Many factors come into play whenever and wherever we are called upon to approve others. Mostly, these factors are political, economic, social or even religious. In most cases, people rely on enthymemes when approving others around them.
An enthymeme is a tripartite deductive argument, otherwise known as syllogism, which bears an unstated assumption that must be true in order for the premises to lead to the conclusion (Cohen, p. 78). In this paper I will use the enthymeme: “opinions can help us when approving others because they improve our analysis ability.” We have to analyze people against some set criteria, whether socially, politically or economically, before approving them.
This type of analysis is only possible if we have good opinions about others. Good opinions in case refer to opinions that are based on some observable evidence. Hence, good opinions can improve our analysis ability. Two articles, And Then They Came for Me by Lasantha Wickrematunge and Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell will be used to explain how this enthymeme influences our approval of others.
Enthymeme: Opinions can help us when approving others because they improve our analysis ability
The main argument of this enthymeme is that good opinions can improve our analysis ability. An opinion is considered good if it is based on some observable facts even if it portrays the negative side of someone or an event. In this regard, one’s opinion about the other as corrupt is considered good opinion if is based on facts. Life presents challenging situations before us, which requires proper analysis in order to make good decisions.
The opinions we hold about someone or an event will determine our analysis ability of the same. This is because opinions can either be genuine or misguided. An opinion is misguided if there is no evidence to support it. In the article And Then They Came for Me by Lasantha Wickrematunge, the author discusses how journalists’ opinion on Srilankan government affects how they approve people in leadership positions.
To the journalists, any association with power is a ticket to corruption. This opinion is presented more powerful than ever in the author’s description of Sri Lankan government. This opinion led journalists to their critical analysis of Sri Lankan government and hence they were able to expose corruption deeds of the government and its officials. The government described in this article is full of corruption and even straight-forward individuals find themselves dancing to the same tune once they ascend to power.
The hither-to forthright individuals turn to the worst forms of corruption and gross infringement of human rights the moment they ascend to power. The government tries to suppress divergent views to ensure that no one criticizes its corrupt deeds. Using opinions to approve others is even portrayed by the narrator’s analysis of Mr. Mahinda, the president, who had an excellent record in upholding human rights and ascribing to the essentials of human liberty before ascending to power.
It is the narrator’s opinion that all people in leadership positions are corrupt that made him critically analyze Mr. Mahinda and be able to expose his corrupt side. Otherwise, he would have simply approved him as one of the most decent and uncorrupt leader given that he knew him before ascending to power.
In Lasantha’s article, Mahinda, the president, is in charge of a regime that tramples on human rights as it bombs its citizenry in the name of stamping out dissidents (Wickrematunge, par. 20). Mahinda uses his powers to suppress divergent views and all other forms of criticisms even when top officials are involved in high-level corruption and misuse of power (Wickrematunge, par. 19).
For the government to better espouse the principles of good governance, there is need for criticisms from informed sources such as the media. The criticisms leveled against the government should be taken positively as they serve to hone the leadership skills of those involved. This would have improved the quality of lives for the Sri Lankans and boosted the people’s confidence in the government. Hence, good opinions can help us because it can improve our analysis ability.
Another argument in support of this enthymeme is presented in the article Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell. The British soldier’s good opinions help him to analyze Burmese locals. Even though he is constantly insulted by Burmese locals, he considers them to be good people and sympathizes with them whenever their colonial masters oppress them.
Despite him being a British soldier, he disapproves the inhuman way in which the British Empire treats Burmese prisoners. The British soldier observes that the prisoners are flogged, locked up in cages and many of them are killed (Orwell, p. 532). He sympathizes with the locals, but he has his hands tied in that he is answerable to his superiors. He thus sides with them secretly.
Even though the locals generally hate the British soldier and always look for an opportunity to disgrace him, he still does not turn his back on them whenever they need his help. This is illustrated by his actions when he is called to the scene of an elephant on rampage.
