The Fabric of Sound (Dialectic) Argument

Exhibiting a disciplined and sound set of ethics during argument is a key indicator of high intelligence. Argument is a spiritual endeavor after all. There are twelve steps to sobering one’s self from the addiction of always appearing to be right. Key attributes of discussion that serve to earmark a quest for actual knowledge, as opposed to the loosh of utterly destroying an opponent.

Given that we outlined the Art of Pseudo-Argument in our last article, I thought it would be appropriate to outlay those elements of discourse which I believe provide for the most effective form of arguing. Several of my loyal Twitter followers even broached this very question. Therefore, bear in mind that this article outlines the traits of effective or dialectic arguing and not necessarily the structure of a sound argument.1 Those are two different things. These features of sound arguing serve to underpin the goal of ascertaining knowledge, or communicating the past and future critical path of research, if not knowledge itself.

You may notice that these twelve elements do not pertain to the intoxicating rush of a Schopenhauer-esque need to always be found right. Nor do they pertain to the Hegelian notion of arriving at the truth by stating a thesis, developing a contradictory antithesis, and combining and resolving them into a coherent synthesis. These notions developed by Schopenhauer and Hegel constitute Pollyanna views of the readiness of most domains of inquiry to support and vet a claim to resolution in the first place. The context for our argument herein regards subjects which are murky in comparison, and for various reasons (most often obfuscation or our not knowing what we do not know) have, other than from a simpleton’s perspective, eluded true consensus.

Thus, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, The Ethical Skeptic’s Fabric of Sound Argument.

I. Articulate your opponent’s actual position, even if they are not skilled at doing so

The first priority during an argument’s inception is to understand your opponent’s position. The reason why this is necessary as a first step, is that this allows you to detect the situation where the arguer’s sole point is ‘You are an idiot’ (coercive religious argument camouflaged in extensive rhetoric). Such is not really an argument at all, and finding out that this shallow depth of thought, constitutes the sole objective or cache the arguer has to offer, saves one from a complete waste of time.

Avoid inflammatory buzzwords (pseudoscience, anti-______, woo, believer, etc.) to describe your opponent’s position. This is a large warning flag that there is not much going on inside you intellectually. As with all warning flags of this nature, you are typically the last one to realize it.

One may employ a steel man tactic here, provided it is not conducted in an insulting manner. A steel man argument is simply one in which you help you opponent articulate their position in a clearer manner, or at the very least, a manner which will bear utility in the putative upcoming discussion. Exploiting your opponent’s inability to articulate a point, in order to embarrass them, is not a valid method of improving knowledge nor alleviating suffering.

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.

~ Marie Curie

II. Resist the temptation to imbibe in the loosh of embarrassing or insulting an honest opponent

If your opponent is sincerely in the business of probing truth, don’t seek a goal of destroying them by means of your accrued wisdom and skill in argument, simply because they may disagree. In contrast, loosh is an addictive spiritual intoxicant derived from the instance wherein one enjoys causing the suffering of a higher order being, especially one of an unblemished, young, virginal, or innocent nature. Although an example in the extreme, a serial killer is a being who has fully succumbed to the addictive nature of loosh. They draw power from imparting terror in and the specter of death upon their victims. For most other people however, observing mere discomfort through social embarrassment (epicaricacy) or harm to an opponent’s career will suffice. You can detect them by the focus of their argument. Is it truth, or is it you? Despite constituting a mild form thereof, one who seeks knowledge earnestly, falls into a category of innocence.

‘Turning the other cheek’ is not simply a beattitude mandating niceness to others. Rather it is the signature spiritual rejection of loosh, both as a currency expended in lieu of faith, and as a passport indicating citizenship inside a vast dark Kingdom fueled by its addiction.

If you catch the scent of loosh on your opponent’s breath, block them and move on. Where one is corrupt in their skepticism, there also they will be corrupt in their heart.

~ The Ethical Skeptic

This does not mean you need to be nice to everyone, but it does mandate discernment. If a person researches dishonestly, argues dishonestly, or seeks harm, these are all really manifestations of the same thing. No matter what act they may put on. Let them know this and depart the argument. One is either seeking knowledge or hungering for loosh as a self-priority, and there is not much in the way of overlap between the two. Detecting a person motivated by the latter (and even deceiving themselves in this regard) is a fairly easy task for an ethical skeptic. Degrees, credentials, authority, humor – these things do not confer immunity from this mandate. Everyone gets frustrated at times, but we all will eventually revert back to that which constitutes our essential nature. Don’t hide your allegiance to Antifa or hate for your fellow citizen, your character will still be betrayed (along with its dishonest veneer) through your habits of argument.

