Qualifiers are words like “some” or “many” or “most” or “often” etc that differentiate a fact or claim from concepts such as “all” or “always”.
To qualify a claim means to limit
Qualifiers are essential for two reasons:
a) They clarify claims to truth and make them more factually accurate. The claim “smoking causes cancer” is of course factually inaccurate compared to the claim “smoking often causes cancer.” Even more accurate would be the claim that “heavy long term smoking significantly raises the risk of developing many types of cancer.”
b) They help us persuade those who disagree with our claim. When arguing about legalizing marijuana, the claim “marijuana should be legalized” suggests that anyone should be able to smoke it anytime and anywhere, and this is a fairly radical, divisive claim. The claim that “marijuana should be treated like other recreational drugs such as alcohol” will likely prove more persuasive since it limits the context. An even easier claim to defend would be “medical marijuana should be legalized and treated similarly to other narcotics, such as opiate and cocaine-based medicines”.
In short, I do well to carefully spell out the specific context of any given claim and to carefully outline any notable exceptions: the smaller the claim, the more likely I can prove it or persuade others to believe it.
Doing so will also make me appear far less dogmatic; we tend not to trust (ethos) those entirely devoted to a single perspective in any debate where there are clearly competing perspectives. I mean, if you can’t see even part of why your opposition believes what they do, it’s highly unlikely this opposition will ever come over to your side of the argument.
Qualifiers as Concessions
We do well to realize that in most arguments persuasion has more in common with negotiation and mediation than purely factual debate: in reality, in our real lives, the point of persuasion is usually not to “win” but rather to progress and reach a mutually beneficial agreement. In our professional/occupational, personal and civic lives, we get involved in arguments not for competition but because we are constantly forced to work with people who see a given issue differently than we do, and people who constantly obsess over being “right” tend to make miserable co-workers and worse spouses.
Consider that qualifiers can actually permanently settle one or more of the explicit reasons in any given debate. If we are arguing whether or not freshman should be required to live on the UI campus, we can easily remove opposition by conceding that this rule will not fit “all” freshmen. When the opposition offers up the reason that it will violate the rights and needs of a few exceptional students, for religious or psychological reasons etc., rather than debating that point, I do well to simply concede it, qualify my claim to exempt those students, and move on with the debate.
In other words, while debate is about winning, persuasion is largely the art of removing road blocks and working toward agreement. Qualifiers will move us effectively toward that goal.
Лейтенант следил за его взглядом. - Ужасное уродство, правда. Но не искалеченная рука привлекла внимание Беккера. Он увидел кое-что другое.