Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘“Sciences Humaines”

Everyone has his rhetoric style; (Nov. 22, 2009)


Let us consider the mechanism of rhetoric in delivering speeches. You have the square of fundamental values such as shared values, analyzed reality, wished utopia, and fiction of reality; these values intervene in most speeches and are focused on intermittently.  The top left corner represents the “subjective” shared values (SV) by a community and expressed by empathic “every one of us; or we, the working people; or we the citizens of this great nation.”

The bottom left corner represents the analyzed reality (AR) or the attempt to giving objective statements for facts and statistical results of data from surveys and other community research experiments. For example, replying to his question (Why are we in so much pain to preparing for our future?” Sarkozy answers “Because we have to account for the principles of a politics that encircled us in contradictions that are no longer sustainable”. Another example is generated from the extreme right opponent Jean-Marie Le Pen “This system, beast with two faces, with strange and worrisome names, the Gang of Four”.

The top right corner represents the wished utopia (WU) for transforming a community such as what the community should strive and act for; for example “another world; passion for equitability; simple and honest; the real name of the Republic of France is togetherness; or America strong.”

Then, the fourth corner on bottom right represents the imagined fiction of reality (FR) which usually brings forth historical figures or extracts texts from classical literature of the nation; for example “French, prompt at detesting your history, hear the voice of Jaures.  It is the nation that synthesized patriotism and universality”.


When we speak we start by focusing on a value that is dear to us or we think is dear to the audience and the speech converges in the directions of any one of the other three corners. For example, the socialist candidate to France Presidency, Segolene Royal, usually starts her speeches in (SV) by maintaining the illusion of intimate communication with her voters “You have told me, I am hearing you”, or “I want it because you want it”. Royal then shift to the (WU) “I believe in the expert capacity of the citizens.  I am convinced that each one of us is better placed than anyone else to know and express his problems and his hopes” and “I want a democratic revolution founded on the collective intelligence of the citizens. Politics has to change.” After establishing the (WU), Royal tries to focus on the (AR) “I wanted that the citizens speak again so that I may carry their voices. This is the best way to talking right and mostly to acting right”

Another example is President Nicolas Sarkozy’s rhetoric style. Again Sarkozy starts from (SV) “We do not become President by hazard.  It is a choice for a life and a long struggle. For me, France is not a hazard, it is a will. It is the will of various people to living together and sharing common values.”  Then Sarkozy reverts to (AR) “Why the French have no longer the urge to live together? My answer is: because there are a few citizens who believe that nothing is possible for them. I feel the force, energy, and wish to propose another vision of France. I refuse to find answers in ideology”.


Suppose now that you are debating or in negotiation then consider the “semiotic square” that was conceived by Algirdas Jullen Greimas.  For example, in the framework of the law we conduct our behavior according to two sets of opposing poles such as (Required or Prohibited) and (Allowed or Optional). The negotiations are thus conducted between contradictory poles of either (Required or Optional) and (Allowed or Prohibited). The “semiotic square” is used extensively in analyzing political discussions in order to comprehend how meanings in discourse are constructed. There is another method that might supplement the “semiotic square” with valuable intelligence such as generating statistics on most used key words (lexicometry).

The “semiotic square” is almost identical to the square of fundamental values.  For example, we have the two opposite sets of values (Subjective Shared Values or Utopia) and (Analyzed Reality or Imagined Fiction).  In general, the directions of the speech access the contradictory poles (Shared Values and Imagined Reality) or (Utopia and Analyzed Reality) but there are occasional movements from Shared value to Analyzed reality.  It seems that movements from Utopia toward Imagined Reality or vice versa are rarely used mainly because the speaker will feel totally disconnected with his audience who is mostly down to earth: he wants answers based on some subjective or objective sense of reality.


Note: The topic was generated from the French monthly “Sciences Humaines”.  The last paragraph is my synthesis of rhetoric mechanism.

I am mostly the other I; (Nov. 19, 2009)

Are you trying “To be what you are?” as the Greek poet Pindare once said? This is not at all similar to “Be yourself” which has practically no meaning as if you were hibernating and then decided to exhibit your “true” self.

What you are is never stable or cast in iron; the “I” is constantly being constructed and conquered: the body, our family history, our relations, our social values, our prescribed set of morals, and our social status. “To be what you are” is not to accept your “destiny” or what is being “maktoub”; it is an affirmation of your creativity to the kind of existence we dream to be.  I am never aware of my capabilities, abilities, and deficiencies except when I am on a course to change through deliberate actions, a different daily pattern of activities that has a purpose for the other me that I want to be.

“To be what you are” is not denying how you were born and raised; you have to accept the premises of from where you are starting the change as the best objective capabilities and deficiencies to get where you want to be.  It is not even a matter of the will to change that usually has no tomorrow. It means the urge to acquire knowledge and interact with people and society to feel your reformed dreams and possibilities for a qualitative jump.  If you have no desire for continuing education then you might as well be one among the masses of invincible imbeciles, those holding the absolute “truths” simply because they don’t know any better. You might revert to mingling with the invincible hooligans in sport stadiums and activate mayhems for mythical power and mythical belonging and identities.

Traditionally, the subject “I” was correctly defined as the one subjected to his community traditions and customs, subjected to his mother, father and elder siblings. The subject was placed under and subordinated to the other adults in a community. The subject “I” is practically the object and has no special characteristics that distinguish him from the members of the community. The member of a community is subjugated by the two facets of power: first, the weight of determinism for manufacturing individuals such as laws and norms that channel heritage and obeying institutions and authority.  The second facet of power is extending supports, means, and dispositions to grow as a reflexive member who can exist by his own means. Thus, desires for autonomy have to be supplemented by the means in resources and knowledge to break through the support system.

A person is born with a double helix like the ADN helix: the first section determines his objective heritage and the second contains his potential for becoming another self. It is a phase that everyone had to go through; some like to be taken care of; they emulate their environment: They find in their community the means for their existence and their natural development.  Some go into an affirmative phase to separate and be independent and go their own way.

It is the second alternative that extended this modern term of “subject” to an individual who is trying to get free of his previous dependencies. To become autonomous is a process and not just a temporary state of mind; it is a quest to becoming “another extension of the self”.

Individual identity is fluid and constructed of many small decisions and by many tipping over actions that direct the trajectory of the person. If we could study a person’s trend in activities we discover that it is the little but consistent variations in activities that determine his change into another individual. The subject is ever “himself” when he is changing to some else. We start discovering our identity (characters and set of values) as we cohabite or co-exist with others.  Many couples grow and start looking at their partners in new perspectives: they are learning how they were and how they currently feel toward the characters and values of the partners. Living as couples is not just a mirror but a reflective teaching means of our evolving identity.

We are all intelligent. There are at least 8 kinds of intelligence.  Some are more intelligent than others in particular capabilities such as verbal, mathematical, abstraction, visual, auditory, socializing, interaction with others, or writing styles. Rarely anyone is ready to consider another man intelligent. If you want to be known as relatively intelligent then your best means is to antagonize everybody: enemies are more likely to be extended some forms of intelligence.

I think some have this distinct intelligence of synthesizing many components in their intelligence and they realize early on their correct social conditions and potentials: they are the ones who break through the quickest of their community traditions and fly to greener pastures or a life or harsher miseries.  Let us not be judgmental about another’ achievements; successes are mostly illusions; failures are real but worth the try by all means.

Note: this topic was generated from three long articles on the “conquest of the self” in the French monthly “Sciences Humaines” with the special issue on the art of convincing or rhetoric.




February 2023

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