Make a habit of two things, to help; or at least to do no harm.

~ Hippocrates

III. Clarify the semantics – neutralize ambiguity, amphibology, and equivocation

One should try and set forth a Wittgenstein level grounding of what specific terms and phrases mean. Always leave little room for undefined concepts, dual interpretations (amphibology), or equivocation. For instance, terms/phrases such as ‘proof’, ‘rationality’, ‘credulity’, ‘the evidence’, ‘hypothesis’, or ‘bias’ connote different things at differing points or situations inside scientific deliberation. A charlatan will exploit the large footprint of such terms to self-aggrandize and place unreasonable epistemic demands upon their opponent. Moreover, the use of terms as weapons essentially guarantees that the conversant has no desire to learn anything. If you encounter this, end the discussion immediately and let the other party retreat back into their hole.

Above all, don’t employ ‘Occam’s Razor‘. If you don’t know why, you probably should not be undertaking an argument to begin with.

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.

~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

IV. Understand that evidence is a domain and not merely a set

Evidence is rarely constrained only to the set of things which the conversants personally know, nor really even to the set of all things observed by science or humanity. Evidence is a domain which man rarely penetrates very far, if at all. It is not a set, outside of which a convenient appeal to ignorance can be leveraged. Ask your opponent how much of the observable domain as been indeed detected and measured by science to date. Odds are that this is both a paltry amount, and as well consists mostly of linear inductive guessing. If the critical path question at hand is ‘Why does the ocean horizon appear to be curved?’, well then we are 99.9999% through that evidence domain. Unfortunately, most areas of human deliberation are not this well researched and vetted. If a topic’s evidence domain has been about 1% researched, and all inference is merely suggestive – then no claim based upon ‘the evidence’ can be made by either party. Make this clear in your deliberation. Do not allow premature inference and fanaticism to rule the day.

A person’s vehemence in opinion is inversely proportional to that which is actually known about the domain in question.

~ The Ethical Skeptic

V. Avoid ‘is likely’ and ‘could plausibly be’ positions in favor of epoché (silent neutrality)

Always favor the dispassionate and quiet neutrality of epoché over hasty linear inductive inference. The second Gulf War in Iraq was driven by linear inductive arguments as to weapons of mass destruction being secretly developed by Saddam Hussein. Rumor, individual speculation, circumstantial evidence, machined parts dug up in yards, oddly designed factories, along with a pinch of confirmation bias – all combined into a recipe for inferring an invalid conclusion that specific weapons were being made.

Induction is that form of inference panned by philosopher Karl Popper in his work, The Problem of Induction; and while being somewhat in backtrack today, induction remains a problematic means of inferring a final conclusion. In contrast with deduction, induction is a method of explaining as much as it is one of describing. The difficulty resides in that most of our contentious issues of science, have been researched by inductive and not deductive means. One can pretty much ‘prove’ anything within reason by means of linear induction. Be cautious as to how far induction (‘likely is’ conjecture used in lieu of actual science) can be used to drive home a preferred conclusion.

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
Only describe, don’t explain.

~ Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Even worse than linear inductive inference, is inference from a standpoint of plausible deniability. One can fabricate an entire cosmology and religion from the inverse negation of plausible deniability. If your opponent decides that he or she can armchair debunk an entire panorama of ideas by merely dreaming up a plausible means as to why each is invalid (panduction), you are not really dealing with the sharpest tool in the drawer. Plausible deniability is just one step removed from divine revelation. Depart the discussion immediately, as persons who conduct this type of fanciful conjecture are merely wasting your time with an exercise in self-aggrandizement.

The important thing is that we maintain plausible deniability.

~ Richard M. Nixon

VI. Favor deductive, consilient and falsifying evidence over linear inductive suggestion

This is the only time during a discussion where logical consequence, proof theory, and model theory (e.g. ‘ if p => then q‘, quod erat demonstrandum, logical versus semantic truth, p-values, etc.) can come into play. Beware of those who use this structured approach to argument outside the context of deduction and falsification. They are conducting sophistry. Such fake deliberation is depicted in the graphic to the right, in the forms of panduction, abduction, and cleverly leveraged linear induction. It goes without saying, that a sound arguer should avoid panduction (and even abduction for the most part), for this is the habituated practice of the debunker.

