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Rhetoricand EffectiveCommunication

When using language a certain vagueness is unavoidable. Intentional gaps must be present to stay on topic and to keep the length of transmission small. It is not certain that a listener even has the faculties for filling in the intended gaps. It’s not certain they share common memes.

Fitting theMeme Complex

The purpose of communication is to reach a consensus. The priority in communicating is to reach a mutual level of understanding. If this were not the case, what then would be the point of anyone communicating at all?

Language is for communicating thoughts. Thoughts are composed of ideas. Ideas are dense networks of interrelated meaning and imagery. Putting thoughts into language requires that a communicator translate these networks into a form suitable for transmission. By cutting into the web-like structures of meaning and unravelling them into chains of symbols. Translating those chains of symbols into words. Structuring those words into sentences. Speaking or writing those sentences to spread ideas out in space and time.

When sharing ideas with language, it is often desirable to be concise. The word concise means to give an abundance of information with few words, being brief but clear. The word concision is the act of being concise. Both of these words share a common ancestor in the latin word concidere which means to completely cut up or cut down. As a transmitter of language it is necessary to cut out or remove details, leaving it up to the receiver of language to fill in the gaps.

There is an idea that ideas have a life of their own. The word meme was coined by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’. Memes are described as units of cultural information as an analogy to genes in evolutionary biology. A meme expresses and replicates itself amongst the minds of individuals in a society. The meme complex, or memeplex is a group of memes found in a single individual that are commonly clustered together. A gene complex is inherited, vertically passed down through the hierarchy of ancestry through sexual reproduction. Memes however replicate virally. They are horizontally transmitted through a network of social interactions. A meme does not have to be true to successfully replicate. The memeplex being a symbiotic or co-adapted relationship between memes themselves, will play a significant role in determining if a new meme is accepted or rejected. Or, if a new meme completely upends the memeplex. Groups of individuals holding a similar memeplex in common can be thought of as a tribe. The degree to which an individual’s memeplex is in parity with others in a group corresponds to the strength of their tribal identity.

The memplex of a group of people governs which ideas are replicable and which are beyond consideration. This sometimes creates the perception that people of differing interpretations of the unfolding situation are enemies. No matter how carefully you choose your words, someone who does not share a similar memplex will invariably twist them. This disparity in memes creates concision in the network of social interactions. As individuals will tend to reduce or completely sever contact with others who do not share the same memes. This results in isolated islands of group think that bifurcate into smaller and smaller groups of cognitive nuance. These islands of groupthink encourage a praxis in thought patterns amongst the individuals of the group; strengthening their already arbitrary beliefs in a self-reinforcing feedback loop of social evidence.

A stable identity is an ego in a tapestry of interwoven beliefs — a memeplex. I would like to think that a rational weighing of evidence guides a person’s decisions, but often they have already made up their mind. They already have a memeplex that shapes their perception, and forces new ideas to fit within these pre-existing beliefs. This “belief barrier” exists to some degree within every individual in my society.

Humans resist certain kinds of change and embrace other kinds. The kinds of change resisted most commonly are those that threaten an individual's stable identity. This resistance has them believing, or not believing first; seeking confirmation bias or jumping to conclusions. Belief stops discovery. Instead of saying “I don’t know” and doing the work of finding the truth, the memeplex informs them that it is socially acceptable to appeal to an authority of the tribe and choose pre-existing belief. Once a belief is incorporated into the memplex it can be very hard to challenge. Attempts at dislodging misperceptions backfire, strengthening the belief rather than overriding it. Contradicting beliefs result in argument. Arguments, more often than not, lead to digressions into the personal qualities of the individuals arguing rather than the qualities of the belief itself. This leads to the arguers severing ties and becoming ever more sure of their pre-existing beliefs.

In society today, if it’s debate you want, it’s an argument you will get. Debate is supposed to be a way of presenting belief in a disciplined manner. Using facts and logic with some elements of emotional appeal in order to persuade an opponent or an audience. Aside from a surplus of pretentious theatre, debates today are utterly lacking in the intellectual formality required of logical presentation.

