Pathos, Ethos, Logos

A [large] group of [Evangelicals] opposed to the current social justice turn in the church created a document called the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel to stake out their position. This was a classic attempt to debate substance. It contains a number of specific affirmations and denials based on the signers’ interpretations of scripture …

[T]hey attempted to find common ground, but ultimately rejected today’s social justice movement. The key is that this statement was a list of substantive affirmations and denials that represented a form of logical argument.

[S]omebody asked Tim Keller about the statement during the Q&A period of a conference he was speaking at. A video of his response (which has subsequently been removed due to a copyright claim) was posted. Here’s what he said:

It’s not so much what [the statement] says, but what it does. It’s trying to marginalize people talking about race and justice, it’s trying to say, “You’re really not biblical” and it’s not fair in that sense … If somebody tried to go down [the statement] with me, “Will you agree with this, will you agree with this,” I would say, “You’re looking at the level of what it says and not the level of what it’s doing." I do think what it’s trying to do is it’s trying to say, “Don’t make this emphasis, don’t worry about the poor, don’t worry about the injustice.” That’s really what it’s saying.

This was an off-the-cuff response to a question and probably did not reflect a fully considered and thought-out position on the matter. It was also not officially taped and was captured by cell phone. However, after the video caused a small controversy, he could have issued a clarifying statement. He did not and to the best of my knowledge has never done so, allowing his statement to stand as his take.

Aaron Renn, If You’re Debating Substance, You’ve Already Lost (emphasis added)

I could have lost a lot less time losing arguments over my life, or at least saved the time it took to lose them, had I not utterly disregarded pathos and ethos in favor of logos.

I always considered pathos– and ethos-heavy arguments a form of cheating. Aristotle apparently did not. I just might possibly have gotten this one wrong, right?

By the time the ink has dried on this, figuratively speaking, I probably will have forgotten the important lesson Aaron Renn carried from Aristotle. But as I’m no longer arguing publicly and passionately, it doesn’t much matter.


Jesse Singal is a card-carrying progressive who, lucky for us, has a very good crap-detector for progressive quackery. A progressive has heightened ethos when critiquing any progressive phenomenon, which by explains why conservatives love guys like him and, by analogy, Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas.

But calling "Bullshit!" in a way conservatives like will get a progressive falsely labeled reactionary by other progressives, and so it is with Singal.

Social Science Is Hard: Resume Audit Studies Edition is not really calling Bullshit, but pointing out the difficulties of social science, using an example from studies that purport to show racism in the U.S. I won’t try to summarize it, but it will be misrepresented as a denial that racism is real rather than affirming the elusiveness of proof.

I suspect that Singal’s problem is akin to mine: his logos is fine, but he refuses resort to pathos, and his ethos — what he’s (allegedly) doing (aid and comfort to the enemy), not what he’s saying — make his substantive points categorically impermissible.

Damn shame. He’s perceptive. I’ve learned a lot from him.


We invaded shortly after the 9/11 attacks with two limited goals in mind: decapitating Al Qaeda (including capturing or killing Osama bin Laden) and toppling the Taliban government that had allowed the group to use the country as a launching pad for terrorism targeting the United States. The second goal was accomplished very quickly. The first took far longer — nearly a decade — because bin Laden escaped into the mountains and managed to elude capture in Pakistan. But this goal, too, was finally achieved in May 2011.

While the hunt for bin Laden dragged on, the American military took on numerous additional goals. Before we knew it, we were committed to transforming Afghanistan into a functional, stable democracy with a military and police force capable of standing up to and fighting back against the Taliban’s unceasing efforts to exert and expand control over parts of the country. This aim also required fighting corruption. And providing education for girls and opportunities for women. And working to grow the economy. And fighting the drug trade.

In the process, Afghanistan became an American vassal state … American withdrawal is highly likely to result in a reversal of all the goals that have been added to the mission over the years.

That, in effect, is what Biden was saying in his speech on Wednesday officially announcing the intent to withdraw all troops from the country (aside from a limited number of soldiers left behind to secure the American embassy in Kabul) by the 20th anniversary of 9/11 in September. The message was that we succeeded in achieving our original goals years ago, we’ve failed to achieve the additional ones, there’s no realistic path to changing this outcome, and so it’s time for America to come home and stop trying to do the impossible.

