• NOS4A2
    8.2k
    Before presenting his noble lie Socrates sets out three ways in which men are “unwillingly deprived of true opinions”: theft, force, and sorcery.

    “by those who have their opinions stolen from them I mean those who are over-persuaded and those who forget, because in the one case time, in the other argument strips them unawares of their beliefs. Now I presume you understand, do you not?”

    “Yes.”

    “Well, then, by those who are constrained or forced I mean those whom some pain or suffering compels to change their minds.”

    “That too I understand and you are right.”

    “And the victims of sorcery I am sure you too would say are they who alter their opinions under the spell of pleasure or terrified by some fear.”

    “Yes,” he said: “everything that deceives appears to cast a spell upon the mind.”

    Plat. Rep. 3.413

    Note here the asymmetrical dynamics of the interactions Socrates has in mind. Men are able to use argument in order to strip each other “unawares of their belief”. Speech can infiltrate the soul and exfiltrate with one’s true opinions. Logos is a type of force which a speaker can wield in order to become the agent of a listener’s persuasion.

    It reminds one of (and might even be an allusion to) Gorgias and his Encomium of Helen, where we see this force in one particular argument. Helen of Troy was not to be blamed for the Trojan war because the words made her do it. Discourse was like ἀνάγκη, working upon the soul like a drug worked upon the body. For Gorgias, “persuasion by speech is equivalent to abduction by force”. One might think of this as no more than cheeky sophistry, something an ancient and superstitious crowd might come to believe. But the genealogy of some modern lingo reveals a similar implication today.

    We suggest through a class of concepts that a human being can animate another human being with words, as if by sorcery. Speakers can “incite” an emotion or activity in a crowd. They can “foment” violence or revolution. They can “stoke up” some unwanted emotion. They can “stir” others to lawless action or crime. They “agitate”; they “goad”; they “inspire”.

    This, in combination with the grammar and typology of the language, and the relative proximity in space and time between speakers and listeners, suggests a sort of action at a distance.

    When used these verbs are invariably transitive, requiring an object on which to transfer the activity (compare “Socrates incited” to “Socrates incited the youth”). The direct object is invariably some living creature, usually a listener or listeners. But the subject need not be an agent, nor capable of acting at all. The subject could be an inanimate and passive object such as a book or painting.

    The etymology of these words and the genealogy of these concepts often reveal a literal and practical origin, but then take on a figurative and rhetorical sense. “Inspire”, for example, can be traced back to the Latin inspirare, meaning to breathe or blow into (the literal sense). But the earliest English examples establish the word’s religious and figurative nature, “to influence, move, or guide (as to speech or action) through divine or supernatural agency or power” (the figurative sense). Literally, a “goad” was a stick to poke cattle. To “incite” was to put into rapid motion. The sense is altered from the literal to the figurative when we trade the implicit kinetic force in the one with an unexplained and undefined force in the other, as we do in contemporary usage.

    “Influence” is another odd term with a supernatural and superstitious pedigree, but as far as I can tell it lacks a literal sense. As a noun, it once denoted “streaming ethereal power from the stars when in certain positions, acting upon character or destiny of men”. Its verb form grew out of its noun form, but no less retained its action at a distance and the etherial nature of its force.

    In the literal sense of these terms we are able to trace the causes and effects from one thing to another, and witness how through kinetic energy a human can affect another human being. In the figurative sense we are unable to provide any chain of cause and effect, and we are left to imagine sorcery and magic acting upon souls and spirits.

    We ought to doubt the magical idea at the outset because the physics, biology, and consistency of it is wanting. Though the use, definition, and belief suggests that some combinations of words affect human biology in such a way as to animate it to this or that action, like magic, it has no such effect on any other phase of matter or species of biology. The actual physical and biological effects, such as a sound vibration hitting the cochlea and its subsequent movements throughout the anatomy, do not match the presumed effects, like the incitement of a behavior or emotion. Moreover, the presumed effects vary wildly according to who listens to the words and rarely (if ever) according to what is said.

