The Ophthalmological Criterion

The Ophthalmological Criterion


Richard E. Vatz, Ph.D.


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In my classes for years I have (I believe invented and) talked about a concept that the nation would do well to enter into the general public lexicon: The Ophthalmological Criterion.

When an ophthalmologist or optometrist (I could have called it The Optometrist Criterion,” but that is unwieldy, and I know of no adjectival form that would make it less so) tries to improve a patient’s visual acuity for new lenses or glasses, he or she flips many lenses and asks each time, “Little better or little worse?”

I use this concept metaphorically to argue against criticism of policy recommendations that states, “There are problems with your recommendations,” a criticism which is always available but should never alone be dispositive.

Many recommendations, for example, pursuant to the mass murder in Florida, even President Trump’s eminently reasonable suggestion of eliminating the sale of bump stocks, elicit cries of “Too little too late,” an illogical opposition to anything the president or any conservative would recommend.

All policy recommendations should be analyzed through the rhetorical prism of The Ophthalmological Criterion. Does the improvement under consideration make things a little better or a little worse?

In current presidential policy analysis it would make for better criticism than “Did President Trump make that recommendation?  O.K.; it must be an unacceptable idea.”



Professor Vatz is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model  (McGraw-Hill, 2017) and the co-editor of Thomas S. Szasz: the Man and His Ideas (Transaction Publishers, 2017).



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