The contents of modern debate are a kind of medieval disputation. The opponents making ever distant distinctions from the core topic: “Well, you said this and I want to distinguish between this and that.” To which the reply is “you said that and I want to distinguish between it and this other thing”. Within the audience, tribes become ecstatic because finally, someone is mentioning “their thing”. Around and around they go in the classic trap of enumerating the world. This format of argument is an emergent property of disparate memeplexes attempting parity but instead manufacturing misperception and insecurity in the eyes of their opposition.

Debate is just an emotional argument. The format of a debate requires a pre-selected debater to begin by presenting the entire structure of an argument. Their opponent on other side of the debate is then permitted to rebut this argument. At the conclusion of their rebuttal they are then required to present the entire structure of their own argument. The process repeats as the debaters take turns making a rebuttal and presentation of argument. The structure of the debate is designed to appear as though solid unassailable facts are being layered in a sorites. When the syllogism — or conclusion of the argument — emerges, judge and audience are persuaded to side with the position of the winner.

It seems as though this process of debate is intended to rout out the truth. However, selective statistics, anecdotal stories, logical fallacies and outright lies are not barred from the debate format. The debate format very rarely presents authentic data in full context with logical persuasion. This results in a winner selected because of the content of emotional, rather than logical appeal. The winner has rebutted their opposition, and not actually refuted them. In these kinds of debates there is no criteria for agreement. If there is no criteria for agreement how can they come to consensus? If they cannot reach a consensus with logic they cannot identify truth. If they cannot identify truth, then what is really going on? The debate format plays on the phenomena that people are prone to establishing their beliefs at the outset. The winner then is the one who has persuaded only those undecided spectators who are ready and willing to decide.

Though it may appear that a great many people are blind to this. They are not. Entire schools of thought have been developed to overcome this very thing. To penetrate a pre-established resistance between people and to come to consensus or agreement… namely, to find the truth.

Dialectic is just a formal discussion. A dialectic discussion mirrors the socratic method. The striking difference between dialectic and debate is that rather than constructing a defensive fortress of opinions leveraging the memeplex of an audience, a dialectic is a process of educating — educare or leading out. It’s turn-based structure has the rhythm of a discussion and a difference in direction. While debate presents a version of the truth, the emotional arguments and opinions of equals; a dialectic is a discussion between a teacher and a strong student. It is a search for truth, and truth does not have versions. Opponents can switch sides between teacher and student through successive and separate dialectic discussions collaborating for mutual benefit. The result of a dialectic is consensus. There is no winner, only converts. At the end of a dialectic discussion everyone is enlightened. At the end of a debate, no one is.

Both argument and discussion make use of rhetoric. Perhaps it is one of the most ancient and continuously studied disciplines. There are different interpretations as to the purpose of rhetoric. It is, after all, thousands of years old and many people over the intervening years have contributed their own nuance to its meaning. Overall, rhetoric is a tool to work within the constraints of the human tendency to resist challenge and new concepts. Rhetoric is an art of persuasion, which is of immense importance as it appeals to the sensibilities of people with words rather than violent oppression. Primary education has neglected rhetoric and logic so for a vast majority of people in this society, the “virus scanner” of the human mind remains underdeveloped.

Rhetoric is divided into a number of strategies, or tools of persuasion. The tools of the rhetor being distinct from the tools of demagogue. This in no way implies that in a debate, or even in a dialectic that both parties are not demagogues. A rhetor can cooperate with another rhetor to find truth, but only demagogues can engage in emotional argument.

The rhetor uses logic or reason. It is a fundamental persuasive tool using analysis and deductive or inductive reasoning. Deduction derives instances of truth from general laws of nature, while induction derives general law from instances of truth. The scientific method is an exemplar of inductive reasoning. Philosophy is a work in deduction. The logical rhetor identifies and eliminates logical fallacies which can appear to be true but are not internally or externally consistent with logical truth. There are over one hundred general logical fallacies.

