July 23

HE, then, is an able speaker, and excels at once in exhortation and conviction, who can discover to each man the contradiction by which he errs, and prove clearly to him, that what he would, he doth not ; and what he would not do, that he doth. For if that be shown, he will depart from it of his own accord: but till you have shown it, be not surprised that he remains where he is: for he doth it on the appearance that he acts rightly. Hence Socrates, relying on this faculty, used to say, “It is not my custom to cite any other witness of my assertions; but I am always contented with my opponent. I call and summon him for my witness; and his single evidence is instead of all others." For he knew that if a rational soul be moved by anything, the scale must turn whether it will or no. Show the governing faculty of reason a contradiction, and it will renounce it: but, till you have shown it, rather blame yourself than him who is unconvinced.


  1. I find much in this to be optimistic AND pessimistic.

    Let me explain:
    If indeed no one errs willingly, which I buy, then we have much to be optimistic about. In theory, there should be no reason why humans can't find common ground, put away differences, and live in harmony.

    HOWEVER, If you've ever talked with a fanatic, then you know that the process of discovery for them is almost impossible. There are so many innoculations against rational thinking that it's hard to find a common starting point.

    To me, this is the danger of the Palin's and Bush's of the world. I'm not commenting on their political stances, so much as I'm referring to their anti-intellectual platform. They are convincing people that it's OK to be stupid and closedminded. They are teaching people that anything that smacks of rationality, unless it's a weird brand of fundamentalist rationality, is evil.

    This makes it extremely difficult to reason with the people who are typically doing the most harm to our world. The fundamentalist, fanatics need to see their error more than any other and yet are the most difficult to reach.


  2. Brett, I totally understand your concerns. Any fundamentalist is so grounded in their particular beliefs that they are actually part of their identity. They fight so hard to keep their false conception as if they are fighting for their very existence. Not at all an easy job to convince them and show them their errors in judgement. It can be done, as I used to be quite fundamentalist, but it is a long hard process and definitely a steep hill to climb.

  3. Agreed. I was a fundamentalist also. Interestingly though, as soon as I found philosophy, I began to jettison my fundy faith. I was enamored by reason and rationality and still am to this day, almost 11 years later. But, then again, my fundamentalism was only 2 years long before I left it behind. I can't imagine having been indoctrinated for 30 years THEN coming out of it.

    Anyway, thanks for your personal perspective.


  4. Wow, former Fundies turned Philosophers. You give me great hope for the whole.