Author Topic: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good  (Read 2132 times)

Norman Teigen

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I am interested in the general theory of the ethics of rhetoric.  How do people persuade, what methods do people use in their persuasive arguments?  What assumptions have been made about the intended audience and how have these assumptions determined  the content of the arguments in the two months since the matter became a main topic of consideration for many religious organizations.

I am indicating here a dissatisfaction with the techniques of persuasion used in the HHS debate.  I am suggesting that there has been a deficiency in the quality of the arguments used to advance the interests of a religious coalition made up of bishops,  evangelicals, and  conservative Lutherans against the Affordable Care Act. 

Norman Teigen, Layman
Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Norman Teigen

Dave Likeness

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2012, 04:34:32 PM »
1st Amendment.....Congress must not interfere with freedom
of religion.  Congress shall make no law respecting the
establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof.

The Obama Administration interprets the 1st amendment only
in terms of allowing people to gather in buildings for public
worship.   The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod  interprets it
in terms of allowing people to practice the ethical and moral
principles of their religion seven days a week.  The federal
government can not bind the conscience of people who
practice a specific religion to go against their religious beliefs.

To force a religious church body to fund abortions when they
do not believe in abortion would would be prohibiting the free
exercise of religion.   This is just one example of violating the
1st amendment rights of certain religious groups.

Bergs

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2012, 10:53:00 PM »
The principal argument in the quiver of those who are arguing that the individual mandate is necessary stems from the fact that "healthcare is different" from other things. 

That same argument of "healthcare is different" also cuts the other way just for the reasons you describe. 

Healthcare are a good/service is something that all people will need in varying amounts throughout their life.  Good health is necessary for society to function at optimal levels. 

Yet the concept of what is good healthcare is as different as the next person.  At the clinic I work at our very socialistic Quaker chief of medical staff had a running argument with me about keeping the price of circumcisions low so as to keep the procedure affordable for low income folk.  He went off on a tirade how crazy it is to have to pay for healthcare.  To which I reminded him that probably several billion men live happy health lives without being circumcized.

So to force one brand of healthcare on the enitre population and make them support it will lead to supporting things that are not really healthcare or even in the case of abortion or other things are morally  reprehensive to large numbers of the population.  The current healthcare reform bill does not force those things but it is designed so that over time, there will be one brand of healthcare governed by an unelected board.  That thought chills me but perhaps that is because of what I have seen in 30 years of healthcare administration.

Brian J. Bergs
Minneapolis, MN
But let me tell Thee that now, today, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing.
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Norman Teigen

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2012, 05:37:38 AM »
Well, we're off to a start.   I want to get deeper on this subject.  I want to get  beyond the repetition of the common phrases.   

This is not an original idea with me, but in any discussion there has to be a starting point.  Somewhere there is a Thomas Kelly who wrote:  "At any given time which theories are accepted typically plays a crucial role in guiding the subsequent search for evidence which bears on their theories."  What, in  this Affordance Care Act discussion are the core theories?

To put it another way, as the eminent philosopher Leo Strauss titled his book "What Is Political Philosophy?"

Strauss states that "philosophy is essentially not possession of the truth, but quest for the truth."     Political philosophy has its intention "the attempt to replace opinion about the nature of political things by knowledge of the nature of political things."

Is the Affordable Care Act  debate about philosophy?  Is it about political philosophy?

Or, is it about theology and religion?   Strauss states that "by political theology we understand political teachings which are based on divine revelation."

Is this Affordable Care Act debate about revelation?

What are the underlying principles of this debate?   Where the debate starts indicates where it will ultimately go.

« Last Edit: April 23, 2012, 12:09:43 PM by Norman Teigen »
Norman Teigen

George Erdner

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2012, 06:15:49 AM »
I am indicating here a dissatisfaction with the techniques of persuasion used in the HHS debate.  I am suggesting that there has been a deficiency in the quality of the arguments used to advance the interests of a religious coalition made up of bishops,  evangelicals, and  conservative Lutherans against the Affordable Care Act. 

Norman Teigen, Layman
Evangelical Lutheran Synod

So, you don't like HOW points are being made. Care to make an argument one way or another on the subject that demonstrates the quality of rhetoric that would please you?
 