    None of this would be a problem if the idea wasn’t used as the justification for violence, censorship, and authoritarian policy. Speakers are blamed for the actions of others, as much now as in the days of Gorgias and Plato. But might the asymmetry of these dynamics be misleading? Might it be the case that the listener has much more to say about his “true opinions” than the speaker ever could, and in the end, the listener is the agent of his own persuasion?
  • Lionino
    849
    “Inspire”, for example, can be traced back to the Latin inspirareNOS4A2

    Nuh uh, like every other word you see in an English text, it comes from Old French inspirer.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    inspire (v.)
    mid-14c., enspiren, "to fill (the mind, heart, etc., with grace, etc.);" also "to prompt or induce (someone to do something)," from Old French enspirer (13c.), from Latin inspirare "blow into, breathe upon," figuratively "inspire, excite, inflame," from in- "in" (from PIE root *en "in") + spirare "to breathe" (see spirit (n.)).

    https://www.etymonline.com/word/inspire
  • Lionino
    849
    I know, that confirms exactly what I am saying: it comes from French, not from Latin.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    You don’t think the word “inspire” can be traced back to the Latin word “inspirare”?
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    Might it be the case that the listener has much more to say about his “true opinions” than the speaker ever could, and in the end, the listener is the agent of his own persuasion?NOS4A2

    You've said a lot. But I wonder to what end? And what exactly you mean? And no doubt whatever they are, some truth can be found in them.

    Your topic is properly called rhetoric. And it is useful to recall the kind of subjects that rhetoric is concerned with, usually the choice between courses of action that themselves could be one way or another way. Which is to say that rhetoric considers contradictories - to be distinguished as separate from dialectic and demonstration which concern only what is the case and how to demonstrate it. Aristotle lays out rhetoric pretty well in his Rhetoric, but books on rhetoric could fill a bookstore.

    And it was likely an even greater concern in pre-literate societies. Before writing and literacy the words of laws, customs, traditions, were stored in collective memory and spoken from time to time, often in ceremony with music and dance both to celebrate them and also to aid in remembering them. And when they were forgot, the society was imperiled.

    Your argument and conclusion, then, seems to question whether the speaker or the auditor is responsible for being persuaded, and implicitly responsible for subsequent actions taken, concluding that it is the auditor at fault, or at least is the causative agent in subsequent action taken. Cause, blame, fault, responsibility are all words whose exact meanings depend on context, and the exact determination of which is often a lawyer's delight and living.

    That is, you seem to have it as either-or, and your conclusion exculpatory for the speaker. And just this an extreme Procrustean view. The truth, as with most truths, is less simple: both bear responsibility, though likely in different measure for different aspects of the thing. E.g., we say the mob was incited to riot, but you would gut the sense and meaning of the incitement. Why would you do that?

    And here we note that elsewhere in these threads you have stated explicitly that it is a core fundamental belief of yours that anyone should be able to say anything anywhere under any circumstance at any time without concern for penalty of any kind - yours the position of absolute "free" speech. It seems odd to me that you argue for unconstrained speech while depriving it of any causative force, or maybe that is why you argue.

    Imo, it is enough to observe that yours is not how the world works, or has ever worked, or ever should work.
  • BC
    13k
    You have made this objection before. I don't understand why you think a word that entered English from Old French doesn't itself have roots in Latin. There would be no Old French without Latin.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    That's the gist of it.

    In my view, rhetoric in general promotes the magical idea, that speakers are like sorcerers, and I think this underlying beliefs is one of the distinctions between the sophist and the philosopher. Besides having little evidence to support the magical idea, I think it proves disastrous insofar as it robs the listener of agency and justifies a tyranny.

    I don't argue for unconstrained speech—I believe in manners—only that the words are wholly innocent and need not be made out to be something they are not. We need not fear them or pretend that they will push us around should we hear or read them. We need not believe they possess powers and forces they do not. To do so is to weaken people, to relegate them to status of a slave, where the truth is that people have the force and the power to be the agent of their own persuasion.
  • Lionino
    849
    You have made this objection before. I don't understand why you think a word that entered English from Old French doesn't itself have roots in Latin. There would be no Old French without Latin.BC

    I make the correction everytime I see the mistake. I know that Old French enspirer comes from Ancient Latin inspirare (skipping a few steps in the evolution), because French is Latin. What you say however is a fallacy that I have addressed here and here.


