Hypothetical vs. rhetorical

I heard part of the interview with Jay Heinrichs about his new book, Thank you for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach us About the Art of Persuasion. I listened to him talk about how the meaning of words change; about rhetorical and hypothetical questions. A rhetorical question used to mean a question that was so obvious everyone knew the answer. Now it’s “A question used for emphasis” according to Dictionary.com. I didn’t hear his definition of a hypothetical question but to me it’s always been a question used to lead a person to the point on which you want them to agree with you. Apparently the definition that I use for a hypothetical question used to be the point of using a rhetorical question. Heinrichs credits the doublespeak and changed meaning in our language to the curriculum changes during the last century when grammar, rhetoric, logic, public speaking, and debate were eliminated from the public schools.
Personally, I would add the change from considering music a science to considering it an art. It all comes down to we no longer teach our children the importance of words. We don’t teach them that “how” you say it is as important as “what” you mean to the expression of your message. We barely teach them to write and then we have teachers who are starting to accept the text mail shortcuts as appropriate classroom communication since it is symbols on paper that are intelligible. I remember about 10 years ago the fuss about allowing junior high students to write in gang script or graffiti alphabet. Today even that would be preferable since uniform spelling was still enforced.
“R U Hear?” Does not mean “Are you here?” in the classroom and should not be accepted as correct. If the teacher were accepting the assignments by text message that would be a different story. But around here at least, cell phones are banned in class and the shortened text script should be banned as well.
I hear parents complain that school doesn’t teach children to think, yet they complain about teaching the tools that would give the children a foundation on which to build the arguments and theses for logical thinking. But then what do I know, after all, I’m more concerned with the logic of the education rather than how the kids feel about themselves.

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1 Comment

  1. >Ironically, your entire sentiment can be considered as an aporetic question.

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