian Sea, for the great Stream of Ocean encircles the earth. Moreover I shall prove to you, my friends, that the Indian and Persian Gulfs and the Hyrcanian Sea are all three connected and continuous. Our ships will sail round from the Persian Gulf to Libya as far as the Pillars of Hercules, whence all Libya to the eastward will soon be ours, and all Asia too, and to this empire there will be no boundaries but what God Himself has made for the whole world.
But if you turn back now, there will remain unconquered many warlike peoples between the Hyphasis and the Eastern Ocean, and many more to the northward and the Hyrcanian Sea, with the Scythians, too, not far away; so that if we withdraw now there is a danger that the territory which we do not yet securely hold may be stirred to revolt by some nation or other we have not yet forced into submission. Should that happen, all that we have done and suffered will have proved fruitless–or we shall be faced with the task of doing it over again from the beginning. Gentlemen of Macedon, and you, my friends and allies, this must not be. Stand firm; for well you know that hardship and danger are the price of glory, and that sweet is the savour of a life of courage and of deathless renown beyond the grave.
Are you not aware that if Heracles, my ancestor, had gone no further than Tiryns or Argos–or even than the Peloponnese or Thebes–he could never have won the glory which changed him from a man into a god, actual or apparent? Even Dionysus, who is a god indeed, in a sense beyond what is applicable to Heracles, faced not a few laborious tasks; yet we have done more: we have passed beyond Nysa and we have taken the rock of Aornos which Heracles himself could not take. Come, then; add the rest of Asia to what you already possess–a small addition to the great sum of your conquests. What great or noble work could we ourselves have achieved had we thought it enough, living at ease in Macedon, merely to guard our homes, accepting no burden beyond checking the encroachment of the Thracians on our borders, or the Illyrians and Triballians, or perhaps such Greeks as might prove a menace to our comfort ?
I could not have blamed you for being the first to lose heart if I, your commander, had not shared in your exhausting marches and your perilous campaigns; it would have been natural enough if you had done all the work merely for others to reap the reward. But it is not so. You and I, gentlemen, have shared the labour and shared the danger, and the rewards are for us all. The conquered territory belongs to you; from your ranks the governors of it are chosen; already the greater part of its treasure passes into your hands, and when all Asia is overrun, then indeed I will go further than the mere satisfaction of our ambitions: the utmost hopes of riches or power which each one of you cherishes will be far surpassed, and whoever wishes to return home will be allowed to go, either with me or without me. I will make those who stay the envy of those who return.
Alexander the Great
I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering.
You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea, and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs – Victory in spite of all terrors – Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.
Logos is the reasoned part of the argument so let's look at logic. The formal structure of valid reasoning. It is related to epistemology, which we looked at previously. Logical structure can be hard to get out of ordinary language. Even when we do it is not always a clear cut case. Was Brutus an honorable man?
Murdering a friend is dishonorable. Brutus murdered Caesar. Therefor Brutus is dishonorable.
Protecting Rome from tyranny is honorable. Caesar was a tyrant. Brutus murdered Caesar. Therefore Brutus is honorable.
We spoke of induction and deduction in epistemology. Inductive reasoning is drawing inferences from prior experience. The sun has risen every morning, so I expect it will tomorrow. It can only ever be a best guess but is commonly used and is important to scientific observation. It reasons from specific instances to a general conclusion (from many sunrises to the sun always rises). Deductive reasoning is reasoning by a logical process from true, usually general principles to valid conclusions.
There are two main ways to test the truth of a deductive argument. Firstly, is it's internal logic valid and secondly do the statements correspond to reality.
This is perhaps the most important part of Aristotle's logic and useful for rhetoric. There are many online examples, so no sense duplicating. Wikipedia examples are quite clear on syllogisms, though it can be a bit obscure on other topics in logic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllogism#Examples
Syllogisms have the form:
Major premise Minor premise Conclusion
ALL unicorns have horns. Sparkleworks is a unicorn. THEREFOR Sparklworks has a horn.
There are wide variety of syllogisms. There are many tutorials explaining this very well, so I won't duplicate it all here, and there isn't time. Just bear in mind that these different forms depend on statements about 'ALL', 'SOME' and 'NOT' or 'NO. eg:
ALL rabbits have fur. SOME pets are rabbits. SOME pets have fur.
An easy way to check the truth of an argument is to try to articulate it as a syllogism and confirm whether it is valid or fallacious. If it is valid, you can check definitions or whether the premises reflect reality - is there a unicorn without a horn?
It's worth bearing in mind also the basic logical conjunctions, when checking the real world:
AND: both must be true OR: either may be true XOR: either may be true but not both NOT: true if false
Eg: the statement 'Jeremy went left and Jane went right.' is true only if both are true and false if either is wrong. 'Jeremy did not go left.' is true if 'Jeremy went left' is false. The XOR is a little unusual and is only true if either but not both is true, eg: 'Jeremy is either in London or he is in Paris. He can't be in two places at once.'
Some other basic rules of inference:
If P then Q P Therefor Q
Modus Ponens is quite obvious if you understand what is being talked about here. First we have a rule, where we know that if one thing is the case, we know something else must be the case. We see that first thing is the case, so we can safely conclude that second thing. For example: we know that if there is smoke there is fire. There is smoke. We conclude there is fire. This seems such an obvious rule of logic it's hardly worth stating, but it it is worth stating these abstract forms so that we can analyse things that are a little harder. Note that if Q it doesn't mean there is P. In our example, there may be fire without smoke. In arguments you might see someone making this invalid inference.
If P then Q Not Q therefor not P.
Modus Tollens is also a very simple rule but can still be tricky to think through and easily lead to fallacy. In this rule we know that if there is a P there is a Q. It is implicit that this is in every case because there is nothing there to say 'sometimes' or 'only on Tuesdays' etc. It statues unequivocally that if p then q. If there is smoke there must be a fire - every time in all cases. Now I see that there is no fire, so I know there is no smoke (at least according to this rule). It is a common fallacy to think that from Not P we can infer Not Q - ie: that if there is no fire there is no smoke. The fallacy would occur if we said 'Not P therefore not Q'.