    You don’t think the word “inspire” can be traced back to the Latin word “inspirare”?NOS4A2

    I know that it comes from French. The statement that an English word comes from Latin is in most cases comedic, as English has nothing to do with Latin. How could it?
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    I neither asked nor said that it came from Latin. I said that it can be traced to latin. You said "Nuh uh". But the etymology proves unequivocally that it can. There is no point in quibbling about it.
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    I don't argue for unconstrained speechNOS4A2

    He spoke. You don’t like what he says.
    — NOS4A2
    Not even disingenuous. Or maybe you think speech should be without any restraints whatsoever. Is that what you think?
    tim wood
    ↪tim wood
    I am absolutist in that regard.
    NOS4A2

    In my viewNOS4A2
    Your view is wrong as a matter fact.
    the words are wholly innocentNOS4A2
    Maybe. But their use isn't. Simple case: I hire someone to do something at my instruction. I so instruct; and he acts. The words qua words may be innocent - that a separate question - but my usage not. The acting agent then in no way an absolute insulator of the speaker from the act. Or in other words, your positions are categorical, reductive, and absolute. And that's not how this works. If you wish to make your case categorically and absolutely, then for you rhetoric won't do: you've crossed into logic. Good luck there!
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    Are you using words or making them? You use your mouth or fingers to create them, certainly, but beyond that this is where your relationship with them ends. And like any other sound or mark that you may make the words fall wherever they may, whether to dissipate in the wind or collect dust. You put your instruction into the world and that's the end of it.

    Rather, the reader uses them. He comes upon them, examines them, understands them, and provides them with some semblance of meaning to suit his own purposes. Or, like Polemarchus, he can just refuse to listen. This important interaction is completely beyond your power and control.
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    Nonsense, Nos4: you clearly have no understanding of what rhetoric is or is about. And I take it you are not at all interested, being instead apparently satisfied in every respect by your own. You make your own claims about your own beliefs, even being contradictory in them. My personal axiom is that you are entitled to your beliefs - they do not have to make sense. But it is annoying when you try to pass them off as making sense and as more than just your private beliefs.
  • BC
    13k
    I know that it comes from French. The statement that an English word comes from Latin is in most cases comedic, as English has nothing to do with Latin. How could it?Lionino

    There is nothing Latin about English, French was the language of culture in England for 300 years, not Latin.

    English did not exist during Roman times.
    — Lionino

    There is nothing persuasive about your argument.

    I agree that English has nothing to do with Latin. It's a Germanic, not a Roman[tic] language. The French contributions to English vocabulary didn't change English grammar.
  • Lionino
    849
    The French contributions to English vocabulary didn't change English grammar.BC

    That is a common talking point. However, it is wrong, and French did impact English's grammar in several indirect ways, and quite a few direct ways.

    There is nothing persuasive about your argument.BC

    That is fine, persuasion is subjective, evidence is objective, my argument is that English words don't come from Latin, that is what I proved.

    It's a GermanicBC

    Eh.
  • Paine
    1.9k

    An argument against the power of words uses words to make the case for the proposition,
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    Why blame me and not your words? Perhaps because you realize you are not the agent of persuasion in the formation and defense of mine or any one else’s beliefs. Given the underlying premise about the power and efficacy of words of sophistry in particular and rhetoric in general, you can either admit that the powers of your own words are weak and lacking, or you can afford me some sort of agency in the governing of my own beliefs. It would be better for both of us if it were the latter, and we can use each other's ideas instead of having them use us. The latter seems more conducive to philosophy and human nature.

    At any rate, I’m open to any way of describing persuasion that does not evoke action at a distance and includes me as an agent of my own persuasion. Perhaps we can come up with one.
  • tim wood
    8.7k
    At any rate, I’m open to any way of describing persuasion that does not evoke action at a distance and includes me as an agent of my own persuasion. Perhaps we can come up with one.NOS4A2
    We don't have to; it's been done many times over. Generally, geometry, logic, arithmetic are about matters that are this way and not that way, and are universally, necessarily, timelessly so. The task is to discover what that way is and to demonstrate it. Assent not required, voice not required. The character, good will, and judgment of a speaker not relevant.

