When the bastard John Snow was going to put the black, everyone told him it was noble, and brave, and the family thing to do, but the imp Tyrion Lannister told him it would suck. And then latter John Snow thought that only the Imp had told him the truth. When in fact the Imp had, as much as all the others, just given him a version of things. But his version was stronger than all the others. And if you want to understand how, if you want to have any chance of ever learning that trick, you must look much much deeper than truth.
The power of the Imp’s claim lies not in that it was true, and neither in that it was simply seen as true, but in that it created a new truth to be had. The power of the claim lies not in that it fooled John Snow, but in that, upon hearing it, thinking like Tyrion was the saner, cleverer, better way to think. The claim is not a lie, but instead a manipulation of reality.
Another example, again from the Imp: “I’m a dwarf. You are a bastard. Are you gonna whine about it? Wear it as an armor: That way no one can use it to hurt you!”
Never forget who you are, for surely the world won’t. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.
That is not a description. “Armor yourself in it” does not simply convey something that exists, regardless of him saying it. We can’t explain it simply as information, as a pre-existing content that is pointed to by a code-backed signifier. Even if it is information, even if it exists in information-land, even if it does talk about things in the world, even if it refers to matter-land — even then it’s only precious property is exactly that it opens the door to a new realm of possibilities.
Upon hearing this phrase, John Snow will act in ways that simply didn’t exist for him before. He could and did hate his bastard-ness, he could and did relish some of it, too. He could hide it and he could call attention to it, according to the situation. But the possibility of “wearing it as an armor” was simply not part of his reality. This possibility didn’t exist, in any relevant sense.
(Where does the invention happen, where the possibility itself starts to exist, is an intriguing question, but remarkably pointless, and fruitless…)
The Eristik act, essentially, is neither a material act, nor a meaningful act, but a reality-bending act. It’s effect is not epistemic, it is not knowledge, but a manipulation of the ontology where life happens. It is something above meaning. It is more abstract than meaning.
Yet another example: “The Lannisters always pay their debts”! Is this meaning? Is it a concrete fact? It is neither. It is a mess of histories and jokes and contracts. It most certainly is a very usable piece of fable: Saves the Imp’s neck more than once. It says that being a Lannister ties you to an obligation to come up with the money after all, but it also implicitly tells you in no uncertain terms that being a Lannister means he is richer than you. It ties in some ways, it frees in some ways. It also gives them Lannisters one more means through which they can mannipulate everyone else and thus become rich as they propose to be, thus making the prophecy fulfill itself.
But the essence of the matter is that living in a world with this phrase is effectively different than living in a world without this phrase, even if the Lannisters have the same amount of gold in each of those two different worlds, even if everything but the phrase was the same!
One often hears that “The Map is not the Territory”, and this is so-to-say true, this phrase is sane and important. But what it hides is that, even though no map can really “contain” a territory, the territory contains maps. So, even if our words can’t change the facts, they are facts in themselves, and the set of all facts is different once we add our own phrase. The territory is made of rocks and grass and rivers, but it is also made of maps.
Eristiks is more than phrases, it is the mannipulation of reality and the creation of new realities.
Of course, weak minds see «manipulation of reality» and easily jump to «I wish i had a pony». That is just dumb — and dumb doesn’t do Eristiks!
The Eristik act does not need to come about through words, a performance can be Eristik, but words offer flexibility. This flexibility does often trump a greater referential strength of images and performances, and that is exactly because Eristiks are not about convincing people, but about manipulating their reality: And reality responds to complexity.