Posts filed under “Philosophy”

On Rhetoric and the Art of Persuasion

Persuasion is clearly a sort of demonstration,
since we are most fully persuaded when we
consider a thing to have been demonstrated

Of the modes of persuasion furnished
by the spoken word there are three kinds.

Ethos: Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character
when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.

Pathos: Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers,
when the speech stirs their emotions.

Logos: Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself
when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means
of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question. (Logic)

-ARISTOTLE, “Rhetoric“, 350 BCE

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It has been several 1000 years since Aristotle wrote those words about Rhetoric and the Art of Persuasion. The debate about whether Social Security is a Ponzi scheme reminded me that the internet has not advanced the art of persuasion very much, and indeed, may be setting it back.

Why is this? Regardless of whether you studied Epistemology in college or not, Words have meaning. When we misuse the specific meaning of words to to argue for or against something, we are engaging in the form of rhetoric Aristotle termed “Pathos” — appeals to base emotion.

For example, demonizing Social Security as a Ponzi scheme is a form of Pathos. It is not an appeal to higher or better nature, nor is it an appeal to logic and reasoning. Rather, it is designed to generate a negative, unthinking emotion.  So too, is calling that form of argument “demonizing,” but at least I am demonizing ideas, and not people, as is so commonly done online.

If I disagree with someone, that does not make them a criminal or a Nazi or a racist or homosexual or a slave-owner. But those terms are commonly bandied about in internet debate, substituting for what otherwise should be intelligent discourse. It is a rhetorical technique used to demonize opponents. In my opinion, it is intellectually lazy, often reflecting a weak argument.

Which brings me to our debate:

What is a Ponzi scheme? It is a fraudulent criminal enterprise designed to scam unsuspecting and naive suckers out of their money.

Is that what Social Security is? Hardly.

In my book, that form of rhetoric is weak. It reflects an intellectual laziness and lack of gravity. It appeals to the emotions. Lastly, it betrays the weakness of the argument.

Once again I find myself shaking my head. America, we can do better . . .

Category: Philosophy, Really, really bad calls

Is Social Security a Ponzi Scheme?

In the Think Tank today, John Mauldin writes about Social Security, calling it a “Catastrophic Success.” John believes SS is a Ponzi scheme, and we disagree. He comes from a different country than I do — John lives in Texas, while I live on a small island off the East Coast of America — two completely…Read More

Category: Philosophy, Really, really bad calls, Taxes and Policy

Conservative Concern: Runaway Inequality Will Destroy Economy

Conservatives and Liberals Agree: Unparalleled Levels of Inequality Is Killing Our Economy and Society Leading economists agree that rampant inequality leads to unstable economies and depressions, and makes the middle and lower classes poorer. While the stereotype is that liberals care about inequality and conservatives don’t, that is actually a myth. As Canada’s conservative National…Read More

Category: Philosophy, Think Tank, Wages & Income

Ray Dalio & the Machinery of Finance

This morning, I got to listen to a (too short) discussion with hedge fund manager Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates at the Bloomberg Market 50 Summit (video here). Ray Dalio is a fascinating guy . . . he has what some people describe as a very idiosyncratic approach, but I find it logical and intelligent….Read More

Category: Hedge Funds, Investing, Philosophy

Email of the Day: Thoughtful vs Dogmatic

From an anoymous reader: “Have you ever considered switching from thoughtful to dogmatic?  It’s a lot easier and you make more friends.  Plus, sometimes they send you free bumper stickers in the mail.” I found that to be hilarious . . .

Category: Humor, Philosophy

The Big Picture Conference ~ Oct. 11, 2011

These are the last of the early registration for discounted tickets in our reverse auction. After these go, the September registration goes to $695 and the October is $895… > Close Event registration for The Big Picture Conference powered by Eventbrite

Category: Markets, Media, Philosophy, Trading

TBP50: Who Influences YOU the Most?