    Rhetoric, on the other hand, is the name given for the techniques of persuasion for matters that can be this way or that way or some other way, or contradictories, and that in some way are important now, and that call for a decision concerning an action of some kind. "Shall we attack at dawn?" "Shall we build ships or city walls?" Aristotle distinguishes three categories: 1) Forensic, concerned with past events and guilt or innocence. 2) Political, concerned with future events and expediency or inexpediency. 3) Epideictic, concerned with the present, and with praise or censure.

    And with these the auditors are presumably interested parties, and the voice of the speaker matters inasmuch as it conveys good character, good will, and good judgment. Theoretically at least a bad man cannot make a good speech, although many tomes are dedicated to instructing the reader in how to fake it.

    In sum, speaker and auditor are a kind of dance couple. The speaker leads, and the quality of his leading influences everything that follows.

    You, it appears, allow the speaker to say anything at all without responsibility. And as noted above that is not how the world works or how the world understands.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    Note here the asymmetrical dynamics of the interactions Socrates has in mind.NOS4A2

    If there is an asymmetry it is between someone who speaks persuasively about things that are not true and someone who is persuaded by false speech.

    An early issue in the Republic is the ability to "make the weaker argument stronger". The stock-in trade of the sophist. Someone who is able to critically evaluate the argument will not be persuaded. Gorgias' words held not power over Socrates. The power of words is no match for the power of reason. But Gorgias was able to demonstrate that he had the power to part a fool and his money.

    The power of the words [edit] comes from believing them to be true.

    unawares of their belief”NOS4A2

    It is not that they are unaware of their beliefs. It is that they are unaware that their belief or opinions are being taken from them. Two reliable translations:

    Horan "... takes something from them without their noticing"

    Bloom "... takes away their opinions unawares."
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    In sum, speaker and auditor are a kind of dance couple. The speaker leads, and the quality of his leading influences everything that follows.

    “Influence”. I wrote about this word and detailed its etymology. I’m trying to avoid the use of it because the sense of its definition is figurative and supernatural. If I were to ask “What do you mean when you say the speaker influences everything that follows?” You would have to trade “influence” with some other figurative synonym and the whole ordeal becomes circular.

    It’s not that I don’t enjoy your figurative language, it’s just that I want to describe the interaction in a more literal fashion, without the use of the “magical idea” I expressed earlier. Then and only then can we dispel the myth of the efficacy of words.

    You, it appears, allow the speaker to say anything at all without responsibility. And as noted above that is not how the world works or how the world understands.

    No, everyone is responsible for what they say, it’s just that what they say is without the efficacy and power we often make them out to be, and therefor what they say never requires a disproportionate response like censorship.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    The power of the words is comes from believing them to be true.

    Believing is the power of a believer, not words.

    It is not that they are unaware of their beliefs. It is that they are unaware that their belief or opinions are being taken from them. Two reliable translations:

    I never said they were unawares of their beliefs. I said “Men are able to use argument in order to strip each other ‘unawares of their belief’”. I used the translation of Paul Shorey, which appears in the quote.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    Believing is the power of a believer, not words.NOS4A2

    You point to what you believe to be:

    ...the asymmetrical dynamics of the interactions Socrates has in mind.NOS4A2

    but do not understand what it is he has in mind. The founder of the noble lie does not believe his own lie. His power is not in his believing but in having others believing his story. The power lies in the story being persuasive, in the words being believed.

    I said “Men are able to use argument in order to strip each other ‘unawares of their belief’”.NOS4A2

    It is a point of clarification. What you said is clear in so far as the words are there to be read, but given the syntax and use of quotation marks how those words might be understood is not so clear.

    What we should not be unaware of is your belief that:

    ... the reader uses them. He comes upon them, examines them, understands them, and provides them with some semblance of meaning to suit his own purposes.NOS4A2

    Have you stolen that belief from yourself? On the one hand, you claim that the words are not important, that what is important is that the reader provides them with meaning. But on the other, it is not the meaning the reader gives to them but the words themselves, what you said, that is important.