David M. Frye, OblSB

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2012, 07:10:53 AM »
One of the qualities I've noticed in this debate, as well as almost every other item of public discourse, is that the sides approach the topic in a way I'd term "skew." The notion of "skew" is one borrowed from geometry. In Euclidean geometry, two lines are parallel if they are equidistant from one another at every point and if a line that crosses one at right angles also crosses the other at right angles (think railroad tracks). If they cross at one point, they are called intersecting lines. If they do not intersect and are not equidistant from one another, then they are skew. They will have a point of closest proximity, without intersecting, and as one traverses the points of the line while moving away from that point of closest proximity, they are further apart.

Our debates are "skew" in that sense. We may have a point of close proximity, but we lack points of intersection. This goes to the vocabulary we use to frame our positions, the presuppositions we hold, the ways in which we frame the issues, and so on. It means we lack the shared foundations upon which we can even begin to discuss disagreements.

In the end, we shout past one another.
David M. Frye, OblSB

+ Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus.
+ That God may be glorified in all things.

Dadoo

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2012, 08:26:41 AM »
One of the qualities I've noticed in this debate, as well as almost every other item of public discourse, is that the sides approach the topic in a way I'd term "skew." The notion of "skew" is one borrowed from geometry. In Euclidean geometry, two lines are parallel if they are equidistant from one another at every point and if a line that crosses one at right angles also crosses the other at right angles (think railroad tracks). If they cross at one point, they are called intersecting lines. If they do not intersect and are not equidistant from one another, then they are skew. They will have a point of closest proximity, without intersecting, and as one traverses the points of the line while moving away from that point of closest proximity, they are further apart.

Our debates are "skew" in that sense. We may have a point of close proximity, but we lack points of intersection. This goes to the vocabulary we use to frame our positions, the presuppositions we hold, the ways in which we frame the issues, and so on. It means we lack the shared foundations upon which we can even begin to discuss disagreements.

In the end, we shout past one another.

I would certainly agree that the two sides are not working with the same framework but they both use the same methodology.

And is that not what ethics of persuasion tries to describe? At this time, the way things get argued in our country is by social manipulation, if one might use that term. My description would be this: "You believe "that" but we, and the vast majority of Americans, believe "this." Here, I have statistic to show it. ANd, by the way, believing "that" means that you are negligent, probably intentionally, of the well being of these special interest groups and therefore you are guilty of "special interest group" ism. As a matter of fact, we have a representative of that group right here: Let's hear what the special person has to say" (poster boy / poster girl argument follows) "I am sure that all America agrees with us that "this" is the way to go because, well, "That" is just not American and AMericans agree with us. ANd how can you discount the testimony of this special poster child? How heartless can you possibly be to oppose "this" knowing it would benefit poster child?"

The last part is probably a more personal manipulation. but in context, it is public, social manipulation. In other words, this is no longer a matter talked through by reasoned rational discovery and discussion on policy and philosophy law, or theology. THis is manipulation of opinion by both sides each of which is in its own echo chamber and in good Calvinist industriousness forges out to impose its "this" on the rest of the country.

Is that cynical? Probably and overly starkly painted. But it fits the arguments on both sides pretty well right now, and it seems to describe both political parties "congressional hearings" to a "t."

« Last Edit: April 23, 2012, 08:32:16 AM by Dadoo »
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

Dave Likeness

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2012, 09:33:05 AM »
One of the keys to understanding Bonhoeffer is to
realize his definition of leadership.  He told people
that the authority of Hitler was self-derived and
autocratic which made it a false leadership.

Bonhoeffer believed that real leadership derived its
authority from God. Therefore  the good leader serves
others and leads others to maturity. He declared it the
duty of the church to stand up for the Jews.  For him
this meant the church must question the state,  help
the state's victims, and work against the state if necessary.
Bonhoeffer did all three of these things.

(These statements are a  summary of chapters 9 and 10
from Eric Metaxas's book "Bonhoeffer" )

Dave Likeness

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2012, 09:36:49 AM »
Sorry,  the previous post was meant for the thread,
"the Man Who Killed Hitler"

Norman Teigen

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2012, 12:15:52 PM »
Well, I think that we are off to a good start.  Respondents are raising good questions and making valid points.   Here is another place to start from.  Yesterday, as I was reading about the death of Chuck Colson I learned of a document with which I was unfamiliar.   The document was prepared in May 1994 under the title "Evangelicals and Catholics Together:   The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium."

The authors asserts that "Christians individually and the church corporately have a responsibility for the right ordering of civil society."   And, "law and culture must be secured by moral truth."

Is THIS where the debate about the Affordable Health Care debate has its origination?   Is it true that Christians have a responsibility for the right ordering of civil society?  Must law and culture be secured for moral truth?

