Yesterday, my philosophical career collided with my fundraising/marketing career and my professional writing career.
I am able to convince just about anyone of just about anything through my writing. This scares the crap out of me.
I began to worry that I was a sophist. Sophists are the bad boys of philosophy. They not only write and speak persuasively but model this for others. No matter if persuasion is justified. No matter if the truth is served. No matter if they actually believe their own words. And as this article adds, sophists are also people who don’t walk their talk, go cheap for power, and produce fantasies:
The sophists are thus characterised by Plato as subordinating the pursuit of truth to worldly success, in a way that perhaps calls to mind the activities of contemporary advertising executives or management consultants.
This may not concern anyone but a really good writer. I’m a really good writer, and it definitely scares me: I am able to convince anyone of just about anything. I could write persuasively that it makes sense to pollute the oceans, that some human lives are worth more than others (this has been done), or that wrong is, generally speaking, right.
In a visually dependent society, I am only one rung away from the top of power. More powerful than writers are people who can speak compellingly. Watch a video of Hitler. Then watch a video you agree with on Youtube. You begin to understand the importance of critical thinking.
We humans are easily persuaded.
I don’t think we should go about in fear but I do think we should go about holding firmly to our own values and assessing whatever we see, think, do, hear, and watch by those values.
As for me, I am very proud of a piece of writing I did yesterday. It’s d-mned compelling. It’s also for a cause I am proud to support. It builds a strong case for an outcome I think is worth having. In short, it helps organize the Beloved Community.
In all I say and do, let me be a Beloved Community organizer. Being compelling is a power I wield with awareness.