Friday, November 18, 2016

Home truth

Via Mark Steyn, a great quote from C.S. Lewis on the nature of argumentation:
I complained that the tone of undergraduate criticism was too often 'that of passionate resentment'. You illustrate this admirably by accusing me of 'Pecksniffian disingenuousness', 'shabby bluff' and 'self-righteousness'. Do not misunderstand. I am not in the least deprecating your insults; I have enjoyed these twenty years l'honneur d'être une cible and am now pachydermatous. I am not even rebuking your bad manners; I am not Mr Turveydrop and 'gentlemanly deportment' is not a subject I am paid to teach. What shocks me is that students, academics, men of letters, should display what I had thought was an essentially uneducated inability to differentiate between a disputation and a quarrel. The real objection to this sort of thing is that it is all a distraction from the issue. You waste on calling me a liar and hypocrite time you ought to have spent on refuting my position. Even if your main purpose was to gratify resentment, you have gone about it in the wrong way. Any man would much rather be called names than proved wrong.
More than 50 years on, nothing has changed. Steyn amplifies the point:
To be honest, I'd be mildly impressed were any of the #NotMyPresident types to hold up a sign accusing Trump of "Pecksniffian disingenuousness" and "shabby bluff", but it doesn't seem to be Miley or Katy's bag, and Pecksniffian uses up too many Twitter characters for a viable hashtag. That said, Donald Trump is pachydermatous on a nuclear scale and clearly relishes l'honneur d'être une cible (look it up, snowflakes). So you're gonna need something new. Like maybe try refuting Trump's positions rather than labeling the millions of voters who support them. Oh, and while we're at at it, you might politely suggest to Messrs Oliver, Colbert and Noah that there's never been a better time to embark on a mid-life career change and move into comedy. If the object is to win the next election, sneering is not a substitute for argument, or entertainment.
I'll save you the trouble of looking it up: l'honneur d'être une cible means "the honor of being a target" and comes from Edmond Rostand's 1897 play "Cyrano de Bergerac." As always, the rest of Steyn's piece is worth your time.

1 comment:

Gino said...

I disagree with steyn on many things, but of late he seems to be hitting on things others don't see, especially anything Trumpish.