What makes for a “good” argument? Is it when voices are raised, or can a quietude of mere whispers that nevertheless persuades become the greater efficacy for effectiveness? Does it matter “who” the person arguing is, as opposed the position taken, the logical connections made and the avoidance of fallacies left unstated?
Take the following hypothetical: A debate challenge is set between a champion debater, known throughout the country as a persuasive arbiter of words, phrases and posited language games, who encompasses the paradigm of the greater user of fallacies, linguistic tricks and ad hominem twists of convoluted word-play that confuse, obfuscate and confound – and a young teenager who is a son of a minister of whom everyone agrees is an upstanding citizen of the county, whose moral positions on matters reflects a character throughout a lifetime of “living what he preaches” (yes, yes, the cynic would say that that type of person is the one who, in his private life is likely the meanest SOB you ever knew, but let us set aside that ugly fact for the sake of this hypothetical).
The issue to be debated is, “Whether X is morally wrong” – you can fill in the blank represented by the X. The champion debater stands before the stage and, for the next hour, wows everyone with his command of the logical innuendoes, the implied thrusts of linguistic balm, and rides through the treacherous seas of persuasive intercourse with such convincing force that people in the audience (assuming that there is even an audience for such an event, as this is no longer in some Podunk county in Illinois where the Lincoln-Douglas debates were held throughout multiple congressional districts, and of course, that was, in those days, a form of “entertainment” that no longer attracts) sat with trance-like looks of agreement, somewhat like modern-day zombies who have been brainwashed.
At the end of his discourse, everyone in unison shouted out, “We agree!” – even before the teenager had a chance to make his point and argue his side. But, fairness being the arbiter of everything in life for modernity, the teenager stood up and was given a chance. At stake is a 10 million dollar prize. The nervous young lad steps before the audience and states simply, “Because my daddy says so!” The audience considers, nods in agreement, and makes their decision as to who “won” the debate.
Query: Does it matter who makes the argument, or is it the substance of the words delineated that make for a valid persuasion? Can an argument about moral behavior be made just as effectively by a “good” person as opposed to a convicted felon? If a person wants to argue that “stealing is bad”, does it make a difference whether the person giving such a lecture is a policeman in uniform, or a prison inmate spending time for grand larceny?
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, always remember that there is a conceptual distinction with a real difference, between “having a medical condition” and “proving that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job”. To “have a medical condition” is tantamount to the teenager who says that X is wrong “because my daddy says so”. To prove one’s Federal Disability Retirement application before OPM is akin to the champion debater who must argue, prove and persuade.
Oh, and by the way – as to who “won” the debate in the hypothetical above – well, that is left to the imagination of the reader.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire