Organizing Aims in Rationality and Persuasion

An organizing aim is essential to rationality and persuasion. Its resultant state of clarity will facilitate internal logical consistency, a means for judging arguments, and a platform for which to persuade and argue with others. The purpose of this essay is to delineate the definition of an organizing aim and its utilities.

A division can be made between matters of fact and matters of value. Questions of fact are questions about the actual state of affairs in the universe that we humans occupy. These questions will be resolved through the appropriate methodologies that discern truth from falsehood. The utility of a discussion of matters of fact within this essay is only as a contrast to matters of value and so their discussion ends here. Matters of value are what we, as humans, find meaningful and worthwhile. It is what we feel emotionally compelled to support. Reason, human connection, industry, and pleasure, are all examples of values. With regard to values, a person either values a certain thing or they do not. It is not possible to argue for a person to value something without appealing to a baser, preexisting value they have. As such, appeals to shared values will be persuasive and appeals to unshared values will be unpersuasive. An organizing aim is the quintessence of value.

An organizing aim is the most base value that all others values are reducible to. It is unifying in that it is the common thread among all values. It is actionable in that its existence leads to the discernment between that which will be valued and that which will be devalued. As an example of an organizing name, one may discover the common thread between a devaluation of murder, torture, and slavery, is a value of the happiness or wellness of humans. One may further reduce this value of happiness and wellness with the explicit understanding that such conditions arise via the existence of a central nervous system which interprets certain stimuli as pleasurable or painful. In the instance that the freedom from murder and slavery is held valuable for one group of people but not for another, this common thread is the means by which one can encourage consistency and argue for the resolution of this contradiction. An organizing aim thus serves as both a means for assessment and persuasion.

When one reduces a set of values to their base value, one achieves an organizing aim by which certain propositions and arguments may be assessed for their merits. In arguing for the enactment of specific policies or plans of action, one may support or oppose them based upon their conduciveness to the organizing aim. The organizing aim will determine what relevant questions need to be asked and investigated to discern the conduciveness to the organizing aim. This will allow for an objective approach where an inquiry into matters of fact will highlight propositions as objectively more or less conducive to the organizing aim. An organizing aim is fundamental to having an objective methood to answer questions of value.

In order to be rational, a person must locate their own organizing aim. They must take an inventory of their positions for the sake of determining the underlying values which prop up those positions. In locating those supporting values, they may find the common thread among them by which they can be reduced to a baser value. This baser value will serve as the organizing aim. It is at this juncture that the rational person will have the tools necessary to make consistent their support or disapproval of various positions. This process of the reductionism of personal values will lead to an internally consistent system of values. Furthermore, in having an organizing aim, they will have a guide for objectively determining whether they should support or disapprove of certain propositions (and to what degree). Should matters of fact demonstrate some positions to be more or less conducive to the organizing aim, the rational person will be able to remain unattached to familiar positions and therefor adapt their support so as to fit what the evidence suggests is conducive. An organizing aim is thus essential to rationality insofar as rationality depends on logical consistency and flexibility of belief.

In the realm of persuasion, arguing for a particular organizing aim depends on widespread social acceptance. As values are merely present or not present, the widespread social acceptance of an organizing aim depends wholly upon the ability of the advocate to demonstrate that the organizing aim is what the values of the non-advocates are ultimately reduced to. It requires an evaluation of the held positions of non-advocates to discern values and to elucidate the common thread which binds them together. In doing this, contradictions are bound to arise. Contradictions will need to be resolved as one cannot reasonably maintain a position that they both value and do not value. Concretely so, if a person values human life and yet also supports the death penalty, it must be the case that their value of human life is conditional (and therefor reducible to some other baser value) or that their support of the death penalty is inconsistent with their value of human life. It is in discovering these contradictions and conflicts that the advocate locates opportunity. The aim of the advocate is to unearth these contradictions and use it as grounds to argue for a particular baser value or position. In the aforementioned example, an advocate who disapproved of the death penalty would seek to persuade the non-advocate to share this position by pointing to its inconsistency with their value of human life. In the process of reducing values to their baser value, one forced the non-advocate to resolve a contradiction between their value and their held position.

As it has been thusly shewn, an organizing aim is paramount for both rationality and persuasion. In rationality, reducing one’s values to an organizing aim will facilitate the internal logical consistency of one’s value systems and it will serve as a guide by which one can judge value propositions and arguments. The objectivity permitted will allow one to remain detached from familiar propositions or ideological strains and to instead favor that which is factually conducive to the organizing aim. In persuasion, the ability to isolate baser values and compare them with propositions will lend itself well to persuading others to accept or reject particular propositions. Insofar as appealing to baser values is the only reasonable grounds by which values are argued for or against, the method of highlighting an organizing aim for the purpose of comparison offers the best chance at persuading others to or from their positions. Of the tools used to better rationality and persuasion, the usage of an organizing aim ought to be chief among them.

 

Afterword

It should be noted here that my usage of the term, “organizing aim,” is purely a personal one. While there may be other terms which may stand in its place, it seemed to be the one most apt to approximate the aforementioned concepts and ideas.

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