Another example is: If Mittens is a cat, then she is a mammal. Mittens is not a mammal. Therefore, Mittens is not a cat. It would be a fallacy to think that IF mittens is not a cat she is not a mammal. She might be some other kind of mammal.
We can easily easily slip into fallacy with Modus Tollens because 'NOT P' doesn't say anything about the falsehood of Q. It may be the case that If not P, Q is still possible. Getting these sorts of things right can be important for science. Eg:
There is a medical test for if a pregnant woman is going to have twins. If the test is positive we know definitely that she has twins, however if the test is negative we are just not sure - she may or may not have twins. If positive the doctor says, "You are having twins." If negative the doctor says, "Inconclusive."
I remarked to someone at CSIRO once that goat's milk was good for dermatitis, because when switching to goat's milk a child's dermatitis improved. They immediately asked, "Is goat's milk good for it, or is it not having cow's milk, so cow's milk is bad for it?"
It can be difficult translating ordinary every day arguments into logical forms, but it is worth practicing to make it easier in future. For example, consider the argument "Men are better swimmers than women." Normally people would argue things like, "Men are naturally better because they have better upper body strength. They're just naturally built to have stronger shoulders that you need for swimming. I mean look at the Olympics. Men's times are always better than womens." Imagine we are all stuck on an island and only Bill and Sally say they can swim. Someone says that Bill should swim for help because of those arguments and everyone agrees. Bill says, "Now hold on a minute. There are various ways we can try to put these arguments into logical forms:
ALL men are better swimmers than women. ALL men have stronger shoulders than women. IF you have strong shoulders THEN you are better at swimming. ALL Olympic men's swim times are better than women's Olympic swim times.
With some of these points we have ways to attack the argument. This argument is logically valid, according to Modus Ponens:
IF Bill is a man THEN Bill is a faster swimmer. IF Bill is a faster swimmer THEN Bill should swim for help. Bill is a man. THEREFOR Bill is a faster swimmer AND Bill should swim for help.
BUT If I can negate some of these points I can negate the whole argument. Take the initial assumption, 'IF A is a man THEN A is a faster swimmer.' This depends on the assumption 'ALL men are faster swimmers' As mentioned in epistemology, it is easier to disprove statements about 'all' things than prove them because you need only find one counter example to disprove, whereas you would have to check every example to prove it true. Note that if someone makes a statement, they usually omit to say whether they mean 'all' or 'some'. Often they make the leap from 'some' to 'all' so this is an easy attack. Every time I swim laps at my local pool I am overtaken by women. Therefore it is not true that ALL men are faster swimmers than women. It is not true that 'IF A is a man THEN A is a faster swimmer.' so all conclusions drawn are invalid. They may yet be true, but this argument doesn't prove anything.
All we can really infer from shoulders and the fact that Olympic men's swim times are faster is that SOME men are faster swimmers than women:
ALL Olympic mens swimmers are faster swimmers than women. SOME men are Olympic swimmers SOME men are faster swimmers than women.
We can really only be sure that:
IF Bill is an Olympic swimmer THEN Bill is a faster swimmer. Bill is NOT an Olympic swimmer. THEREFOR... - to draw a conclusion from NOT P would be a modus tollens fallacy.
To decide if Bill or Sally should swim for help, we need more information (probably just ask them). Bill says that although he is a Queenslander and was thrown in the deep end by one of the most famous Olympic swim coaches of all time, he is now a poet, a philosopher and a computer programmer and every time he gets in the pool, the women overtake him and so, by modus tollens:
IF Bill is an Olympic swimmer AND a man THEN Bill is a faster swimmer than women. Bill is NOT a faster swimmer than women. THEREFOR Bill is NOT an Olympic swimmer.
Sally lost patience a long time ago and is swimming for help.
It's easy to see how fallacious inferences are at the heart of a lot of prejudice (which means 'to judge before', ie to make preconceived inferences about individuals based on assumptions about 'ALL' of a kind that really only apply to 'SOME').
It's worth perusing lists of common fallacies on the web, to see them easily in others arguments, to argue against them, and so you don't do them yourself. eg:
- circular reasoning (where the premise assumes the conclusion)
- infinite regress (tracing backwards each thing must depend on something else forever)
- ad hominem (an attack on ethos instead of logos)
- correlation and causation (just because two things usually happen together it doesn't necessarily mean one is the cause of the other)
- either/or (asserting that if you don't agree with one thing you must agree with the other, or that the only two categories or choices are those defined by the speaker who tries to coerce you into one or the other. Things are usually more complicated. There is usually a 3rd option, or a different way of dividing up things. This is a popular one when there is war 'Either you're with us or against us' and with radio shock jocks 'Look, it's simple, either you are or you aren't. Make up your mind.' eg: Some say, "You're either pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. Whose side are you on?" while others reply, "There are war lovers and peace lovers.")
- single counter example to undermine all. This has been of particular interest to me lately due to the history project I'm working on. When people wish to argue against our claims in historical data one strategy is to find one error and then to ask if this is wrong how can we trust any of the rest of it, how do we know they are not falsifying everything? A defence is to say, if you have only found one mistake in all this data, it must be very accurate, and we'll now correct that error, thanks for pointing it out.
There are many other forms of coercion to consider, common in sales, like pressuring your sense of politeness, such as giving a small gift to create a sense of obligation, or asking something that is difficult to disagree with from which it is inferred you should take the desired course of action, "You like holidays don't you? You like saving money? Well IF you sign up to this deal THEN you can save money on your holidays."
This follows a simple persuasive strategy of getting agreement on premises and using logical structures to compel acceptance of conclusions. Ways to formulate arguments, or defend against them include:
- Is the logical structure valid?
- Do the premises correspond to reality?
- Does the logical structure reflect reality - are there other ways to translate the argument from ordinary speech, or the state of affairs into different logical structure?
- Are there other factors to consider (more or alternative premises)?
