A Primer on Some Rhetorical Persuasion Techniques
Equivocation is a matter of open-endedness. You hear the words, or see the art, but can't tell what is meant because there is symbolism going on, or shadings suggested. An undercurrent message.
A. Types of equivocation
1. Equivocation can be visual. An artist may leaves a conclusion or interpretation unspecified, sometimes deliberately, sometimes relying on local familiarity to fill in the blanks.
Like this fellow in the water in Croatia. There is a monster or serpent down there, as we recall. But nobody is helping. See Croatia Road Ways. We had no translator around to ask, and there were no written signs. The local people may be familiar with the story here, but we can find nothing about it. To us, equivocal. To a Croat, not.
Could be this, could be that.
Is the lady watcher glad to see him go? What does the man in the water represent? We can see the hat, - a cardinal's type of hat is clear when you see it, but who then is she, the observer?
Inquiring minds. What is going on?
Daniel also wonders. And having wondered, moves on.
2. Aural equivocation.
Equivocation can be in the tone of voice, the upended sentence? That is so annoying.
Is there musical equivocation where the composer does not resolve the harmonic. Why not. Eardrums yearn for the return to dominant. Ears put in what the hearer wants. Hopes for. And there is a pleasure in the non-resolution as well - an exquisite pain, waiting. Right? Hear the chords, searching. The lost chord.... do a search for that haunting situation. Start at//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_Chord.
3. Equivocation can be blended.
Visual equivocation combined with figures of speech -- metaphor, simile, or analogy. See Joy of Equivocating, Persuasion Arsenal, Equivocation and Figures of Speech.
Does this move us from the fountain with the drowning cleric, to a Rohrschach kind of test, where the viewer fills in what the viewer's own predlilections are? See http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=15151.
Show the inkblot. Now, talk about what you see.
4. The practical problems with equivocation.
Equivocal politicians get criticized as flip-flopping. Some people do not like re-assessments once a judgment is made, and require consistency of position as their rule of life, regardless of changing facts.
But there is a strong place for political equivocation where the issue is response to actions of third parties. When a hypothetical situation simply cannot be constructed that is sure to meet the reality when it comes, how could anyone say in advance exactly what he or she would do. That is different from flip-flopping on principle. We need judgments that fit the need of the time, not binds ahead of time.
If there is a question as to the hat the man is wearing, that it is not a cardinal's cap at all, then we are into ambiguity:
This is a linguistic, or situational concept. We know what the words are, or what the action is, but - uh-oh. Some time later, even a split second, you realize you do not know at all what is being said.
Wish you were here
Someone is Doing a Number on You.
Try this. Nice little travel photo.
Put a caption to it = "Wish you were here."
Look fast. Look away. Then back.
What is wrong here - if the caption is "wish you were here," just where is here?
Where is that person and why? What is said about where they want you? Like a divorcing spouse sending a postcard from Alcatraz. Wish you were here.
Is this a good example.*
1. The Art of the Multiple Meaning.
There can be multiple linguistic or artistic meanings in a speaker's given work, word, phrase or sentence, or other component of language or art.
Common example given in schoolrooms: "The duchess can't bear children," see for example Kent Bach article, in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, article //online.sfsu.edu/~kbach/ambguity.html.
Does that mean that the duchess can't have them, or can't stand them.
You pick. Author may not have realized the double meaning at the time. It may take him or her by surprise and eyes open wide - omigod. How could I have said that. The use of an ambiguous word may be by chance, or intentional.
2. Ambiguity as the Gotcha.
Intentional ambiguity is more manipulative than equivocation. Equivocation is right out there. Ambiguity comes at you later. Wait - go back to that a minute. Aha! You've been had. You may not have noticed it during the situation, but later you know. You just know.
As to situational doubt as to meaning, see //encarta.msn.com/dictionary_1861585053/ambiguity.html.
3. Boundaries blur, as with everything.
If we get away from the linguistic, though, and move into actions, are we back in the equivocal.
Equivocation and ambiguity in a time of obfuscation.
Each is a tool. And we are in an era of propaganda, so we should be aware of the workings of all figures of speech. See discussion of propaganda in Petr Ginz: Lens and Legacy, Propaganda.
4. Equivocation and ambiguity. A long tradition.
Both of these rhetorical tachniques take advantage of a human fact - many responses are possible from different people when confronted with the same event.
See these at Sibenik, Croatia - this display being among the first for "glorifying" the common person, instead of saints, around a cathedral.
Control the common man if you can, say the leaders. Use figures of speech, developed ways of expression, and elements of formal "Argument," and do you then control the world. That is why we need education.
5. Taking arms against a sea of equivocation and ambiguity. Education.
Maybe people have not been taught, or otherwise discovered, that rhetoric is part of an art form with deep roots in philosophy, see "Argumentation: Understanding and Shaping Arguments" by James A. Herrick, overview at www.stratapub.com/Herrick3/contents.htm#TABLE%20OF%20CONTENTS%20(detailed). See chapter 13 on the uses of equivocation and ambiguity in formal argument.
Go back to the Medieval ideas. See //plato.stanford.edu/entries/analogy-medieval/#4. Heavy. Both are found in political speeches and acts.
Keep educations minimal and occupation-oriented for the masses. The beginning and the end. Get back to rhetoric so you can spot it and defend against the lure of the sound - sirens of all forms on the air: ://facstaff.bloomu.edu/jtomlins/rhetorical_devices.htm. See Sirens at //www.pantheon.org/articles/s/sirens.html
Rhetoric is persuasion. Textbook learning. Propaganda alert.
* The Great Armchair - This is also equivocal. Also ambivalent?
Spot found by chance, off the road in Croatia, looking back at one of the lovely coastal walled cities of the Dalmatian Coast. A comfy, perfect spot - a few beer bottles around. Set a spell. Enjoy. Then drive on. An example of the fun of road trips on your own - see Europe Road Ways. Find what others don't.