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Persuade the Audience, Not The Opponent

 

Techniques General persuasion > The Art of Being Right > Persuade the Audience, Not The Opponent

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

This is chiefly practicable in a dispute between scholars in the presence of the unlearned. If you have no argument ad rem, and none either ad hominem, you can make one ad auditores; that is to say, you can start some invalid objection, which, however, only an expert sees to be invalid. Now your opponent is an expert, but those who form your audience are not, and accordingly in their eyes he is defeated; particularly if the objection which you make places him in any ridiculous light. People are ready to laugh, and you have the laughers on your side. To show that your objection is an idle one, would require a long explanation on the part of your opponent, and a reference to the principles of the branch of knowledge in question, or to the elements of the matter which you are discussing; and people are not disposed to listen to it. For example, your opponent states that in the original formation of a mountain-range the granite and other elements in its composition were, by reason of their high temperature, in a fluid or molten state; that the temperature must have amounted to some 480 degrees Fahrenheit; and that when the mass took shape it was covered by the sea. You reply, by an argument ad auditores, that at that temperature - nay, indeed, long before it had been reached, namely, at 212 degrees Fahrenheit - the sea would have been boiled away, and spread through the air in the form of steam. At this the audience laughs. To refute the objection, your opponent would have to show that the boiling-point depends not only on the degree of warmth, but also on the atmospheric pressure; and that as soon as about half the sea-water had gone off in the shape of steam, this pressure would be so greatly increased that the rest of it would fail to boil even at a temperature of 480 degrees. He is debarred from giving this explanation, as it would require a treatise to demonstrate the matter to those who had no acquaintance with physics.

Example

You may say this, but let's ask these others? Do you think killing is bad? Of course you do. Now why will this man say it can be justified? I'd say he is sick, weak or bad, wouldn't you?

Ladies and gentlemen. My learned colleague here is trying to confuse me with false premises. Shall we ask him to speak truth? We want a simple tongue, not a silver tongue nor a forked tougue.

Discussion

Not all discussions are alone and many have an audience of some kind. In such cases appealing to the audience (ad auditores) can be a powerful move, particularly if your argument has more popular appeal and the audience seems likely to side with you. Even when there are two people, you can engage the second person to help persuade the first, such as when a sales person is selling a car and first finds out who is most attracted to it and hence how they can use this person to 'gang up on' the unpersuaded person.

This works due to the many pressures to conform and the fear of rejection that your opponent will fear if the majority is against them and their discomfort will lead either to concession or distraction you can utilize.

'Persuade the Audience, Not The Opponent' is the twenty-eighth of Schopenhauer's stratagems.

See also

Theories about conforming

 

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