Cicero lived at one of the most interesting times in Roman history, was instrumental in some of its events and commentated on much of them, such as the civil wars and the assassination of Julius Caesar. It is no understatement to say his rhetorical skills changed Western and world history. Britain looked to Rome as a model for empire and politics, such that Cicero's influence has spread worldwide due to colonisation and globalisation . Whatever our views on those histories, for better or worse, it's worth understanding. If you wish to understand or interact with the sort of wealthy and powerful people who went to private school and Harvard or Cambridge, or got a law degree and became parliamentarians, an understanding of Cicero will give you great insights into why they think what they think and say what they say, whether they know it or not.
As a skeptic with stoic leanings, his philosophical attitudes established humanist ideals for civil society and science that remained fundamental to Western Civilisation to today on both conservative and progressive sides of politics. The defence of common humanity against barbarism that we hear in Churchill and Martin Luther King's speeches echoes Cicero. Cicero was not born with high enough privilege to automatically enter the highest rungs of Roman society, but was born into enough to be sent to Greece for a good 'university' education and to find work as a lawyer. Through brilliant rhetoric he quickly rose to become a Senator.
Good rhetoric at this time was a matter of life or death. It was a time of civil war when tyrants and generals attempted to take control of the Roman republic. Speaking in the Senate he exposed a conspiracy of Catiline to become a dictator of Rome, while Catiline was present in the senate and had Catiline executed immediately, knowing full well that Catiline would have him killed at the earliest opportunity if he should escape the senate and muster his army. He was a staunch defender of the republic (rule by the people) against tyrants. After Caesar was assassinated, Cicero was highly critical of the new tyrant Marc Antony. Marc Antony captured and killed him and had Cicero's hands and head nailed up in the forum. Marc Antony's wife, Fulvia, pulled the tongue from his head and stuck it with her hairpin.
As a Roman visiting Greek learning institutions such as the Academy and the Lyceum, with a long history of philosophy and different schools available, Cicero was in a position to consider them all based on their relative merits. His philosophy of skepticism (according to ancient biographer Diogenes Laertius, skepticism began with Indian philosophers who Pyrrho had learned from and brought back to Greece, when on campaign with Alexander the Great) makes sense to someone whose position is to argue cases from one side or another, since the attitude of skepticism is to suspend judgment and assess claims to truth by trying to argue for and against them:
"I cannot see what there is to prevent me from accepting what seems to be probable, and rejecting what does not. Such an approach avoids the presumption of dogmatism, and keeps clear of irrationality, which is the negation of all accurate thinking. On the other hand our people always argue against all categorical assertions. Their reason for so doing is that you can only get a clear view of what is probable by setting out, comparing and weighing up the arguments on both sides of every question." p123 On Duties II - Cicero
Cicero held that communities and cities formed through a recognition of mutual benefit through cooperative work and feelings of good will to each other but this is always under threat. Oratory plays an essential role in this maintaining and defending this cooperative existence:
"That is to say, there is not a shadow of doubt that man has the power to be the greatest agent both of benefit and of harm towards his fellow-men. Consequently it must be regarded as a vitally important quality to be able to win over human hearts and attach them to one's own cause. The advantages that our life derives from inanimate objects and from its exploitation of animals may be classed under the heading of mere functional activities. But to gain the goodwill of our fellow human beings, to convert them to a state of active readiness to further our own interests, is a task worthy of the wisdom and excellence of a superman." - p128 On Duties II, Cicero
Cicero offers this crucial insight. If the purpose of rhetoric is to persuade, it is because there is a choice. This means there is a moral problem - a decision to make as to what we should or shouldn't do. So, rhetoric is crucial for ethics, and in particular the branch of ethics that is politics. For Cicero, the role of the orator should be good, to persuade people to choose mutual benefit, working towards a harmonious society. He provides practical reasons for this, such as it being more effective than rule by fear, and practical means for achieving it.
Cicero wrote several books about rhetoric. In 'On The Orator Cicero sets a scene of some educated Roman public figures at a country house mimicing a Platonic dialogue, debating what the most ideal Orator would be. Cicero, through his characters, says that the orator is naturally gifted, but also that oratory skills must be learned and practiced. An orator must be knowledgeable on all subjects and have the highest moral standards and be better at performance as a theatrical actor.
Crassus: "... And it is indeed a uniquely impressive and imposing experience to see the tumult of an enormous crowd, the convictions of a conscientious bench of judges, the solemn judgements of the Senate, all completely transfigured by the eloquence of one single man. Think, moreover, of the power an orator possesses: power to rescue the suppliant, to raise up the afflicted, to bestow salvation, to dispel danger, to preserve citizens' rights; what in the whole world could be more noble, more generous, more princely? Once you possess the perpetual access to weapons which will give you the means to defend yourself, furnish you with the opportunity to stand up for good men, enable you to challenge the enemies of your country, grant you the ability to strike back when you are attacked, then surely, you are armed to perform the most necessary tasks in the world." Cicero On The Orator p246
Scaevola: "...I could easily quote illustrations both from Roman and foreign history to demonstrate that men of outstandingly skillful speech have damaged communities more often than they have helped them."p247
Crassus: "I refer to Plato: whose Gorgias I read pretty carefully with Charmadas during those days at Athens. I must say I was very intrigued by the way in which Plato kept on making fun of orators, although he himself, it seemed to me, was the most accomplished orator of all."p253
Crassus: "Yet whatever the topic may be, whatever the branch of knowledge involved, the orator... will be able to express it better and more attractively than the specialist from whom the actual material originated... For these are precisely the subjects on which the philosophers have concentrated their attention, and he must concede their special knowledge. But the fact remains that all this learning continues to be of no value whatever until he, the orator, has put it into words." p255
"Now for an attempt at a general, comprehensive definition of what an orator ought to be. In my opinion, he will merit this splendid designation provided that, whatever the topic of discussion, he is able to display sound knowledge, and proper arrangement of his material, and a good style, and a retentive memory, and an impressive delivery."p259
Cicero on plain style: "From what I have advanced, it appears how difficult it is to write easily. But when easy writings fall into the hands of an ordinary reader, they appear to him so natural and unlaboured, that he immediately resolves to write, and fancies that all he has to do is to take no pains. Thus he thinks indeed simply, but the thoughts not being chosen with judgment, are not beautiful. He, it is true, expresses himself plainly, but flatly withal. Again, if a man of vivacity takes it into his head to write this way, what self-denial must he undergo, when bright points of wit occur to his fancy? How difficult will he find it to reject florid phrases, and pretty embellishments of style? So true it is, that simplicity of all things is the hardest to be copied, and case to be acquired with the greatest labour."];—and the unaffected simplicity of his language appears very imitable to an ignorant observer; though nothing will be found less so by him who makes the trial." - Cicero, THE ORATOR
Crassus: "... I will tell you - since we are close friends here ... In my view it is proper for even the best of orators, the men who speak really fluently and eloquently, to display some diffidence at the beginning of a speech, and some discomposure when they bring their discourse to a close. Otherwise they will tend to be regarded as shameless." p278
[Practice includes breathing, writing and wide reading in liberal arts, history and law.]