Yesterday, I lamented the missed opportunity of the Bloomberg 50, a predictable list featuring the usual suspects. It was your grandpa’s list. Let’s takes this up a notch — change the 5 categories of Meh! to something worthwhile, and see what sort of list you, dear readers, can help put together: Asset Managers Technicians/Analysts Researchers/Strategists…Read More

Category: Financial Press, Philosophy

50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God

Hat tip Brainpicker

Speakers in order of appearance:

1. Lawrence Krauss, World-Renowned Physicist
2. Robert Coleman Richardson, Nobel Laureate in Physics
3. Richard Feynman, World-Renowned Physicist, Nobel Laureate in Physics
4. Simon Blackburn, Cambridge Professor of Philosophy
5. Colin Blakemore, World-Renowned Oxford Professor of Neuroscience
6. Steven Pinker, World-Renowned Harvard Professor of Psychology
7. Alan Guth, World-Renowned MIT Professor of Physics
8. Noam Chomsky, World-Renowned MIT Professor of Linguistics
9. Nicolaas Bloembergen, Nobel Laureate in Physics
10. Peter Atkins, World-Renowned Oxford Professor of Chemistry
11. Oliver Sacks, World-Renowned Neurologist, Columbia University
12. Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
13. Sir John Gurdon, Pioneering Developmental Biologist, Cambridge
14. Sir Bertrand Russell, World-Renowned Philosopher, Nobel Laureate
15. Stephen Hawking, World-Renowned Cambridge Theoretical Physicist
16. Riccardo Giacconi, Nobel Laureate in Physics
17. Ned Block, NYU Professor of Philosophy
18. Gerard ‘t Hooft, Nobel Laureate in Physics
19. Marcus du Sautoy, Oxford Professor of Mathematics
20. James Watson, Co-discoverer of DNA, Nobel Laureate
21. Colin McGinn, Professor of Philosophy, Miami University
22. Sir Patrick Bateson, Cambridge Professor of Ethology
23. Sir David Attenborough, World-Renowned Broadcaster and Naturalist
24. Martinus Veltman, Nobel Laureate in Physics
25. Pascal Boyer, Professor of Anthropology
26. Partha Dasgupta, Cambridge Professor of Economics
27. AC Grayling, Birkbeck Professor of Philosophy
28. Ivar Giaever, Nobel Laureate in Physics
29. John Searle, Berkeley Professor of Philosophy
30. Brian Cox, Particle Physicist (Large Hadron Collider, CERN)
31. Herbert Kroemer, Nobel Laureate in Physics
32. Rebecca Goldstein, Professor of Philosophy
33. Michael Tooley, Professor of Philosophy, Colorado
34. Sir Harold Kroto, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
35. Leonard Susskind, Stanford Professor of Theoretical Physics
36. Quentin Skinner, Professor of History (Cambridge)
37. Theodor W. Hänsch, Nobel Laureate in Physics
38. Mark Balaguer, CSU Professor of Philosophy
39. Richard Ernst, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
40. Alan Macfarlane, Cambridge Professor of Anthropology
41. Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, Princeton Research Scientist
42. Douglas Osheroff, Nobel Laureate in Physics
43. Hubert Dreyfus, Berkeley Professor of Philosophy
44. Lord Colin Renfrew, World-Renowned Archaeologist, Cambridge
45. Carl Sagan, World-Renowned Astronomer
46. Peter Singer, World-Renowned Bioethicist, Princeton
47. Rudolph Marcus, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
48. Robert Foley, Cambridge Professor of Human Evolution
49. Daniel Dennett, Tufts Professor of Philosophy
50. Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate in Physics

Category: Philosophy, Video

QOTD: Tea Party Political Failings

Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics essentially saying you can blame the Tea Party if market collapses: “The Speaker is in office, but not in power, because the Tea Partiers do not respect party discipline. They argue that they are standing up for principle, but the principle they have chosen to defend is the idea…Read More

Category: Bailouts, Credit, Philosophy, Politics

I’m So Mad at Big Government

Politico’s M. Wuerker captures this fellow beautifully: >

Category: Philosophy, Psychology, Really, really bad calls