    By the way, there is good reason why the Loeb Classic Library replaced Shorey's translations of Plato.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    but do not understand what it is he has in mind. The founder of the noble lie does not believe his own lie. His power is not in his believing but in having others believing his story. The power lies in the story being persuasive, in the words being believed.

    I’m not so sure of that. At any rate, I was only pointing out the arguments Socrates was making, and they were wholly unpersuasive.

    Have you stolen that belief from yourself? On the one hand, you claim that the words are not important, that what is important is that the reader provides them with meaning. But on the other, it is not the meaning the reader gives to them but the words themselves, what you said, that is important.

    I’ve never said words are not important. I love words. I don’t want to see any of them censored or banned or treated like anything other than what they are. I’m fact, my whole stance is a defense of words against those who seek to take them from us, or criminalize their use. Rather, I’ve only claimed words do not have the power people often ascribe to them.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    I’m not so sure of that.NOS4A2

    If you care to understand it and are not just mining for statements that seem to support your claims, then you would do well to start by acknowledging that you do not understand.

    At any rate, I was only pointing out the arguments Socrates was making, and they were wholly unpersuasive.NOS4A2

    So you do not find what you do not understand persuasive?!

    I’ve never said words are not important.NOS4A2


    What you have said on several occasions is:

    I cannot believe words transport meaning from A to B because I have not been able to witness this occur. No one has. No one has looked at a symbol and seen anything called “meaning”.

    You quoted me but did not address the bolded statement:

    On the one hand, you claim that the words are not important, that what is important is that the reader provides them with meaning.

    It is your belief that the reader provides words with "some semblance of meaning", but when the reader (in this case me) provides those words with meaning you, you point to your words, to what you said, as if the words have a particular meaning established by the words themselves.

    The argument is self-defeating. You use words in an attempt to persuade the reader that words are not persuasive. You put it in the form of a question:

    Might it be the case that the listener has much more to say about his “true opinions” than the speaker ever could, and in the end, the listener is the agent of his own persuasion?NOS4A2

    The answer to that question is no. You have not persuaded me. And based on what others have said, you have not persuaded others either. Your argument is weak and incapable of persuading anyone who is able to evaluate it rationally.

    This is just your latest and most likely not your last attempt to separate Trump from his responsibility for what he says.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    If you care to understand it and are not just mining for statements that seem to support your claims, then you would do well to start by acknowledging that you do not understand.

    I understand your claim I’m just not sure I agree with it.

    So you do not find what you do not understand persuasive?!

    I did not find Socrates’ arguments persuasive. What’s not to understand?

    You quoted me but did not address the bolded statement:

    On the one hand, you claim that the words are not important, that what is important is that the reader provides them with meaning.

    Sure, that is also important. But I never said nor believe words were not important, and one should not assume, wrongly, that because words have no power that they are unimportant or that anyone is arguing such a thing.

    It is your belief that the reader provides words with "some semblance of meaning", but when the reader (in this case me) provides those words with meaning you, you point to your words, to what you said, as if the words have a particular meaning established by the words themselves.

    The argument is self-defeating. You use words in an attempt to persuade the reader that words are not persuasive. You put it in the form of a question:

    No I’m only clarifying what I was trying to get at by using those words. That you come up with a different meaning than me only makes the case more clear. No meaning is conveyed from point A to point B.

    The answer to that question is no. You have not persuaded me. And based on what others have said, you have not persuaded others either. Your argument is weak and incapable of persuading anyone who is able to evaluate it rationally.

    This is just your latest and most likely not your last attempt to separate Trump from his responsibility for what he says.

    Just more evidence that you are the agent of your own persuasion. You decide and no one else does. You believe what you want to. No amount of rhetoric
    can change it. But that you have to resort to sophistry to defend it is enough to persuade me that you do not really believe in anything like truth or justice, but in self-preservation, self-adulation, and self-seeking.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k


    You do not know Plato well enough to know that nothing in the dialogue supports your claims.