Crassus: "...and finally he must be able to sprinkle a little salt on his speech, in the form of a civilized, well-varied supply of humorous and entertaining touches."p289 [Note Cicero's previous joke about Plato]
The younger people present press for more detail and elaboration and Antonius is pressured into refuting each of the points made by Crassus, which he does. He mainly argues that the orator needs only be good at speaking persuasively and not, as Crassus seems to suggest, good at everything. He still provides some good advice in this regard, "He takes the greatest care not to present himself as a sage among fools, for if he did that his listeners would just regard him as a tactless little Greek [yes, somewhat racist, but the meaning here is something like a pedantic, waffling, obscure academic]; or at all events, even if they admired his eloquence and wisdom, they would want to avoid looking like idiots themselves. Yet in any case the orator himself possesses such power to range through men's hearts, he is so good at penetrating their deepest feelings and thoughts, that he quite genuinely does not need all the definitions of the philosophers at all." p315
The 5 Canons Of Rhetoric
Rhetoric was already well established as a formalised subject of study with text books, in Cicero's time. As a master Cicero's later works (above) were able to explore more profound and subtle points of rhetoric, but his earlier work was more conventional.
And these are the divisions of it, as numerous writers have laid them down: Invention; Arrangement; Elocution; Memory; Delivery. Invention, is the conceiving of topics either true or probable, which may make one's cause appear probable; Arrangement, is the distribution of the topics which have been thus conceived with regular order; Elocution, is the adaptation of suitable words and sentences to the topics so conceived; Memory, is the lasting sense in the mind of the matters and words corresponding to the reception of these topics. Delivery, is a regulating of the voice and body in a manner suitable to the dignity of the subjects spoken of and of the language employed.
De Inventione - Cicero
For us beginners, without the benefit of a rigorous Roman education, or any education in rhetoric, it's worth understanding at least what these basic principles mean. These are relevant to any articulation of an argument, whether in a written essay, in a law court, talking to a friend, or exploring the truth in your own internal dialogue. These are explained well here: http://www.rhetinfo.com/uploads/7/0/4/3/7043482/five_canons_of_rhetoric.pdf.
The means of discovering, or coming up with an argument. Different arguments might apply to different situations. There are a few ways of looking at an issue to figure out how to make a good argument about it. Topoi for example, provides 'places', to look for arguments - laws, witnesses, contracts, oaths, comparisons of similarity, difference, or degree, definitions of things, division of things (whole/parts, for instance), cause and effect. Simply ask yourself questions - is a law being broken? Are there witnesses and what do they say? Is the definition wrong, or is the wrong inference being drawn from that definition? Is there another possible cause of this effect than what is claimed? etc.
Another method is stasis which has 4 forms: definitional, conjectural, translative, and qualitative.
Logos, Pathos and Ethos can also be considered in Inventio.
The organisation of the argument. (note this is can also be a guide to a good essay structure)
- exordium: introduction
- narratio: statement of the case
- divisio: outline of the major points in the argument
- confirmatio: proof of the case
- confutatio: refutation of possible opposing arguments
- peroratio: conclusion
Style (correctness, clearness, appropriateness, and ornament). An argument must be presented in a style that makes the point clear and is appropriate to the audience. Some speeches require plain down to earth ordinary language. Other's require formal language, or sophisticated affectations. A scientific paper is different to a political speech or a speech at a wedding. Pauline Hanson's style seems unsuitable in Senate but, like Trump, appeals to those who vote for her, who are suspicious of erudition, education and intellect. The light, erudite intellectual, but not too difficult BBC style of 'In Our Time' full of the ethos of British respectibility, established interviewer interviewing authorities in their field, salted with light jokes for the cognoscenti, is suitable to it's audience of 'thinking people' relaxing.
Memory is important in two ways. Obviously, a speaker will need to remember their speech. All the rest amounts to nothing if they can't remember it. It is also important to have a good memory for a great many other things. A speaker needs to be able to draw on a broad range of general knowledge on many topics and to remember many strategies for arguing, so they are ready for any situation, and can think on the spot and adjust to circumstances or changing moods of the audience.
The performance aspects of public speaking, such as use of the voice, volume, pitch and pace, posture and gesture.
Rhetoric can of course be used for great evil. How did Hitler motivate a whole nation to war so soon after the catastrophe of the first world war and to attempt genocide?
We need to understand this, so we can keep an eye out for it.
Hitler is widely recognised as an expert public speaker.
Compilation of Hitler's speeches (note that the compiler has organised them to show the movement from reasonable seeming arguments to increasing fanaticism over the years): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnpTWKKWQ1o&bpctr=1541725467
A full 10min speech:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCpdmVQDDKI&bpctr=1541726654
- theatrical hand gestures for addressing a group
- simple points, pauses, building intensity
- repetition for poetic rhythm
- Appeal to identity, and threat, convincing people they are humble and they are being persecuted, so much struggle to defend themselves.
- Anti intellectualism, appeal to 'common man' workers and farmers.
- Seeks fanaticism.
