Evildoers sharpen their tongues like swords and aim like arrows their bitter words, shooting from ambush at the innocent man, suddenly shooting at him without fear. God brings them down by their own tongues … [PSALM 63 (64) (paraphrased)]

Psalm 63

There are two ways in which injustice may be done, either through force or through deceit; and deceit seems to belong to a little fox, force to a lion. Both of them seem most alien to a human being; but deceit deserves a greater hatred. And out of all injustice, nothing deserves punishment more than that of men who, just at the time when they are most betraying trust, act in such a way that they might appear to be good men.





Affirmative Rational Philosophy grants intension a higher priority than effect. Effect, of course, is important, but, in the long run, effect will follow intension. We fool ourselves if we think different. In constructive research and civil communication, intension has a higher priority than effect.

The normal purpose in learning about logical fallacies and other root errors is to be able to avoid them and correct them. Unless we become disillusioned, it is natural to assume that others mean what they say and that we are trying to say what we mean.

Intensional communication is fundamental to friendly conversation and civil discourse.

Sematic Opportunism

Sometimes, however, the opposite comes into play and people use logical fallacies and other root errors as power ploys to manipulate the thinking and behavior of others to achieve a desired effect. For the time being, I shall refer to this technique as ‘Semantic Opportunism’. Semantic Opportunism is a major power ploy used by demagogues.

Semantic opportunism is any manipulation of discourse in which meaning, truth, and reason are treated as if they were subordinate to the effect of words. Semantic opportunists use root errors to manipulate language for the purpose of controlling opinion and behavior of other people. They invert one or more basic requirements of sound rational thinking to get their way and take advantage of circumstance regardless of ethics. Semantic opportunism is word manipulation to achieve an effect. It is an aspect of oppression.

Some word manipulation happens by accident when people jump from thought to thought according to the style of the day without checking the implications of what they say and do. Some is deliberate and designed. Most is somewhere in between. Whether opportunistic language ploys are on purpose or accidental, the effect is the same. In modern terms, we call word manipulation ‘propaganda’, ‘brainwashing’, ‘hypocrisy’, ‘newspeak’ and other derogatory terms. Normal, independent people do not like to be manipulated.

In semantic opportunism, effect is granted a higher priority than intension. Semantic opportunists discount, even negate, the value of meaning and use language as a tool to manipulate the actions and beliefs of other people. In ideologies that place effect first, words are valued primarily for the results they produce. When semantic thought management becomes a guiding force in writing and in speech, the struggle for power takes precedence over the amenities of understanding, right reason and fair play. Insofar as this occurs, civil discourse becomes restricted and our ability to negotiate mutually beneficial solution to problems is inhibited, sometimes even stifled.

Carried to extremes, semantic opportunists reject the notion of meaning. They view the Affirmative Rational emphasis on intension and understanding as a dangerous illusion. Full fledged semantic opportunists contribute considerably to power of extreme Negative Dialectics. This is strange because many writers who reject the value of meaning and clear ideas seem to believe they are the opposite of Negative. They view their contribution as a solution.

Opportunists can be either absolute or subjective. (See Chapters 12. Thought Conceit & 13. Truth Respect) They are often skilled at employing the illusions of language for their own benefit. (See Chapter 14. Language Wisdom) They circumvent affirmative definition requirements and change the meanings of words to suit their agenda. They can make tyranny sound like liberty. (See Chapter 15. Definition Theory)

As semantic opportunists gain power, a strange problem soon develops. Tyrants and other ego-centric people want to be complimented. Where they have control, they will not allow insults to their person. This means that they will not condone anyone calling them what they actually are. Hypocrites do not want to be called hypocrites. Brainwashers do not like to have their brainwashing referred to as brainwashing. When they gain power, autocrats create conditions where they are called the opposite of what they are. The major instrument of propaganda in the old Soviet Union was called "Pravda" which means "truth".

For this and other reasons semantic opportunism pretends to be its opposite. When semantic opportunists become skilled in their deceptions, they are difficult to spot. Little Red Riding Hood fell into the wolf’s clutches and the fly was enticed into the spider’s web by sweet words. These reverse inversions of affirmative requirements create endless complications.

Every century nurtures its own brand of semantic opportunism where effect is given a higher priority than intention. “Meaning” is treated as expendable. What matters is conformity of the many to the will of their leaders. This is the opposite of Affirmative Rational Philosophy where people are persuaded and educated. When we grant to effect a higher priority than intension, an attitude surfaces that is distinctly different from the Affirmative Rational point of view.

Triggering Effect

In another project, plus root theory expands at length on the physiological effects of words on human behavior. It includes detailed discussions about abstraction, image impact, suggestion, connotation, denotation, cybernetics, and emotional reaction to symbols and signs. It gives many examples of conditioned responses to words. In the plus system, this physiological process is called the triggering effect of words.

Most of us have learned some affirmative semantics in school at one point or another. Teachers use other terms but teach basically the same ideas. The plus version uses plus definitions.

