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Choose Metaphors That Support Your Proposition

 

Techniques General persuasion > The Art of Being Right > Choose Metaphors That Support Your Proposition

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

If the conversation turns upon some general conception which has no particular name, but requires some figurative or metaphorical designation, you must begin by choosing a metaphor that is favourable to your proposition. For instance, the names used to denote the two political parties in Spain, Serviles and Liberales, are obviously chosen by the latter. The name Protestants is chosen by themselves, and also the name Evangelicals; but the Catholics call them heretics. Similarly, in regard to the names of things which admit of a more exact and definite meaning: for example, if your opponent proposes an alteration, you can call it an innovation, as this is an invidious word. If you yourself make the proposal, it will be the converse. In the first case, you can call the antagonistic principle "the existing order," in the second, "antiquated prejudice". What an impartial man with no further purpose to serve would call "public worship" or a "system of religion," is described by an adherent as "piety," "godliness"; and by an opponent as "bigotry," "superstition". This is, at bottom, a subtle petitio principii. What is sought to be proved is, first of all, inserted in the definition, whence it is then taken by mere analysis. What one man calls "placing in safe custody," another calls "throwing into prison". A speaker often betrays his purpose beforehand by the names which he gives to things. One may talks of "the clergy"; another, of "the priests". Of all the tricks of controversy, this is the most frequent, and it is used instinctively. You hear of "religious zeal," or "fanaticism", a "faux pas," a "piece of gallantry," or "adultery"; an "equivocal," or a "bawdy" story; "embarrassment," or "bankruptcy"; "through influence and connection," or by "bribery and nepotism"; "sincere gratitude," or "good pay".

Example

Right handed people are called dexterous or adroit; left handed people are sinister or gauche.

The change project has fallen into a pothole, it seems. It's broken, it's going nowhere and everyone is shaken up.

Discussion

We use metaphors to enliven and add meaning to our conversations. They are also useful when we cannot find the right word, or perhaps an appropriate word does not exist.

The power of the metaphor is in the meaning that it brings along with it, which can be both negative or positive. When you can choose the metaphor, then you can choose whether to make what you are describing sound positive or negative.

Petitio principii means assuming the conclusion in the premises, or begging the question.

'Choose Metaphors That Support Your Proposition' is the twelfth of Schopenhauer's stratagems.

See also

Metaphor

 

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