Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Logic is a fish, apparently.

My brother posted an interesting reply to my Sunday post where I talked about how I write and concluded that I should focus on hard facts and logic rather than rhetoric.  The point he brought up can be largely summarized by noting that rhetoric and salesmanship convince far more people to do things than irrefutable logic ever does.  Like me he wants to carefully reason out his conclusions himself but being a teacher he recognizes that getting the message across is usually best done with flair and presentation rather than the grind of rational reasoning.  Having been a salesman for years I know this for a certainty - enthusiasm and humour are far more effective tools of persuasion than truth ever is.

So why tell the truth then?  Why not just lie, or at least be sketchy with details and big on imagery?

First off I think that I should make logic posts because I am better at those.  I was always a good salesman but never the best because I wasn't willing to make things up or to alter my world to fit the world I wanted the buyer to see.  I always sat back a little emotionally when pitching and I am sure some folks detected that lack of buy in on my part.  I don't believe in the concept of fate or destiny or any such rubbish but I do think that I could reasonably say that if I do have a purpose in writing it is to reach those who want proof with their opinion.  It isn't that everyone should do this, but it is that *I* should do this.

The second thing I think is important is to consider a comparison of rhetoric and homeopathy.  It is entirely true that in the short term you can improve the health of patients by randomly dosing them with homeopathic "medicine".  The placebo effect is a powerful beast.  Unfortunately doing so confuses people into thinking that it actually works and this has a detrimental effect in the long term because the public loses the ability to distinguish between what is truly effective and what is just placebo.  In a way powerful rhetoric for a good cause is similar in that it achieves good short term results but has drawbacks in the long term.

Perhaps that parallel doesn't work.  Perhaps people truly don't get anything more out of ironclad logic than they do a clever turn of phrase and perhaps there just isn't any reason to try to do it right - maybe all we should be concerned about is the immediate results.  I know though that there are a lot of smart people out there who really are concerned with the truth and with error bars and the burden of proof.  Sometimes I am that person and I get something horribly wrong and get smacked in the face by the cold wet fish of logic.  There are people out there like me who get things wrong and search for enlightenment and those people need to be able to find the information they seek.  I, hopefully, can be one of the folks who can help with that.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting on this. I enjoyed the read:)
    Now I have an image in my head of someone getting smacked in the face by a cold dead fish. Pretty funny I guess...