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the old saying....

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Allan Riverwood
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0 posted 06-02-2001 02:19 AM       View Profile for Allan Riverwood   Email Allan Riverwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Allan Riverwood

I've got a question about the human psyche... something I have noticed in conversation with people.
It seems that you can fell nearly any person in a debate simply by quoting an "old saying."
ie - "After all, what goes around comes around."
Now for some reason, these always seem to be excellent ways to argue a point.
But seriously, when you take into consideration that we give these old sayings so much credit, it is truly ridiclulous.  On many occasions I've actually invented "old sayings" just so that I could win arguments.  For some reason they are extremely effective.
So tell me... why does an "old saying" seem to have so much pull with the human mind?
Thanks for your time!
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1 posted 06-03-2001 04:49 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

This one's easy:

1. They succeed because a sustained argument takes more energy to make and to listen to.

2. It's comfortable, you've heard it before, and a misplaced view of authority (this last point fits with your inventions. As everybody knows, wisdom stands the test of time.)

3. They have the singular advantage of sounding profound but not really saying anything and, therefore, can be applied to just about any situation. Your above example applies when something bad happens and when something good happens. Isn't that wonderful?

4.Validation. They are so vague that everybody can agree to them (even if, in any particular situation, the goals and attitudes are quite different). Make a statement general enough and everybody will agree.

-- Love is beautiful.

-- Love hurts.

Who would disagree with either?

5. They work in the same way as cliches (What am I saying? They are cliches.) and sound bites. They also have the feel of a mantra. They can be said over and over again and make you feel better.

6. They reinforce the idea of certainty and the idea that there are answers, answers we can get to.

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2 posted 06-03-2001 04:32 PM       View Profile for Jamie   Email Jamie   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Jamie's Home Page   View IP for Jamie

..and most of the time they are "old sayings" for good

There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar.

Member Rara Avis
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3 posted 06-03-2001 05:54 PM       View Profile for Severn   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Severn

Yeah J - like 'making the world go round' eh? Sigh..still can't believe I fell into it...

They also make a person look good..spitting off a well worn phrase can give the impression of 'wisdom'...(tying into Brad's comment of profundity)...and such wisdom can be intimidating in a debate..


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4 posted 06-04-2001 02:27 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Just a reminder...

Some old sayings are old because they have been tried and found solid in many ways.  Aphorisms can have value and true wisdom... though I don't accept their authority without thinking the issues through because they can be erroneous and like Brad said, they can be misused to dodge the work of giving a thought-out explanation.  But I wouldn't debunk them all.  As my philosophy is that knowledge in many cases can be known and held with certainty, it would stand to reason that such insights can be nicely packaged in a few choice words.  The best approach is to try to find out who said it and why it might be, or might not be valid.

And if you use aphorisms, don't let them substitute your thoughts, let them merely ornament your thoughts.  Use them sparingly.  Your thinking and speaking is like the main dish, while a catchy saying is like the garnish of parsley, for a touch of beauty.

But addressing your observation that these old sayings are often very influential in argument...
I think that too often people are more impressed with the parsley than the meat that's on the plate.  Personally I don't mind a sprig or two if there is a hearty cut of tenderloin.  But if someone passes me a plate with some parsley and nothing else... I'll pass it right back.  Same goes for argumentation.  I don't care what bard you quote if your own thoughts are clouded.


[This message has been edited by Stephanos (edited 06-04-2001).]

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5 posted 06-04-2001 04:32 AM       View Profile for fractal007   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for fractal007


What old sayings have you invented to win arguments?  Also, the What goes around comes around is pretty obvious.  I mean, you don't need to be a philosophy major to understand that if you go to a bar and act like and idiot and call people down, eventually something will come around - namely someone's fist, to make violent contact with your face.

The old sayings having much weight with modern humans probably comes from the confusion experienced by youth.  I mean, if we know that others have trodden the road we're on before, then we can have their wisdom.  I think I'm going to participate more in this discussion soon.  Right now it's late and I fear that I will be caught here, discussing ancient wisdom at 0130 hours.

"If history is to change, let it change. If the world is to be destroyed, so be it. If my fate is to die, I must simply laugh"

-- Magus

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