“Reason should frame a good politician’s goal to persuade”

July 9, 2020

(photo credit- shutterstock.com)

On a recent online course, I was made to read one of the most POWERFUL essays (by Amy Gutmann) “The Lure & Dangers of Extremist Rhetoric”, a topic so so prevalent worldwide.

The speech is so profound that it actually made me sit up and take notice of my very own actions and reactions in arguments; and while these principals apply in politics, they are prevalent in family, work and society in general!

Excerpts-

Going as far back as Aristotle, he maintained that –

The proper task of rhetoric is to drive home the logic, the truth and the evidence of an argument.

Reason should frame a good politician’s goal to persuade.

The opposite of a sound democratic argument is demagogy: manipulation and deception in order to divide, demean, deceive and conquer [citizens].

Extremist rhetoric blatantly disregards and devalues truth-seeking understandings upon which citizens [] may make informed judgments.

It also undermines a basic value of representative politics- When politicians use extreme rhetoric to mobilize their base [] they strip the moderate middle of a voice in governance (excludes all those who might join a more moderate [] political coalition)

(photo credit- magoosh.com)

By its very nature, extremist rhetoric excludes from consideration important public values-

  • Liberty
  • Consideration of equally competing values
  • Constructive conversations that improve decision making
  • Denigrates & degrades those who differ
  • Blocks constructive examination of rhetor’s own values and beliefs

When we argue about controversial issues, we should defend our views vigorously while expressing mutual respect for our adversaries [] and competing viewpoints.

We can do this by not preemptively rejecting everything for which our political adversaries stand.

It makes room for moral compromise over reasonable differences.

So, what’s the SOLUTION…               EDUCATION!

(Which reminds me back of an earlier opinion “https://dinshawavari.com/2019/03/15/common-sense-has-left-the-building/”)

Schools, colleges and universities are the natural ARMIES at the forefront to teach our citizens the art of rhetoric, in the words of Amy Guttman –

In searching for antidotes to extremism, there is therefore no substitute for a better democratic education in robust, reasoned, and respectful political controversy and debate. We need to teach students how to engage with one another over controversial issues. Students must first learn how to recognize demagogic rhetoric and then how to counter it, both individually and institutionally.

Well-designed democratic institutions can dramatically reduce the toxic effects of extremist rhetoric. We need to support institutional structures whose incentives encourage respectful controversy. Well-structured debates and factcheck blogs can expose extremist and extreme rhetoric that is deceptive and subversive of the democratic pursuit of the public interest.

This is the start of ‘War Against Extremist Rhetoric’!

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