Finding the right route

Almost every other modern philosopher may be found to have said, like Emerson, that it’s not the destination, but the journey that matters.

The logicians and rhetoricians of the ancient world wouldn’t have gone onboard with this. For them, it was the destination that mattered. Persuasion in rhetoric, conclusion in logic.

Finding the right route in both proved to be harder than for a medieval sailor to find their way on the high sea. It took all of antiquity and the medieval period to hone and refine the cartography of reasoning and persuasion. From Aristotle to Port-Royal and from Cicero to Lorenzo Valla, the focus was fastest, shortest, most energy-efficient and accurate route to target.

In logic, the art of reasoning, the rules governing the passage from premise to conclusion, the pitfalls, the fallacies, the non sequiturs (a 16th-century coinage derived from classical logic meaning ‘it does not follow’) – built the charts of verbal reasoning, the motorways of ratio moving from here to there, but not to anywhere. The destination was everything, but only certain paths led to the X marking the spot.

In rhetoric, the journey mattered as long as the destination blew everyone and everything out of the water. The principles and rules were created by those who never used them to achieve the desired result. At the far end of rhetoric, where manipulation lies, the end always excuses the means. When adhesion and conviction are concerned, the pathways didn’t matter. All eyes on target.

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