The success of any written material is dependent on the ability of its author to successfully convey information to the reader. Therefore, the reader’s ability to interpret the elements of a given text provides the metric by which efficiency of the text is adjudged. Rhetorical devices provide mediums through which information can be succinctly disseminated to the reader. Principally, these are words which are structured to inspire the curiosity of the reader, convey meaning and conjure emotion. Rhetoric is mainly inclined towards addressing three major elements. These include context, audience and the writer. There are several rhetorical strategies that can be employed by the author to achieve his desired end. Some of these include analogy, antithesis, allusion and alliteration among many others. The texts “The Dragon in My Garage” by Carl Sagan and “How Thinking goes Wrong” by Michael Shermer provide a reflection of the essence of rhetorical strategies. This paper argues that Sagan’s rhetorical strategies are more effective than those projected by Shermer’s analysis.
Comparison of Rhetorical Devices in the Texts
The authors share several rhetorical devices which are inclined towards the reinforcement of their themes. To begin with, syllogism provides an essential textual element in both “The Dragon in My Garage” and “How Thinking Goes Wrong”. Syllogism refers to the deduction that is made by the author through the employ of an intelligent argument. In exploring the subject of thinking in man and the influences of reason in the judgement process, Sagan uses deductive inferences to explain deceptive thinking. He posits “what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?” (54) The syllogism serves to communicate that the lack of sentiments to counter one’s thinking does not necessarily reflect on the validity of the thoughts. Equally, Shermer contends that “the equipment used in an experiment often determines the results”. This deductive reason in assessing the thinking process serves to convey the factors that may influence one’s thoughts. Principally, syllogism seeks to stress on the context in which the audience uses the given element under examination. Thus, the authors are committed to the employ of relatable contexts in conveying the message to the audience.
Sagan makes efficient use of anecdote in conveying the factors that may impede one’s thought processes to the audience. Comparatively, his effort is more efficient in communicating the context of thinking to the audience than is the same for Shermer. Anecdote can be defined as a brief narrative that is told by a character in a novel. Sagan gives his characters the ability to influence his narrative. For instance, he establishes that “you propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints” (Sagan 54). This anecdote reinforces the influences of counter-arguments on the validity of a given story. The reservations expressed by the “you” character serves to reinforce the idea that is proposed by “I” in the story. Comparatively, Shermer’s negation of anecdote fails to fully project the context of his arguments. He indicates that “without corroborative evidence from other sources, or physical proof of some sort, ten anecdotes are no better than one, and a hundred anecdotes are no better than ten “ (Shermer). Thus, principally, he does not appreciate the influences of anecdotes on the thinking process. Anecdotes are intended to ease the process with which the audience understands the context of the story.
The science behind thinking provides one of the major concerns that is reflected on by the authors. The prevalence of aphorism in both analogies provides an immense influence on the effectiveness of the information dissemination process. Aphorism as a rhetorical device refers to statement that stresses on a common belief that is held by a given people in the society. Sagan’s use of aphorism provides the most efficient initiative compared to Shermer’s employ of the subject rhetorical device. In exploring the essence of science in the thinking initiatives, Sagan infers that “claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder” (53). Principally, the statement alludes to the empirical process that is often engaged by scientists to verify the plausibility of a hypothesis. Sagan’s allusion to the scientific metric inspires the curiosity of the audience and further projects the contradictory contexts in thinking. Alternatively, Shermer’s use of aphorism fails to fully establish a correlation between the subject matter under examination and the audience. They are subjective and not reflective of the commonly held beliefs in the community. For instance, in reinforcing the influences of theory on observations, Shermer employs Heisenberg’s aphorism to define the factors that impedes scientific thinking. He contends that “what we observe is not nature itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning” (Shermer). Context demands that the author gives their perspective on the given subject and further uses communal
Lastly, coincidence provides a significant element of the analyses that were undertaken by the author. In exploring the subject of coincidence in thinking, Sagan projects increased efficiency vis-à-vis Shermer. To reinforce the validity of their premises, both authors make use of allusion as the rhetorical device. Allusion can be referred to as a figure of speech that makes reference to a given object, a historical fact, a literal figure and even an event that occurred in the past. Principally, Sagan predicates his arguments on the coincidence of the theories that are forwarded to explain the existence of a given element. For instance, he alludes to the dragon in explaining the coincidences that may be used as parameters of a given thought process. He posits “some dragon-size footprints in the flour are now reported. But they’re never made when a skeptic is looking. An alternative explanation presents itself. On close examination, it seems clear that the footprints could have been faked” (Sagan 54). Alternatively, in determining the influences of coincidences in thinking initiatives, Shermer indicates that “A gambler will win six in a row and then think he is either “on a hot streak” or “due to lose.” Two people in a room of thirty people discover that they have the same birthday and conclude that something mysterious is at work.” (Shermer).
Rhetorical devices provide mediums through which authors can convey their messages to the diverse audiences. The texts “How Thinking Goes Wrong” and “The Dragon In My Garage” provide succinct reflections of the essence of rhetoric devices in the textual development process. Some of the themes that were reflected on in the two analyses through the employ of rhetorical devices include coincidences in thinking, science behind thinking and factors that may impede the thought process. Some of the rhetorical devices used in the two analyses comprise allusion, aphorism and anecdotes.
Sagan, Carl. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Ballantine: New York, 1996.
Shermer, Michael. “How Thinking Goes Wrong: Twenty-five Fallacies That Lead us Believe Weird Things”. Positive Atheism, 1997, http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/sherm3.htm Accessed Spetember, 2017.