Ethics of debate and arguments (2)


I treated -in article Last week – the debate site from the classification of sciences in Islamic heritage, and explained that controversy and pilgrims are a general title that includes arts of jurisprudential debate; It reveals different types of rationality, and I deferred the discussion of the ethical ills of argumentative rationalism to this article, which revolves around a holistic conceptual framework that I propose here, which is the distinction between debate as an art and debate as a science, which puts us in front of two types of argumentative rationality; Formal rationality (focuses on the formula), and purposive rationality (focuses on value and purpose, and aims to convince oneself first before convincing others), and I will explain this through the use of the thought of Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 505 AH) with the gathering of its limbs and rebuilding it in a theoretical framework.

Despite the criticism directed by Al-Ghazali to the science of debate, his goal was to reform it, not to cancel it or vilify it. In my opinion, this perception includes 3 levels, as follows:

  1. The first: setting the objectives of the debate; In that it is a teleology that combines the cognitive and the moral of seeking the truth, whether it is on his tongue or on the tongue of others, and I do not say here his opponent; Because getting out of the horizon of rivalry is an important condition in controlling the purpose of the debate as well.
  2. The second: diagnosing the moral afflictions that led to the debate.
  3. The third: Setting criteria for discussion that combines cognitive and ethical, achieves the final condition and denies the attempts of misrepresentation and illusion that some debaters usually adopt. To justify their actions and cover their fortunes.

This perception of debate falls within a critical revivalist conception – relative to the concept of “Revival of Religious Sciences” – broader, in which Al-Ghazali criticized a number of concepts – such as the concepts of jurisprudence and science -, and presented some perceptions related to the classification of sciences, clarifying their ranks, and building their contents on the basis of distinguishing between means and ends. And that the purpose of the sciences is to draw near to God Almighty or to be a driver to an end, which is that it “connects the servant to his master or aids in the causes of behavior” in the expression of Tashkubri Zadeh, who benefited from Al-Ghazali in rebuilding the classification of Islamic sciences and knowledge.

And I can express the criticism that Al-Ghazali presented to the debate in the problem of the relationship between the formula or the form – just the act – and the value – the act related to a goal -, and then Al-Ghazali settled – for example – the issue of seeking knowledge, and that one should not spend his life in one science on the investigation – In other words, he rejects the idea of ​​being satisfied with “exact specialization” according to the standards of today’s universities; Because life is short and all sciences are means to something else, and the encyclopedic Ghazali, who contributed to every science with ample luck, did not need to remind us that it is the advice of an experimenter who has gone through time in controversies, but nevertheless he did; Confirmation and his words to be more signed. In what follows, I will detail the previous three levels, in order.

The first level: the purpose of the debate

The first level is based on controlling the purpose of the debate (or its purposes). Al-Ghazali presented here, inter alia, as follows:

  • The first: that the purpose of the debate is to seek the truth first and foremost, whether it appears on his tongue or on the tongue of others, and then he will scrutinize the setting of criteria – or conditions in his expression – to distinguish between what aims to seek the truth and what aims at desires and psychological afflictions, as I will explain later.
  • The second: Al-Ghazali added two new types of debate in his books, namely, the debate with the soul and the debate with Satan. Especially since these jurisprudential debates do not bring about a change in positions; Because it is issued by imitators, not diligent, who seek the truth and turn around with it wherever it turns.

The imitator will not be accustomed to debate with the difference; because he revolves with him the doctrine; In defense, arguments, and his shortcomings, he should stop at the limits of the two sayings or the two aspects of the doctrine, which was not preoccupied with by the debaters of his time, at least. And the introduction of these two colors – I mean the debate with the soul and the devil – confirms the idea of ​​the finality of the debate by clearing it to seek the truth and adjusting the subject of the science of debate, and reformulating priorities to start from within first; Because the soul and the devil are a source of moral afflictions in the Islamic conception in general and in the Sufi conception in particular. In the debate of the soul, the analogy goes beyond the “official speech” in which the person turns away from listening or listens, but with the outward appearance of the heart.

As for debating the soul, it emanates from the one who listens with discernment and iron sight, and it is the product of the thinking of one who has a strong heart and listens while he is a witness, and it requires clarity of mind, and the best of this is in solitude. Debating the soul – according to Al-Ghazali – is more important than debating “Hanafi, Shafa’i, Mu’tazila and others”; For two reasons:

  • The first of them: that the fault of these people or the fault of others does not harm the debate, nor do they accept from it, nor does it accept from them what is correct. Because every one of them has been shielded by his doctrine.
  • Second: Debating oneself is the first enemy of man. Because he helps her to what she demands from his vain and subconscious desires, so she devises with precise thought the tricks to fulfill the desire, and then it is necessary to start debating it; To rid a person of cravings that may lead him to harbor suspicions or to fabricate arguments to justify cravings and bring them out in the form of an opinion. By debating the soul, the spirit of actions is revealed, and the soul, if you do not debate it for a long time, distracts you from communicating with your Lord, remembering Him, and turning to Him.