Damon Linker, When the Taliban takes Kabul

Linker had another fine column recently, too, but since I don’t have to write about 45 any more, I shan’t.


Chuck Marohn of StrongTowns has written an extremely timely five-part critique of the Biden administration’s "infrastructure" bill, the American Jobs Plan. It is not a partisan hit job; the Republicans (had they gotten beyond "Infrastructure Week" being a sardonic joke) would have made the same sorts of mistakes because those mistakes are now an American tradition.

The gist is that we haven’t figured out the wisdom of stopping digging because the hole we’ve dug ourselves is plenty deep enough already.

  1. The American Jobs Plan Will Make Our Infrastructure Crisis Worse
  2. The Half-Truth on Infrastructure at the Heart of the American Jobs Plan
  3. When it Comes to Infrastructure, the American Jobs Plan is Business as Usual
  4. The American Jobs Plan Delays Necessary Infrastructure Reform
  5. How Local Leaders Should Adapt to the American Jobs Plan]([The American Jobs Plan Delays Necessary Infrastructure Reform)

It’s a longish read. If you haven’t paid any attention to our infrastructure folly in the past, and you don’t want to snort and dismiss it, it will be a longer read (to grasp his blindingly obvious points that so few have been making).


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Sunday Potpourri, 12/23/18

1

Faith is not the supposition that something might be true, but the assurance that someone is there.

Bishop Kallistos Ware

2

“Unless you like stats / just skip the begats,” wrote Jeanne and William Steig in their “Old Testament Made Easy.” But before he gets to the angels and the wise men Matthew gives us 39 of them, from the famous names (“Abraham begat Isaac … David begat Solomon”) to the rather more esoteric, like Jechoniah, the father of Shealtiel.

If you only know the Bible vaguely, this litany of names probably sounds a bit pompous, an attempt to elevate the infant Jesus by linking him to great patriarchs and noble kings. But the truth is roughly the opposite: The more you know about Genesis or Chronicles or Kings, the more remarkable it is that Matthew announced the birth of the son of God by linking him to a pack of egregious sinners.

The case for remaining Catholic in this moment, then, is basically that all this has happened before and will happen again — in what G.K. Chesterton once called the “five deaths of the faith,” the moments across two thousand years when every human probability pointed to the church of Rome passing into history, becoming one with Nineveh and Tyre.

For American Catholics at least, this era feels understandably like another death — in which the saints seem hidden, the would-be prophets don’t agree with one another, the reformers keep losing. And it is all-too-understandable that people would choose to leave a dying church.

But it is the season’s promise, and in the long run its testable hypothesis, that those who stay and pray and fight will see it improbably reborn.

Ross Douthat. Our homily this morning, in my Orthodox parish, similarly was on the disreputable ancestors of Christ, the source of His humanity.

But to appropriate those prostitutes, adulterers, murderers, deceivers and such to support “all this has happened before and will happen again” seems unlikely to assuage the doubts of those for whom Rome’s claim to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church have become simply implausible.

3

The Defiance of Mariah’s Lambs: Maria Carey means Christmas to most of us, and much more to some of us.

Rich Juzwiak at the New York Times.

“Maria Carey means Christmas to most of us”? Seriously?

4

Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of France, crowned himself emperor, defeated four European coalitions against him, invaded Russia, lost, was defeated and exiled, returned, and was defeated and exiled a second time, all in less time than the United States has spent trying to turn Afghanistan into a stable country.

Tucker Carlson in the January-February American Conservative

5

I would give myself too much credit were I to imply that my early opposition to our national policy of endless war (which just might possibly be coming to an end) was born of my own insight, but it’s remarkable how uniformly bereft of such opposition are the major newspapers of the nation.

For sanity on war policy (let’s stop calling it the Department of Defense while we’re at it), one must look to the cranky opinion journals and blogs of the disreputable Left and the Right.

That they are disreputable shows the negligible value of reputation.

6

All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.

Dr. John Arbuthnot, quoted by Aram Bakshian Jr. in the January-February American Conservative

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