Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Common Failing of Both the Utilitarian and Intrinsic Arguments for the Arts

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on................"

Note:  I'm a little - but I hope only a little - off schedule for the next few weeks due to doctors and tests.  Once the medical ecosystem gets ahold of you, it becomes increasingly hard to escape them.  

LOGIC is no match for EMOTION:
We have debated, for decades now, whether we are better off using the utilitarian or the intrinsic value of the arts argument when seeking to expand public funding or public value.  We have embraced the economic argument as a means to convince legislators to fund us in the face of opposition.  What we are really doing is giving them a credible defense to supporting us - "Hey, I vote for arts support because it is good for the local economy and thus my constituents."

The same may be said for the intrinsic argument - the arts are valuable for their own sake as "they enhance the quality of life for the individual and thus the community."

Most, but not all of us, favor using both arguments, or whatever works.

But both the utilitarian and the intrinsic arguments ignore the growing evidence that logic arguments, of which both utilitarian and intrinsic - though a little less for the intrinsic camp - use, aren't the kinds of arguments that are the most persuasive.   Emotional appeals work best, in part, because the content of the argument is often secondary to the emotion it elicits, and often that depends on how the argument is delivered.   Click here for some quotes on why emotion works better than logic in certain kinds of arguments.

Indeed, there is growing evidence that the kind of argument that works best in all situations is almost never a logic argument, but rather an emotional appeal.  Appealing to one's logic and appreciation for data and facts, is never as effective as appealing to one's emotion.  Stories about the value of the arts economically, or the value of the arts for their own sake, if personal and compelling, and if they appeal to our emotions, are far more effective in getting whatever it is we want than trying to convince someone of the rightness of our logic.

The bottom line is that while logical conclusions, based on data or numbers or just common sense, may provide cover for decision makers, emotional arguments that tug at the heartstrings are potentially capable of changing people's attitudes and positions, and converting the nonbelievers into believers.  Logic is often merely a temporary tool and convenient excuse for supporting us.

That is not to suggest we not use either, or both, the utilitarian or intrinsic arguments.  Rather that we ought to couch those arguments in the form of emotional stories that humanize them in ways people can't help but relate to.

I have long personally subscribed to the belief that if you want to win legislators to your side, nothing is as effective as campaign contributions and support, but as we cannot mount the wherewithal to play in that league, we basically depend on arguments.  While logic arguments have worked for us, the question looms as to whether or not we have really capitalized on the emotion potential that can bulwark our arguments.  I think we need to seriously  consider just how truly effective the logic arguments have been, and reexamine the value of purely emotional appeals - at least in the circumscribed context of trying to convince decision makers and the public.  .

Have a great week.

Don't Quit