Tag Archives: Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Logical Gal and what’s so wrong with a polemic?

18 Feb

Have you noticed how one can hardly open one’s mouth before being accused of offering a ‘wrong’ opinion?

It’s like the public climate has grown so childishly sensitive as not to be able to be in the presence of a differing point of view.

Yet, why should we expect everyone to think like us?  Where did that pre-supposition come from?

When berated by someone who holds a counter view, I would appreciate the opportunity to explain why I hold my belief. A friendly exchange of ideas would benefit both of us.  But time doesn’t allow for it these days.  The tendency seems to be this:

  • I can’t be bothered to invest MY time and energy into paying attention and following your line of reasoning.  It’s easier to just dismiss you and your _____view, and hold fast to mine.  In other words, it’s easier NOT to think.   Thinking requires I say no to skimming what’s new and breaking and concentrate on what you’re saying. That takes effort. Can’t be bothered.  So long!

But that’s not all!  Not only are thinking people who advance a minority view not given the opportunity to supply evidence and reasons for their opinion, thus forming an argument, they are also met with incredulity that they even HOLD such a belief.

A while back my husband created an instructional video on how to use a decision-making model.  He chose global warming as a complex, contemporary issue.  A viewer took exception with some of the alternative pathways offered in the model.  This man left a dismissive comment to the effect, “This is pure polemic masquerading as instruction!”

A drive-by comment leaves no room for dialogue.  Had my husband been able to respond in person, I think an appropriate remark would have been a question-laden invitation such as, “So… your point is???”

But the viewer was off and running to the next opportunity to drop in and leave his calling card.

Makes me wonder about Americans who once stood for hours, even in the rain, to follow attentively the logical discourse of those Lincoln-Douglas Debates back in the late 1850s.

Lincoln Douglas




Logical Gal and the danger of sound bytes

31 Mar

Limits of language

All those labor-saving devices and we still don’t have enough time for thought-ful discourse! Have you ever read any of the speeches from the Lincoln-Douglas debates?   Have you at least read about them?   People would swarm into the towns where each of the 7 debates were held in 1858.  Each one lasted about 3 hours.  People sat and stood in conditions ranging from  sweltering heat one day to a cold, steady downpour another.  Evidently ordinary folk could not only follow reasoned, deductive discourse, but they made the effort to travel specifically to learn from and support their candidate.

Today, we have teleprompters and twitter.

Tweet length

And here are the limits of language.  If someone proclaims, “All men are created equal,” little is communicated. We need amplification to give that proposition meaning or value.  We must ask some questions like:

  • Equal in what way?
  • Who are the ‘all men’?

In a podcast discussion I followed the other day, a thoughtful person took the time to compare and contrast men and women. He explained that though men and women were equal in value, they were not equal in roles.  Given our physical and emotional differences, each gender excels in certain areas and not others.

Another meaningless term (unless teased out) is the word ‘good’.   If you say, ” Ice cream is good,” you haven’t said much!

Ice cream

To communicate ANYthing at all, we need to ask:

  • Is ice cream good, ontologically, in its nature or properties in and of itself?  A son who is good is one who acts kindly and with consideration.
  • or do you mean it is good for something, like soothing a burn or providing energy to run a race?
  • or is it good in that it is authentic, not fake.  People talk about something being as ‘good as gold’
  • or does it mean good as in effective or perfect like 20/20 eyesight?
  • then there is good in the sense of skilled.  We talk about a good ballplayer
  • there is also a good deal when you feel you came away with more value than you parted with

But who takes the time to ask these questions?  And if you start to communicate at this depth, people politely change the subject, or impolitely check their electronic device to let you know that you are not worth their time!

I’m not sure WHAT can stem the tide or reverse the direction.  Maybe it is just an individual choice to live more slowly and thoughtfully.  Maybe communicating less often, but more richly will make someone stand out. What do you think?

All I know is that my mind grows stiff and rooted in a rut unless I exercise it.  And I, for one, don’t want to take the chance pay the price of past laziness and fall into Alzheimer’s!  I think the research is still out on ways of preventing this sad decline.  But if regular mental exercise might help, then bring on deep thoughts and well-written books!

Alzheimer's couple