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Monday, March 19, 2007


Bill Gnade

Dear Mr. Rosenthal,

Perhaps the very best thing that ever happened to me -- intellectually speaking -- occurred when I walked into my first logic course in college. The humiliation was, in the long run, just plain glorious: I was liberated from my own stinking pride.

Not that I have fully escaped pride's grip or always been able to pin down its cunning heart. But my conceit was absolutely trammeled by logic, and it still is. Learning the informal fallacies (those dishonest tricks to which you refer) was perhaps the most important part of my education; though I step into one every now and then, I am grateful that my tutors pointed me towards clarity. Mind you, it is hard always to be on the lookout for one's own blunderings, but such attention has made me a better man than I otherwise would have been.

Thanks for reminding me, and everyone else, of the importance of lucid and honest discourse. Your essay's spirit reminds me of an old professor of mine who urged us to truly love our neighbors by being pellucid in our prose and limpid in our logic. Such love is not mere pandering or pedanticism, it is just simple kindness, simple courtesy. Oh, sure there are the brutes and sloths who find sound rhetoric too fastidious and even quaint, but they shall pay a price for their laziness. We all will. The activists are perhaps the very worst offenders, for they are vigorous in their passion but indolent in speech; they mask their laziness behind "urgency" and "immediacy" and "authenticity." You know, as Rousseau once said, where "passion trumps reason." I guess what I am saying is that we, at least in America, are being flooded with passion, for passion is chic: it proves you care.

It's those heartless logicians who are "bogging things down," who are "in the way." I bet you see that at work even in the UK.

Blessings, and thanks!


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