Wednesday, April 16, 2014

10 Stratagems to Win a Confrontation and Prove Yourself Right

Raphael - The School of Athens
To say that dialectic is the art of speaking is to reduce this discipline into a very broad and, at the same time, limited category. Speaking is an art, yet we all speak. It hardly follows that we all speak with art; although some speak artfully, art is different in that it involves aesthetic and the concept of beauty.

Dialectic represents, instead, a powerful ability of expression, a set of skills that our mental faculties and our personality have inherited after years and years of conditioning, training and a natural-born disposition towards the spoken word. The aims of dialectic are not necessarily concerned with speaking beautifully and other flourishes. Dialectic and, using Schopenhauer's terminology, eristic dialectic are the art of using any possible rhetorical tools to prove yourself right. Even if you are not. Mind, dialectic does not aim at demonstrating truths. The necessity of proving a point, or a thesis, usually stems from someone else's attempts to dismantle said thesis. Dialectic, then, consists of a series of powerful weapons to be used without moral scruples in the context of a debate, with one precise scope: to win.

Following are ten key dialectical stratagems that can be used in a one-to-one public debate. The stratagems are only a few among the many obtained from my study of two essential works: Aristotle's The Art of Rhetoric and Arthur Schopenhauer's The Art of Being Right, with some filtering from the works of other philosophers and rhetors:

I) Amplify:
Bring the opponent’s statement beyond its natural limits. Give it the most general interpretation; the more general, the more exposed to confutation the opponent’s thesis will be. Your thesis, on the contrary, must be as specific and particularized as possible. 

II) Exception
Use the only principle for which a universal case is not valid, and the case will be demolished.
e.g. - All ruminants have horns.
      - Camels are ruminants and have no horns.
III) Interrupt and get off to another topic
If the opponent is about to defeat us with a strong argument, we must prevent him from concluding it: interrupt his argumentation or get away from it into something else. 

IV) Retorsio Argumenti:
Use against your opponent an argument he tried to use to support his thesis.

V) Argumentum ad Auditores
Use this strategy when an audience knows less than the debaters:
-          Advance a non-valid or incorrect objection: the audience does not know enough to see the inconsistency of your objection.
-          Make your opponent look or sound ridiculous: when people smile or laugh thanks to you, they will side with you. 

VI) Anger
If the opponent shows signs of anger within a certain argument, insist on that, even if you don’t know why the opponent is reacting that way. The advantages are:
 a) anger implies loss of control.
 b) an angry reaction means we have hit a weak spot.

VII) Invent
Ignorant people love Latin and Greek expressions, even though they are not familiar with them. Simply invent quotations to your advantage.

VIII) Retorsio Argumenti
Use against your opponent an argument he tried to use to support his thesis.

IX) Cunning Stupidity:
Something stupid stated in a serious and educated way can put your opponent in trouble.   

X) Insult:
When you realize you’re being defeated: insult, offend, attack your opponent at a personal level.
      e.g. The opponent states: “This proves that suicide is absolutely justifiable.”
                You reply: “Then go hang yourself!”.

Would you like to suggest more?


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Acting: Behavior

Mikado - Google
If we possess the inner strength to
watch sappy soaps like Dallas or B&B without switching channel after
two minutes, there's a great acting lesson we might learn. We will learn, for example, what distinguishes a soap opera from other TV-series or movies.
Soaps are much slower: whenever a tragic event takes place, they will drag it along for countless episodes. The amount of drama is also much higher. It has to be. But it is interesting to understand how it is obtained.
It's easy to notice that when the characters have a conversation, they always look into each other's eyes, assuming a particular stance, whether they're sitting or standing. We could say that every smallest daily event, and not necessarily a tragic one but also a normal and routinely one, becomes a matter of confrontation, dialectically speaking: whenever it is an actor's turn to speak, they will stop doing what they were doing while they were listening or before the conversation even began, in order to deploy all their focus on their lines and on the other character. These effects are so dramatic that a simple date takes on the tones of the Assumption of Mary, and a delayed champagne room service has in it the pathetic tone of a Hamletian death! Unless the effect is wanted, this is an example of amateurish acting.

Behavior is any action that is performed with an aim, a reason, and a certain degree of focus while additional character interaction is taking place. Behavior affects the way we say our lines, making them more real. So, a line as simple as "wait a minute" will be said in totally different ways when I'm lifting weights than when I'm sitting on the couch watching a ball game while my wife is waiting for me at the door to take her out for dinner.
It is necessary to have "something to do" while interacting with other characters. Someone might object that a character cannot be always engaged in dicing onions, mopping floors, or playing Mikado while on scene.
It's true.
This is when we introduce the concept of inner behavior as distinguished from outer behavior.

Inner behavior happens inside, and it's nothing about slicing ham or planing wood: it is heating up grudges and boiling up thoughts, feelings, passions. Inner behavior is soul behavior. It happens silently, motionlessly, and it affects that moment's outer behavior and lines.
On the other hand, breaking a behavior pattern is a good way to give a certain word, sentence, or reaction some stronger emphasis or out-of-the-ordinary effects.


Thursday, April 3, 2014


Mozzarella di Bufala - 2012
Quid velit et possit rerum concordia discors. 
(That which is the meaning of the discordant harmony of things.)


Heraclitus and the stream, the Yin/Yang and the Unity of Opposites, Zen and the Japanese composure, Hegel and the Dialectic Process, Jung and Individuation, Babaji and Kriya Yoga: all these personalities and philosophies laid a path to inner balance for humanity.

The term philosophies is to be taken cum grano salis; it is true that certain aspects of these "exercises" pertain to the realm of philosophy, especially when, by lack of a possible experiential approach, thinner stilts must stand on merely theoretical mud. So, when Descartes bases the proof of existence upon the certainty of the "cogito" idea (Cogito, ergo sum), the latter is itself based on the hypostasis of God's existence: this, to me, is pure philosophy.

But Individuation, Dialectic, Zen, the Battle of Opposites, and Kriya Yoga, just to name a few, do not only consist of discourses: they are processes which translate into lifestyles, tendencies, and a disposition of the soul and Nature. Their structural pillars all stand on experiential grounds; they can be applied to any aspect of practical life, and they contribute to that natural balance towards which we all tend by means of some sort of gravitational power. All of these life principles, laid out in different eras, cultural, and social contexts, have one aspect in common: they all underline the importance of acknowledging the discordant forces in ourselves, the dark and mysterious side of our soul as well as the visible and orthodox one. Balance is obtained by offsetting opposing principles.
In man, this lack of concordia shows through common symptoms such as neuroses, psychoses, or more commonly, depression, melancholia, panic attacks, anxiety, schizophrenia, phobias, and manias. These often result from the either conscious or unconscious but systematic repression of some important inner traits; these can be lower functions of our psyche which have been only partially or not recognized at all by our conscious side; they are magma that boils inside us without our knowledge of its action, or even of its presence.

So the path to balance is not an easy one. To unite opposites, we must realize that our nature is profoundly ambiguous; only this way can we cohabit with it and have a higher degree of control over its duality.

What is balance to you? How do you try to reach it?