Credo quia absurdum. – Tertulianus
This draft is to hint at a certain paradoxical kind of discourse, such that the efficiency of a persuasion – not infrequently – is due to its absurdity. However, the paradox gets diminished, provided that one considers the following facts.
(i) Some persons who are not engaged in a serious research happen to strive not so much for a gaining truth of as for excitement caused by a surprising message.
(ii) The state of being pleasantly stimulated by a surprise may spontaneously result in the plausibility of the message in question, and thus in trusting it as if it proved true.
(iii) The amount of surprise is relative to the person’s knowledge as possessed in the given moment; the greater is the surprise against this background knowledge, the stronger is the resulting belief in the message.
(iv) The degree of surprise as carried by a statement is inverse to this statement’s probability (relative to the knowledge in question). For instance, a miracle is unusual and surprising in a highest degree because it is most improbable with respect to our knowledge. However, quite a lot of people are being attracted by the wonderful singularity of a miracle, its surprising novelty, that is — in terms of information theory — an enormous amount of of information. They happen to be so much fascinated, that the fascination results in a strong belief.
(v) Note, there is not so that the belief arises in spite of improbability, but so that it comes into being because of improbability. Exactly, according to the maxim credo quia absurdum — I believe for absurdity. One may say so, since the highest degree of belief’s improbability amounts to its being inconsistent, or – in other words – absurd.
The paradox of persuasive power of some absurd contentions challenges both theorists of argumentation and practitioners of rhetoric. Is it possible to make a honest use of this mental bias? In fact, this is obtainable, provided that a speaker manages to combine a high portion of surprise with a critical attitude to the problem in question. This may be achieved with a smart construction of speech. The method should be patterned on the construction of sensational crime story where the suspense is due to the following sequence of events.
At the very start, there happens something very unusual, unexpected with respect to observers’ knowledge, hence having a tiny subjective probability for them. This appeals to person’s curiosity, that is, a desire for impressive informational stimuli; technically speaking, this means the need for an unusual amount of information. As being hardly expected, the event brings a riddle which arouses the desire to find solution. Various
conjectures are considered in the story as being most probable with respect to the state of knowledge of the persons in question. However, the detective involved is one who proposes a least expected solution. Therefore, this again appeals to the observers’ desire for information, but to become convincing the solution has to by supported by a strong evidence. As a result, the solution which subjectively appears as least probable proves to be one the most probable, objectively and subjectively as well.
Such a scenario can be adopted to provide a clever argument, its efficiency being due to such an interplay of improbability and probability. After the objective probability gets finally demonstrated, this makes the argument honest, while the earlier subjective improbability appeals to the desire of something unusual; both features taken jointly should make the argument in question much plausible for its addressees.