Not All Things Are Equally True

I've had a few posts up recently regarding healthcare reform, most recently T.R. Reid's 5 myths regarding international approaches to healthcare. Casey recently pointed me towards Ann Coulter's echo of Reid's piece, writing that he found it quite convincing. I think he's too smart for that--oh Casey, you are such a Socrates. Anywho, here's how a sophist would respond to Coulter's five points (I am particularly proud of point four):

  • The logic in the first point seems faulty to me. The solution to two private enterprises colluding together is to introduce a third? Or a 45th? What, exactly, prevents the 45 from colluding together? Multiplicity alone does not negate avarice.
  • The logic in point two: there are plenty of services the government supplies that 1) have no competition and 2) we cannot opt out of. Don't like the war in Iraq? Don't feel we need public schooling (or, for that matter, don't have children)? Pay up.
  • Point 3's anecdotal logic is too ridiculous to warrant comment. Only a die-hard conservative would claim that American insurance companies don't try to negate coverage. Without collective power, individual "choice" does not out-weigh institutional frameworks.
  • Point 4: back to analogy. Would you rather have health care work like: police, education, military, and fire departments, or like hamburger joints, dry cleaning, and insurance? Do I even have to comment here?
  • Point 5: Yeah, right.


Casey said...

Thanks for taking the bait -- I know that seemed a bit heavy-handed.

I won't comment as to whether you persuaded me or not -- I'm more interested in what you said at the start: "Here's how a sophist would respond to Coulter's five points."

As you may have anticipated, Coulter and Reid both further confuse me and increase my distrust of Rhetoric rather than increasing my trust in either one of them.

So back to Rhetoric: I want to know why a sophist responds the way you did to Coulter.

Does a sophist always respond skeptically? If so, where's your skeptical response to Reid?

In other words (here I'll just plagiarize from Socrates): in your mind, does Reid have expert knowledge of how healthcare works best, or is he "just" a better rhetor than Coulter?

Or in still other words: why do you prefer Reid's argument to Coulter's?

Also, would you say Reid's a sophist but Coulter's not? Vice Versa? Neither?

Insignificant Wrangler said...

I would say that Reid uses empirical and qualitative evidence that withstands some scrutiny. That's why I prefer him. It helps that he doesn't have a polarizing ethos, too (in fact, I had never heard of him before this article). And that I have a pathetic relation to the subject--so I guess he wins on all three of the big rhetorical scoreboards.

As to the "sophistic" thing, I just like to throw that in there to mess with you. I don't know if you can say that sophists have a particular methodology distinct from dialectic. Plato usually has two meanings for sophists: 1) the rather disreputable orators that sold [faulty] wisdom to unsuspecting students, and 2) the rather reputable group of orators [some, like Protagoras dialecticians] who believed in a version of Truth different than his own (to rehash the post from a few days ago, truth as Being vs. truth as becoming).

I would mark the differences in their tones and their relation to their audience. Coulter's text is far more antagonistic; take for instance her use of the rhetorical question [and answer]: "Guess which party these big insurance companies favor? Big companies love big government." And later she swipes: "another illustration of the ironclad Ann Coulter rule that the worst Republicans are still better than allegedly "conservative" Democrats." Unnecessary. Then again, like most conservative rhetoric, she is playing more towards the home team than the visitors.

If I didn't respond to Reid in a skeptical tone, its because his arguments held up to my skeptical observation (is this probable? is this supported with evidence? does this match up with my real world experiences?). I wouldn't claim my observations as the only way of seeing, nor would I claim they are entirely rational. But I'd throw them out there all the same.

Casey said...

All eminently reasonable. Of course, I'm not persuaded of anything, but it's been nice having conversation with you ("co-habitation," right?). I'll keep fielding observations that you and sophists who argue the other side "throw out there" as long as I have the time for that... it's more entertaining than trying to maintain good spinal posture.

One judges Coulter to be right; One judges Reid to be right... and how shall the demos decide the matter!?!

(It's exciting, isn't it?)

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