Intentional Naivete as Rhetorical Technique

That’s my hypothesis … because the alternative is uncharitable. Words have meaning. Words have cultural context. How, in this day and age, can anyone forget that? Some examples of people who probably didn’t forget, but pretend to?

Regarding the Columbia speech Mr Kuznicki things:

The one consolation I have in all of this is really very simple: Sooner or later real, live, thinking Iranians will see this speech. And they will howl with derision.

This is naive in so many ways. First of all, that “real live thinking Iranians” will see this speech unedited. Immediately after this remark, Mr Kuznicki notes the lengths to which Iranian authorities go to shut down the exchanges which would enable them to see the speech. Secondly, that they will necessarily “howl with laughter.” For it’s just as likely that they will feel a certain amount of outrage instead. After all, as has been pointed out, Mr Bollinger did not give him a very charitable or kind introduction, instead something more of a roasting without the rim-shot and laugh-track. Hospitality is thought a virtue in the Middle East and very little was shown the Iranian President. I’d agree, completely, that Mr Ahmadinejad should not have been given the forum which he was presented by Columbia. But to think the reaction will be akin to the one here is very naive.

Somewhat similarly, in this post at Obsidian Wings, it seems to my reading that the author really makes only a pretense of trying to understand the cultural aspect, honor and honor killing, being examined. Continued exclamations like

“I don’t mean, here, to be simply failing to understand that cultures can vary, and that the conception of honor found in one might differ from that found in another.”


“Second, again assuming that the term ‘honor’ is not a simple mistranslation:”

Seem to be offered only as a token offering in lieu of a real attempt to understand. Instead we are left with, “do they mean this?” and “how does this fit?” and ends with just a gap, that is, no understanding reached or offered with an implication that it should therefore make no sense to anyone. One however must take the statement that such acts (murder) for a given motive (honor) are given in good faith, that is the speaker is not hypocricial or lying.

Over at Evangelical Outpost, Joe Carter was taken to task in this post by (at least one) left-leaning secular commenter to deride the study of world-view writing:

You lump five completely different, actual bodies of knowledge into the same category, while implying that there are many “other programs that are ‘worldview’ studies by other names”. That same label was also widely used during the last election as if it was synonymous with either, simply, “religion” or, expansively, “everything my candidate believes that makes me feel superior”. So in fact there’s nothing that is “worldview”, definitively – it’s made of of many, or possibly all, other subjects, apparently without discrimination. “Worldview” then becomes synonymous with “anything at all that I think is worth caring about”.

Actually, the first real time I read about “world-view” was in a historical book, The New Testament and the People of God, by N.T. Wright. Say what you will about the book or its topic (after reading it), but the claim that this is not serious scholarship is not one that can be sustained. In the first long third of the book, Bp. Wright examines and defines worldview and how it helps one perform history (and one would expect anthropology). This is a method he uses as a historian to understand how events and speech would likely have interpreted by people long ago or with a large cultural gap between them and us.

It is this sort of scholarship and serious work that was not entertained by the author at Obsidian Wings, alas.

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