Plus root theory emphasizes that the triggering effect, when used as an adjunct to sound rational thinking, is desirable, useful, and good. From a perspective of well formed logical theory, the triggering effect has a definite positive place in literature, rhetoric, and civil communication -- if and when it is used to improve understanding and support right reason.

However, from an affirmative point of view, the triggering effect, can be perverted. When words are used primarily for their effect and when truth & meaning are treated as secondary, trivial or figmental, then language begins to deteriorate and candid communication is damaged. When semantic opportunists elevate the triggering effect to top priority, they drastically change the mood of communication. In the opportunistic mode, people talk at each other rather than with each other.

Insofar as people use the triggering effect of words to manipulate minds of others for personal or political advantage they have an autocratic mentality. Autocrats are almost always semantic opportunists. They feel they are eminently superior to others and that they have a right to manipulate their inferiors. They use the emotional effects of language for their own profit or for their favorite political agenda. Demagogues appear candid, while secretly trying to manipulate a discourse to a political or ideological conclusion. Unfortunately, when demagogues gain power they create conditions where people don’t dare refer to them as demagogues.

Understanding the difference between the triggering effect of a term and the meaning of a term is not hard. If politician J refers to his opponent as a tom-tom beater and a flag-pole sitter, J is obviously using the triggering effect of words to slander the character of his opponent. J does not discuss the issues his opponent has placed on the table or logically defend his own agenda. Instead, J attacks his opponents motivation, his character, his competence. J’s words change what could be an honest discourse into an antagonistic confrontation in which the winner is the one who most effectively slings mud and makes his opponent look dirty.

Root Error

Each specific instance of semantic opportunism is a root error and, when directed at a specific target, is a logical fallacy. When repeated over and over, a root error is an invert theme that encourages totalitarian attitudes. From a plus point of view, semantic opportunism is a major defect and a serious problem. Semantic opportunism erodes esteem for impartial truth, lowers regard for fair play, diminishes feelings of good will, and reduces our ability to engage in civil dialogue.

Affirmative Power

The question is not effectiveness versus non-effectiveness! Persons in the affirmative camp, those who assign top priority to intension, are as anxious as anyone to be effective. The plus root theory, in line with all affirmative philosophy, vigorously promotes effective rhetoric. However, affirmative points of view draw a line between the acceptable and the unacceptable by holding that: it is wrong to use effectiveness as an excuse to deceive, cheat, steal, commit crimes and promote violence. Affirmative thinkers emphatically reject the negative aspects of Machiavelli. Machiavelli went so far as to urge the Prince to kill his enemies if he could avoid getting caught because it is the most effective way to get rid of them. For Machiavelli, the only morality that matters is winning. Machiavelli was a full blown pragmatic opportunists.

Plus root theory maintains that we should place the triggering effect of words in a subordinate role and elevate intension, truth and reason to dominant positions. In the long run this is effective. The more we promote the requirements of sound rational thinking, the more society will be able to resolve problems in a non-violent and just manner and the more we will be able to keep interaction within the realm of civil discourse. If we are interested in advancing our abilities to progress in peace, then promoting intension, truth, and reason over raw effectiveness is the most long term effective policy we can pursue. It works if enough people put their hands to it.

The long term is often beyond the horizon that we humans can see with our limited vision. We need convictions that hold whether we see the results or not. We believe in the long term effectiveness whether we live to see the results or not. This requires faith. [See Faith Essay]

Root Split

Obviously dialecticians who favor opportunistic ideology would dispute the plus evaluation of responsibility. Those who support various versions of negative dialectics will not accept the terms or tenets employed by affirmative philosophy. Those who accept the basic requirements of sound rational thinking do not accept the terms and tenets employed by negative ideologists. A deep root split occurs between people, who give truth & meaning higher priority than effectiveness and those who sanction short term effect as first, foremost, and, in some cases, only.

The split between affirmative intensional discourse and opportunistic language management is a split in kind. These two points of view are virtually irreconcilable. And yet the opposition between the two is sometimes hard to see because negative prone ideologists, as a matter of course, hide under a cover of rhetorical subterfuge. Those who invert affirmative requirements, try to appear as if they mean what they say while they maneuver to get what they want. They can sometimes appear more sincere than the genuinely sincere person.

One of the major objectives of plus root theory is to develop terminology so ordinary people can appreciate the seriousness of the deep root split between affirmative and negative ideology and talk about it. The present rational style that is dominant in our time [2000] is fuzzy in this area. It is hard to tell who is affirmative and who is opportunistic. We not skilled in discussing the problems involved. And yet is one of the very most important issues that we face in a democratic republic.

Affirmative Effectiveness

As mentioned, effectiveness is not the question. Both affirmative thinkers and opportunists desire to be effective. The difference is in priorities. In affirmative ethics, the triggering effect is considered a valuable talent and an indispensable asset. However, in affirmative theory, the triggering effect of words is subordinated to the higher values of honesty, right reason, credible judgment, valid deduction, pursuit of impartial truth and fair play. Affirmative methods promote high intellectual standards and effectiveness. Plus root theory aims to articulate affirmative standards.