Look to what they do (and look also where we see such behaviour today):
- persecute while claiming to be persecuted
- attack claiming to defend
Hitler notes that the more elaborate an intelligent person makes their argument, or refines and nuances their proposed way of doing things, the narrower the audience of people who agree with them becomes. For example, if someone were to argue for the left or right side of politics and within that some other partition and so on, to arrive at what they think is the best, all they are really doing is losing their appeal to all the others. For Hitler, they are fools if they don't realise they must appeal to things which are most simple and general to appeal to the most people. For Hitler, the intellectual nuances are irrelevant because the purpose is to sway the most people to your cause.
"An educated man who is present and who finds fault with an address because he considers it to be on an intellectual plane that is too low, though he himself has witnessed its effect on the lower intellectual groups whose adherence has to be won, only shows himself completely incapable of rightly judging the situation and therewith proves that he can be of no use in the new movement. Only intellectuals can be of use to a movement who understand its mission and its aims so well that they have learned to judge our methods of propaganda exclusively by the success obtained and never by the impression which those methods made on the intellectuals themselves"
- Nietzsche is often criticised for being adopted by the Nazi party, and seeming to promote what became Nazi ideals. However, one of the most important parts of his argument in Geneaology of Morals, and Beyond Good and Evil, is the critique of those who turn their failings into virtues or blame other's for their own shortcomings - thus Christianity and Judaism, as 'slave morality' makes virtues of poverty and weakness. So Hitler convinces the german people they are suffering not because they failed but because they are persecuted and oppressed minority. Neitzsche actually states that he thinks the anti-Semites in Germany of his time are idiots. On the other hand, Hitler does evince a 'will to power'. It's not that simple. Note also that people who are persecuted and oppressed, also draw on this to rally solidarity and strength to persevere and maintain identy. (check reality)
- Cicero's appeal to the people
- Pauline Hanson's rhetoric (note also the difference in rhetorical 'skill' which works in Hanson's favour)
- John Howard's speech and contemporary bipartisan rhetoric
Note the measure of these lines in one of Hitler's speeches is breath, as it is for some poets:
The National Government intends to solve the problem of the reorganization of trade and commerce with two four-year plans:
The German farmer must be rescued in order that the nation may be supplied with the necessities of life....
A concerted and all-embracing attack must be made on unemployment in order that the German working class may be saved from ruin....
The November parties have ruined the German peasantry in fourteen years.
In fourteen years they have created an army of millions of unemployed. The National Government will, with iron determination and unshakable steadfastness of purpose, put through the following plan:
Within four years the German peasant must be rescued from the quagmire into which he has fallen.
Within four years unemployment must be finally overcome. At the same time the conditions necessary for a revival in trade and commerce are provided.
The National Government will couple with this tremendous task of reorganizing business life a reorganization of the administrative and fiscal systems of the Reich, of the Federal States, and the Communes.
Only when this has been done can the idea of a continued federal existence of the entire Reich be fully realized....
Compulsory labor-service and the back-to-the-land policy are two of the basic principles of this program.
The securing of the necessities of life will include the performance of social duties to the sick and aged.
In economical administration, the promotion of employment, the preservation of the farmer, as well as in the exploitation of individual initiative, the Government sees the best guarantee for the avoidance of any experiments which would endanger the currency.
In Proclamation To The German Nation, Berlin, Feb 1 1933
It is a form of rhetoric, aimed at convincing people, across multimedia. Typically it is simple and appeals to basic emotions, related to fear, group belonging, parental love, pride, pity or sex. Some examples:
Hitler On Propaganda
Propaganda was an crucial part of Hitler's rise to power. Hitler's comments on propaganda in his book 'Mein Kampf' ('My Struggle') provide insights into how to influence the public that are still in use today in politics and advertising (capitalist propaganda). I've cited one chapter in full because it offers so many insights into how propaganda works, how the Nazi's used it so effectively and how it is still used today, in politics and advertising.
For example, he describes what has now come to be called the 'KISS principle' in marketing (keep it simple stupid).
It explains why intellectuals are so often ineffective in the public sphere and political decision making, instead of being turned to as experts who's well research opinion is respected and trusted.
It explains to smart people who are perplexed, how so many can be so easily fooled by arguments so obviously invalid.
I have put some key points in bold.
CHAPTER VI, Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
In watching the course of political events I was always struck by the active part which propaganda played in them. I saw that it was an instrument, which the Marxist Socialists knew how to handle in a masterly way and how to put it to practical uses. Thus I soon came to realize that the right use of propaganda was an art in itself and that this art was practically unknown to our bourgeois parties. The Christian-Socialist Party alone, especially in Lueger's time, showed a certain efficiency in the employment of this instrument and owed much of their success to it.
It was during the War, however, that we had the best chance of estimating the tremendous results which could be obtained by a propagandist system properly carried out. Here again, unfortunately, everything was left to the other side, the work done on our side being worse than insignificant. It was the total failure of the whole German system of information--a failure which was perfectly obvious to every soldier--that urged me to consider the problem of propaganda in a comprehensive way. I had ample opportunity to learn a practical lesson in this matter; for unfortunately it was only too well taught us by the enemy. The lack on our side was exploited by the enemy in such an efficient manner that one could say it showed itself as a real work of genius. In that propaganda carried on by the enemy I found admirable sources of instruction. The lesson to be learned from this had unfortunately no attraction for the geniuses on our own side. They were simply above all such things, too clever to accept any teaching. Anyhow they did not honestly wish to learn anything.
Had we any propaganda at all? Alas, I can reply only in the negative. All that was undertaken in this direction was so utterly inadequate and misconceived from the very beginning that not only did it prove useless but at times harmful. In substance it was insufficient. Psychologically it was all wrong. Anybody who had carefully investigated the German propaganda must have formed that judgment of it. Our people did not seem to be clear even about the primary question itself: Whether propaganda is a means or an end?