    Sure, that is also important. But I never said nor believe words were not important, and one should not assume, wrongly, that because words have no power that they are unimportant or that anyone is arguing such a thing.NOS4A2

    Again you skip over the issue - words have meaning. It is evident that words are important to you - as a form of auditory autoeroticism. You get off on hearing yourself talk.

    No I’m only clarifying what I was trying to get at by using those words.NOS4A2

    If words do not have meaning then how can you expect to clarify what you are trying to say by using them?

    If words do not have meaning then the sounds and symbols used are not important. They can be replaced arbitrarily by any other sounds and symbols.

    Just more evidence that you are the agent of your own persuasion.NOS4A2

    You have it backwards. It is exactly the opposite. I am the agent of my own ability to guard against being persuaded by false arguments. In the passage you cited from the Republic, those who are to become guardians must be guarded against false arguments while they are young and do not yet have the agency to guard themselves. They will eventually become agents who guard against others having their true opinions taken away from them.

    You believe what you want to. No amount of rhetoric can change it.NOS4A2

    Perhaps no one can change that you believes what you want, but certainly rhetoric can change what it is one wants to believe. It can persuade someone to want to believe that instead of this because that seems to be true and this does not.

    Do you understand what Aristotle meant when he said that rhetoric is the counterpart to dialectic? Although it can be used to steal away true opinion, it can also be used to secure true opinion. The noble lie is a good example of the latter.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    You do not know Plato well enough to know that nothing in the dialogue supports your claims.

    I never claimed it supported any of my claims. I merely used the quote as an example.

    Again you skip over the issue - words have meaning. It is evident that words are important to you - as a form of auditory autoeroticism. You get off on hearing yourself talk.

    The issue is what I wrote about in the OP. You haven’t touched anything I’ve claimed, I’m afraid.

    If words do not have meaning then how can you expect to clarify what you are trying to say by using them?

    If words do not have meaning then the sounds and symbols used are not important. They can be replaced arbitrarily by any other sounds and symbols.

    That’s up to you. I assume you can read and that you have enough understanding and experience to supply the text you see here with some sort of meaning. I can only clarify what I mean as much as I can. The rest is up to you, but a little good faith might be in order.

    You have it backwards. It is exactly the opposite. I am the agent of my own ability to guard against being persuaded by false arguments. In in passage you cited from the Republic, those who are to become guardians must be guarded against false arguments while they are young and do not yet have the agency to guard themselves. They will eventually become agents who guard against others having their true opinions taken away from them.

    Like I said, Socrates’ arguments are unconvincing. So of course I have an opposing view. In my opinion the value of the work is not in its arguments and the resulting doctrines, but that it invites me to assess the arguments given and come to my own conclusions. The acquiescence of a budding tyrant like Glaucon ought to prompt a discerning reader to raise objections.

    Perhaps no one can change that you believes what you want, but certainly rhetoric can change what it is one wants to believe. It can persuade someone to want to believe that instead of this because that seems to be true and this does not.

    Do you understand what Aristotle meant when he said that rhetoric is the counterpart to dialectic? Although it can be used to steal away true opinion, it can also be used to secure true opinion. The noble lie is a good example of the latter.

    Rhetoric can displace the air outside of the mouth, propel waves of sound, and can mark a medium such as paper. It cannot change a human being in such a way as to lead him to want this or that. That’s a simple matter of physics and biology. It cannot steal nor secure anything.

    The continuous and circular metaphorical descriptions of persuasion only serves to belie its own premise of forceful discourse and the supposed efficacy of words.
  • Judaka
    1.7k

    Causality doesn't apply well to human thought. As you've pointed out, humans are different from one another. An event's effect on people's thinking isn't consistent.

    Other events can effect, influence or inspire people, such as music, art, a tragic loss or war, and the impact will also differ by person. A person's upbringing "influences" them by shaping who they become, one's experiences "influence" them by shaping who they are and how they see the world.

    Words don't cause influence, they don't cause inspiration, but people can be inspired or influenced by words. If you consider another's argument, and choose to agree with it, you've still been influenced by them and their argument. Your perspective has changed in a way that mightn't have happened without that person to give that argument.