As for debating Satan, it is not far from debating the soul. For there is overlap and similarity between them, and whoever does not debate with Satan – while he controls his heart and is the enemy of his enemies – “and then engages in debating with others on issues in which the diligent one is correct or contributes to the correct one in the reward, then he is the laughter of Satan and a lesson for the faithful.” after.

Al-Ghazali set standards for debating or searching for the truth, by which a distinction is made between those who deem God and those who deem for another reason, or who try to legitimize his purposes by likening his behavior to the consultations of the Companions and the negotiations of the predecessors in matters of knowledge.

The second level: the pests of debate and the vices generated from it

The second level of critical revival of debate shows the centrality of the teleological and ethical dimension, which I expressed – in last week’s article – by distinguishing between debate as an art (skills) and debate as a science (combining knowledge and ethics).

The debate – as a science – is established for the purpose of debating, to seek the truth. It is a methodological means for understanding it, and the debate as an art aims at debating with the intent of prevailing and eloquence and showing virtue and honor and rants to people, and with the intent of bragging, rivalry and winning people’s faces. All of these are matters centered – as you can see – on the debater himself and his inner ethics. In both cases, there is a connection between the debate and the behavior of the debater. As in the first, it is hoped that he realizes the truth and acts according to it, and in the second, it is hoped that he invests the debate to develop his own vices and achieve his goals, and then the debate – according to the second meaning – was the source of all reprehensible morals.

“So whoever is overcome by the love of outspokenness and prevailing in debate and seeking prestige and boasting, this calls him to harbor all evils in the soul, and stirs up all reprehensible morals in him,” which refers to ten principles, each of which derives from other characteristics in the view of Al-Ghazali.

As for the origins of inward abominations or their mothers, to which the ethics of reprehensible debate are attributed, they are: envy, arrogance and exaltation over people, hypocrisy, arrogance over the truth, hatred for it, and eagerness to compete with it. Even “the most hated thing for the debater is that the truth appears on the tongue of his opponent. And whatever appears, he grunts to his denial and denial with his utmost effort, and he exerts the utmost of his ability in deceit, cunning and trick to push him, so that the contest in him becomes a natural habit. On his heart in the evidence of the Qur’an and the words of the Sharia, so he strikes some of them with others. Among the origins of inward immorality in debates is also: showing off; Views of a cause other than the truth does not mean anything but to appear in the presence of people and release their tongues praising him.

In my opinion, these congenital lesions are due to two central issues:

  • Self morals.
  • devotion.

Based on the first issue, which is self-ethics, different conditions of debaters can be monitored, and debaters can be classified into two main categories:

  • The first: debating the elders, and yet the wise among them do not abandon the previously mentioned qualities, although some of them may surrender to others with those who are higher than him or lower than him or far from his country and his means of living. Unlike his case with his comparative forms in degree where the presence of these lesions is severe.
  • The second: Those whom al-Ghazali described as “incoherent” among the debaters, who may agree to a quarrel that leads to beating, punching, slapping, tearing clothes, taking beards, cursing parents, cursing teachers, and outright slander. These are not counted in the group of people considered according to Al-Ghazali; All of his speech is in the first category, which he seeks to refine and direct his practice of debate through this critical revival of debate.

As for the owners of the first category, they are ranked according to their grades. The greatest of them in religion and the most sensible of them does not stop with sentences from the materials of these reprehensible morals. These vices are necessary for the one who is engaged in reminding and preaching as well. If his intention is to seek acceptance among people, to establish prestige, to attain wealth and glory, and it is necessary – also – for those who work with the knowledge of jurisprudence and fatwas; If his intention is to request the judiciary, the mandate of endowments, and progress over peers.

As for the second issue, which is sincerity, “the student of leadership is doomed in himself” – according to Al-Ghazali – even if someone else is righteous because of him; If he is one of those who call to leave the world, but he harbors – in himself – the intention of prestige, and the excuse that the debate is in it will not help people to seek knowledge; In that if it were not for the love of leadership, the sciences would have been taught; it is like a candle; It benefits others and harms itself. And that is because the scholars – according to Al-Ghazali – 3:

  • Either he destroys himself and others, and he is the one who is authorized to seek the world and the one who is coming to it.
  • Or Masad himself and others, and he is the caller of creation to God, Glory be to Him, outwardly and inwardly.
  • Or he destroys himself, making others happy, and he is the one who calls for the afterlife, and he rejected the world in his outward appearance, and his intent – in the inward – is to accept creation and establish prestige.

