I dreamt there was a woman making some sort of passionate political rant against capitalism or something. Whatever it was, I didn’t like it. But the rant itself didn’t bother me so much; what bothered me was the crowd standing around her, listening to her every word as if they were all experiencing profound epiphanies. I thought to myself: “How can these people be so blind? How can they believe this nonsense? I must stop this at once!” However, I didn’t feel like getting into some political argument or a shouting match. Fortunately I knew I had the power to fly. So I climbed a tall nearby wall, which would have been very dangerous to people who could not fly, and this instantly got some attention. Then I proclaimed to the people something like: “Stop listening to this woman, she speaks lies! Who are you going to believe? Her? Or someone who can fly?” I then stepped off the wall and floated in air. There were gasps of amazement and all who saw believed.

Afterwards, I met one person in the audience who was not impressed with my tactic. It was Foreman from House.

“You didn’t have to do it that way,” Foreman said. “It was manipulative.”

“I had to do it that way,” I replied. “Those people were too dumb to think for themselves. I wouldn’t have been able to use reason with them. They need to be manipulated. They need to see something powerful to associate their beliefs with.”

Foreman continued to disagree. And then I realized he was just acting. He was not really Foreman, he was just an actor playing Foreman. I was on the set of House, and I was supposed to be fixing the carpets. And for some reason my dog’s beds were there, for some reason I had given them to Foreman and Taub.

And then I woke up.

So some of that was nonsense, but the philosophical question remains… are some people too dumb to understand what you think is true through what you believe are rational arguments? If so, is it morally acceptable to manipulate them into agreeing with you? Especially if them not agreeing with you could have devastating effects?

Categories: Philosophy

4 Comments

S P Hannifin · May 8, 2011 at 2:09 PM

I guess this is the sort of moral dilemma House and his team faces all the time, so I don’t know why Foreman would really disagree…

LanthonyS · May 8, 2011 at 3:36 PM

For a long time philosophy has been pitted against rhetoric. “Truth needs no eloquence.”

On the other hand, Augustine said (I paraphrase), “Our enemies use every trick in the book to put forth falsity — what kind of wisdom is it that lets truth continue to turn off everyone that hears it?!”

I think “Truth needs no eloquence” is a bit idealistic. I agree that for individuals it shouldn’t involve manipulation — as in, for any really sincere follower of a philosophy, you should be able to sit down in their living room and have them tell you what they believe and why. But for speaking to a crowd, especially if they’re being distracted by really flashy lies, there’s no way to do that all at once with everyone.

In other words I don’t think you win real disciples of your position with rhetoric and manipulation. But you /can/ defend them from false teaching. And then you have a chance to honestly talk about it later.

For the religious side of the argument, if we’re talking Christianity — which has often been on the “no manipulation!” side as a backlash against TV preachers and absurd, gold-plated evangelism — then just look at God’s methods: yes, he talks to people one-on-one and makes disciples of them. But in front of the crowds he multiples food, he appears in a pillar of cloud, and lightning comes down from the sky to set the altar on fire. So I don’t have too much ethical problem with letting actions speak for you.

LanthonyS · May 8, 2011 at 3:38 PM

Oh, and great dream. I wish I had such intricate dreamversations… there are little pieces of wisdom, but rarely can it actually proceed logically for long. (My dreams almost always feature an “I MUST DO THIS URGENT THING” feeling, which makes stopping to talk to people frivolity.)

S P Hannifin · May 8, 2011 at 6:28 PM

“for any really sincere follower of a philosophy, you should be able to sit down in their living room and have them tell you what they believe and why. But for speaking to a crowd, especially if they’re being distracted by really flashy lies, there’s no way to do that all at once with everyone.”

True, I agree.

I think the “crowd mentality” is one of the scariest aspects of human psychology; how an individual can willingly stop thinking for himself and be so easily influenced by the crowd around him, and he becomes a part of a giant feedback-loop. Sometimes it can be good for survival — if everyone’s running for their lives, perhaps you should too — but other times it’s very dangerous. It creeps the heck out of me.

“Oh, and great dream. I wish I had such intricate dreamversations… there are little pieces of wisdom, but rarely can it actually proceed logically for long.”

I’m not sure how much subconscious editing my mind might be doing after I wake up to help the dream make more sense, but I have noticed my more logical story-like dreams happen when I’m over-sleeping; when I wake up after 6 or 7 hours of slumber and decide to go back to sleep. I guess they become more semi-lucid, increasing the chances of dream flight and story-ness…

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