Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mark Lilla on Obama's Sales Problem; or The Passions

I found this a very interesting article. It follows my interest in persuasion, both as a professional concern (ever try to convince 8 or 12 strangers to come to a unanimous conclusion about some disputed point?) and personal (to paraphrase Sartre: hell is having no persuasive influence over people). I think Lilla is right about Obama; indeed, Obama has been poisoned, as are most persons who go through law school. We try to think all about rational argument. Nonsense! Oh, it's the icing on the cake, the flower of the plant, but only that. Persuasion is truly effective at much deeper levels. Obama should remember that he was elected by passion, misdirected or misunderstood as it may have been. For instance, Obama did not run as any kind of radical, at least in policy, although in person, as an African-American, he personally embodied huge change. But in policy? No, he has always been relatively centrist and conciliatory.

Anyway, the article, and the brief intellectual history are all worthwhile. How do you deal with Plato's triumvirate vying for power in each of us? Still, more than a couple of millenia on, a really key question.

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