8.27.2009

Platonic Fragment (Imitation)

Lou Whittaker and Alan Trammell played 2nd-base and shortstop for the Detroit Tigers throughout the 1980s. Here's a conversation between a human being and a Rhetorican on that topic:
Human: So who should get into the Hall of Fame, Whittaker or Trammell?
Rhetorician: I say Sweet Lou Whittaker should get in.
Human: Why?
Rhetorican: Well, I read two articles--one favoring Whittaker and one favoring Trammell--and the one favoring Whittaker was written by a writer with what I judged to be a superior ethos; that article also used some empirical evidence that stands up to some scrutiny; and, well, I've got Whittaker's autograph and he was nice to me when he signed the baseball.
Human [pauses, then]: You think Whittaker's kindness qualifies him for the Hall?
Rhetorician: you asked who I thought should get in, so--
Human: No I didn't. I asked who should get in. Do you think kindness should be a quality of Hall of Famers?
Rhetorician: Well, no. But--
Human: So being kind doesn't really qualify Whittaker to get into the Hall, even if he's kinder than Trammell? You don't think the Hall of Fame should accept players on the basis of which among them has been kindest to you?
Rhetorician: I guess not.
Human: Then that leaves your other two claims, concerning ethos and logos.
Rhetorician: Well--
Human: So let's take the claim about ethos. You said that the first article was written by a writer you judged to have a superior ethos.
Rhetorician: Right.
Human: Well that begs the question: what defines a superior ethos for you?
Rhetorician: ???
... [then later, after that question has been satisfactorily answered]...
Human: And as for "empirical evidence that can stand up to some scrutiny"--well, I read both articles you're talking about, and they both did that.
Rhetorician: Yeah but I judged the first one to do it better.
Human: Well I judged the second one to do it better. Which one of us is right?
Rhetorician: You don't mean to seriously say that you thought the first article offered better empirical evidence?
Human: I do mean to say that.
Rhetorician: Even though nine out of ten dentists agree with me?
Human: Yeah, despite that.
Rhetorician: ???
So these are my last two questions, I guess: How does the Rhetorician account for his standards, if not by (perhaps secretly) appealing to personal/egoistic interest? You can't look at two opinions and say, "Well, I thought opinion A did better with ethos, logos, and pathos" and expect that to settle the matter. Someone else will certainly judge differently than you.

And: if it is (as I suspect) personal/egoistic interest that determines your standards, then certainly your judgments are colored by the same interest.

So if you're for universal healthcare, I can just assume that's because you think it'll be better for you--even if you say you think it'll be better for me too.

3 comments:

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Sigh. For the last time. Just because you don't believe logos should be the sole factor in matters of debates, or that it should not be treated as infallible, does not mean that rhetoricians make decisions based on who signs an autograph.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

And, for the record, I wouldn't put either of those guys in the Hall. I mean, its not the hall of very good.

Casey said...

Hm... but one of your reasons for supporting universal healthcare was that you had a personal stake in the matter.

So why shouldn't the fact that I have Trammell's autograph -- and that he slapped the bill of my cap warmly during the signing -- cause me to support his induction?

Are you suggesting that pathos derived from personal (anecdotal) experience shouldn't weigh very heavily in public decision making?

Let me just rephrase/reframe the whole question: You think Whittaker and Trammell don't belong, and I think they do (I'm a Tigers fan!). How should we resolve our disagreement?

We could of course put it to a vote, but it seems to me that there should be some way for us -- just you and me, friend -- to come to an agreement about whether either or both of these players belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Of course -- this isn't my real interest. My interest is how rhetoric works, and in the end, whether I should trust a person who practices Sophistry as he speaks about ethics.

I wish I could start a dia-blog where one of us would be the questioner and one the answerer, and we could discover where the inquiry takes us...