Imitation – Paragon – Model

1. Paragons

When it comes to political thinking, some events act as paragons: Munich and the diplomatic defeat of democracies facing Nazi expansionism, the genocide of Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals, are all great analogues that function as an anti-model for all current conflicts. For the United States before the Iraq war, Vietnam was the great analogue called to the rescue when it came to opposing military intervention abroad. Paragons serve as “models” for understanding the new events; they work on the principle of precedent, S. Analogy (II); Precedent; Example.

The paragon, person or event, creates a class by analogy, S. Categorization; Analogy (I).

A “great analogue” can stage characters that are a source of antonomasia. The antonomasia is the figure of speech by which a member of a category is designated by the name of the paragon of this category: a Daladier or a Chamberlain is a politician who capitulates to a dictator instead of fighting him. This references the behavior of the European politicians Edouard Daladier and Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938, as they dealt with Hitler.

Anti-models like Chamberlain or Daladier represent everything one should not do (Perelman, Olbrechts-Tyteca [1958], p. 362).

Anti-models typify negative authority; the “Model of the Anti-Models” is Hitler, S. Authority §6: Refutative uses of authority.

2. Model

The model is the single most valued member of a hierarchical category.

— It functions as the root of the class, generating the other members of the class.
— It is the most representative element of the category.
— As such, it is the criterion for the evaluation of the other class members and for integrating new individuals into the category.
— It is considered to be the ideal form, towards which all members of the class tend.

The argument by the model supports the conclusions of the type “this is (not) a good (real, true) X” by comparing the item to evaluate and reference.

In classical culture, the doctrine of imitation is based on the authority of a model. Literary genres are defined by the relationship of their members to a founding model, a founding “father”: Thucydides for history; Aesop and La Fontaine for fables; Aristotle and Cicero for argumentation, etc.

3. Setting an example

When chosen as a model by an individual, the model is not necessarily conscious to be a model, and the situation is not clearly argumentative, S. Example

To get an individual to do something, one can proceed argumentatively, that is to say, expose discursively, every reason to do so, and particularly argue by the model, giving as an example important people, either real or fictional, who have committed the same deed. This “argument from exemplarity” can be seen as variant of the verbal argument of authority, a metonymic exemplum.

In addition, one might set an example in order to demonstrate to the other what is wanted. One might stop smoking for example, to encourage a friend to stop smoking. Metaphorically speaking, this is an “argument by example”, as one speaks of an “argument by strength” (appeal to force) when one tries to open a recalcitrant can with a screwdriver.

The example strategy can be applied to all forms of behavior we wish to change; how to eat properly, talk properly, lead a dignified life worthy of reward in the afterlife. During this process, there may be some kind of persuasion, that is transformation of belief correlated with the transformation of behavior, but not all persuasion comes from argument, S. ‘You too’.

Setting an example, the person hopes to set in motion alignment mechanisms. The argument by the example given, plays on non-verbal mechanisms of social imitation, ripple effect, identification, empathy, charisma. Seduction and repulsion are forces distinct from argumentation that push individuals to align or to distance themselves from another person.

The ethotic argument combines with the argumentation by example, thereby pushing the audience to fully identify with the orator as a model, committing themselves to full belief in what he or she says and doing what he or she does, S. Ethos; Consensus; Ad populum.