Reason and logic in a speech do not rouse audiences, lift their spirits, set their hearts on fire.
Reason and logic do not shape the way people imagine the world or what is possible and desirable.
Reason and logic do not move audiences to action.
Consider Donald Trump.
His speeches do not employ logic or reason, verifiable facts, or consistency of thought. And yet they have mobilized an army of true believers.
Trump’s opponents try valiantly to counter his rhetoric. They “fact check” his statements and show them to be demonstrably false. They quote him against himself, showing earlier video clips or tweets that contradict his later claims. They poke gaping holes in his reasoning, such as it is.
But all the well-reasoned and logical efforts of Trump’s opponents fail to dampen the appeal of his message, the fervor of his followers.
Because we are not primarily rational creatures.
Reason and logic aren’t built into us. We come into this world with hardwired urges, appetites, instincts, and emotional predispositions.
No one needs to teach us to fear or envy or covet or resent, or to love or enjoy or trust or hope. (To be sure, others may teach us who or what to fear, envy, etc. And they may distort or enrich our urges and desires.)
But we have to learn how to use reason and logic.
And it’s a tough slog.
For most of us, most of the time, reason and logic fail to sway us from what our guts tell us, from what feels right.
To counter Trump’s rhetoric, a more reasonable and logical counterargument isn’t sufficient.
I’m not sure what will work.
I’m playing around with the idea that an approach more persuasive than reason and logic is based on three principles:
- The importance of belonging and adhering to the rules and customs of a tribe.
- The power of stories to shape our understanding of the world and how it works.
- The appeal of magical thinking.
In future posts, I’ll try to tease out what I mean by tribe, stories, and magical thinking.
What do you think?