Affirmative thinkers, those who favor the requirements of sound rational thinking, traditionally emphasize the importance of being effective. Austin J. App said,

Artistic means a skilled marshaling of means calculated to achieve a maximum of beauty consistent with truth.… True poetry makes hard things seem less hard and good things seem more attractive.

Austin J. App

App’s theme is that creative writing should be both interesting and wholesome.

It is a tenet of plus root theory that: the triggering effect of words should be studied as an adjunct to sound rational thinking, not as a substitute for. The triggering effect is a part, not the whole. The triggering effect is a physical reaction to terms or symbols in which the term or symbol operates as a signal to trigger a response. It is a mental reflex in which learning proceeds through action and response. The triggering effect is a physiological method of training behavior responses. It comprises a sizable proportion of communication conduct.

From a biological point of view, the triggering effect of words can be measured. There will probably come a day in the not too distant future, when scientists will develop techniques to map cybernetic connections in our nervous system that can be used to dramatically modify behavior. To some extent we already do it.

Use and Abuse

As with all scientific discoveries, management of the triggering effect of words can be either constructive or destructive, depending on how it is used. Just as we can use nuclear energy to save our environment or to blow ourselves away, so, too, we can use linguistic skills constructively to improve civil discourse and advance our abilities to progress in peace or destructively to place power in the hands of ego maniacs.

Trigger Power

One need not be a scientist to appraise the power of the triggering effect. Advertisers do it all the time. They insert such and such words in their ads and then calculate the response received in such and such sales. If they use words one way, the sales go up. If they use words another way, the sales go down. The value of the words are related to the amount of product sold. The meaning of what is said is irrelevant to the profit. Politicians do the same. Which words get which votes?

If a person is using words primarily for effect, the meaning is of no count. Opportunistic advertisers care only for profits.

This is not to say that all advertisers go only for effect. The responsible advertiser stays honest and aims to avoid misrepresentation. However, evidence abounds that not all advertisers are that conscientious.

Affirmative philosophers, who places high value on intension, are appalled by opportunistic advertising technique. However, people with opportunistic leanings seem pleased and behave as if they had achieved a coup. These two ways of viewing language are different.

Deep Root Mix

The conflict between affirmative, intensional use of language and invert opportunistic use of language is filled with strange twists and turns. The affirmative thinker who recognizes his or her inherent limitations will be modest and cautious in issuing declarative pronouncements. The opportunist, on the other hand, poses as affirmative and sounds emphatically confident. The opportunists appears to be more sincere than the people who are genuinely sincere. This creates a most difficult situation to analyze.

To complicate the matter, most people don’t even think about this problem. As a result, communication tends to become a mixture in which people in general try to communicate meaning and truth but at times play their words primarily for effect. In the give and take of ordinary conversation, we parry these attitudes against each other and make our lives better or worse as we feel our way through challenges we face. Very few people sit back and examine what is intensional and what is opportunistic in this mixed conflict.

A big problem in the conflict between intensional candid communication and semantic opportunism is that: it is often difficult for those affected to tell which is which. As said, the critically-aware semantic opportunist — to be really effective — poses as if he/she were intensional and candid. At the same time, the person genuinely aiming to be intensional, sometimes has unconscious motives and unintentionally manipulates words for effect without aiming to do so. How do we decide which is which?

To complicate matters, we can never be absolutely certain of the motivation of another person. Sometimes we are unsure of our own. Also, there is a big difference between the meaning we give our words (intension of terms) and our personal objective (motivation, purpose, or intention - with a "t"). In trying to figure out what is intensional and what is manipulative, we swim in a sea of confusion. Often the person condemned as being manipulative, is more innocent than the accuser. This happens in politics on a regular basis.

Added to this, as already emphasized, there is no inherent contradiction between being intensional and being effective. Intensional thinkers care as much about being effective as do militant antagonistic dialecticians. Those who support the values of civil discourse desire to succeed in making improvements. They work hard to present their ideas in an attractive manner. This is what affirmative rhetoric is about.

However, the pro-intensional thinker has limits when it comes to effectiveness and draws the line at achieving results through lies, fallacies, or other deceptive methods of subverting the meaning to the effect. There are points beyond which intensionally committed people will not go.


Obviously, people who tell lies are putting effect over meaning. Political candidates who rely on insult to intimidate voters and defeat their opponent, blatantly elevate effect over intension. Politicians, who mastermind a misrepresention to make an inoffensive opponent look evil, are sham propagandists. Advertisers who devalue core terms of rational discourse for the purpose of selling products are oppressive language manipulators.

This brings us to another strange aspect of the conflict between candid and manipulative attitudes. Most people love integrity and candor and hate conniving propaganda. This is why sham propagandists pose in their presentation as if they were intensional and candid. Often oppressive language manipulators are better at pretending they are sincere than people who seriously aim to be intensional. Con men and hucksters fit in this class. Emerson said, paraphrasing a philosophy he did not like,

The world lives by humbug and so will I.


It is a very strange conflict. Fake it till you make it. It is revealing that this saying was well known in Emerson’s day. Humbugery is not new.

Added to the above difficulties are all the subtilties that go with suggestion, metaphor, connotation, implication, etc. As a result, in any one instance, it is difficult to determine whether words or statements are being used primarily to manipulate behavior or to communicate ideas.


Complexity is inherent in the situation. The real intension behind any language presentation is always questionable to some degree, especially since it is often difficult to separate the meanings we intend in the words we use from the motives that move us to do what we do. Affirmative semantics and definition theory recognizes this inherent difficulty — which is one of the reasons affirmative logicians put a strong emphasis on meaning. Extra emphasis is needed to compensate for all the difficulties.

Deciding in any one instance, whether a statement is designed to be intensional or opportune is tricky business and should be done with care. Tremendous injustice is perpetrated when mistakes are made in this area. People who have been accused of trying to manipulate opinion when they were only trying to be direct and honest, know from experience how bad the accusation feels. People who experience the injustice involved also know the issues at stake are consequential.

However, this is not the place to concentrate on the psychology of individual instances. The issue at stake here is the strong movement in some (not all) aspects of psychology, linguistics, and semantics to litter the intellectual world with theories that tend to justify semantic opportunism. Negligent ideologists, instead of refuting the techniques of oppressive language management, embroider it. Instead of deploring sham propaganda, they encourage it. They seem to agree with Machiavelli, that since everybody is bad, the smart person, like the fox and the lion, manipulates circumstances to favor their own position regardless of ethics.

In semantic opportunism, effect holds a higher priority than intension. Any theories or attitudes that places the triggering effect of symbols and signs over meaning supports semantic opportunism. In radical ideology, meaning is rejected altogether. Radical semantics regards meaning as insignificant, and/or as an illusion, and/or as the source of alienation. Many influential thinkers, with earnest enthusiasm, teach and perpetuate invert semantic theories -- and then wonder why people have trouble communicating.

Everybody uses effective and affective aspects of language. Those who make a concerted effort to put meaning in a primary position over effect are intensionally oriented thinkers. Those who put effect in a primary (or only) position are semantic opportunists.

Most people who promote root errors that lead to oppressive semantic manipulation don’t realize what they do. They launch their invert ideas from a platform they presume to be honest. In their introductory approach, they converse intensionally and disarm the unwary with apparent candor.

Bertrand Russell, whom Will Durant described as "a mystic communist born out of the ashes of a mathematical logician" is a prime example of this method. In much of his writing Russell uses a civil style and homey examples and appears on the surface to mean what he says. At the same time, he sneaks oppressive antagonistic dogma in his comments. He does this so skillfully that the uninitiated don’t notice.

The evidence indicates that Russell even deceived himself. For example, Russell had a horror of bloody conflict and yet threw his talent into supporting Marxist Communism which has produced the most blood spilling tyrannies the world has ever known. How sad! [See The Black Book of Communism]

Many invert language manipulators would rebel at being labeled sham propagandists. They would rather think of themselves as the epitome of realistic honesty. Eric Fromm, who enthusiastically promotes invert ideology, would probably vehemently deny any charges of being an opportunists.

Examples - The Prince

Although examples of semantic opportunism can found from the beginning of recorded history, The Prince is a good place to start. In this work Machiavelli (1469-1527) summed up the tactics of opportunism so well that his name is now synonymous with political expediency and subtle, unscrupulous cunning. Notice how the Prince is advised to use language. Machiavelli says,

A prince must take great care that nothing goes out of his mouth which is not full of the above-named five qualities, and, to see and hear him, he should seem to be all mercy, faith, integrity, humanity, and religion. And nothing is more necessary than to seem to have this last quality, for men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel. Everybody sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose themselves to the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of men, and especially of princes, from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means.

Machiavelli (1469-1527)

Quite obviously the above advise is opprtunistic. What comes out of the mouth should be deliberately guided by the effect of language, not the meaning. Machiavelli does not mince words. He says,

Eg. The Fox and the Lion

A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion … One must be a fox to recognize traps and a lion to frighten wolves . . . He must have a mind disposed to adapt itself according to the wind, and as the variations of fortune dictate, and, as I said before, not deviate from what is good if possible, but be able to do evil if constrained.


The prince is advised to place appearance (physical) over meaning (intellectual). Machiavelli brims with advice on how to operate from this point of view and not get caught. For example, if you have dirty work to do, persuade your close friend to do it. If he succeeds, you reward him so he will be ready for the next piece of chicanery. If he fails (gets caught), you blame the debacle on him and with righteous fanfare have him publically disgraced and, if you can arrange it without looking bad, executed. Dead men tell no tales.

Eg.: Court Good Will

The prince must always court the goodwill of the people. He should personally bestow favors and let others carry out unpopular duties.[8] The prince should act in a way that the general populous perceives him as a person who gives gifts. He must make himself seem indispensable,…

Therefore a wise prince will seek means by which his subjects will always and in every possible condition of things have need of his government, and then they will always be faithful to him.


Next, a prince must arrange his domain so that others are dependent on him. He should secure himself against his enemies, gain friends by force or fraud, make himself beloved and feared by the people, and destroy those who can and may injure him.[B501p57] The prince should do that which is for his own benefit.

Eg. Injuries and Benefits

For injuries should be done all together, so that being less tasted, they will give less offense. Benefits should be granted little by little, so that they may be better enjoyed.


Machiavelli maintains he is writing the real truth for the real world. He explains,

Eg. Good and Bad

… for how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather learn to bring about his own ruin than his preservation. A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good. Therefore it is necessary for a prince who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.


If reading Machiavelli’s advice appalls you, then you are primarily an intensionally oriented affirmative theorist. If instead, you think, -- "Wake up! This is the way it is. This is the rule of the real world. This is what politics is all about. All that matters is who gets caught and how he’s done in." If this second view is the way you believe, then you are primarily an opportunist. You have no problem using language to manipulate people to achieve the desired effect. Your "dialectical system" is different in kind from the "dialectical system" of the intensionalist.

Many people are of the opinion that The Prince was a satire aimed at exposing and condemning the behavior of contemporary Italian politicians -- Cesare Borgia in particular. However, so many autocrats have taken The Prince literally, that the literal version has a life of its own. The following comments here are addressed to the literal interpretation with the recognition that the real Machiavelli is probably a different person than the literary Machiavelli in The Prince.

Which ever way he is read, Machiavelli’s picture of an effective prince is not new. Machiavelli himself insisted his view was not new. He took examples from ancient as well as contemporary times. He was merely outlining his observations of how leaders of monarchies (as opposed to Republics) get and keep power.

Eg. Republics

I will not here speak of republics, having already treated of them fully in another place. I will deal only with monarchies. …


A prominent view of language manipulation can be traced through every phase of recorded history. An excellent case could be made that various types of invert ideologies have played dominate roles in almost all periods of history. In contrast, value intensive language employment, where meaning is given a higher status than the effect, is, historically speaking, in the minority and often persecuted. Anyone who thinks that affirmative logic has been dominant in western tradition has studied history with one eye closed.

In the past, there have been only a few rare and precious moments when intensional thinkers who support affirmative logic come into a dominant position in society. The genuine Enlightenment (see Chapter 15. Definition Theory) saw numerous adherents of affirmative logic who achieved dominant positions and gained enough influence to give a noticeable boost to respect for right reason based on the guidelines of sound rational thinking. Many modern writers, miss this point and mistakenly offer to the public theories they call a new reason, higher logic, transcendental dialectic that is nothing more than a retrograde return to the old Machiavellian way of gaining and maintaining power through fear and opportinism.

What new opportunists have to offer is not new. Cunning intrigue and semantic manipulation is an old theme in the history of despotism. Academic support of semantic opportunism is the last thing we need. Unfortunately, it has become the first thing on the agenda of many activists who aim to revolutionize society. It’s a strange twist in the convolutions of history. Because it switches this way and that, it is hard to name and hard to tame.

Not many writers draw out the consequences of radical opportunism with the brutal frankness of Machiavelli. Most who advocate invert semantic theories write and speak as if they have discovered something new. What is more, they claim they are scientific. For some misguided reason, large numbers of thinkers proclaim that they are scientific when they to pretend to account for the totality of human behavior in terms of reflex reaction to complex stimuli. Deterministic ideologists interpret cause and effect as mere stimulus and response.

Much new semantics discounts intensionalism as an illusion. Many new style ideologists teach that ‘facts’ are physical objects and so called ‘principles’ nothing but sets of stimuli implanted in brain tissue. In this view there is no room for intensionalism. By a process of elimination, the only thing left is opportunism.

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was a determinist similar to the above description although he did not phrase his ideology in those terms. Hobbes did not understand even the rudiments of affirmative logic. For example, his view of propositions applies only to statements in which both subject and predicate are proper nouns (eg. statements such as ‘Mark Twain is Samuel Clemens’).[B21p373]

Hobbes also did not understand the rudiments of mathematics. He was befuddled in figuring how mathematical measurements relate to man’s reasoning processes. To his mind, knowledge begins with fact and fact is recorded in definitions.[R250p10]

Hobbes maintained that objects of knowledge (ideas) are material bodies obeying physical forces. [B48p517] Since Hobbes assumes meaning is an object of knowledge, he reduced meaning to nothing but its effect. He virtually erases acknowledgment of the intensional aspect of language.