These are important questions, I think.  I propose that how one answers these core questions determines in some way how one perceives the Affordable Care Act debate.
Norman Teigen

Michael Slusser

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2012, 01:06:59 PM »
I am interested in the general theory of the ethics of rhetoric.  How do people persuade, what methods do people use in their persuasive arguments?  What assumptions have been made about the intended audience and how have these assumptions determined  the content of the arguments in the two months since the matter became a main topic of consideration for many religious organizations?

I am indicating here a dissatisfaction with the techniques of persuasion used in the HHS debate.  I am suggesting that there has been a deficiency in the quality of the arguments used to advance the interests of a religious coalition made up of bishops,  evangelicals, and  conservative Lutherans against the Affordable Care Act. 

Norman Teigen, Layman
Evangelical Lutheran Synod
This is an interesting issue. I'm not sure, however, that your questions (bolded above) are ethical questions, rather than questions of rhetorical technique.

The ethical issues, for me, would arise as regards truth-telling, avoidance of sophistry, avoidance to the appeal to unworthy motives, explicit recognition of arguments in opposition that may be worthy of consideration, and reinforcement of the hearers' own ability to make good decisions.

But I'm not an ethicist; I'm winging it here.

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

Norman Teigen

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2012, 04:21:07 PM »
I am a simple Lutheran layman.  I am not a scholar.  I am not an ethicist.  I am not a rhetorician.   I simply have noted some strange things in the discussion about the Affordable Health Care Act discussion. I am asking  people define the issues behind the words and to identify pre-existing assumptions of the common assertions about the Act itself.   

Is this a political question or is this a question that is to be resolved by an appeal to revelation?

The ethics of rhetoric would include a consideration of how issues and ideas are presented with an acknowledgment that the audience must be treated with dignity and respect.    One does not assault a person with a stick on the street.  The ethics of rhetoric require the same set of consideration in discourse.
Norman Teigen

Dadoo

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2012, 08:18:46 AM »
I am a simple Lutheran layman.  I am not a scholar.  I am not an ethicist.  I am not a rhetorician.   I simply have noted some strange things in the discussion about the Affordable Health Care Act discussion. I am asking  people define the issues behind the words and to identify pre-existing assumptions of the common assertions about the Act itself.   

Is this a political question or is this a question that is to be resolved by an appeal to revelation?

The ethics of rhetoric would include a consideration of how issues and ideas are presented with an acknowledgment that the audience must be treated with dignity and respect.    One does not assault a person with a stick on the street.  The ethics of rhetoric require the same set of consideration in discourse.

Actually, "Just a Simple Layman" is an official office on ALPB and is held by George Erdner - you need to find a different self description?  :)

You might want to spell out some of the strange things you noted in the discussion to make clear your use of the herm: Ethics of Persuasion. Your posts suggest that you have done at least some reading what that term denotes. As with the term Ethics in general, there is no longer full clarity about its meaning. Ethic once was to be the study on how societies formed the moral framework under which they lived. Today, Ethics and Morals have conflated a bit in meaning simply because some feel the term Morals is repulsive and try to circumvent it by using Ethics to replace it. So the term Ethics of Persuasion, might not be as clear to the readers here as you hoped it would be.

Anyway, welcome to APLB, give some examples of the strangeness you see - strange goes over really good here - unfortunately.

Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

Charles_Austin

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2012, 08:39:19 AM »
And for any who have ever known them, there is usually nothing "simple" about laymen. Except once in a while.

Norman Teigen

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Re: The Ethics of Persuasion in the HHS Debate - Good or Not So Good
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2012, 09:40:18 AM »
Thank you all for your responses.  Sorry about the Simple Layman thing.  I don't want to steal from anyone.   

I do have some concerns about the Affordable Health Act debate.  No need for me to state what these considerations are.  I would encourage whomever would do so, to do a CSI kind of analysis on the arguments used.

Years ago I read a significant book by Richard Weaver titled The Ethics of Rhetoric.  I seem to have lost my copy but I have done some digging.  Readers who don't have access to this book might find a summary by Roger Gilles from 1966 titled   Richard Weaver Revisited:  Rhetoric, Left, Right, and Middle.

A few essentials here to get started.   Weaver says that there are four essential arguments.  1) argument from definition   2)  argument from similitude, or analogy   3)  arguments from consequence,  and 4) argument from .
circumstance   

There it is.     Let's get started.

Norman Teigen, Layman
Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Norman Teigen