Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VII.: USE OF THESE FALLACIES TO THE UTTERERS AND ACCEPTORS OF THEM. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2
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CHAPTER VII.: USE OF THESE FALLACIES TO THE UTTERERS AND ACCEPTORS OF THEM. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 2.
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USE OF THESE FALLACIES TO THE UTTERERS AND ACCEPTORS OF THEM.
Being all of them to such a degree replete with absurdity—many of them upon the face of them composed of nothing else—a question that naturally presents itself is, how it has happened that they have acquired so extensive a currency?—how it is that so much use has been made, and continues to be made, of them?
Is it credible (it may be asked,) that, to those by whom they are employed, the inanity and absurdity of them should not be fully manifest?—is it credible, that on such grounds political measures should proceed?
No, it is not credible: to the very person by whom the fallacy is presented in the character of a reason—of a reason on the consideration of which his opinion has been formed, and on the strength of which his conduct is grounded—it has presented itself in its genuine colours.
But in all assemblies in which shares in power are exercised by votes, there are two descriptions of persons whose convenience requires to be consulted—the speakers and the hearers.
To the convenience of persons in both these situations, the class of arguments here in question are in an eminent degree favourable:—
As to the situation of the speaker:—the more numerous and efficient the titles to respect which his argument enables him to produce, the more convenient and agreeable is that situation made to him. Probity in the shape of independence—superiority in the article of wisdom—superiority in the scale of rank: of all these qualities, the reputation is matter of convenience to a man; and of all these qualities, the reputation is by these arguments promised to be made secure.
1. As to independence:—when a man stands up to speak for the purpose of reconciling men to the vote he purposes to give, or for the purpose of giving to the side which he espouses whatsoever weight is regarded by him as attached to his authority,—the nature of the purpose imposes on him a sort of necessity of finding something in the shape of a reason to accompany and recommend it.
Though in fact directed and governed by some other will behind the curtain, and by the interest by which that other will is governed, decency is understood to require, that it is from his own understanding, not from the will of any other person, that his own will should be understood to have received its direction.
But it is not by the matter of punishment or the matter of reward—it is not by fears or hopes—it is not by threats or promises—it is by something of the nature, or in the shape at least of a reason, that understanding is governed and determined. To show, then, that it is by the determination of his own judgment that his conduct is determined, it is deemed advisable to produce some observation or other in the character of the determinate reason, from which, on the occasion in question, his judgment, and thence his will, and active faculty, have received their direction.
The argument is accordingly produced, and by this exhibition the independent character of his mind is established by irrefragable evidence.
To this purpose, every article in the preceding catalogue may with more or less effect be made to serve, according to the nature of the case.
2. Next as to superiority in the scale of wisdom:—on running over the list, different articles will be seen to present in this respect different degrees of convenience.
Some of them will be seen scarcely putting in any special title to this praise.
In others, while the reputation of prudence is secured, yet it is that sort of prudence, which by the timidity attached to it is rendered somewhat the less acceptable to an erect and commanding mind.
To this class may be referred the arguments ad metum and ad verecundiam,—the hydrophobia of innovation, and argument of the ghost-seer, whose nervous system is kept in a state of constant agitation by the phantom of Jacobinism dancing before his eyes,—the idolator, who beholding in ancestry, in authority, in allegorical personages of various sorts and sizes, in precedents of all sorts, in great characters dead and living, placed in high situations, so many tyrants to whose will, real or supposed, blind obsequiousness at the hands of the vulgar of all classes, may by apt ceremonies and gesticulation be secured, makes himself the first prostration, in the hope and confidence of finding it followed by much and still more devout prostration, on the part of the crew of inferior idolators, in whose breasts the required obsequiousness has been implanted by long practice.
Other arguments, again, there are, in and for the delivery of which the wisdom of the orator places itself upon higher ground. His acuteness has penetrated to the very bottom of the subject—his comprehension has embraced the whole mass of it—his adroitness has stripped the obnoxious proposal of the delusive colouring by which it had recommended itself to the eye of ignorance: he pronounces it speculative, theoretical, romantic, visionary: it may be good in theory, but it would be bad in practice: it is too good to be practicable: the goodness which glitters on the outside is sufficient proof, is evidence, and that conclusive, of the worthlessness that is within: its apparent facility suffices to prove it to be impracticable. The confidence of the tone in which the decision is conveyed, is at once the fruit and the sufficient evidence of the complete command which the glance of the moment sufficed to give him of the subject in all its bearings and dependencies. By the experience which his situation has led him to acquire, and the use which his judgment has enabled him to make of that experience, he catches up at a single glance those features which suffice to indicate the class to which the obnoxious proposal belongs.
3. By the same decision, delivered in the same tone, superiority of rank is not less strikingly displayed, than superiority of talent. It is no new observation how much the persuasion, or at least the expression given to it, is strengthened by the altitude of the rank as constituted or accompanied by the fullness of the purse.
The labour of the brain, no less than that of the hand, is a species of drudgery which the man of elevated station sees the propriety and facility of turning over to the base-born crowd below—to the set of plodders whom he condescends upon occasion to honour with his conversation and his countenance. By his rank and opulence he is enabled in this, as in other ways, to pick and choose what is most congenial to his taste. By the royal hand of Frederic, philosophers and oranges were subjected to the same treatment, and put to the same use. The sweets, the elaboration of which had been the work of years, were elicited in a few moments by the pressure of an expert hand.
The praise of the receiver of wisdom is always inferior to that of the utterer; but neither is the receiver, so he but make due profit of what he receives, without his praise.
The advantage he acquires from these arguments, is—that of being enabled to give the reason of the faith that is, or is supposed to be, in him.
In some circumstances, in which silence will not serve a man, it will, and to a certainty, be construed into a confession of self-convicting consciousness;—consciousness that what he does is wrong and indefensible,—that what he gives men to understand to be his opinion, is not really his opinion,—that of the supposed facts, which he has been asserting to form an apparent foundation for his supposed opinion, the existence is not true.
By a persuasion to any such effect, on the part of those with whom he has to do, his credit, his reputation, would be effectually destroyed.
Something, therefore, must be said, of which it may be supposed that, how little soever may be the weight properly belonging to it, it may have operated on his mind in the character of a reason. By this means his reputation for wisdom is all that is exposed to suffer;—his reputation for probity is saved.
Thus, in the case of this sort of base argument, as sometimes in the case of bad money, each man passes it off upon his neighbour, not as being unconscious of its worthlessness—not so much as expecting his neighbour to be really insensible of its worthlessness—but in the hope and expectation that the neighbour, though not insensible of its worthlessness, may yet not find himself altogether debarred from the supposition, that to the utterer of the base argument, the badness of it may possibly not have been clearly understood.
But the more generally current in the character of an argument any such absurd notion is, the greater is the apparent probability of its being really entertained: for there is no notion, actual or imaginable, that a man cannot be brought to entertain, if he be but satisfied of its being generally or extensively entertained by others.