Hobbes placed effect over meaning. He held that since the goal (the effect he aimed to achieve) of the commonwealth was the peace and defense of all subjects, and that since whosoever has right to the end has right to the means it follows that the sovereign power should do whatever he judges should be done … both beforehand and for the recovery of the same.

Hobbes presents his argument in an engaging and charming manner. In addition, his handsome looks increased his persuasive powers. However, laid out in plain words, he grants absolute power to the monarch. He bestows to the Prince even more power than Machiavelli. For one, Hobbes mandates that the sovereign should control opinions and doctrines of his subjects. To achieve this end, authorities should examine books and allow only those circulated which, according to the monarchs incontestable judgment, will not disturb the peace. Also the sovereign powers should control who speaks to the multitudes and on what occasions. Hobbes holds,

For the actions of men proceed from their opinions, and in the well governing of opinions consisteth the well governing of men’s actions, in order to their peace and concord.…It belongeth therefore to him that hath the sovereign power to be judge, or constitute all judges, of opinions and doctrines, as a thing necessary to peace, thereby to prevent discord and civil war.

Thomas Hobbes

Whereas Jefferson and most of the framers of the U.S. Constitution, believed in a natural law superior to the will of the magistrate, Hobbes placed the ultimate standard of law in the sovereign person or assemblage. The sovereign may use the strength and means of them all (his subjects) as he shall think expedient. [B48/21] Hobbes makes clear that the sovereign judges what is fit to be done and it is unjust to oppose him or depose him. Hobbes held his ground against all objections. He would not even allow an appeal to the will of God. Hobbes wrote,

… there is no covenant with God but by mediation of somebody that representeth God’s person; which none doth but God’s lieutenant, who hath the sovereignty under God. But this pretense of covenant with God is so evident a lie, even in the pretenders’ own consciences, that it is not only an act of an unjust, but also of a vile and unmanly disposition.

Thomas Hobbes

Hobbes maintains that, because the sovereign is the will of all collected in one person, it is impossible for the sovereign person to be unjust. Whatever he does is just because he does it. It is those who oppose him who are unjust. [B48/525] The sovereign has the right of propriety, that is, the sovereign sets the laws deciding what is good and evil. The sovereign has the right of judication, that is to hear and judge all controversies. He has the right to make war and peace with other nations, and the right to choose his own counselors, ministers, and officers. He has the right to tax, to reward riches, and to punish as he sees fit. He declared that a church must be a national institution subject to the civil authorities. He ridiculed the Church of Rome is taken to task for failing to see this obvious matter.

What is more, all citizens should honor the sovereign.

For in the sovereignty is the fountain of honor. The dignities of lord, earl, duke, and prince are his creatures. As in the presence of the master the servants are equal, and without any honor at all; so are the subjects in the presence of the sovereign. And though they shine some more, some less when they are out of his sight; yet in his presence, they shine no more than the stars in the presence of the sun.

Thomas Hobbes

Hobbes displays two distinct characteristics. The first is his opportunistic view of rationality and language. The second is his dictatorial view of government. He was brilliant in appreciating this connection.

Once theorists launch into an ideology of thought conceit and adopt opportunistic doctrines about language, they inevitably suppress the language of intension (meaning). Suppressing the language of intension, in turn, suppresses the values of civil discourse and interfers with developing the high quality negotiation necessary to advance our abilities to progress in peace. The language of intension is fundamental to freedom of religion, constitutional democratic republics, genuine science, honest business practice, decent political ethics, and moral education.

Hobbes and Machiavelli obviously are extreme examples. However, they represent oppressive ideological views that shape totalitarian political organizations in every era. Recognizing the ideology of oppressive polemics in the political schemes of Machiavelli, Hobbes and their ilk is important in understanding an important aspect of the forces that have shaped Western History.

Strange to say Hobbes and Machiavelli have many admirers in new left ideologies of the last two centuries. Bertrand Russell, in commenting about Hobbes, said,

While in some respects he (Hobbes) belongs to the empiricist tradition, he also has an appreciation of the mathematical method … Being thus aware of the function of deduction in scientific enquiry he had a much sounder grasp of scientific method than Bacon could ever reach.

Bertrand Russell

This is a strange remark in which logic is reduced to nothing but cybrenetics and science is reduced to impersonal opportunism. Russell could be brilliant on one page and inexplicable on the next.

Christian Gauss, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, In his 1952 introduction to The Prince wrote,

If Am. students of political theory have become more favorably disposed toward Machiavelli, is not because they have gone fascist but because they are attempting to go scientific.

Christian Gauss

We will return to this reductive view of science and logic in later chapters. The arguments involved bury the values of affirmative thinking under hills and mountains of misrepresentation and then call it science. This is destructive to the development civil discourse in free societies.


Karl Popper has shown how Plato uses inspired lies to enlist humanitarian sentiments in the cause of totalitarian rule[B136/119] and how Hegel and Marx transformed the Platonic Ideal of a philosopher king into the dialectic of ‘radical socialism’ headed by the enlightened few endowed with absolute control.[Poppers’ Open Society 1 & 2.] It is a royal privilege, Plato declares, to make full use of lies and deceit.

It is the business of the rulers of the city, if it is anybody’s, to tell lies, deceiving both its enemies and its own citizens for the benefit of the city; and no one else must touch this privilege.

Karl Popper

Popper notes that in Plato’s theory,

… collective utility is the ultimate ethical consideration. Totalitarian morality overrules everything, even the definition, the Idea, of the philosopher.

Karl Popper

Popper then brings in the next point, the subjects (those being ruled) must tell the truth. We could call it the sacred Double Standard.

Eg. Sacred Double Standard

If the ruler catchers anyone else in a lie … then he will punish him for introducing a practice which injures and endangers the city.

Karl Popper

In our modern world where totalitarian oppressive language management has gained a strong hold, we could all benefit from a good dose of Popper. He has carefully researched the dialectical theories of Plato, Hegel, and Marx and demonstrated how their theories oppose the Open Society we need for decent democracy to work well. Although, plus root theory does not support all of Popper’s argumentation, it is hard to find another who does a more honest and thorough job of explaining our 20th century dilemma. [See Popper Essay]

During the eighteenth century, in regards to intension and effect there were different strains of thought. Many of the French Philosophers, including Voltaire and Condorcet, adopted elemental that supported semantic oppotunism (effect over meaning).

Personal Note: Several years ago, I read reams of philosophy about the French Enlightenment. I noticed a strong epistemological pattern of what I have defined in this book as subjectivism, thought conceit, oppressive ideology, and imperial language management. I don’t want to delve into the causes of the French Revolution at this point but I encountered enough in my reading to suggest that the strange elemental mistakes of the French Philosophers contributed significantly to the disaster of the French Revolution. They admired Reason but their understanding of ‘reason’—in crucial ways—was different in kind from the understanding of reason that dominated in the North American Colonies before the 1776 American Revolution. This, of course, was not the only difference between the two revolutions. However, I believe a strong case could easily be made that it was a very significant factor.

In England, Hobbes was not the only powerful thinker who advocated theories of oppressive ideology. Most Enlightenment English writers were tainted to some degree with elemental mistakes that, if taken seriously, would place effect over meaning. Many of those who made statements that could be read as oppressive fortunately did not apply their theoretical errors to what they said and did.

In the opposite camp, Addison, Steele, Pope, Watts, Locke, etc., although they often disagreed with each other in policy, agreed in accepting basic requirements of sound rational thinking and come across in their writing as dominantly honest unbiased affirmative thinkers.

At the same time, Hobbes’s epistemology of language curtailment remained strong in English letters. Sir Robert Filmer (1588?-1653?) was well known for his defense of the Divine Right of Kings. He argued that God gave supreme authority to Adam who had complete control over his descendants, even over life and death. The Biblical Patriarchs inherited this absolute power which they exercised over their families and servants and, now, from the patriarchs all kings and governors derive their authority. The king, in exerting his will and making laws, is free from other human control. Much of John Locke’s argumentation is directed against Filmore and is best understood in that light.

David Hume

David Hume (1711-1776) is a curious case. Jefferson admired Hume’s literary gifts but was distressed that Hume choose to use his talent to stack the case against democratic constitutional republics. Jefferson criticized Hume’s works because Hume loaded his logic and bestowed his favors on the Stuart monarchs.

Eg. Jefferson on Hume

Their (the Stuart monarchs) good deeds were displayed, their bad ones disguised or explained away, - - - and a constant vein of fine ridicule was employed to disparage the patriots who opposed their usurpations, and vindicated the freedom and rights of their country.

Thomas Jefferson

John Adam’s felt the same but phrased it a bit more bluntly.

Eg. Adams on Hume

Civilization may advance to all eternity and Hume’s commonwealth will remain a monument of a greater blockhead than he pronounced Mr. Locke to be. If ever there existed a wise fool, a learned idiot, a profound deep-thinking coxcomb, it was David Hume. As much worse than Voltaire and Rousseau as a sober decent libertine is worse than a rake. [C1/HARASZTI/214]

John Adams

Hume fell into several elemental mistakes so glaringly obvious that it is a puzzles why anyone takes his ideology seriously. He began with the assumption that our concepts are nothing but weak images, insisted reasoning can proceed without middle terms, and concluded with his famous declaration, Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions.[31] In his understanding of rationality, David Hume represents the virtual antithesis of idea of reason shared by his intellectual contemporaries in America. It’s not surprising that Jefferson sighed and Adams bristled when they talked about David Hume.

The implications of Hume’s elemental mistakes reach far into the heart of society. By reducing concepts to nothing but weak images, Hume surgically removes meaning from intellectual consideration and, by default, if nothing else, places effectiveness as the highest priority in communication. Hume intuited the implications in his own philosophy and, consequently, he opposed democracy. He appreciated that democracy devoid of deep respect for meaning, truth, and right reason reduces society to a government run by the least common denominator.

Most normal, commonsense reasoners, like Thomas Jefferson, learned how to sort Hume’s virtues from his vices. However, Jefferson worried about the impact Hume might have on the young. Jefferson strongly recommended that Hume’s History of England be withheld from students at the University of Virginia until after they were well acquainted with other versions of history more favorable to democratic republics.[ 30/pp16-20] Jefferson put considerable effort in this project because he felt it was very important.

Kant & Others

Jefferson was right to worry. Hume did have influence. For one, Hume had a profound effect on Immanual Kant (1724-1804). Kant tried to correct what he perceived to be Hume’s mistakes but Kant made a new set of mistakes even more serious and more far reaching. Kant aimed to preserve the values of common sense, but his elemental mistakes were so serious that his epistemology had the opposite effect.

One of the major and most devastating mistakes Kant introduced into the academic world, was unnecessary complexity. Kant constructed a relationship between logic, philosophy, and society of such convolution that ordinary people were ruled out of participation in philosophical discussion. Insofar as Kant enters the academy, philosophy is removed from common discourse and reserved for the elite.

To complicate matters, even the experts, who believe they understand Kant, cannot talk with each other about important elemental questions because they disagree radically on the interpretation of Kant’s divisions and categories. Many of the divergent interpreters of Kant hate each other with an intensity that would be funny if the consequences weren’t so serious. This hatred usually includes Hegel who went one beyond Kant in complexity. Schopenhauer who love Kant hated Hegel with bitter intensity. Hegel, in turn, despised virtually everybody. Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Hegel, and Marx left a legacy of contempt and nausea in Europe that had devastating consequences.

Opportunism, in which effect is granted more clout than meaning, lends itself to an elitist interpretation of society, much as Plato advocated, where the enlightened (the Philosopher King) have dictatorial privileges as guardians of the body politic. Many negative prone ideologists passionately believe that it is the business of the enlightened guardians to manage and control the unenlightened masses. They worry that, without the authority of enlightened superiors, the unenlightened will destroy themselves and everyone else. Elitism follows close behind where ever Kant’s thinking gains momentum. Hegel, who carried on from Kant and established the dialectic used by Karl Marx, noticed this same point. Hegel remarked,

It is only when we come to Kant that we find philosophy becoming so technical & abstruse that it could no longer be considered to belong to the general education of a cultured man.


Hegel did not consider this a fault. Instead, he considered it a virtue and made philosophy even more abstruse.

Kant failed to understand genuine science because, in reasoning he followed Hume in flattening out the middle term and carried on from others who subsumed the minor premise in the major. (See Part C).

Also, Kant was confused about appearance and essence and projected theories that set the imagination as the criterion of ideas. Just as in Hume, the image construct in the imagination was of higher value than the meaning in the intellect. This places image impact or triggering effect over intension. When carried into practice, this theory has enormous implications for logic and politics.

Kant set the stage for Hegel, Schopenhaurer, Marx, Sorel and their followers. It is no accident that Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler were avid students of Machiavelli’s The Prince. Hume and Kant, of course, did not intend this result but they gathered and laid the tinder that burst into flame from other sparks.

Kant was a nice man trying to solve a knotty problem. He figured out a complex solution and wrote it down, which he had a perfect right to do. Problems developed from the uncritical way in which his ideas were collected and used to discredit earnest and honest logic instructors in the schools trying to teach a difficult subject of affirmative logic to sleepy students. Perhaps John Dewey became a Hegelian as a young man because Hegel gave Dewey ammunition to destroy a logic professor Dewey despised. Those who were on Dewey’s enemy list were treated very shabbily by Dewey and his followers.

Motivation & Meaning

Language of intension is not the same as motivation. There is a clear distinction between meaning and motivation. The term ‘intension’ (with an ‘s’) conventionally applies to the meanings of the terms we use. The term ‘intention’ (with a ‘t’) conventionally applies to our purpose or objective or goal.

Personal Note: Even though they are not the same, there is an interesting connection between ‘intension’ and ‘intention’. For example, I spent several months working on how, in my own mind, I wanted to define the term ‘progress-in-peace’. The more I worked on the meaning of the term, the more attractive the idea I defined as ‘progress-in-peace’ became in my own system of values. Also, as I defined the term, I began to see progress-in-peace as a real possibility. Plausibility added to its attractiveness. Whereas it started as a nice idea in my mind, now promoting progress-in-peace is a passionately pursued goal. I’m spending my valuable time writing this book because I am serious about the possibilities of real improvement. In my way of living, I went from the definition of a term to a serious purpose.

In discussing intension there is obviously more to meaning than the definition of a term. However, respect for meaning begins with respect for definitions

Although the meaning of a term, the meaning of a proposition, the meaning of an agenda, and motivation have significant differences, they also share implications. The problem of meaning is implicitly bound with problems of definition and with the implications that flow from definitions. Our goals and the way we conduct our life are inexorably bound with our semantic believes.