The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Agency of Pseudo-Skepticism & Cultivated Ignorance

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;

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Argument Fallacies, Tradecraft SSkepticism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 = <;

September 5, 2015 Posted by | Deskeption | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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