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Friday, July 1, 2022

what Elon Musk could learn from Aristotle

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Elon Musk, the world’s richest man and founding father of Tesla and SpaceX, lately made a proposal to purchase the social media community Twitter for $44 billion. In a press release Musk declared

Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital city sq. the place issues very important to the way forward for humanity are debated.

His reference to the ‘city sq.’ instantly remembers two acquainted ideas.

Firstly, it’s a reference to the traditional Greek city sq. or Agora of two,500 years in the past the place problems with the day had been debated. It’s on this historic city sq. the place thinkers and audio system, such because the sophists (lecturers and intellectuals), had a discipline day. They weaponised rhetorical methods to govern their audiences with populist and emotional appeals geared toward dividing audiences into opposing camps and tribalised positions.

The second idea is the thought of a ‘world village’. Twitter is a singular city sq. – which seemingly suggests a singular world city. On this means, Musk’s remarks recall the worldwide village. This time period was coined within the 1960’s by the celeb scholar of the time, thinker and media theorist Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan foresaw that man’s extension of himself by means of expertise would rework society right into a modernised, technological world village.

Musk would possibly subsequently be solely right in calling Twitter a ‘market place’ for concepts. Twitter’s world group supplies a return to the Agora – the village sq. within the historic metropolis of Athens in Greece. In some methods then, we’re not – as is usually supposed – in uncharted waters.

If society has come full circle, this raises an essential query: What can we be taught from our historic experiences?

McLuhan foresaw that the rise of the worldwide village would more and more feed tribalism – and he has been confirmed right. If Musk needs to save lots of the brand new city sq., he would do properly to look to Aristotle – and the way he proposed to save lots of the traditional city sq.. It will be certain that the controversy that’s so wanted on that discussion board, might be extra moral and productive and actually serve the worldwide village properly.

An issue on the historic village sq.

With the daybreak of democracy within the historic metropolis of Athens in Greece, the village sq. turned {the marketplace} for discussing and experimenting with concepts. As, inevitably is the case in these circumstances, the necessity arose for rhetorical abilities to persuade all or a number of the audiences. In these instances, the opportunistic sophists realised that using feelings (pathos) and empty guarantees was an efficient – and profitable – technique. Rich younger males thronged the village sq. lining up for this extremely sought-after apprenticeship within the artwork of talking successfully.

It got here to be that the discourse within the Agora was characterised by the rhetorical strategies of the outdated sophists, who didn’t heed the very actual threat of sowing battle and division. Populist demagoguery, superficial and empty arguments geared toward immobilising audiences, had been an indicator of the sophistic rhetorical technique. It even went to this point that opposing camps would possibly resort to violence to defend their populist positions.

This dystopic character of the village sq. may largely be attributed to the sophists’ alluring oratory abilities. The everyday sophist was characterised by a mode developed to stress his private energy and prowess, all of the whereas unethically manipulating his viewers. The sophists centered of their appeals to audiences’ feelings (pathos), through the use of themes equivalent to delight, concern, anger, hatred, blackmail, prejudice and xenophobia. There may be nothing new – the decision to “make Athens nice once more” additionally sounded on the village sq..




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Twitter is an effective instance of a medium that has taken on a lifetime of its personal. A lot has been mentioned about Twitter’s potential to thrive and flourish on battle and division. Analysis by one of many authors advised that the tone of the message and extent of controversy affect the “reputation” of tweets.

Within the debate ignited by Musk’s proposed buy, numerous authors acknowledge the potential destructive (and doubtlessly rising) affect of Twitter by way of misinformation. Particularly if management over content material is much more relaxed – as could be the case within the close to future.

What was the answer 2,500 years in the past?

Two celebrated Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, had been involved concerning the state of debate on the village sq. and the affect on the society of their time. Aristotle intervened, rebuking the sophists’ ‘violent’ demagogic rhetoric, armed with emotional manipulation, “… arousing … prejudice, pity, anger … envy”. Aristotle discovered an antidote by proposing guidelines for moral rhetoric, in opposition to which the populist claims may very well be measured. Ethos (credibility), pathos (feelings) and logos (logic) would develop into the cornerstones of correct moral rhetoric that may very well be used to measure all types of persuasive messages.




Learn extra:
What number of bots are on Twitter? The query is troublesome to reply and misses the purpose


Aristotle’s reply, for the outdated village sq. turned a scientific resolution because it was primarily based on “a steadiness throughout the human mind” – between “the rational and irrational aspect” – known as devices of proof. It proved to be an efficient rhetorical defence – a bridge between ethos (reality of the message and credibility of the speaker and sources), pathos (accountable balanced and measured use of emotion) and logos (making use of the foundations of logic) – however with having logic because the core pillar, in rhetoric apply. Aristotle paid explicit consideration to the sophist’s technique of creating deliberate use of false arguments. From this expertise he wrote works which turned normal texts for figuring out and refuting logical fallacies.

That is additionally the data and understanding that should be developed – or redeveloped – in society as we speak to defend in opposition to the brand new sophists in social media.

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