Propaganda is a means and must, therefore, be judged in relation to the end it is intended to serve. It must be organized in such a way as to be capable of attaining its objective. And, as it is quite clear that the importance of the objective may vary from the standpoint of general necessity, the essential internal character of the propaganda must vary accordingly. The cause for which we fought during the War was the noblest and highest that man could strive for. We were fighting for the freedom and independence of our country, for the security of our future welfare and the honour of the nation. Despite all views to the contrary, this honour does actually exist, or rather it will have to exist; for a nation without honour will sooner or later lose its freedom and independence. This is in accordance with the ruling of a higher justice, for a generation of poltroons is not entitled to freedom. He who would be a slave cannot have honour; for such honour would soon become an object of general scorn.
Germany was waging war for its very existence. The purpose of its war propaganda should have been to strengthen the fighting spirit in that struggle and help it to victory.
But when nations are fighting for their existence on this earth, when the question of 'to be or not to be' has to be answered, then all humane and aesthetic considerations must be set aside; for these ideals do not exist of themselves somewhere in the air but are the product of man's creative imagination and disappear when he disappears. Nature knows nothing of them. Moreover, they are characteristic of only a small number of nations, or rather of races, and their value depends on the measure in which they spring from the racial feeling of the latter. Humane and aesthetic ideals will disappear from the inhabited earth when those races disappear which are the creators and standard-bearers of them.
All such ideals are only of secondary importance when a nation is struggling for its existence. They must be prevented from entering into the struggle the moment they threaten to weaken the stamina of the nation that is waging war. That is always the only visible effect whereby their place in the struggle is to be judged.
In regard to the part played by humane feeling, Moltke stated that in time of war the essential thing is to get a decision as quickly as possible and that the most ruthless methods of fighting are at the same time the most humane. When people attempt to answer this reasoning by highfalutin talk about aesthetics, etc., only one answer can be given. It is that the vital questions involved in the struggle of a nation for its existence must not be subordinated to any aesthetic considerations. The yoke of slavery is and always will remain the most unpleasant experience that mankind can endure. Do the Schwabing (Note 12) decadents look upon Germany's lot to-day as 'aesthetic'? Of course, one doesn't discuss such a question with the Jews, because they are the modern inventors of this cultural perfume. Their very existence is an incarnate denial of the beauty of God's image in His creation.
[Note 12. Schwabing is the artistic quarter in Munich where artists have their studios and litterateurs, especially of the Bohemian class, foregather.]
Since these ideas of what is beautiful and humane have no place in warfare, they are not to be used as standards of war propaganda.
During the War, propaganda was a means to an end. And this end was the struggle for existence of the German nation. Propaganda, therefore, should have been regarded from the standpoint of its utility for that purpose. The most cruel weapons were then the most humane, provided they helped towards a speedier decision; and only those methods were good and beautiful which helped towards securing the dignity and freedom of the nation. Such was the only possible attitude to adopt towards war propaganda in the life-or-death struggle.
If those in what are called positions of authority had realized this there would have been no uncertainty about the form and employment of war propaganda as a weapon; for it is nothing but a weapon, and indeed a most terrifying weapon in the hands of those who know how to use it.
The second question of decisive importance is this: To whom should propaganda be made to appeal? To the educated intellectual classes? Or to the less intellectual?
Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. For the intellectual classes, or what are called the intellectual classes to-day, propaganda is not suited, but only scientific exposition. Propaganda has as little to do with science as an advertisement poster has to do with art, as far as concerns the form in which it presents its message. The art of the advertisement poster consists in the ability of the designer to attract the attention of the crowd through the form and colours he chooses. The advertisement poster announcing an exhibition of art has no other aim than to convince the public of the importance of the exhibition. The better it does that, the better is the art of the poster as such. Being meant accordingly to impress upon the public the meaning of the exposition, the poster can never take the place of the artistic objects displayed in the exposition hall. They are something entirely different. Therefore. those who wish to study the artistic display must study something that is quite different from the poster; indeed for that purpose a mere wandering through the exhibition galleries is of no use. The student of art must carefully and thoroughly study each exhibit in order slowly to form a judicious opinion about it.
The situation is the same in regard to what we understand by the word, propaganda. The purpose of propaganda is not the personal instruction of the individual, but rather to attract public attention to certain things, the importance of which can be brought home to the masses only by this means.
Here the art of propaganda consists in putting a matter so clearly and forcibly before the minds of the people as to create a general conviction regarding the reality of a certain fact, the necessity of certain things and the just character of something that is essential. But as this art is not an end in itself and because its purpose must be exactly that of the advertisement poster, to attract the attention of the masses and not by any means to dispense individual instructions to those who already have an educated opinion on things or who wish to form such an opinion on grounds of objective study--because that is not the purpose of propaganda, it must appeal to the feelings of the public rather than to their reasoning powers.
All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. Thus its purely intellectual level will have to be that of the lowest mental common denominator among the public it is desired to reach. When there is question of bringing a whole nation within the circle of its influence, as happens in the case of war propaganda, then too much attention cannot be paid to the necessity of avoiding a high level, which presupposes a relatively high degree of intelligence among the public.
The more modest the scientific tenor of this propaganda and the more it is addressed exclusively to public sentiment, the more decisive will be its success. This is the best test of the value of a propaganda, and not the approbation of a small group of intellectuals or artistic people.
The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. That this is not understood by those among us whose wits are supposed to have been sharpened to the highest pitch is only another proof of their vanity or mental inertia.
Once we have understood how necessary it is to concentrate the persuasive forces of propaganda on the broad masses of the people, the following lessons result therefrom:
That it is a mistake to organize the direct propaganda as if it were a manifold system of scientific instruction.
The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. If this principle be forgotten and if an attempt be made to be abstract and general, the propaganda will turn out ineffective; for the public will not be able to digest or retain what is offered to them in this way. Therefore, the greater the scope of the message that has to be presented, the more necessary it is for the propaganda to discover that plan of action which is psychologically the most efficient.
It was, for example, a fundamental mistake to ridicule the worth of the enemy as the Austrian and German comic papers made a chief point of doing in their propaganda. The very principle here is a mistaken one; for, when they came face to face with the enemy, our soldiers had quite a different impression. Therefore, the mistake had disastrous results. Once the German soldier realised what a tough enemy he had to fight he felt that he had been deceived by the manufacturers of the information which had been given him. Therefore, instead of strengthening and stimulating his fighting spirit, this information had quite the contrary effect. Finally he lost heart.
