THE REASONING POWER OF CROWDS





It cannot absolutely be said that crowds do not reason and are

not to be influenced by reasoning.



However, the arguments they employ and those which are capable of

influencing them are, from a logical point of view, of such an

inferior kind that it is only by way of analogy that they can be

described as reasoning.



The inferior reasoning of crowds is based, just as is reasoning

of a high order, on the association of ideas, but between the

ideas associated by crowds there are only apparent bonds of

analogy or succession. The mode of reasoning of crowds resembles

that of the Esquimaux who, knowing from experience that ice, a

transparent body, melts in the mouth, concludes that glass, also

a transparent body, should also melt in the mouth; or that of the

savage who imagines that by eating the heart of a courageous foe

he acquires his bravery; or of the workman who, having been

exploited by one employer of labour, immediately concludes that

all employers exploit their men.



The characteristics of the reasoning of crowds are the

association of dissimilar things possessing a merely apparent

connection between each other, and the immediate generalisation

of particular cases. It is arguments of this kind that are

always presented to crowds by those who know how to manage them.

They are the only arguments by which crowds are to be influenced.

A chain of logical argumentation is totally incomprehensible to

crowds, and for this reason it is permissible to say that they do

not reason or that they reason falsely and are not to be

influenced by reasoning. Astonishment is felt at times on

reading certain speeches at their weakness, and yet they had an

enormous influence on the crowds which listened to them, but it

is forgotten that they were intended to persuade collectivities

and not to be read by philosophers. An orator in intimate

communication with a crowd can evoke images by which it will be

seduced. If he is successful his object has been attained, and

twenty volumes of harangues--always the outcome of

reflection--are not worth the few phrases which appealed to the

brains it was required to convince.



It would be superfluous to add that the powerlessness of crowds

to reason aright prevents them displaying any trace of the

critical spirit, prevents them, that is, from being capable of

discerning truth from error, or of forming a precise judgment on

any matter. Judgments accepted by crowds are merely judgments

forced upon them and never judgments adopted after discussion.

In regard to this matter the individuals who do not rise above

the level of a crowd are numerous. The ease with which certain

opinions obtain general acceptance results more especially from

the impossibility experienced by the majority of men of forming

an opinion peculiar to themselves and based on reasoning of their

own.





THE MORALITY OF CROWDS. THE SUGGESTIBILITY AND CREDULITY OF CROWDS. facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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