Deduction is the process of inference which reduces (or deducts from) the set of reasonable possibilities/hypothesis features. Consilience is the property wherein several disparate avenues of investigation all triangulate upon common answer. Finally falsification is the white crow moment, when an entire idea can be released from consideration because it has been conclusively shown to be invalid or no longer salient to the argument at hand (see ‘critical path’, below).

Six friends do I trust, six friends I know true, their names are what, where, and when, how, why, and who.

~ Kipling, Bacon, Jefferson, et. al.

So goes the famous quip attributed loosely to Kipling, Bacon, and/or Jefferson. For me however, of even more importance is the additional rhyme I crafted:

Four inferences of sound ranking will good evidence produce, to falsify, deduct, triangulate, and induce.

~ The Ethical Skeptic

Always examine the strength of inference first, as a priority over ‘drilling-down on the data’. A treasure trove of less-examined wealth often resides therein. One can possess absolutely pristine and reliable data, and be able to infer absolutely nothing from it save for mild suggestion. Such is the more common circumstance in professional deception plaguing today’s social discourse around science.

But the quick inference, the subtle trap, the clever forecast of coming events, the triumphant vindication of bold theories – are these not the pride and the justification of our life’s work?

~ Sherlock Holmes, The Valley of Fear – Arthur Conan Doyle

VII. Constrain the discussion to the critical path of inquiry

A critical path is a concept employed inside systems theory and complex program management. The critical path is the sequence of events or questions upon which the entire outcome of events, or their final conclusions depend. It is the ‘thin red line’ of an avenue of investigation or prosecution of an inquiry. It is the ‘prosecution’ which a legal counsel employs in a court of law. Everything aside from the critical path becomes moot under an objection which is sustained by the presiding court.

The critical path is the sequence of questions which must be answered (as opposed to ‘would be nice if we could answer’), and answered in the correct order, as the means to arrive at a sound conclusion. Watch quietly for persons, organizations, or scientists who meticulously avoid ‘must be answered’ questions or observations (methodical deescalation). They are not honest, no matter how much ‘science’ they may appear to do. In theory, every other question or issue which does not reside upon the critical path is either rhetorical, ignoratio elenchi, red herring, out of correct sequence, or irrelevant.

Keep your focus on this ‘shining pathway of success’ as I like to call it with my strategy clients, and eventually you will be able to spot the time-wasters and pretenders at play – regardless of their credentials and purported authority. You will also become a better presenter and casual conversant.

The best way to succeed is to have a specific Intent, a clear Vision, a plan of Action, and the ability to maintain Clarity. Those are the Four Pillars of Success.

~ Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

VIII. Avoid appealing to the popularity of an idea or employing social pressure in order to persuade

An appeal to popularity, or ‘what scientists think’, or an attempt to imply that your opponent is socially unsophisticated because they do not appear to know what everyone else knows, is a weak method of argument. The very ethic and purpose of argument is to shatter widely accepted myth in the first place. Don’t fall back on such a crutch, because not only is the form of argument weak – but it demonstrates your weakness as well. Neither should you allow your opponent to leverage such appeals. Many people never get out of high school emotionally. You harm both your ability to communicate an idea, as well as persuade, through such rhetorical artifice.

An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.

~ Oscar Wilde

IX. Avoid rhetoric, but acknowledge when you do broach it

Rhetoric is ‘an answer looking for its next question’, the special pleading of using any and all available means of pathos persuasion, aside from that which is actually important. For example, citing that a hypothesis will ‘offend a research host nation’ or ‘is racist against an ancient culture’ constitute bogus and desperate attempts to persuade. However, sometimes a rhetorical device is useful in illuminating a side issue in a debate. If you undertake such a process, make it clear that you are citing a special case, per hoc aditum, or presenting a rhetorical argument. This will place a check upon your opponent’s ability to surreptitiously employ rhetoric against you at a later time, as you both will be able to detect its abuse.

You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.

~ Robert A. Heinlein, Revolt in 2100/Methuselah’s Children

X. Acknowledge speculation or when you personally don’t hold the qualifications or answer to something

Acknowledge when you do not bear the qualifications or knowledge level to answer a specific question. As well, make it clear when you are speculating on an outcome, scenario, or answer. This will engender trust in your opponent and encourage them to do the same. If you speculate, acknowledge that your speculation might bear fewer constraints than would reality. Everyone claims to know how the Great Pyramid of Khufu was built, but few have actually built a structure of such scale in their life. Pull out only that inference which is potentially useful, or even set the conjecture aside as lacking utility if needed.

