The problem with pathos and ethos without logos

If what I write here doesn’t touch your emotions, it’s useless.  The best writing will sometimes challenge your beliefs about right and wrong, make you see a complicated moral issue in a different light.  Our feelings are classically called “pathos” and our moral views “ethos”.  These two strands of human experience, emotions and trust, are huge and the successful appeal to them is of incalculable power.    Without “logos,” the capacity to set things out coherently, the other two are impossible to talk about, understand or resolve conflicts that arise between people of strong feelings and beliefs. 

Logos, without pathos and ethos, of course, reduces you to a well-programmed chatbot.  Logos by itself can be monstrous, as can any of these strands, in isolation. All three need to come into play in any persuasive presentation, though logos often rides in the trunk as the other two drive the car and scream out the window.

No meaningful debate is possible based only on passionate feelings and a strong sense that the other person is morally deficient.  There is literally nothing to discuss, beyond “I am very upset that you are such a moral cretin” and “I’m upset that you’re such an unreasonably judgmental asshole.”  Not a very long conversation, and one that can only end in disagreement, based on strong mutual feelings of moral repugnance.   The only things that we can really talk about, set out clearly for meaningful discussion, are facts, data, actual events, crucial elements of any true story.

Real life, of course, rarely involves a rational disagreement among philosophers, it’s a dirty, earthy business that sometimes ends in a lynch mob stringing up a big mouth just to win the argument.  “Who’s laughing now, asshole?” is not a very decorous question to pose to a dangling corpse, but there we are.  Cutting off the lynching victim’s body parts as they scream doesn’t prove you are right, except to your fellow enraged torch and pitchfork carriers.

Humans are a cultish lot, and it’s very easy to fall in with a tribe, particularly an aggrieved tribe on the march, in a moral crusade.  We are getting the full downside of this unreasoning cultish tribalism full-stink in recent years.   

In 2009 Congressman Joe Wilson from the great secessionist state of South Carolina (currently considering the death penalty for any pregnant female who refuses to give birth) snarled at the first Black president “you lie!”  The moment of internationally televised in-your-fucking-face disrespect made big news at the time.  Now much worse is said every day about Biden, to his fucking face, and the Big Lie itself is in hot dispute among the pathos/ethos crowd.  What is the Big Lie? 

The latest spin is that it’s the lie that “so-called January 6th” was NOT the fault of fucking Mike Pence!   Pence deserved to be swinging from that gallows, the fucking cowardly traitor who made the riot that never happened necessary … and what about Hunter Biden’s laptop, Fauci’s crimes against humanity and the fucking drag queens raping young children in public?

How do you talk to people in a rival cult, with all logic off the tableIt seems impossible.  It is certainly impossible if the technique for shutting you up is citing outlandish conspiracies to angrily contest every factual assertion you make.  The best you can do, when faced with a relentless, logic-free assault, is to say “understood.”  By “understood” it will be understood, even by a grimly determined foe, that you mean “have a blessed day!”    

And, by “have a blessed day,that you mean just that.

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