Logical Gal laments lack of arguments

23 Oct

They say that nothing is new under the sun.

But I’m not so sure.

Coming off of the staged government shutdown, our newspaper has overflowed with jubilant and smug shout-outs  to ‘ the winners’.

They are painful to read because the readership of our local paper had not been well informed about the positions of each side.

The electorate deserves a good argument.  But effort is required to lay forth a case.  It seems that many people resorted to name calling during this last political crisis.  And loudly at that!  They didn’t even bother with using a fallacy to buttress their side.  I guess THAT takes too much thinking!

What ever happened to reasoned argumentation?

Thomas Paine published a pamphlet in 1776 named Common Sense.  America today probably has a higher literacy rate than that of the 13 British colonies. Nevertheless, enough people read  this British transplant’ s work or heard it read out loud to grasp the argument Paine was making FOR independence.  Most historians will attest to the sway Paine exercised on our nascent country.

Looking at just one sentence, though, I am amazed at the sophisticated use of language.

” The laying of a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling; of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is The Author.” 

For further reading, check out this blog post

What has happened to create such a decline in our verbal output?  You probably have your theories about technology or education or parenting or the pace of life.

A better use of our energies is to brainstorm ways to exercise our minds and practice using language to explain and defend our positions.

Here are a couple of quick tips off the top of my head.

When someone shouts pejoratively about a group or person,  just ask them:

  • what do you mean by calling them that?
  • what does that adjective about their person have to do with their viewpoint?
  • what exactly IS their viewpoint and what parts of it do you object to?
  • what is YOUR point of view about the subject?
  • what have you read recently about this subject?
  • where do you get your information?

One day on a college campus for a conference, I stopped to engage in a conversation with a man about some teacher union strikes that were occurring in the Midwest.  I had not taken ANY time to study the issue and look at the arguments of both sides.  All I had in my head were sound bytes from my  husband.  I quickly came to the conclusion, after listening to this man, that I had NOTHING of substance to add to the conversation.  I was embarrassed.

Note to self: spend a few minutes researching current issues and then practice articulating them at home.   I don’t want to be tempted to resort to name-calling myself as a pathetic crutch for not having done my HW!

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