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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Windbags and Blowhards and Sophists

     Blowhard and windbag have slightly different definitions. A windbag is someone who talks a lot without saying anything worth hearing. A blowhard is someone who talks too much and is a braggart. A sophist is a person who reasons with clever but fallacious arguments.
     Hundreds of years BC Sophists had considerable influence in their time and were largely well-regarded. Instead of finding out the truth, they were more interested in winning arguments or making their point at all costs against anyone who challenged them. They argued for sheer triumph and, worse, charged fees for their services at the expense of the truth. 
     The Sophists challenged, criticized and destroyed the foundations of traditions, moral and social order and had nothing to put in place of what they destroyed, nor did they care too. 
     Sophists believed each person should decide for himself what true, good and beautiful. This approach appealed to the unthinking and conflicts were resolved through the use of power...might makes right. Does all this sound familiar? 
     The Sophists were silver-tongued orators and public speakers for hire who were highly skilled in the art of effective or persuasive speech. They challenged, questioned and did not care about arriving at good answers. What they cared about was winning public speaking contests, debates and lawsuits and they charged fees to teach others how to do what they did. The idea was that whoever presented the best case would win. 
     They were so good that they were able to convince a crowd that up was down, day was night, the wrong answer could be the right answer, good was bad and bad is good, even that injustice is justice and justice would be made to appear as injustice. 
     Among the courses they taught were topics that can be found in any bookstore in the self-help section. Things such as: 

# How to win no matter how bad your case is 
# How to win friends and influence people 
# How to succeed in business without really trying 
# How to fall into a pigsty and come out smelling like a rose
# How to succeed in life
# How to play to win 

     Many modern day televangelists are Sophists; they use references and quotations from the Bible for their own purposes and are not true believers in what they preach.  They put the individual human being and their wants and desires at the center of everything. To them there are no universal truths or values. 

     Politicians are Sophists.  They aim to convince voters they are the best man or woman for the job, but once they get elected, personal or party interests take over. When campaigning issues are unimportant, the goal is to make their opponent look bad and truth appear as falsehood and vice versa. They can turn a weak (or non-existent) argument into a strong one. They rely on misleading but persuasive arguments and appear to support of whichever side they believe will best serve their interests, or whichever side they are paid to argue for. They are concerned only with convincing voters to believe them, not with the truth.
     Lawyers are literally Sophists for hire. A defense lawyer is legally obligated to argue as persuasively as possible in the client’s best interests while the prosecution is duty bound to convince the court of the guilt of the accused. The truth isn't important. They argue for victory and for money. 
     Some things never change.

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