Daily Archives: October 7, 2022

Ratiocinatio

Ratiocinatio (ra’-ti-o-cin-a’-ti-o): Reasoning (typically with oneself) by asking questions. Sometimes equivalent to anthypophora. More specifically, ratiocinatio can mean making statements, then asking the reason (ratio) for such an affirmation, then answering oneself. In this latter sense ratiocinatiois closely related to aetiologia. [As a questioning strategy, it is also related to erotima {the general term for a rhetorical question}.]


What is the BIG QUESTION that everybody wants the answer to, that will enable them to obtain whatever answers to the BIG QUESTION that they need to find whatever the answer answers? If you don’t know the BIG QUESTION, you’ll never find the answer. How can you find an answer without the question it answers? You don’t even know if it is an answer—maybe it’s a question that is improperly punctuated, with the question mark missing. This possibility opens a strategy for mining declarative sentences, by making them into questions. You read: “He huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down.” By reframing this statement into a question, you can start to give answers that may yield an abundance of answers, ranging from the full lung capacity and blow power of a wolf, to the place of ‘the threat’ in children’s stories and in life in general. Going down this path, you remember the numerous times you’ve been threatened, and the threats’ consequences. As you go further, you may speculate on the relative efficacy of fear vs. objective ratiocination as an inducement to cooperate, or as a simple act of cruelty as a precursor to a gruesome death as in the case of the Big Bad Wolf’s quest to whack the pigs.

Is there a single BIG QUESTION, or are there multiple BIG QUESTIONS? But again, is there a BIGGEST QUESTION? Some people jokingly refer to the question: “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” They say “A woodchuck can’t chuck wood, so shut up loser.” Well, maybe that’s the case with woodchucks, but what about hands? What about this question: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Like the wood chuck’s in inability to chuck, one hand can’t clap. Only an idiot would try to answer this question, right? But people have been trying to answer this question forever, sitting in an orange robe on a stone floor somewhere in Japan or California. And what about the woodchuck? If we pay close attention to the question, it hinges on the hypothetical “if he could” which deflects speculation away from the woodchuck’s literal anatomy to his character attributes. How would he fare against a beaver or a muskrat? What do we learn about the woodchuck, and life in general, by understanding the woodchuck question as providing a launchpad for philosophical debate and discussion? The same is the case for “one hand clapping.” It can be rejected as complete nonsense, or used as a platform for performing deeper speculation and personal growth by torturing yourself in a monastery, and most likely, cheating by making up a noise and claiming you heard it when you were clapping with one hand. The head monk will laugh at your duplicity and have you thrown out of a second story window. Given your now broken wrist, you can clap with one hand by slapping your forearm with your dangling hand. But that’s not good enough for the head monk. You yell “Fuck this place,” And the Head Monk nods his head. You got it!

So what BIG QUESTION have you answered, or attempted to answer, in your life? Like Foreigner, “I want to know what love is.” I’ve read 100s of books on the topic. Lots of women have professed their love for me. My answer to the love question has run the gamut from vicious, jealous, possessiveness, to not caring as the best way of caring. Now, I am at a place in my latter time, in the twilight of life, aged, full of history, conscious of the brevity of 80 years. Ironically, for me love is anticipation; of always looking forward to spending time with my wife and daughter. As I speculate on the inevitability of death, I know the wonder of life, and being alive, I am joyous.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu). Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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