Here we begin frank speculation. And since we are speculating, we’ll use those powerful pseudo-laws, the Principles of Mediocrity and Minimal Assumption.

~ Yanis Varoufakis, Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present

XI. Rarely force argument to a conclusion – rather make it clear when you are resisting a forced conclusion

Unless you possess a strong cache of deductive evidence sufficient to drive home a conclusion, odds are that the reason you are embroiled in an argument to begin with is because someone else is pushing a fatalistic and agenda-based conclusion of their own. Make it clear that you are not enforcing one single answer, but rather opposing the enforcement of an unsound answer upon people who might not know any better. Oppressive voices always contend that there is one equivocal answer which must be adhered to. Need an example for this? – simply watch any official syndicate news outlet or one of their sycophant trolls on Twitter. There is only one answer, and they possess it – guaranteed (see Element #2 above as well).

Don’t employ apothegms such as ‘Occam’s Razor’, ‘Poe’s Law’, or ‘Hanlon’s Razor’ to force a conclusion – as this is the methodology of a pathos-only arguer. You quietly gain no respect through such short-cuts, and often are the last person to perceive this.

If your opponent has the courage to contend that you are attempting to force a contrary position, ask them to steel man your position for you. In such an instance, the odds are very high that they will not be able to do so. Give them points for even trying.

There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil.

~ Alfred North Whitehead

XII. The argument should end with both parties hungering for more research on the matter

Finally, both you and your opponent should bear a renewed hunger to research the issue under deliberation to a further extent. An ethical arguer might even suggest a reconvening of the discussion at another time – in order to deliberate over what you each found in your work.

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.

~ English Philosopher, Herbert Spencer

Do I succeed at employing these elements every time I have a discussion or argument? No, I fall very short most of the time. These are the things to which an ethical skeptic aspires. Faith is the portrait of our life we paint inside the frame of objective reason. One of the purposes of life is to bring unity between what we aspire to have that portrait be, and what life crafts that portrait into becoming (aka integrity). This is a process of learning, hard knocks, along with some successes.

Through using these elements, not only will you find that you have some successes, but you will also find trusted companionship along your journey as well.

The Ethical Skeptic, “The Fabric of Sound (Dialectic) Argument”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 29 Oct 2021; Web,

The Art of Rhetoric

Rhetoric is an opportunist, desperate for an avenue of entry through any means of persuasion and locution – a form of such extreme commitment to a conclusion that it bears not the ethics and honesty of poetry. An answer seeking a question which then targets a victim – a disliked topic or person.
Don’t be fooled. Rhetoric always defends an answer – always targets a victim. It is the opposite of poetry. It is the opposite of the process of sound science.

The Art of Rhetoric is the process by which dogmatic truths are enforced through the impugning of an antithetical idea or person. It consists of two components: Opportunistic Persuasion and Opportunistic Locution. These two elements are the subjects of the last two blog posts in The Ethical Skeptic:

How You Persuade Makes All the Differencethe ethical skeptic button

How You Say It Makes All the Differencethe ethical skeptic button

unmitigated bullshit - CopyWhen we sequence the two activity sets together, we educe a process which is in its essence, the reverse of science. Rhetoric is a method of convincing a dilettante audience, and even a scientifically trained audience to submit to consensus on an idea – which holds potentially questionable empirical merit. Neil deGrasse Tyson cites that scientific literacy is what empowers one to spot when someone else is full of bullshit. That might be partly true; however, to Neil’s discredit the vast majority of our scientists, even less Social Skeptics, are not well trained enough in philosophy to understand the tenets of what constitutes bullshit in the form and nature of rhetoric. One cannot conduct the process of science in typical social discourse, nor is holding a set of prescribed answers which were handed to you, indeed science. Thus I am skeptical that Dr. Tyson’s one liner is correct. Spotting rhetoric however, is a useful skill; the ability to spot those arguments which seek to take the place of sound methods of science. Rhetoric is designed to trick smart people into consensus through sleight-of-hand persuasion and locution. It is the container ship which docks at the port of bullshit. Similar to Methodical Cynicism being a martial art, Rhetoric is an Art – a rogue doctrine among the humanities.