The third level: criteria for distinguishing between the two types of debate

Al-Ghazali set standards for debating or searching for the truth to be clear, and by it a distinction is made between those who debate God and those who debate another cause, or try to legitimize his purposes by likening his behavior to the consultations of the Companions and the negotiations of the predecessors in matters of knowledge, and he is far from their purposes, even if he resembles them in the form or form. The truth is required and cooperation in examining knowledge and the flow of thoughts is beneficial and influential, but it has many precise criteria, Al-Ghazali disclosed 8 of them, guiding the distinction between those who look to God and those who look to another cause, and revolve – in my view – on the consideration of 3 sides:

  • The corresponding verb and its rank in relation to other verbs in the specified time.
  • scenery conditions.
  • The subject of the debate.

These eight criteria are:

  1. The first: that preoccupation with debate is only after completing the major duties; Because the debate is obligatory enough. Whoever has an individual obligation and he preoccupies himself with a sufficient obligation and claims that his aim is the truth, then he is a liar. In order to correct obedience and include its owner in describing the obedient in his act, it is necessary to achieve a number of combined things: that the act is of the same kind as obedience, and taking into account the time, conditions, and arrangement.
  2. The second: Does the debate not see an obligation of sufficiency that is more important than the debate? If he sees what is more important and does something else, he disobeys it. For the inconsistency between what he thinks and what he does.
  3. The third: that the debater be diligent and give his opinion independently; As for the one who does not have the rank of ijtihad, but rather he issues fatwas regarding what he is asked about; He quoted from the madhhab of his owner, so what benefit does he have in the debate and his madhhab is known and he does not have the fatwa on anything other than it? If the weakness of his doctrine appeared to him, it was not permissible for him to leave it, which means that the debate turned into a mere formula here. However, two problems arise here with al-Ghazali’s words, namely: the first: that if imitation “is the rule of all the people of the era” – as al-Ghazali himself says – then this criterion goes back to the denunciation of all the debates that take place between the schools on which the arts of jurisprudence were based in the fifth century and beyond. after him. And the second: that the imitators of the sects among the scholars have become certain of the correctness of their sect, and then each of them – even if he is an imitator – debates what he truly believes or what is more likely at the very least.
  4. Fourth: Debate only on an issue that is happening or is often close to happening, so the debaters should take care to criticize the issues that pervade the affliction by giving fatwas in them, and whoever intends the truth should shorten the speech and reach the goal on the proximity and not on the length.
  5. Fifth: That the debate in seclusion be more beloved to the scenes and more important than the forums and between the most prominent and the sultans; Solitude is more conducive to understanding and more appropriate with clarity of mind and thought and apprehension of the truth, and in the presence of the gathering that stirs the motives of hypocrisy and necessitates keenness to support each one himself, whether he is right or wrong.
  6. Sixth: That the debater – in seeking the truth – be like a lost appeal (i.e. missing) that does not distinguish between the misguided appearing at his hand or at the hands of those who help him, and sees his companion as a helper, not an adversary, and thanks him if he knows the mistake and shows him the truth.
  7. Seventh: The debater should not prevent the person assisting in the consideration (for debate is a help in consideration and seeking the truth) from moving from evidence to evidence, and from problem to problem, and extracting from the speech of the person appointed all the subtleties of the innovated argument regarding what he has and what he has.
  8. Eighth: To debate someone who is expected to benefit from it, who is preoccupied with knowledge, and most of the debaters are wary of debating stallions and seniors. For fear of the truth appearing on their tongues, so they would desire those without them; In the hope of spreading falsehood to them.

This tripartite conception of the debate helps us to combine the cognitive and the ethical in argumentative rationality. Where it combines formula and value, and moves from the art of debate centered on “skills” and the possession of techniques and the ability to persuade even with fragile ideas, to the science of debate with the intent of seeking the right, where the supposed opponent turns into a helper to look more).

And the priority in the science of debating is to convince the self first and to ward off the dangers of the soul and the devil with mental arguments that lead to the creation of the self and push its vices. This transfer of debate from an art to a science helps to overcome the moral afflictions that the debate has been drawn to historically with its transformation into a formula devoid of value.


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Ethics of debate and arguments (2)

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