When he witnesses for himself the brutish violence visited upon one of the local men by the rogue elephant, he asks for a rifle, which is a clear show of sympathy and solidarity with Burmese locals. However, he did not intend to kill the elephant, but his gesture is grossly mistaken by the locals who think he is going to kill the unfortunate beast (Orwell, p. 534).
He eventually has to shoot the animal against his will, but on account of the expectation from the gathering crowd and consoles himself that after all, it has already killed a man (Orwell, p. 535). From Orwell’s story, it is clear that good opinions can help improve our analysis ability and even approve people despite them mistreating us. Probably, the British solder concluded that the Burmese did not actually hate him, but the British Empire, which he serves.
Whereas opinions help improve our analysis ability whenever and wherever approving others, it is not always true that good opinions will improve our analysis ability. Sometimes opinions are misleading especially when they are based on hearsays.
For instance, in George Orwell article “Shooting an Elephant”; the soldier’s opinion about the Burmese locals misguided him in judging the whether to shoot the elephant or not. His decision to shoot the elephant was based on his good opinion about Burmese locals and hence he did not want to look bad before them.
However, he remained guilty of his act as he thought the elephant was better of alive than dead ( ). On one hand, he needed to show solidarity with the Burmese locals, while on the other he needed to be human and not oppressive to the elephant like the British Empire is to Burmese locals. Even after convincing himself that the elephant had gone on rampage and destroyed property including killing a man, he still felt that was not reason enough to kill it.
Similarly, the Sri Lankan government was misguided by opinions in approving the media. There is need for criticisms for the government to better serve its citizens. It is only through criticism that the government can realize its weaknesses and make necessary adjustments that would benefit its citizens.
The Sri Lankan government would have learned from its past mistakes, as highlighted by the Sunday Leader, and rise above petty politics to take corrective measures. This would have improved the quality of lives for the Sri Lankans and boosted the people’s confidence in the government. On the contrary, the government tries to silence the media by threatening them with harassments and assassination.
This is all because of the opinion the government holds about the media as unnecessary meddling in their business. Members of the press expose themselves to great risk by relentlessly voicing public displeasure and dissatisfaction with the various malpractices espoused by the government. They are harassed by government agents through arbitrary arrests, persecutions and murder. In fact, the narrator in the article is assassinated in order to shut up the Sunday Leader newspaper.
Besides, Mr. Mahinda must have been elected to presidential position based on the good opinion that Sri Lankan citizens held about him. They thought he would be the savior that would lead them out of the corruption and oppressive way of the previous governments. To the contrary, he too became corrupt just like the others the moment he ascended into power. If only Sri Lankans had critically analyzed him before approving him as their president, then they would have realized that he too has a potential of being corrupt.
Many at times we find ourselves in similar predicaments. Based on our good opinions we make a decision to approve others, but remain regretting having made such a decision. Sometimes good opinions cloud our minds and prevent us from being critical when analyzing issues. It is thus important to be more critical when analyzing issues and not only rely on opinions.
In conclusion, the way we approve others has a great impact on all aspects of our lives. The implications here are social, political and economic as can be seen from the two articles used in this discussion. Good opinions, to some extent, improve our analysis ability as presented in the decision above.
Good opinions can help us become more critical when analyzing issues as seen in Lasantha’s article. Good opinions can also help us analyze issues beyond our experiences and see the good side of people who are otherwise unfriendly to us. However, one needs to be more critical when analyzing issues as opinions are at times misguiding.
It is important that our approval of others is based on critical evaluation of the prevailing circumstances and the power of reasoning. While enthymemes provide a foundation for reasoning, they are sometimes misleading hence should be used carefully when approving others as their use ends up in a wrong decisions.
Cohen, Raphael M. et al. An Introduction to Logic. Indianapolis, Ind: Hacket Publishing, 1993. Print.
Orwell, George. “Shooting an Elephant.” The Norton Reader. 8th (shorter) ed. Ed. Arthur Eastman, et.al. New York: Norton, 1992. 531-37. Print.
Wickrematunge, Lasantha. “And They Came for Me.” The Sunday Leader Jan 2009: 15. Web. November 4th, 2011.