Here’s an interesting question from a Figarist, and Figaro’s very own answer.
What is your opinion on rhetoric vs. logic? I read a very interesting blog post recently [http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2010/09/rhetoric-versus-logic.html ] that talks about how logic gained preeminence as a sort of truth standard, to which all other forms of study are subordinate, while rhetoric always remained secondary to truth, more like a way of pointing towards the truth. The implication I believe was that logic became almost inherently fascistic in a sense. Opinions?
What you’re really talking about is the difference between rhetoric and what the Greek Sophists called “dialectic.” Rhetoric seeks to persuade people into making a choice, feeling loyal toward a group or leader or brand, or convicting someone of a crime. Dialectic engages in dialogue to find the “truth.”
It’s very nice to subordinate every kind of conversation under King Logic. But people will go on trying to persuade each other. As logical old Aristotle himself put it, “sorry human nature” will employ emotions as well as logic.
Which isn’t entirely bad. Most disagreements have nothing to do with truth or falsity. They have to do with choices. If every choice were a true/false question, we wouldn’t need dialogue at all. Just the right manual.
Figaro is very much pro-dialectic. He loves the ancient dialogues. But when it comes to choosing candidates—or vacations for that matter—he prefers good ol’ rhetoric.
For more on the distinction between philosophical logic and the rhetorical kind, see Thank You for Arguing.