On the other hand, British and American war propaganda was psychologically efficient. By picturing the Germans to their own people as Barbarians and Huns, they were preparing their soldiers for the horrors of war and safeguarding them against illusions. The most terrific weapons which those soldiers encountered in the field merely confirmed the information that they had already received and their belief in the truth of the assertions made by their respective governments was accordingly reinforced. Thus their rage and hatred against the infamous foe was increased. The terrible havoc caused by the German weapons of war was only another illustration of the Hunnish brutality of those barbarians; whereas on the side of the Entente no time was left the soldiers to meditate on the similar havoc which their own weapons were capable of. Thus the British soldier was never allowed to feel that the information which he received at home was untrue. Unfortunately the opposite was the case with the Germans, who finally wound up by rejecting everything from home as pure swindle and humbug. This result was made possible because at home they thought that the work of propaganda could be entrusted to the first ass that came along, braying of his own special talents, and they had no conception of the fact that propaganda demands the most skilled brains that can be found.
Thus the German war propaganda afforded us an incomparable example of how the work of 'enlightenment' should not be done and how such an example was the result of an entire failure to take any psychological considerations whatsoever into account.
From the enemy, however, a fund of valuable knowledge could be gained by those who kept their eyes open, whose powers of perception had not yet become sclerotic, and who during four-and-a-half years had to experience the perpetual flood of enemy propaganda.
The worst of all was that our people did not understand the very first condition which has to be fulfilled in every kind of propaganda; namely, a systematically one-sided attitude towards every problem that has to be dealt with. In this regard so many errors were committed, even from the very beginning of the war, that it was justifiable to doubt whether so much folly could be attributed solely to the stupidity of people in higher quarters.
What, for example, should we say of a poster which purported to advertise some new brand of soap by insisting on the excellent qualities of the competitive brands? We should naturally shake our heads. And it ought to be just the same in a similar kind of political advertisement. The aim of propaganda is not to try to pass judgment on conflicting rights, giving each its due, but exclusively to emphasize the right which we are asserting. Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side.
It was a fundamental mistake to discuss the question of who was responsible for the outbreak of the war and declare that the sole responsibility could not be attributed to Germany. The sole responsibility should have been laid on the shoulders of the enemy, without any discussion whatsoever.
And what was the consequence of these half-measures? The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. As soon as our own propaganda made the slightest suggestion that the enemy had a certain amount of justice on his side, then we laid down the basis on which the justice of our own cause could be questioned. The masses are not in a position to discern where the enemy's fault ends and where our own begins. In such a case they become hesitant and distrustful, especially when the enemy does not make the same mistake but heaps all the blame on his adversary. Could there be any clearer proof of this than the fact that finally our own people believed what was said by the enemy's propaganda, which was uniform and consistent in its assertions, rather than what our own propaganda said? And that, of course, was increased by the mania for objectivity which addicts our people. Everybody began to be careful about doing an injustice to the enemy, even at the cost of seriously injuring, and even ruining his own people and State.
Naturally the masses were not conscious of the fact that those in authority had failed to study the subject from this angle.
The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood. Its notions are never partly this and partly that. English propaganda especially understood this in a marvellous way and put what they understood into practice. They allowed no half-measures which might have given rise to some doubt.
Proof of how brilliantly they understood that the feeling of the masses is something primitive was shown in their policy of publishing tales of horror and outrages which fitted in with the real horrors of the time, thereby cleverly and ruthlessly preparing the ground for moral solidarity at the front, even in times of great defeats. Further, the way in which they pilloried the German enemy as solely responsible for the war--which was a brutal and absolute falsehood--and the way in which they proclaimed his guilt was excellently calculated to reach the masses, realizing that these are always extremist in their feelings. And thus it was that this atrocious lie was positively believed.
The effectiveness of this kind of propaganda is well illustrated by the fact that after four-and-a-half years, not only was the enemy still carrying on his propagandist work, but it was already undermining the stamina of our people at home.
That our propaganda did not achieve similar results is not to be wondered at, because it had the germs of inefficiency lodged in its very being by reason of its ambiguity. And because of the very nature of its content one could not expect it to make the necessary impression on the masses. Only our feckless 'statesmen' could have imagined that on pacifists slops of such a kind the enthusiasm could be nourished which is necessary to enkindle that spirit which leads men to die for their country.
And so this product of ours was not only worthless but detrimental.
No matter what an amount of talent employed in the organization of propaganda, it will have no result if due account is not taken of these fundamental principles. Propaganda must be limited to a few simple themes and these must be represented again and again. Here, as in innumerable other cases, perseverance is the first and most important condition of success.
Particularly in the field of propaganda, placid aesthetes and blase intellectuals should never be allowed to take the lead. The former would readily transform the impressive character of real propaganda into something suitable only for literary tea parties. As to the second class of people, one must always beware of this pest; for, in consequence of their insensibility to normal impressions, they are constantly seeking new excitements.
Such people grow sick and tired of everything. They always long for change and will always be incapable of putting themselves in the position of picturing the wants of their less callous fellow-creatures in their immediate neighbourhood, let alone trying to understand them. The blase intellectuals are always the first to criticize propaganda, or rather its message, because this appears to them to be outmoded and trivial. They are always looking for something new, always yearning for change; and thus they become the mortal enemies of every effort that may be made to influence the masses in an effective way. The moment the organization and message of a propagandist movement begins to be orientated according to their tastes it becomes incoherent and scattered.
It is not the purpose of propaganda to create a series of alterations in sentiment with a view to pleasing these blase gentry. Its chief function is to convince the masses, whose slowness of understanding needs to be given time in order that they may absorb information; and only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea on the memory of the crowd.
Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula. In this way alone can propaganda be consistent and dynamic in its effects.
Only by following these general lines and sticking to them steadfastly, with uniform and concise emphasis, can final success be reached. Then one will be rewarded by the surprising and almost incredible results that such a persistent policy secures.