An Answer Looking for a Question Looking for a Victim


/philosophy : argument : bias : inverse logic : sleight of hand/ : appearing to be focused on a given topic or a given case example, when a slightly different or less acceptable somewhat related position is actually being surreptitiously promoted. Enacted through opportunistic measures, desperate for an avenue of entry through any means of persuasion and locution – a form of such extreme commitment to a conclusion that it bears not the ethics and honesty of straightforwardness, science, transparency or poetry. An answer seeking a question which then targets a victim – a disliked topic or person.

rhet destroyIt is not simply science after all which equips a person with the tools necessary in detecting bullshit. It is the quality and rigor of one’s philosophy inside their discipline. That is why it is called a Doctorate in Philosophy, a PhD. Facts are peppered about by all sides in most debates. Facts do not necessarily lend deontological knowledge (truth). It is the structure and nature of argument which reveals both the credibility of the arguer, as well as potentially the soundness of their argument. A seasoned philosopher can discern the difference between a dogmatic shallow skepticolyte, and an authentic lay or professional scientific researcher. Take the current blog series among Social Skeptics demonstrating rhetoric about one of their favorite topics of obsession (why they obsess over this I have no idea):

Answer (truism): Ancient and cultural folklore is an unsound basis from which to make a claim that any folk-legend-monster exists or ever existed.

Question (rhetoric): Do “cryptids” exist, or are they simply figments of social archetypal folklore and imaginations?

Victim (target): Therefore, since it is most likely that the answer substantiates the question (apparent coherency), there is, quod erat demonstrandum, no substantiating evidence supporting any crypto-zoological being like Bigfoot.

The Ethical Skeptic does not believe in Bigfoot. But he also does not believe in bad science either.

Backward science is one of Social Skepticism’s primary means of enforcing consensus. Notice that, as always, no actual science is employed in the above process of rhetoric. If we pepper the process above (and in the below exhibit) with ‘facts,’ it renders the process no less an Art of Trickery than it already is in its essence. This is the chief craft of the most senior of Social Skeptics. It is pseudoscience.

The Art of Rhetoric - Copy

An Example of Rhetoric in Journalistic Propaganda

diabetes - Copy - CopyThe following example is pulled from today’s INQUISITR. It consists of a short prejudicial propaganda article by Shelley Hazen, published September 9th, one day after a diabetes study summarized on September 8 2015, outlined how diabetes has grown in 24 short years, to affect half the American population. In an effort to head off public unrest over the idea that something might have caused this precipitous upsurge in disease, social epistemology outlets such as INQUISITR were instructed to head off unauthorized ideas, via push articles for immediate promulgation. This is a regular observable, repeatable and measurable occurrence of Social Skepticism. Some key features to note, which delineate rhetoric based propaganda:

The Ten Features of Rhetoric Based Propaganda
  1.   It is fast in its retort (often right on the heels of the release of disliked information)
  2.   It employs the worst of pathos based persuasion (polemic, apologetic, obdurate, philippic, coercion)
  3.   It protects a single buried Answer (with a capital A)
  4.   It is promulgated through the same, very familiar media channels
  5.   It is written by low-experience, dilettante journalists – compliance minded B students who don’t know any better
  6.   It is fraught with semantic and locution breaches
  7.   It is written in simple to construct, imprecise and non-scientific phraseology
  8.   It lacks technical competency on the subject being discussed
  9.   It falsely spins scientific and research principles into totally different understanding
  10.   It assumes an unmerited position of authority.

Well, as you can see below, the article is a case study in rhetoric. It bears all the elements of opportunistic persuasion, in this case in the form of an obdurate to apologetic. It cannot be a polemic or disputation because it offers no hint of any opposing viewpoint or substantiation of its “Answer” buried as lede inside the prejudicially framed text. Second, it follows through on the persuasion by taking the question raised (Has diabetes risen with obesity since 1988?), and feeding that via a disconcertingly large series (read that as – this person would not last five minutes in one of my labs or firms) of locution foibles into a

prescribed Answer: Type 2 [diabetes] is caused by poor eating, lack of exercise, and being obese.

assumptions they they want to slip by:

  1. poor eating and lack of exercise increased as a precursor to this 20 year period of diabetes increase. When in fact, this is not the case at all.²
  2. poor eating and lack of exercise are the source of the obesity epidemic. When in fact, it is gut flora which is being identified by science as the culprit. Gut flora being altered by a substance we are ingesting on a regular basis.³

The Targeted Victim:  The idea that diabetes causes obesity. The idea that something introduced into the American diet since 1988, has precipitated a dramatic rise in pre-diabetes, and that obesity and pancreatic failure are the later symptoms and not the disease or cause itself. This is the antithetical idea which is targeted by Social Skeptics. Shelley Hazen’s medical pseudo-authority might be even palatable, if there were not at least 11 other maladies which have also skyrocketed in the last two decades (pancreatic cancer, rosacea, skin disorders, childhood diabetes, autoimmune disorders, thyroid disease, IBS/InfBS/Crohn’s, liver distress, kidney disorders, etc.).

click on image to enlarge

example of rhetoric 2 - Copy

Such is the nature of journalistic propaganda from push-media outlets. Such is the nature of apparent coherency spun by social epistemologists for your consumption and consensus. Such is the nature of Social Skepticism. A lie in so many words. An answer looking for a victim.

