Friday, 16 November 2012

As rhetoric is to philosophy, so women are to men.

When someone tries to sound clever or profound, in an attempt to dazzle their audience, they are being a rhetorician.

When someone seeks the nature of truth, and follows the argument wherever it leads, they are being a philosopher.

The sophists of Athens were targeted by Plato because their arguments were weak. They relied on diversionary tactics like ad hominem attacks to make their points. No doubt, they said many fashionable things that the people liked to hear, and sounded very impressive to impressionable listeners. But it was Socrates who was willing to sacrifice everything - beliefs, principles, even his own life - in the pursuit of eternal, unchangeable truth.

It is from the thought of Socrates - via the students who followed him, through a fair amount of trial and error - that we have the scientific method. Plato's Academy was founded to counter the false hype of the rhetoricians. The emphasis was not on how to impress but on what actually is, and included early studies into mathematics, astronomy, zoology, physics, and more.

Men and women are after different things when they argue. Their aims and, therefore, their approaches, are as different as that of the philosopher and the rhetorician. This is why there have been few female philosophers (and certainly no great ones). As Rob Fedders puts it:
Men tend to, but not always, hold the truth to be the decider of the debate. [...] The man who illustrates the truth the best, is generally considered the winner of a debate. Women, not so much. [...] Women decide who “wins” a debate by who has been the snotty-mouthiest and by who emotionally manipulates the other into submission. The truth matters not a bit to women.
The 'truth,' as far as women are concerned, is whatever most other people believe to be true. While a man considers his belief to be vindicated when it is verified by empirical data or logical argument, a woman considers her belief to be vindicated when others will back her up on it. For women, winning an argument is less about truth than it is about status - hence the reliance on shaming tactics, ad hominems, and the like. The aim is not to demonstrate the correctness of her proposition but to smear the character of her opponent, such that nobody would want to take the opponent's side even if he has put forth the superior argument.

It is surely no coincidence that women gaining the right to vote, and subsequently flooding into higher education, happened at the same time as the rise of post-modern pseudo-philosophies which explicitly deny that truth has any nature whatsoever. I do not draw this comparison to disparage women, for I do not mean to disparage rhetoric. It is a potent weapon and awe-inspiring when wielded properly. But philosophy aims at truth which exists even if nobody were there to appreciate it; rhetoric by way of contrast aims for its own success, which is dependent upon its capacity to convince others of its own version of truth.

The Academy has become corrupted. It has become a tool for disseminating the material of sophists, now known as 'deconstructionists' and 'social constructionists,' among other names. Universities produce impressive, high-flung, utter crap which does not even have to meet the minimum criteria for internal consistency. Social science papers can be completely nonsensical, as the Sokal hoax demonstrated.

Post-modernists and the like aren't really serious when they say there is no objective truth, and therefore, no justification for traditions or social rules of any kind. We know this, because they have no sooner 'deconstructed' a social norm, than they set about constructing a different one in its place - one which they find more favorable, and which is of course not subject to the same scrutiny, but assumes the status of a politically correct, untouchable truth.

Of course, if you are going to make your new truths untouchable, you have to be prepared to exercise violence against those who question them. You're going to have to force conformity of thought through legal and extra-legal means: orchestrated mob outrage, employment threats, innovative lawsuits, imprisonment, etc.

In other words, you're going to have to kill Socrates.

The democrats of antiquity were moral relativists, too. Today, universal suffrage has transformed Western societies into wonderfully egalitarian POLICE STATES.

- Mojo

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SOCRATES: Shall I tell you, Theodorus, what amazes me in your acquaintance Protagoras?

THEODORUS: What is it?

SOCRATES: I am charmed with his doctrine, that what appears is to each one, but I wonder that he did not begin his book on Truth with a declaration that a pig or a dog-faced baboon, or some other yet stranger monster which has sensation, is the measure of all things; then he might have shown a magnificent contempt for our opinion of him by informing us at the outset that while we were reverencing him like a God for his wisdom he was no better than a tadpole, not to speak of his fellow-men-would not this have produced an overpowering effect? For if truth is only sensation, and no man can discern another's feelings better than he, or has any superior right to determine whether his opinion is true or false, but each, as we have several times repeated, is to himself the sole judge, and everything that he judges is true and right, why, my friend, should Protagoras be preferred to the place of wisdom and instruction, and deserve to be well paid, and we poor ignoramuses have to go to him, if each one is the measure of his own wisdom?

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