As of today, it does not make a load of sense to study logics as in Greek-logics. It is too ethnocentric. It does not translate well: Even contemporary Greeks can’t take it the same way ancient Greeks did. What we can do — and should — is learn about language. We just need a contemporary way to. One i’ve came across that’s mighty fine is Schoppenhauer’s Eristik, which is language, but loaded.
So i propose we do something along the lines of an update: Eristik 2.0.
Schoppenhauer’s take on language was that it could as easily be used to defend all kinds of bullshit as to intelligent thought, and so you must learn all the dirty tricks to guard against them. I would say that in the end it is really impossible to distinguish clearly against bullshit. Language always carries a risk. It is always loaded. We can and must find the most obvious bullshit, but some of it is too close to making sense, and some of it is bullshit but useful nevertheless. Deep down, the loadedness of language, which allows it to carry bullshit, also allows it to carry meaning: Good language is loaded language.
Provided, that is, you aim it right.
Aiming right, in this context, can’t avoid being this: Throw language right in the face of your opponent. Use your words as weapons to win the argument, at all costs. In Schoppenhauer’s book, that would be the dirtiest trick of all (he calls it ad hominem argument). He believes that when you stop focusing in the ideas and aim at the opponent, your ideas themselves become biased. By all means, he is right about this! And i would even concede that avoiding ad hominems is a passable beginner-level advice. But to truly master language we need to go beyond those puritanical concerns and master both its clear-cut unambiguous level and its ambiguity.
In fact, it is likely that avoiding biases with language is impossible. This is so because, as contemporary language theory shows us, language revolves around association, and all we have to associate to is our partial experiences.
What it’s supposed to mean is that in the end we must always bring words down to the level of things we have experienced, lived through.
Since we have to do it, so must the people who talk to us, AKA the Enemy. AKA os Alemão. But to translate words into experiences is a complicated business. The more we understand the Enemy, the more we can help in their translating words to meanings. Which is to say, the more we can manipulate them.
It seems, in fact, that Cruelty and Love are but the same thing. Which is to say: Being able to see things from the other’s point of view is as much a form of compassion as it is a form of control. It is also surprisingly effective. And it is also the reason we have swollen front lobes. Anyway. The point is that talking is about people, it is something you do with people, and it is about manipulating those people’s processes of thought. If you call them “Interlocutor” or “Enemy” makes no difference (though the second is more straightforward). And also losing in an argument is a form of flattery: It means the Enemy has looked very deep into you, and that he is interested in you enough to do so.
So, again: The proposal here is to take language as a tool. It’s primary use is to convince others. We do not assume we are convincing them of “our” ideas, since we might be just as vulnerable to language as they are. Thus language is a form of violence, but in a counter-intuitive way where subtlety is more powerful than pure volume. We will focus on the HOW-TO of language, even if there are clear ethical and philosophical implications of language, as a matter of training.
[Last note: Peirce had exactly this agenda in mind when he set out to create his brand of Semiotics. But he pulled one on his readers: He used the dirty tricks he was advising on them, thus confusing all the suckers. Fact is: His system probably worked out for him as a scum-bag-tool-kit, it was his own style of deceiving and tricking. For other people it is useless, unless you want to mock the guy (which is very difficult, since you don’t know him personally and most of the show would probably lie in his pose and sounding). On the eve of the 2010s there are way way better tools available. — As a side note, i was very tempted to name this post, in Peirce’s honour, “How to make your thoughts clear as mud”, but, nah, he’s not worthy…]