Rebirth of Reason

War for Men's Minds

Persuasion II
by Ciro D'Agostino

The persuasion of others is used sometimes to achieve self-assurance.

Persuasion has been considered so far as a resistance to someone’s ideas. The resistance expressed the need to assert oneself and not to be swallowed up into the thought of someone. It is impossible however, not to be persuaded at all, because we all are intellectually existent, and we all have a particular individual existence. The needs for individual existence, or self-assertion, are important and indispensable for healthy self-esteem.

Many philosophers, writers, and their kind may be hard to persuade, because their persuasive energy is most of the time directed toward their own suppressed self-doubt.

Virginia Woolf, as is well known, experienced periods of acute madness, and the fear of madness shadowed her all her life, and eventually prompted her suicide. She was always concerned that her novels might appear to be a little mad, or even worse, completely insane. One biographer writes that in her diary, Virginia Woolf wrote, "Supposed one woke and found oneself a fraud? It was part of my madness, that horror." He also tells us, "For her, therefore, a favorable notice was more valuable than mere praise; it was a kind of certificate of sanity."

Descartes’ self-assured philosophizing was a response to his lack of self-assurance, which never disappeared in his lifetime.

Hegel once wrote, "The individual needs public acceptance to prove the truth of what is as yet his solitary concern; he needs to see how the conviction that is as yet particular becomes general.”

Husserl was known to withdraw manuscripts from publication, because of a feeling of inadequacy to his task. He also suffered immensely when a close student could not agree with him.

Bertrand Russell himself, as he described, was tempted to commit suicide, and suffered a profound fear of inherited insanity. A close friend of his wrote that Russell had a strong and a profound need for reassurance that became more urgent and almost painful after his marriage failed, and after Human Knowledge, in which he had invested so much hope, was published.

Sometimes, the desire to persuade is not formed by the desire for distant communion, or for the pleasure of intellectual victory, or self-persuasion; it is often formed by images of authority figures, like a teacher or parent. It may also be formed with the person we fall in love with, or by an intense search for happiness.
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