The focus of a presentation is a thesis. It is, essentially, the main idea. The competent rhetor reinforces and connects with it consistently through the course of their communication.

The ambiguity in language is eliminated by the rhetor through distinctio. Attention is drawn to and explicit references are made to the multiple meanings of words. What they are intended to mean as distinguished from what they could possibly mean.

The rhetor anticipates objection and answers it through procatalepsis. Seamlessly within the flow of the dialectic discussion. Permitting the main collaboration for truth to continue the rhetor takes into account opposition to the train of thought or final conclusions; addressing counterarguments deftly.

The tools of the demagogue appeal to emotional weakness and logical fallacy through passion and ignorance. The demagogue leverages the prejudice, or preconceived opinions of the memeplex, the rhythm of argument as well as the format of formal debate.

The demagogue must convince us of their character and trustworthiness. Through an explicit expression of ethos, they make an ethical appeal that they are the subjective good-guy and someone you should believe. This appeal is made through emotional argument, anecdote and the logical fallacies such as appeals to authority. The authority being themselves, or citing support of other potentially credible experts.

The appeal to emotion in an argument has a name: pathos, a tool of the demagogue that plays on sympathies. Through descriptive language and imaginative scenarios they attempt to guide the audience into feeling deep or profound emotions of unity, love, fear or suffering.

irony is a statement that says the opposite of what it means. Conveyed through tone of voice it is comparable to sarcasm and is employed by the demagogue emphatically.

The rhetorical question used by demagogues is a question for which the answer is so obvious that no reply is expected by the audience. It is a question that answers itself, usually incorrectly, by leveraging well known prejudice in the memeplex.

hypophera is the formal terminology for the inane structure of the debate format itself. It describes the situation where the demagogue raises a particular question and then assumes to answer it at length. The content and format of debates between demagogues are negotiated before hand though contracts. The questions asked are essentially the questions demagogues strategically ask themselves through the proxy of a moderator.

anecdote is a brief story or tale. Used by the demagogue it appears to be telling the audience something important. It masquerades as illuminating, constructing an illusory connection with a commonly perceived plight of the average memeplex.

The world I live in is a vast web of interconnected relationships. An interdependent system of systems. A whole system of biological, ecological, economical, technological ontological, and epistemological information transfer. Interestingly, both the debate and dialectic methods of communication follow a reductionist approach. The reductionist approach proceeds by enumerating the world; constructing intellectual divisions that result in hierarchies of vertical information transfer. Very little horizontal information flow is accounted for. Once these divisions are established there is a mixture of great advantage and terrible disadvantage. These divisions are incorporated into the memeplex and allow people to communicate. Except, people cannot think of anything except in terms of those divisions. Their world is trapped inside the model.

My Head Space is an interdependent system of tools and techniques for navigating through the profound mystery of life. It is for planning the future and steering toward it. A future being planned is often quite different from today but there is no way of expressing it. If I produce a plan and share it with a community, that plan is forced to be expressed in terms of the whole reductionist approach that created that community in the first place. This hierarchical model is out of date, but a plan that has no connection with a community’s perception of what the community is cannot be presented. The established memeplex will resist, heckle, marginalize and dissuade investigation into the plan. A plan must be unveiled a piece at a time using the tools of the rhetor. Little by little it patiently whittles away the resistance. It takes a great deal of time fitting the meme complex with a new model; and often there is very little time for people and effective communication.

There is a lot of attention paid to experts. An expert is precisely someone who knows how all of this reductionist hierarchy works. Someone who resists cascading changes because change undermines expertise. If you can feel comfortable with the broad limitations on well-being loosely defined by experts and deferring the possibility of its abundance, by all means continue to do so. There is another way though. Change your intelligence. Be the expert. Exit the model, expand our memeplex and construct a new definition of personal limitation. Construct a regenerative living system.