January 28, 2009

What I learned from Aristotle about snarkiness

I don’t think I have a snarky or sarcastic personality in person.  But it is easy, especially in casual writing, to slip into a snarky mode.  For 2009, I am trying to not be snarky – and that is one of the primary reasons for starting this blog – to express my opinions about things that matter to me.

Apparently, I am not the only one who has disavowed snarky writing.  Like David Denby, I think snarky writing is “ruining our conversation.”


In the Rhetoric, Aristotle famously discussed the bases for argument:  appeals to ethos (authority), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic).  Although one could consider snarkiness as a special form of “pathos”, in my mind (and I think Aristotle’s) snarkiness is not a valid form of argument. 

I’m a passionate guy – passionate about everything!  My writing (I hope) transmits that passion – so there is plenty of pathos here.  And I hope to both sometimes speak as an authority and frequently refer to academic authorities – so there is plenty of ethos here.  And of course, most important is reason, and I trust you will find no shortage of logos here.

But help me keep my resolution – if you find me slipping into snarkiness, call me on it please!


Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

You betcha!

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

You know, after reading the short but pithy and suggestive Denby interview, I've come to the conclusion that only interesting people are capable of writing interesting things. This can't be counterfeited, and that's a large part of the problem (if not the problem) with journalism today. Very thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing that.