Such is the nature of rhetoric.

¹  Hazen, Shelley, INQUISITR: Do Half of American Adults Have Diabetes? The Numbers May Not be That Clear Cut;

²  “Physical Activity Statistics: No Leisure-Time Physical Activity Trends | DNPAO | CDC”. WHO. Retrieved Sep 9, 2015.

³  Science Daily: VIB – Intestinal flora determines health of obese people, Aug 28, 2013;

How You Persuade Makes All the Difference

It’s not just what you say, but how you present your position. I believe that merit resides in adding to our Misrepresentation by Argument subset, in the Tree of Knowledge Obfuscation, a brief listing of persuasive tacks which can be abused to constitute crooked social reasoning, or ones which by their nature of construction, are innately crooked. When an entire social club aggregates together for the sole purpose of rhetorical persuasion by polemic, philippic and obdurate arguments, – it does not matter whether they are right or wrong. They are not even wrong.
Rhetoric: An opportunistic extreme commitment to an Answer. An Answer looking for a question. A question seeking a victim.

Poetry, The Only Valid Pathos

Three persuasion type domains - Copy (2) - CopyAristotle comments on the defining of the ethos of rhetoric,

“rhetoric is the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.”¹

As such, while rhetoric is not a means of persuasion in itself, rather residing outside such a concept; moreover neither does it fit into our domains of logic, emotions and ethics. Rhetoric seeking instead, the means by which to best persuade, the best domain through which to enforce an answer. Plato contended that the antithetical approach to such a calculating assessment as embodied in Aristotle’s rhetoric is the pathos of poetry.² In poetry one neither observes nor adopts means of persuasion, choosing instead to first express an integral honest passion and emotion unfiltered by the calculating mind. In this way he saw the two persuasion pathways, rhetoric and poetry, as constituting opposites.² The honest expression of the passion which drives the search for scientific development is ethical, sincere and persuasive in its very essence. But the remaining elements of persuasion which stem from the heart which seeks other forms of emotion or passion, are not so pure in essence.

My personal preference for discovery and persuasion is an ethical dialectic. Devil’s Advocacy is sometimes a pretense laden and academic exercise when practiced outside its disciplined application. Poetry on the other hand, stimulates an elegant nexus of ethos and logos inside a dialectic. Through easing the heart of the participants by means other than flattery, poetry (the broad discipline of the best of philosophy) reassures both parties that the best of human nature, the value of knowledge and the supreme nature of love, are the intended outcomes in any discussion. Therefore, no conclusion will be unjustifiably driven home, and the right questions can be asked. This is the trustworthiness of Ethical Skepticism.

Poetry unifies the best elements of passion and ethics; wherein, outside a context of rhetoric, it prepares the heart and mind to enter the realm of reason – outfitted with honesty and integrity.  Ethical Skepticism.  Hence the definition of skepticism: a means of preparing the mind and data sets to perform the method of science.

Rhetoric is an opportunist, desperate for an avenue of entry through any means of persuasion – a form of extreme commitment to a conclusion which bears not the ethics and honesty of poetry. An answer seeking a question through which to justify itself. A question seeking further a victim (topic or person).

In contrast, Social Skeptics (and Religions in the chart above – as in reality the persuasion means IS the chief distinguishing litmus of a religion) are trained to avoid dialect at all costs. They are taught disdain and final authority (God or Science), so as to not allow the potential for a threatening subject to even be objectively discussed. They only know intellectual violence. When an entire social club aggregates together for the sole purpose of media persuasion by polemic, philippic and obdurate arguments, – it does not matter whether they are right or wrong. They are not even wrong. They are operating inside the worst of human behaviors. Fear, control, disdain, arrogance and mock-mindedness.

