Cui Bono – Every Writer has an Ulterior Agenda

What does Cui Bono? Mean?

sculpture of David

The Latin phrase cui bono? can be loosely translated into English idiom as “who’s getting paid?”. The phrase has been central to critical thinking for thousands of years. The first recorded example of it is in one of the court cases of Cicero, a Roman lawyer who lived in the first century BCE, but even Cicero was quoting someone else saying it. Today the phrase remains one of the cornerstones of critical thinking, and it’s becoming increasingly important in our modern money-oriented world.

The idea behind cui bono? is that before we believe anything we are told, we need to know who profits from the idea. It does not matter if what we are being told is true or false, it only matters who profits. Sometimes the answer is obvious: If we are told that the new Pepsi drink has no sugar, this is to persuade us to buy Pepsi, for the profit of the Pepsi company shareholders. If we are told that the local pet shelter has no room left, this is to persuade us to adopt for the benefit of the local pet shelter (and of course the pets themselves). Both of these facts are true (Pepsi Zero Sugar does not contain sugar, and your local pet shelter probably is full) but someone benefits from us hearing those facts, and if we repeat those facts we are benefiting that person as well.

When should we ask Cui Bono?

fake news in spelled out in scrabble tiles over blank tiles

We are used to being suspicious of corporations and charities, but we should also be applying the concept of Cui bono? to other accounts as well. For example, news stories about migration were used in 2016 to encourage people to vote for Donald Trump in the USA and to vote for Brexit in the United Kingdom. If a new academic book is said to represent a “quantum leap in understanding”, this is to encourage us to buy a book (bringing profit to the publishing company and prestige to the author).

Of course, just because someone profits from telling us something does not mean that what they are saying is not important or interesting. Often when people tell us things, it is in their best interest for those things to be reliable, otherwise, we will lose trust in them. For example, if an academic lied about something in a book, and we found out, then no-one would buy their book any-more. It is against the author’s interests to lie, so an academic book is usually reliable. However, the concept of Cui bono? is that we should always ask “who’s getting paid?” and “how does the author benefit?” when we hear something new. We have to remember that someone profits whenever we hear or repeat anything.

If you found this blog post useful and want to learn more of the principles of Critical Thinking, you might enjoy taking the University Preparation Writing Package here at the Academy for Distance Learning. But then, we would say that, wouldn’t we!

LEAVE A REPLY

BLOG CATEGORIES

MOST POPULAR

COP 27 – What it is and why it matters

COP 27 – What it is and why it matters COP 27 [1] stands for “Conference of Parties” with this occasion being the 27th time the event has occurred.  The non-descriptive abbreviation aside, COP 27 is a climate summit organized by the United Nations to be attended by representatives from up to 200 countries around

Read More »

New RHS Course Pricing Options

ADL are proud to offer its students an attractive selection of payment terms and conditions, that will enable individuals to meet their current budgeting requirements for enrolment on the New Syllabus RHS Courses. Our objective is to support individuals in realizing their RHS aspirations through flexible and reasonable payments terms. ADL are here to help

Read More »

Cats, Bats and Spiders: Common Animals Associated with Halloween

Spooky Season has arrived again.  You may have noticed a few Halloween-themed decorations and costume pieces between the Christmas goods in your local store (now that Christmas legally begins in August). But have you stopped to wonder why cats, bats and spiders are common animals associated with Halloween? Once again windows will be filling up

Read More »

Is Your Neighbour a Witch?  These Deadly Plants Might Tell You

Plants mean potions, potions mean magic and magic means witches. How can you tell a witch apart? By the deadly plants in their garden. If you’re following our singular brand of logic back to its root, you’ll understand that you may well be able to spy a potential witch or warlock from the trees, herbs

Read More »

Tips for Writing Horror – Haunted Words at Halloween

For writers, inspiration often comes out of the blue staring them in the face.  At this time of year, that increasingly involves some form of Halloween horror as seeing some plastic knickknack hanging in a store window becomes the inspiration to try one’s hand at horror writing.  That said, writing a proper scary tale is

Read More »

SIGNUP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER

Scroll to Top

REQUEST A CALLBACK

To speak to one of our course advisors, please enter your name and phone number below and click the "Please Call Me" button. We will call you back as soon as possible!

By submitting this form, I provide my consent to ADL to contact me via email or telephone, regarding the course I selected. All information provided is protected in conformity with our Privacy Policy.

CONTACT US

required fields are marked with *

By submitting this form, I provide my consent to ADL to contact me via email or telephone, regarding the course I selected. All information provided is protected in conformity with our Privacy Policy.