Here is my small and doubtless “dilettante” contribution on rhetorics, polemics and the precision of language.
On the presentation of HYPERLINK “https://www.if-blog.de/rd/unternehmertum-oder-freiheit/” o “Bericht meines Vortrages Unternehmertum” Unternehmertum, I recently gave you a list of seven possible definitions of liberty:
You are willing and able to live your life on your own authority.
- You cannot do whatever you wish to do, but you will never be forced to do something you do not want to do.
- You can balance your conscious and subconscious interests.
- You promote both your own and other people’s personal lives, rather than minimizing it. Or also:
- You fear nothing and nobody (Konstantin Wecker, “Willy”).
- You live in harmony with the Great Secret (Willy Michel, Isarindianer).
- Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose! (Janis Joplin, Me and Bobby McGee)
Now I heard yet another definition:
- Your own liberty ends where your neighbour’s liberty begins.
To me, all these definitions seem like sincere attempts at coming to terms with the meaning of the word liberty. They assume that liberty might actually exist and try to clarify on different linguistic levels what it might mean.
My list of liberties has been added to by our chief commentator Chris as follows:
Roland forgot about my definition of freedom:
“an illusion resulting from contentment”.
… (see comment by Chris on Unternehmertum)
I took some time digesting this sentence. Finally, I concluded:
- By definition, a definition is an agreement for linguistic usage.
- But a definition is not a statement saying that something might exist or not.
- The “definition” by Chris implies that freedom does not exist (freedom as illusion).
- Since the existence of freedom is negated in the sentence, this sentence cannot be a definition of freedom.
- You cannot improve your knowledge of freedom unless you have first defined freedom.
- And then the sentence also explains why (stupid) people assume that such a thing as freedom exists.
- Consequently, the sentence is polemic, but it does not provide us with a definition.
This is an excellent example for insincere and polemic rhetorics as it can be found particularly in leading articles and political oratories. Something hidden is implied and the reader is left to draw a logical conclusion from the implication. Consequently, the reader or audience makes the camouflaged hypothesis his own without further criticism and comes to the same conclusion. If he had critically asked his own questions about the “planted” implication, he would soon have found out that his own opinion differs greatly from that of the politician or commentator.
🙂 That is why I will not copy the “definition” by Chris into my “collection of definitions of liberty”. Instead, I will list them among “examples for polemic and alluring rhetorics”!
Did I succeed in shedding a little light on what a definition is and why insincere dialectics can do so much harm? I admit that I find it extremely hard to give a satisfactory definition of liberty!
(Translated by EG)
🙂 Dilettantisme, in my definition, is something absolutely positive!
🙂 That is the problem with chief commentators!
A correct use of language is also important in engineering, for example Requirement Engineering” requirement engineering. Now, that is something I feel more comfortable with. After all, I studied mathematics, not philosophy.