Friday, 6 December 2013

To Persuade, To Convince

I’ve been thinking about whether there is a distinction without a difference between‘convince’ and ‘persuade’. We read in the Acts: “ And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks”. I think that underlines what I am inclined to call the allogenic aspect of persuasion as against the autogenic force of conviction. In the philosophical mind rhetoric has captured the notion of persuasion and the link to covert influence as in ‘the hidden persuaders’ is well established. If we resist this leading however, appeal to rational grounds is an element of persuasion. Conviction comes when a position seems to conform to an inner sense of truth. We feel the force of it and as Coleridge said: “Deep Thinking is Deep Feeling.” Conviction follows in an autogenic manner. We are convinced.

Can persons within the Christian tradition be persuaded by the natural proofs for the existence of God? Certainly, all the elements of Rhetoric are in play. Outsiders have only the appeal to reason to respond to and that may be insufficient. ‘Converging and convincing arguments’ as the Catechism calls them fall short for many. They are not convinced.

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