Logic & Rhetoric
by Dean Jacques

I just received a Christmas present that I want to share with you all. Please bear with me.

For many years, I have tried to convey a very important idea that never seems to hit the mark.

Today, I stumbled upon a quote from Sir Francis Bacon that leaves me in awe. Before I share it, a little background is necessary:

A fellow named Peter Ramus, a French Heuguenot who preceded Bacon, taught that logic had to be augmented by rhetoric in order to arrive at truth. Facts themselves did not matter. Superficial logic and a gift for persuasion were all that was needed. Such a conclusion illustrates pre-modern thought, and strongly contributed to the lack of progress during the Dark Ages.

The formula went like this: first comes the idea, then comes choosing evidence that supports it, while ignoring or denigrating evidence that does not. Schools back then considered argumentation (what they called disputation) as the primary means of finding truth.

Bacon protested, demanding that indiscriminate facts supersede preference, no matter how persuasive the rhetoric of that preference may be. So began the era of science.

This is what he said:

"The logic now in use serves rather to fix and give stability to the errors which have their foundation in commonly received notions than to help the search for truth. So it does more harm than good."

Logic and rhetoric can be used as powerful tools of persuasion. But if truth is our goal, as it always should be, the tricks of logic and rhetoric can be dreadfully deceiving. Indeed, they are a dead end that people of good-intent and full conscience seek to avoid.

What we are witnessing in politics today is a contest of ideas that are often based on superficial logic (political ideology) and rhetoric (clever argument and taglines). They sound good. They appeal to our inner prejudices. They convince us to participate in ways that keep the battle going, rather than finding solutions.

What good is evidence, when people are not interested in it? If we start from entrenched conclusions (such as either a faith in big government, or its opposite, complete distrust), what follows is a game of words that leads to nothing but self-destructive conflict and division.

Those who recognize this subconsciously tend to view politics as a futile waste of time. Those who do not recognize it take sides and enter the fray as dedicated converts. What truth they might actually represent becomes subject to the media-driven rules of engagement, which do nothing but stir resentment and further conflict. This is why, in the 21st century, our democratic-republic looks more like a circus than a thoughtful and honorable system of government.

In light of myriad serious problems that we face today, it is the single greatest threat that we face as a people, or as a culture meant to bring much needed light into the world.

The answer to this situation can only be found in those of us who see the problem for what it is, who honor the integrity of truth more than the brainwashing of a conflicted status quo, and are willing to speak out and open people's minds.

Not quite the Christmas present you expected? It is for me, for it sheds new clarity on what needs to be done. For someone dedicated to the quest, nothing could be more welcome than that.






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