The pathways to value and clarity – the two consequentialist goals of Ethical Skepticism take particular routes through the field of persuasion techniques. The pathway of the Ethical Skeptic tends to err away from the arrogant persuasion approach of the polemic, philippic or obdurate – realizing that everyone claims their argument to stem from reason. Instead the Ethical Skeptic opts for the elegant combination of ethos with logos; the positivist blending of logic, dispassionate clarity and the ability to put one’s self inside another person’s shoes. The Ethical Skeptic does not always have to win an argument. Many times, inside a topic of pluralistic debate, there is not enough known indeed to even converge on the possible outcome of a winner. Instead he or she focuses on the value and clarity derived in the benefit from dialectically stating the perspective. Several times I have ‘lost’ arguments because I refused to drive a conclusion home. I put my ego in check and listened to the opponent’s contention, then stated my caution around such abject certainty. Nonetheless, in many of these situations I permanently impacted the thoughts and long term contemplation of those who participated. My goal in discourse is not to ‘win,’ or tender final conclusions about a topic. That is child’s folly. Be warned about ‘skeptics’ who seek the greatest probability, conclusive rationality or simplest explanation. They are gaming the rules in order to win. Rather the goal of The Ethical Skeptic is to change the basis from which we habitually think. To de-persuade as it pertains to the ideas which harm and squelch our wellbeing. To appeal for more study, more science; accrued verity in lieu of more ‘truth.’ To shift emotion from the passion of protecting and winning, and begin to stir a new mindset; a passion for disciplined wonder from which to develop further thought. In this regard, for the Ethical Skeptic many times, the wrong pathos can be the enemy to sound consequentialism. He opts instead for the poetry of life, love, the universe and the discovering mind. This is his pathos.

pathos – passion/emotion

ethos – ethics/character

logos – logic/reason

When Pathos Pangs Hunger for Victory!!!

skepsoc IISuch stands in high contrast to the pathway chosen by the Social Skeptic. Debate is the withered olive branch of Social Skepticism; its symbolic foray into logos, furtively foisted at the full cost of ethos. Debate is about as good as it gets with Social Skeptics. Their pathos is often hidden, politically and control motivated. This is called the krymméno akrasia, or hidden pathos of the Social Skeptic. The Social Skeptic sees his goals as correctness and victory. Persuasion is obtained by force, any means necessary to achieve dominance of thinking. The passion driven in both correctness and victory indicative of a high commitment to, and genesis inside the pathos of belief. The Social Skeptic has something to protect. Ego, power, identity, control, image, reputation, funding, club status, track record, perception, publications, politcal and religious dogma. But most of all, pathos indicates a protection of one’s self from fear. When one wins in such a way, it is not uncommon to have found, that at the end of the pathway of a continuous series of victorious battles, that one has ironically lost the war.

In this same way, Social Skeptics are losing the battle for the media, our collective conscience, and the hearts and minds of the American People.

They do not exhibit the character traits which instill trust. The ethos and logos of those who have earned wisdom. The calm poetry in the heart of one who outlasts through gentleness. The statistics on how everyday Americans regard controversial subjects such as healthcare, food and disease, pesticides/hormones, autoimmunity, oligarchy, politics, atheism, supplements, cryptids, and alternative forms of life continue to shift each year to the disfavor of the Social Skeptic. And each year, Social Skeptics become more and more shrill in their desperation to win the argument at all costs.

Pathos, in essence can be summed up in the Ten Pillars: the foundational motivations of those who choose emotion and the rule of self over the alternatives, as their basis for reason.

Pathos to Victory: The Ten Pillars of Social Skepticism – when arguments must be won at all costs

I.             Social Category and Non-Club Hatred
II.           Narcissism and Personal Power
III.          Promotion of Personal Religious Agenda
IV.          Emotional Psychological Damage/Anger
V.           Overcompensation for a Secret Doubt
VI.          Fear of the Unknown
VII.        Effortless Argument Addiction
VIII.       Magician’s Deception Rush
IX.         Need to Belittle Others
X.          Need to Belong/Fear of Club Perception

Poetry and Rhetoric - CopyIn general, there are three domains of persuasive tactics according to Aristotle, pathos, ethos and logos

A more difficult question for informal logic is the relationship between argument and persuasion. In his discussion, Hitchcock cites Aristotle’s account of persuasion in the Rhetoric. It distinguishes three aspects of persuasion: character, emotion, and argument (ethos, pathos, and logos).³

Poetry is employed to stir the emotion to seek out character (ethos) first, and then approach the data and logic with a clean heart. Those persuading arguments which begin inside pathos from motivations besides the ethic of knowing and improving the lot of mankind, bear the greatest likelihood of being arguments which constitute invalid forms of persuasion/reason. This renders the potential of a dramatic mistake in scientific judgement much higher than persuasion/reason which originates inside either logos or ethos first.  The Social Skeptic therefore, in an effort to conceal such passion as is wound up inside of non-poetic pathology, seeks to legitimize and practice magician’s sleight-of-hand – to distract attention from their concealed pathos. They focus instead on the tactics of social persuasion, methodical cynicism and the art of being right at all costs. This is the insincere application of the opposite. The misapplied rhetoric of the fallow heart.

