Applied Equivocation

The purpose of this article is to expose and discuss Applied Equivocation and to offer resources for further study. I think this is an important discussion because, if we cannot clearly identify the meanings from what we are told, we are at risk for believing anything.

Let’s define our terms; the death knell for equivocation:

e·quiv·o·ca·tion

iˌkwivəˈkāSH(ə)n/

noun

  1. the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself; prevarication.

The following is an example of Applied Equivocation with an attached analysis:

From: http://www.politico.com/staff/nolan-d-mccaskill

Donald Trump says:

“I think it’s a disgrace that he’s allowed to do it. I think it’s a disgrace that he’s allowed to say it,”

“You look at so many of the ministers that are backing me, and they’re backing me more so than they’re backing Cruz, and I’m winning the evangelical vote,” Trump continued. “It’s disgraceful that his father can go out and do that. And just — and so many people are angry about it. And the evangelicals are angry about it, the way he does that.”

“But I think it’s horrible,” he added. “I think it’s absolutely horrible that a man can go and do that, what he’s saying there.”

What truth can we hope to find out about Donald Trump or the worthiness of a presidential candidate from this quote?

Question: Isn’t the truth of the whole quote dependent on the definitions for what The Donald is talking about?

What is the disgrace in question?

Why does The Donald think it is a disgrace?

Is whatever was done, actually disgraceful?

Should whatever was done, have been allowed to be done?

If no, why not?

What was said?

Was whatever was said, disgraceful to be said?

Why?

That pretty much covers the first two sentences above.

Let’s take this quote apart, line by line. There is a lot being implied here, but nothing is being said. The Donald is taking the listener for a ride through the wonderful world of Applied Equivocation. Whatever the listener thinks the Donald is saying, is mostly coming from inside the listener.

Donald Trump says:

“I think it’s a disgrace that he’s allowed to do it. I think it’s a disgrace that he’s allowed to say it,”

Whatever “it” is, whatever the listeners believe “disgrace” means, whatever it was, he clearly shouldn’t be allowed to do that.

“You look at so many of the ministers that are backing me,”

How many ministers would that be? Is that so many ministers it is just unbelievable? Is that some of the ministers that are backing him but not backing him in the way that other ministers are backing him?

“… and they’re backing me more so than they’re backing Cruz,”

By the word backing, should I understand that to mean some ministers are backing Donald Trump and some are backing Cruz? Or is it still true that if a minister backs Donald Trump that minister cannot back Ted Cruz?

“…and I’m winning the evangelical vote,”

Can a vote actually be evangelical? Are these heavenly votes? How many evangelical votes is he winning? He is making it sound like he is winning all of the evangelical votes, when in fact it is highly likely that some evangelicals would vote for someone else.

Trump continued.

“It’s disgraceful that his father can go out and do that.”

Here he is simply repeating himself. See above.

“And just — and so many people are angry about it.”

Still not real clear about what was done. Not real clear about how many people are angry. Not real clear if people should actually be angry about whatever happened.

“And the evangelicals are angry about it,”

Either the evangelicals are not people like the previously mentioned people, or evangelicals needed to be mentioned more than once. Why would a politician want to mention evangelicals, who are reported to be supporting Donald Trump more than once, when he is talking about an evangelical? That’s a hard one.

“…the way he does that.”

See above.

“But I think it’s horrible,” he added. “I think it’s absolutely horrible that a man can go and do that, what he’s saying there.”

Aside from the absolutely horrible diction, in the honored tradition of Bush Jr, I ask, with all due respect, what on earth is that man talking about?

I challenge the reader to make sense of this quote without filling in a personal definition for the terms: disgraceful, it, what was said, horrible, the way he does that, and just who and how many people are angry about whatever was done and whatever was said.

It actually might have been easier if the Donald would’ve let the readers make up the story themselves. In the end, that is exactly what we must do so we can define what Donald Trump is talking about. He doesn’t appear to be interested in doing that for us. The theory here is that you can’t actually get in trouble for saying something if you don’t, in fact, say something.

That is an effective use of Applied Equivocation by Donald Trump.

Man does not understand how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is the attunement of opposite tensions like that of the bow and the Lyre. — Heraclitus

The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor; it is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in the dissimilar. – Aristotle

Applied Equivocation studies discourse theory, cognitive science, and the delivery system, metaphors.

The following websites were chosen to give the reader a better understanding of each of these concepts.

Some insight into The Donald’s skills:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/12/07/is-our-out-of-control-political-rhetoric-really-all-that-extraordinary/?tid=sm_tw

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/09/15/3701215/donald-trump-talks-funny-2/

Discourse Theory:

http://www.politicseastasia.com/studying/getting-the-hang-of-discourse-theory/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/12/07/is-our-out-of-control-political-rhetoric-really-all-that-extraordinary/?tid=sm_tw

Some great American speakers.

Letters from a Birmingham Jail — Rev. Martin Luther King:

http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/kingweb/popular_requests/frequentdocs/birmingham.pdf

Lincoln’s Gettysburg address:

http://historytools.davidjvoelker.com/sources/lincoln-gettysburg.pdf

Supreme Court superstars: the 10 greatest justices:

http://digitalcommons.law.utulsa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2025&context=tlr

Fallacy files:

http://www.fallacyfiles.org/equivoqu.htmlhttp://www.fallacyfiles.org/equivoqu.html

The developing Cognitive Science:

10 classics from cognitive science:

http://www.cognitivesciencesociety.org/journal_csj_classics.html

The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor — George Lakoff

http://comphacker.org/comp/engl338/files/2014/02/A9R913D.pdf

U.C. Berkeley course list for degree in cognitive science:

http://cogsci.berkeley.edu/courses-0

U.C. Los Angeles course list for degree in cognitive science:

https://www.psych.ucla.edu/undergraduate/undergraduate-student-services/majors-minors/cognitive-science-major-for-students-who-entered-ucla-as-freshmen

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *