Scepticism and Seduction

Scepticism and Seduction

Cesar Kiraly (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 38
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0525-9.ch012


This is the course we intend to follow: to put together the specific features of sceptical seduction and see the means it employs as well as, when possible, pointing out the changes in direction made by the sceptical tradition. At the same time, we believe that this kind of seduction can have possible political implications when it is compared with the immorality caused by dogmatic seduction. By this is meant that we seek to show that the kind of seduction exercised by sceptics appears to us to be better than that practised by dogmatists, especially with regard to its effects on political life. Setting out from the factors outlined here, we seek to show that the kind of seduction practised by dogmatists tends to lack any sense of responsibility towards the seduced through the protection granted to the seducer who is regarded as better or even superior in the way that the cruelty of the seduction is concealed. It seems to us that the seduction practised by the sceptic maintains an explicit form of cruelty and thus does not bring about the effects of immorality on people's lives.
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Section I

We want a cure when no cure can any longer be expected, when there is no longer a chance of a possible cure. (Bernhard, 2011, p. 237)

It is no exaggeration to describe the problem facing philosophy as forming a counterpart with the theme of seduction.

Indeed, it can be said that it was the unforeseen effects of seduction that led to the death of Socrates. The Socratic method of going out of the city and not evading any kind of argument, (by being willing to escape from the pólis and shelter under a tree) and giving free reign to discussion – or even his famous capacity for resilience and resistance to cold or hunger – all this can be regarded as kinds of seduction. This even applies to the belief that he allowed himself to be condemned to death rather than make use of spurious but persuasive arguments since there seems to be little doubt that he could have easily evaded the accusations if he had wished, given the remarkable gift he had for speaking. The decision not to flee but to die as a free Athenian, is also deeply alluring.

The responsibility of adopting a democratic stance is very enticing too. On the other hand, what is, so to speak, a sophisticated irresponsibility or a willingness to follow a deviant path in the world through words by giving precedence to non-being over being, and regard man and his lies as the measure of all things, to support a thesis one day and then on the next to contradict it with better arguments and finally to acquit Helen of Troy and her involuntary seductiveness as simply the most elaborate form of seduction – all this is highly seductive.

Seduction can be found everywhere – both in the virtuous stronghold of Socrates and in the demiurgic capacities of Gorgias, to speak of characters who occupy a central position but seek to be on the fringes. These figures illustrate what is laughable about the dynamics of being captive, while their cynicism at the same time adds a great deal to their appeal. Until now, nobody has been able to say who can or cannot be seductive: it is a question of power and the person who seduces is the person who is able to seduce.

The democratic life of the 5th Century B.C. is what can best reveal the dangers and delights of seduction. The mere crumb of autocracy is enough to interrupt this exchange of fire in so far as it can determine who should allow us to be attracted to them or who can be in the position to exercise a magnetic power. In a world riddled with seductive stratagems, we are encouraged to make an inquiry into those who are seduced. Are the seducers in some way responsible for those they seduce? This is the question that engrosses us.

Having a complete control over the effects of seduction would be impossible and even absurd but to take this indeterminate stance as a point of departure would be very irresponsible. What does this mean exactly? It would be quite irresponsible to assume that the feelings caused by seduction are uncontrollable and this safeguards us from having to concern ourselves about its effects. Perhaps a fine distinction can be drawn between the kind of sophism practised by Socrates and others who believe the kind of effect exerted by seduction can be regarded as acceptable even to the point of it causing someone’s death. But what does it exactly mean to seduce?

It can be said that seduction is sweet when the argument is bitter. Arguing in what can be defensively called rhetoric, is pitted against the underlying strength of the rival. In an argumentative confrontation, the objective is to win. To be victorious, at least in a triumphalist sense, is to make the adversary recognize that you are right. Without doubt, being right helps a good deal to win the argument but it is not essential. A good rhetorical ploy is to force the opponent to admit that you are in the right even when it is not the case, when he concedes that it is at least possible. Seduction can even make a surreptitious appearance in the admission that you are right so long as a clash of opinions is avoided or an opinion is expressed in a nuanced way. The need to argue is strongly indicative of the fact that perhaps seduction is no longer concerned with achieving effects. It is not that it is impossible to think clearly or be creative in a clash of opinions because unusual ideas can arise from a pressurized environment – but it is not very easy for this to occur. In general terms, it can be said that the purpose of a clash of opinions is to force opponents to change their opinion. There are those who seduce in areas of conflict, and hence argument becomes a matter of style and not a confrontation, as in analytical philosophy.

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