The Spectator, Volume 2. eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,123 pages of information about The Spectator, Volume 2..

But the most notable way of managing a Controversy, is that which we may call Arguing by Torture.  This is a Method of Reasoning which has been made use of with the poor Refugees, and which was so fashionable in our Country during the Reign of Queen Mary, that in a Passage of an Author quoted by Monsieur Bayle [8] it is said the Price of Wood was raised in England, by reason of the Executions that were made in Smithfield.  These Disputants convince their Adversaries with a Sorites, [9] commonly called a Pile of Faggots.  The Rack is also a kind of Syllogism which has been used with good Effect, and has made Multitudes of Converts.  Men were formerly disputed out of their Doubts, reconciled to Truth by Force of Reason, and won over to Opinions by the Candour, Sense and Ingenuity of those who had the Right on their Side; but this Method of Conviction operated too slowly.  Pain was found to be much more enlightning than Reason.  Every Scruple was looked upon as Obstinacy, and not to be removed but by several Engines invented for that Purpose.  In a Word, the Application of Whips, Racks, Gibbets, Gallies, Dungeons, Fire and Faggot, in a Dispute, may be look’d upon as Popish Refinements upon the old Heathen Logick.

There is another way of Reasoning which seldom fails, tho it be of a quite different Nature to that I have last mentioned.  I mean, convincing a Man by ready Money, or as it is ordinarily called, bribing a Man to an Opinion.  This Method has often proved successful, when all the others have been made use of to no purpose.  A Man who is furnished with Arguments from the Mint, will convince his Antagonist much sooner than one who draws them from Reason and Philosophy.  Gold is a wonderful Clearer of the Understanding; it dissipates every Doubt and Scruple in an Instant; accommodates itself to the meanest Capacities; silences the Loud and Clamorous, and brings over the most Obstinate and Inflexible. Philip of Macedon was a Man of most invincible Reason this Way.  He refuted by it all the Wisdom of Athens, confounded their Statesmen, struck their Orators dumb, and at length argued them out of all their Liberties.

Having here touched upon the several Methods of Disputing, as they have prevailed in different Ages of the World, I shall very suddenly give my Reader an Account of the whole Art of Cavilling; which shall be a full and satisfactory Answer to all such Papers and Pamphlets as have yet appeared against the SPECTATOR.


[Footnote 1:  Defile]

[Footnote 2:  The followers of the famous scholastic philosopher, Duns Scotus (who taught at Oxford and died in 1308), were Realists, and the Scotists were as Realists opposed to the Nominalists, who, as followers of Thomas Aquinas, were called Thomists.  Abuse, in later time, of the followers of Duns gave its present sense to the word Dunce.]

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The Spectator, Volume 2. from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.