The success of any advertisement, whether of a business or political nature, depends on the consistency and perseverance with which it is employed.
In this respect also the propaganda organized by our enemies set us an excellent example. It confined itself to a few themes, which were meant exclusively for mass consumption, and it repeated these themes with untiring perseverance. Once these fundamental themes and the manner of placing them before the world were recognized as effective, they adhered to them without the slightest alteration for the whole duration of the War. At first all of it appeared to be idiotic in its impudent assertiveness. Later on it was looked upon as disturbing, but finally it was believed.
But in England they came to understand something further: namely, that the possibility of success in the use of this spiritual weapon consists in the mass employment of it, and that when employed in this way it brings full returns for the large expenses incurred.
In England propaganda was regarded as a weapon of the first order, whereas with us it represented the last hope of a livelihood for our unemployed politicians and a snug job for shirkers of the modest hero type.
Taken all in all, its results were negative.
We could learn much about what is useful in rhetoric from oral culture. Poetry contains a lot of techniques for memory, as well as for other purposes, such as matching the sound and rhythm to the mood of the speech. Rhythm and rhyme help us remember things. Epithets and metaphors also help us remember.
The method of 'loci' is a well known memory technique used in ancient and medieval times. In this method we imagine some familiar place, such as the house we grew up in or some other familiar building and in each room or some place within it we imagine placing some object that will help trigger the desired memory. We can wander through the house and recall in sequence whatever we need. In The Memory Code Lynne Kelly points out that this is a technique used in traditional Aboriginal culture. Most people in the world have heard of 'songlines' and have seen traditional aboriginal art which depicts, in partly abstract form, landscapes, laws, stories, journeys and practical information such as where and when to find food, and conveys different information for people with different roles in society (eg: https://nga.gov.au/collections/atsi/). In this sense the painting can be read, like writing, but also, the land itself, which carries bears these stories about law, spirits, food, water and so on, becomes the text in which memory is written and from which is is read, and which can be journeyed through in the mind or in reality, using the method of 'loci' - understanding this, we can begin to appreciate how country, songs, art, poetry, memory, law and survival are all connected.
The Western tradition of rhetoric begins in ancient Greece and Rome. It was important for wealthy people to be able to speak convincingly in public, to gain personal advantage, to prosecute or defend legal cases and to sway the politics of the country in often small city states where an individual could make a big difference. Good rhetoric could be a matter of life or death, or lead to war or peace. The Greek sophists said they could convince anyone of any side of an argument and were paid teachers of wealthy boys. Socrates and Plato were highly critical of sophists for dismissing the truth (see Plato's Gorgias). Although writing had been invented in Ancient Greece oral culture was still crucial. Plato's writing was in the form of recorded dialogues. Cicero, a Roman, valued writing highly in the art of rhetoric - as a way to formulate and articulate speeches and to record them.
Often, when speaking, a plain 'ordinary language' style is needed to reach the most amount of people, and this is most likely to clearly convey the point. It is extremely difficult and requires masterly skill to appear effortlessly speaking plainly at the same time as maintaining ethos, pathos and logos, doing nothing to undermine them, while working through a well structured dispositio, as you recall it from memory, while performing gestures and controlling your voice in a manner appropriate to the material, without losing anyone's attention throughout and adjusting all of this as you pick up on responses from the audience.
Cicero on plain style:
"From what I have advanced, it appears how difficult it is to write easily. But when easy writings fall into the hands of an ordinary reader, they appear to him so natural and unlaboured, that he immediately resolves to write, and fancies that all he has to do is to take no pains. Thus he thinks indeed simply, but the thoughts not being chosen with judgment, are not beautiful. He, it is true, expresses himself plainly, but flatly withal. Again, if a man of vivacity takes it into his head to write this way, what self-denial must he undergo, when bright points of wit occur to his fancy? How difficult will he find it to reject florid phrases, and pretty embellishments of style? So true it is, that simplicity of all things is the hardest to be copied, and case to be acquired with the greatest labour."];—and the unaffected simplicity of his language appears very imitable to an ignorant observer; though nothing will be found less so by him who makes the trial." - Cicero, The Orator
Some poets have taken the fundamental metrical unit in poetry to be the breath, such as Ginsberg and Whitman. Obviously measuring out your sentences and phrases to fit neatly within a single breath is important for speaking.
The beautiful lost swimmer, the ennuyé, the onanist, the female that loves unrequited, the money-maker,
The actor and actress, those through with their parts, and those waiting to commence,
The affectionate boy, the husband and wife, the voter, the nominee that is chosen, and the nominee that has fail’d,
The great already known, and the great any time after to-day,
The stammerer, the sick, the perfect-form’d, the homely,
The criminal that stood in the box, the judge that sat and sentenced him, the fluent lawyers, the jury, the audience,
The laugher and weeper, the dancer, the midnight widow, the red squaw,
The consumptive, the erysipelite, the idiot, he that is wrong’d,
The antipodes, and every one between this and them in the dark,
I swear they are averaged now—one is no better than the other,
The night and sleep have liken’d them and restored them.
- Walt Whitman, from The Sleepers
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
Allen Ginsberg, from Howl
All the other techniques of poetry are also relevant for rhetoric. One of Winston Churchill's most famous quotes comes at the end of a 12 minute speech. Note the changes in pitch - going up in a rousing manner when speaking of the 'air' but descending, slow and measured, to convey 'gravitas', or an attitude of deep, sober, life and death importance. Note how poetic it is with the regular repetition of 'we shall' and the evenly measured lines (with the exception of that one longer rousing line, balancing the sense of uplifted bravery and respect for loss of life. It also has a roughly metrical rhythm and each line is measured for breath but allowing plenty of space.
We shall go on to the end.
We shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,
we shall defend our island,
whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender.
Acting skills also are important. The speaker may need to appear humble, proud, serious or in good humour as the occassion demands. Posture, walking or standing still, carriage of the head and hand gestures all carry meaning and influence how convincing the speech is.