    Even if you're the one to decide, if all words did were force you to make a decision, that would be a substantial influence on you. If all words did was introduce you to a new idea or presented a new way of thinking about an old idea, that could possibly lead to you changing your mind.

    If one is just pragmatic, and leaves arbitrary bullshit at the door, can an effective orator incite a crowd to violence and create a violent situation which wouldn't have otherwise occurred? Yes. Should we make it illegal to incite violence to prevent such situations? Yes.
    Easy, there's nothing else to say.
  • Fooloso4
    5.3k
    I can only clarify what I mean as much as I can. The rest is up to you, but a little good faith might be in order.NOS4A2

    You have been extended far more than a little good faith! But no matter how often I point out the contradictions you either cannot see them or refuse to acknowledge them. You deny that words have meaning and yet claim that there is something you mean that you are clarifying with words.

    So of course I have an opposing view. In my opinion the value of the work is not in its arguments and the resulting doctrines, but that it invites me to assess the arguments given and come to my own conclusions. The acquiescence of a budding tyrant like Glaucon ought to prompt a discerning reader to raise objections.NOS4A2

    By raising objections you are doing just what it is the guardians of one's soul must do! You are more in agreement than you know.

    Why raise objections if words are nothing more than sounds and marks? Why use some sounds and marks to argue against the sounds and marks of others? The reason is because words are not just sounds and marks. The acquiescence of a budding tyrant like Glaucon has consequences. He is prompted to act, just as you are when you object. Despite your denial you admit the:

    efficacy of wordsNOS4A2
  • Paine
    1.9k

    For Aristotle, recognizing the harm that words can do requires looking at their possible benefits:

    No other of the arts draws opposite conclusions: dialectic and rhetoric alone do this. Both these arts draw opposite conclusions impartially. Nevertheless, the underlying facts do not lend themselves equally well to the contrary views. No; things that are true and things that are better are, by their nature, practically always easier to prove and easier to believe in. Again, (4) it is absurd to hold that a man ought to be ashamed of being unable to defend himself with his limbs, but not of being unable to defend himself with speech and reason, when the use of rational speech is more distinctive of a human being than the use of his limbs. And if it be objected that one who uses such power of speech unjustly might do great harm, that is a charge which may be made in common against all good things except virtue, and above all against the things that are most useful, as strength, health, wealth, generalship. A man can confer the greatest of benefits by a right use of these, and inflict the greatest of injuries by using them wrongly. — Rhetoric, Aristotle, 1355b, translated by Amy Holwerda

    The matter of the "listener being the agent of his own persuasion" requires access to a shared world of true events and values for the concept of harm to have meaning. Otherwise, the "listener" is floating in a nihilistic sea of pure self-reference.
  • NOS4A2
    8.2k


    The word “Influence” and its various synonyms are words I’m going to try and avoid from here on out, if such a feat is possible. Perhaps if we recognize their figurative and metaphorical upbringing, we can avoid the pitfalls, but otherwise we reduce ourselves to magical thinking by using them. This is because, as verbs, they do not refer to any literal act of any thing, and worse, people confuse themselves upon reading them. We maintain a false grammar with their use. Through the application of this false grammar people have made of words subjects and people objects, where the exact opposite is the case. They can come to believe prose acts upon a reader instead of the other way about.

    But refusing to use them is difficult, only possible through a sheer act of will. Note your own application: “Words don't cause influence, they don't cause inspiration, but people can be inspired or influenced by words.” This to me is a distinction without a difference. If we step out of the passive voice and into the active, it would be “Words can inspire or influence people”. The words on a page become a subject, while the reader is relegated to the status of a passive object. Perhaps the middle voice in Ancient Greek, and the absence of it in many languages, leads to this sort of conundrum.

    So no, an orator cannot incite a crowd to violence and create a violent situation with words. It’s physically and biologically impossible. We can try it as an experiment. Incite me to violence or hatred or any other species of act or emotion. Through your words, inspire, goad, persuade, fuel, instigate, provoke, excite, foment, instigate, exhort, agitate, some sort action or emotion. I wager we’ll find that I am the agent of such acts and emotions.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.