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Debate and Rhetoric

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Logical Fallacies and the Art of Debate. Contents: Introduction This is a guide to using logical fallacies in debate.

Logical Fallacies and the Art of Debate

And when I say "using," I don't mean just pointing them out when opposing debaters commit them -- I mean deliberately committing them oneself, or finding ways to transform fallacious arguments into perfectly good ones. Debate is, fortunately or not, an exercise in persuasion, wit, and rhetoric, not just logic. In a debate format that limits each debater's speaking time, it is simply not reasonable to expect every proposition or conclusion to follow precisely and rigorously from a clear set of premises stated at the outset.

Besides, let's be honest: debate is not just about finding truth, it's also about winning. Rhetoric 101: Three Parts Of Rhetoric And Three Types Of Debates. Public relations means walking a high wire in the media.

Rhetoric 101: Three Parts Of Rhetoric And Three Types Of Debates

A mistake in the media can be fatal. Politicians have seen their careers crash and burn. Baseball players have been traded for making racist remarks. The right words can also propel relative unknowns into world prominence. Barack Obama was a state senator that nobody knew before he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention. Rhetoric 401: Logos. You could take the most beautiful piece of journalism today, a front-page story that one the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news, and if you read it as a speech, it would bomb.

Rhetoric 401: Logos

I don't mean stand up at a podium and recite the thing, word for word. Hire the best stage actor possible from Hollywood or Broadway and give the man a week to memorize the story and practice it. Send that man out there and the story would still bomb, because the structure -- the logos -- is all wrong. Line by line, there'd be nothing wrong with the story.

Rhetoric 301: Pathos. Modern science gives us proof that the ancients were right when they said pathos was the most powerful part of rhetoric.

Rhetoric 301: Pathos

Our emotions rule our brains. This isn't a bad thing, or a weakness. We need emotions to assign value to choices and weigh them. They're essential to making a decision. Doctors have studied patients who've suffered construction accidents or strokes that precisely disabled the emotional center of their brain. When these patients made bad decisions, like losing money on a stock deal, they'd repeat the mistake, because it was logical to them to make that same decision and there was no emotional cost to failing the first time. Why are emotions so critical?

Because facts and arguments mean nothing if you have no way of weighing them against each other. Rhetoric 201: Ethos. Ethos is how the character, sincerity and credibility of the speaker affects the audience.

Rhetoric 201: Ethos

The first of Aristotle's three parts of rhetoric, ethos is an essential idea for public figures and public relations professionals. If your credibility is damaged -- by errors, omissions, miscommunications or acts of God -- nothing else matters. Rhetoric 202: Ethos Boosters. Credibility is incredibly important in the field of public relations.

Rhetoric 202: Ethos Boosters

Anyone in the public eye lives and dies by their reputation. You could argue that's true for politicians and business leaders, but that actors and professional athletes need only focus on how they perform on the field. Rhetoric 102: The Right Kind Of Persuasion. It's important to define -- and study -- the difference between rhetoric and propaganda, especially for anyone involved in public relations.

Rhetoric 102: The Right Kind Of Persuasion

Rhetoric 103: Avoiding Fallacies. Rhetoric 104: Know Your Audience. Rhetoric 105: Speeches Are Seen, Not Heard. People listen to speeches with their eyes.

Rhetoric 105: Speeches Are Seen, Not Heard

Now, that sounds strange at first. Here comes the science: in the first five seconds, with the sound off, you can predict how an audience will like a speaker. Five seconds. No sound. Rhetoric 106: Why You Must Cross-Train Public Speaking Muscles. Public figures are different than other speakers.

Rhetoric 106: Why You Must Cross-Train Public Speaking Muscles

Somebody who speaks for a living -- whether they're the local news anchor, a professor who lectures all day or a motivational speaker -- is usually a specialist. Rhetoric 107: How To Prepare For Different Speeches. Every public figure needs to be comfortable speaking in different situations.

Rhetoric 107: How To Prepare For Different Speeches

There are three basic types of situations: Using the Tools of Rhetoric in Public Relations. It's rare for students to learn rhetoric these days, unless they go out of their way to take elective classes or compete in high school and college debate. A Field Guide to Critical Thinking. Feature James Lett Skeptical Inquirer Volume 14.2, Winter 1990 There are many reasons for the popularity of paranormal beliefs in the United States today, including: the irresponsibility of the mass media, who exploit the public taste for nonsense,the irrationality of the American world-view, which supports such unsupportable claims as life after death and the efficacy of the polygraph, andthe ineffectiveness of public education, which generally fails to teach students the essential skills of critical thinking. As a college professor, I am especially concerned with this third problem.

In an attempt to remedy this problem at my college, I've developed an elective course called “Anthropology and the Paranormal.” Critical Thinking Skills and Applications. Activities to Improve Critical Thinking.