Avoid Loaded Language and Imam Ghazzali

>> Thursday, October 1, 2009

Eloquence is one of the attributes that a believer should have. How one gains the ability to articulate his ideas is by listening to others. My expository writing professor taught me to be a good writer you must be a good reader; you must read more than you write.
Today the Muslims (and people in general) love to argue and hate to listen or learn. Imam Ghazzali once advised that if you do not know the other person's point of view better than they do then you should not argue with him. And if you cannot understand why a person just as pious just as religious just as honest as you will take the opposite point of view as you then you do not know that person's point of view (meaning don't argue with him). Otherwise your argument will only be an attack on the other side. It will only be "loaded language".
Why did Imam Ghazzali take this position and advised us to adopt this? I turn to Anthony Weston's A Rulebook for Arguments to answer this question.

P.S. Before reading the answer I would like to recommend Weston's book to anyone who is an Islamic scholar, political scientist, journalist or anyone who writes. It is not a Islamic book but the material found in the book can also be found in the Nasihat or advices given to us by our scholars; the advices seem to be universal and subhanullah our religious scholars recognized them. Unfortunately the Muslims have not recognized them but the non-Muslims have.

In the words of Anthony Weston

Avoid loaded Language
Do not make your argument look good by caricaturing the opposing side. Generally people advocate a position for serious and sincere reasons. Try to figure out their view, even if you think they are dead wrong. A person who opposes the use of a new technology is not necessarily in favor of "going back to the caves," for example, and a person who advocates reduced military spending is not necessarily in favor of "giving in to aggression." If you can't imagine how anyone could hold the view you are attacking, you just don't understand it yet.
In general, avoid language whose only function is to sway the emotions of your readers or hearers, either for or against the view you are discussing. This is "loaded" language.
Electoral sabotage played an important role in the secret war in Brazil. The CIA invested some $20 million to finance conservatives in the ... Brazilian election. The money was used to buy candidates in eight of eleven gubernatorial elections ...*
Here the summary term "war" is itself loaded: military involvement is not alleged. "Sabotage" and "buy" are also inappropriate. An election might be truly "sabotaged" if ballot boxes throughout the country were stuffed, and an official might be "bought" if he or she were paid to vote as directed. In this excerpt, however, the CIA is accused only of giving money to conservative candidates in the election. It is not clear that anyone is "bought" merely by covert campaign contributions —especially if he or she is already committed to the point of view the CIA favors. Thus the opening sentence should read:
The CIA tried to influence the Brazilian election by giving money to conservative candidates.
The neutralized statement does not excuse the CIA's involvement. On the contrary, it now should be taken all the more seriously. Loaded language preaches only to the converted, but careful presentation of the facts can itself convert.


Anonymous October 1, 2009 at 12:28 PM  

Very relevant article. JazakAllah Khair!