Caveat Audiens ("Let the Listener Beware")

By Doloff, Steven | The Humanist, January-February 1997 | Go to article overview

Caveat Audiens ("Let the Listener Beware")


Doloff, Steven, The Humanist


The Romans had a word for it. In fact, classical critics coined many terms to identify the logical errors and verbal evasions that sullied public debate. Consider: argumentum ad hominem ("argument against the person"), attacking an opponent's character instead of addressing the issue under discussion; petitio principii ("begging the question"), asking a question which assumes an unproven point; and post hoc, ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this") asserting that, simply because one event followed, another, the former caused the latter.

Public discourse in our own day would seem to invite the creation of a few more terms like these to point out hybrids of the traditional logical errors and subversions lurking in current political and journalistic speech. I offer the following suggestions.

Si anas est, tetrinnit ("if it's a duck, expect it to quack"): this is when politicians use any question at all asked by an interviewer to recite a self-serving prepared statement on some issue. Even though the lack of connection between the question and the answer can sometimes be quite striking, this tactic is nevertheless exceedingly common. Defenders of this verbal groundshifting might say that the interviewees are only "reframing" bad questions (to correct, perhaps, for cases of petitio principii). Politicians, however, almost never take overt issue with even the most biased questions (by saying, for example, "I think that's a misleading or unfair question because . . ."). In fact, they frequently say, "That's a very good question," and then go on to deliver their unrelated responses.

Ludicra exercitatio facilis est;. res civilis, difficilis ("athletics is simple; politics, complex"): this is when journalists cover political events as "sports," focusing almost exclusively on daily public-opinion pous and speculating on one side or another's constantly shifting chances of "victory." Because poll statistics are "facts" in a very shallow kind of way, they are offered as easily understood "news" of daily winners and losers. Does this kind of political handicapping help, the public" Yes, if people literally are betting on election or legislative results, no, if people want any informative analyses of politicians, platforms, positions, or political track records to assist them in choosing for whom to vote.

Homo in speculo interrogat ("the person in the mirror has a question") this is when news interviewers attribute to the public a preoccupation with something that the media themselves are keen on because they hope it will generate a marketable amount of public interest. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Caveat Audiens ("Let the Listener Beware")
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.