Editorial Good Book Opinion

Towards an Ethical Framework for Discussion

“The goal of discussion should not be victory, but improvement.” – Joseph Joubert

Alagi Yorro Jallow.

Fatoumatta: Debating in our country is challenging. The Gambian lack a culture of adversarial debate and scientific critique. They often miss a critical perspective, preferring self-praise or mutual admiration over engaging in serious and rigorous discussions about vital topics for our society’s well-being, without any hatred or contempt.

Critical thinking differs from mere criticism. To criticize is to discern, to challenge initial appearances. It involves testing the truth, ensuring its veracity. Thus, critical thinking is necessary to progress in science and the pursuit of truth. However, this requires understanding and adhering to the ethics of discussion.

The ethics of discussion entail respect for the other person, as dialogue requires at least two people.

It also involves the capacity to listen, which is crucial for grasping the emotions and thoughts of the other party. The ethics of discussion rest on the possibility that the other party may be correct, and we may be mistaken. It also embodies open-mindedness and objectivity, compelling us to forsake our stance and adopt another’s if it aligns more closely with the truth.

My comprehension of Babajalinding has deepened, recognizing that his independent thinking and critical stance made him many foes in his lifetime. Yet, these very qualities distinguished him; he believed that an intellectual must embrace uniqueness, not fearing solitude or marginalization. Regrettably, in the Gambia, the prevailing logic is: if you agree with me, you’re my ally; if you criticize me, you’re my opponent, or worse, my enemy.

In media broadcasts and academic lectures alike, criticism is frequently misconstrued as a personal affront. There’s a tendency to demean one’s debating partner, to nitpick. However, boldness in debate should not equate to indiscipline, disrespect, or verbal abuse. An intellectual ought to articulate, not bellow. Shouting is for creatures without the benefit of language shaped by and for thought.

Considering these factors, how can we expect science, which seeks the absolute truth, to advance in our country? Most of our elite fear criticism, and many intellectuals cannot tolerate dissent. In a recent conversation with a friend known for his independent thinking, he remarked, “Intellectuals have become cautious. Careerism has overshadowed the pursuit of knowledge.” This partly explains why many have abandoned the public sphere in the Gambia, leaving a gap now filled by columnists who lack the broad cultural knowledge and analytical skills this profession demands. The ethics of discussion involve embracing differences and divergences; since difference defines identity, uniformity must be rejected. These ethics also embody tolerance and understanding. King Hassan II once said in an interview, “Tolerance is born of leniency.” The ethics of discussion include the thoughtful silences that intersperse our dialogues, silences that are often filled with unspoken words and wisdom. Discussion ethics favor dialogue over monologue, aiming for sincere, productive, and constructive exchanges.

No single individual can claim exclusive ownership of the truth. In fact, each person’s truth is merely one aspect of the greater truth, not its entirety. Thus, we should approach the truth with humility and open-mindedness. Our beliefs are not always the embodiment of truth but are often just perceptions of our minds.

In creative writing, the lack of substantial literary criticism threatens to diminish the quality of literary works produced in our country. In today’s culture, there is a widespread aversion to criticism; people are content with receiving praise alone.

Fatoumatta: The essence of ethical discussion is the respect for oneself and others. It embodies intellectual finesse and the aspiration to excel beyond oneself when consensus on fundamental issues is unattainable.Ultimately, ethical discussion means embracing the spirit of the misattributed quote to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

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