The Persuasion Types

Rhetoric – a critique which focuses on an arguer’s ability, technique or capability to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. An answer looking for a question, looking for a victim. Persuasion and Locution crafted in such a fashion as to be the reverse of science. A method of fooling the educated and scientifically trained, into adopting shaky positions of consensus.

Angel Questions – a form of rhetoric or propaganda wherein easy lob questions are only offered to a person or organization who otherwise should be held to account. Prefabricated FAQ’s which fall in line with a prescripted set of propaganda or politically correct thinking. Questions which appear to come from a curious third party, however are scripted to hijack a discussion down an easy path of justifying the message of the person being questioned.

Persuasion stemming from pathos – arguments which stir from passion, allegiance, opposition or hatred which may or may not interfere with the objectivity of the participant.

Polemic – negative attempt to an affirm a specific understanding via attacks on a contrary position.

Apologetic – neutral, often scripted defense or vindication of a favored viewpoint as a defense against all forms of attack.

Criticism – negative attack on a specific position, often implying personal competence and/or surreptitiously promoting an antithetical position.

Philippic (Tirade) – a negative, condemning or dismissively neutral attack on a position via appeals to common sense, stupidity, rationality or specific set of assumptions.

Coercion – an argument which is decided through the power or control held by one side over the other, often in a disputation.

Obdurate – an argument which favors an intellectual or unaffected party seeking ego or power over an injured, at risk or highly involved party, often in a disputation.

Poetry – an argument which seeks first to sway the heart of the listener and soften resistance to a point or position before its presentation.

Persuasion stemming from ethos – arguments which stir from what ought to be, from a moral, enlightening, advancing, risk averse or harm minimization standpoint.

Social Gadfly – an argument which is made through an appeal to practices, risk, impacts, standards or morals as underpinning the validity of the argument.

Sophistry – an argument which is contended though a side’s claim to virtuous features characterizing their substantiation, approach or position.

Rhetoric – a critique which focuses on an arguer’s ability, technique or capability to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations.

Devil’s Advocate – neutral role play in which the favored position is probed for weakness and/or is refuted.

Permissive – an argument which is presented as neutral to falsely appearing to be in support of an idea, crafted in equivocal or ambiguous language, which can be also taken to support, permit, encourage or authorize antithetical conclusions.

Persuasion stemming from logos – arguments which employ the order of logic, reason or goal attainment in assembling a solution.

Dialectic – a positive and mutual reductive or deductive attempt to assemble a newly crafted common position.

Debate – neutral or negative bifurcated criticisms and defenses between two opposing viewpoints.

Disputation – a negative or neutral defense against an attack, in support of an attacked position or person.

Refutation – a negative or neutral criticism against an attack or position.

Rhetosophy – Rhetoric disguised as philosophy; wherein the arguer conceals his subject of contention and crafts the philosophy to appear as a stand alone ethic, independent of the point he is surreptitiously attempting to persuade.

Remember, it is not the number of people who hold something as true, which determines whether it is correct or incorrect. Rather it is the integrity through which the contention was vetted. In the end, the measure of pathos involved in a skeptic’s argument, is a measure of whether or not that person can be trusted to seek the truth with integrity. Are they passionately seeking in a wondrous universe; fascinated with each new discovery – the poetry? Or do they habitually seek to condemn new or challenging ideas or observations which should have not threatened them in the least – the obdurate. Do they seek the satisfaction of the new idea – the dialectic? Or do they feast only on the satisfaction of the win – the philippic.

Is their every pathos simply a bully displacement of the integral heart of poetry? Such are the telltale distinctions between those you can and cannot trust.

¹  “… rhetoric is a combination of the science of logic and of the ethical branch of politics …” Aristotle. Rhetoric. (trans. W. Rhys Roberts). I:4:1359.; Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.2.1,

²  Griswold, Charles L., “Plato on Rhetoric and Poetry”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <;.

³  Groarke, Leo, “Informal Logic”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <;