“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion!” Are they? What does that mean? In the individual’s search for what is true and effective and appropriate in their world, it is important for them to have creative control over their investigation. If they are to learn how their mind sees things, to learn its language, and decide how to act based on that, then only they can properly decide what their senses and reason and emotion and inexplicable inferences indicate as true. I’d agree with this.
However, this, is not the only circulating connotation of the word ‘opinion’. Inherent in this is a process. Movement. Emergence. Update. And a search for the reality that the inner-and-outer experience corroborate to define. An opinion as defined above is one stone in crossing a river.
An opinion as all-too-popularly defined (in my opinion!) is something else. It is still a mental stance with respect to a fact, value, or another opinion. But it is more final than the first definition (we’ll call that a “present understanding”). Whereas it may be my present understanding that the sun rotates around the earth to produce day and night, and new information may come to light -from others, or my own churning thoughts coming to new inferences- that changes this position, when it is my opinion that this sorry situation is so, I find I’m very apprehensive to change that, and disinterested, even hostile to information that even suggests revision, let alone attempts it. This is the complication of having an opinion, and it is why I think that with respect to my opinions, I’m full of shit, and they don’t matter.
It is my (actual) opinion (so this doesn’t look hypocritical) that marijuana is not as harmful for you as other drugs/addictions. I have done no research on this. I have offered nothing to support this. My opinion has no traction for changing the understandings of others. In fact, I’m probably wrong. I continue to hold this because of the fear of emotions I have while sober, and the craving of those I have while high, and the psychological dependence I have on it. Holding this opinion enables it.
It is my opinion that there shouldn’t be a bridge built here, because it spoils the view from my home, and drive down my property value. But if there is traffic congestion on either side of the other routes across this gorge, and this location has the sturdiest landscape, sparsest wild-life and habitats, and the narrowest span in relation to where traffic is headed, this is where the bridge goes! Beauty is highly subjective to my preference (notwithstanding human dispositions toward the spectrum we can see, possible preferences within that spectrum for red, etc.) and the amount of my well-being at stake is relatively miniscule compared to the energy and time efficiency to be gained by the offending orientation of the bridge for human activity, which has been arrived at with reference to reasons why no other location is as suitable, etc. I, essentially, decide what is beautiful, and it can be so many other ways. There is no reason to listen to me. If, however, I bring up research pertaining to nature deprivation disorder, unforeseen damage to the region or its inhabitant, etc. I now have grounds for consideration.
Finally (sorry to labour the point) I fear death, and feel as if it is to be postponed and avoided by any means available. I have no information on the experience of death, no direct experience with the sensations and mental states involved, and thus no reason to believe as I do that death itself is bad, to be feared, or in any sense negative or to be avoided. To act thus is nonsensical.
This range of example, I hope, illustrates the need for the distinction to be made between opinions and present understandings; between an objective analysis (in relation to the goal: equality, safety, efficiency) and a subjective one (in relation to a reactive response to mental/bodily states).
My interest stems from frustration with the very poor procedures and policies that arise from the unquestioning acceptance of everyone’s right not only to hold their opinions without the responsibility to subject it to external validation/falsification, but to act upon, and expend finite resources upon, and the apparent right to do terrible social & ecological damage so long as a mob-sanctioned man-made book (legal or sacred) doesn’t prohibit it. Just ’cause enough uninformed people agree with them.
We use oil, in increasingly destructive forms (tar sands, shale) and employments (toxic mono-cropping, civilian killing drones), because some people are of the opinion that they have to right to sell it, or others that they have to right to buy and use it in their one-car-per-person, a practice which itself is equally inefficient and harmful to humans (despite the ironic appeals of -you guessed it- opinion to the contrary). I could go into the illusion of rights, but for now we’ll leave it at: they don’t have this right.
We segregate ourselves along all manner of division based on our opinions, derived from highly disparate and personally-interested experiences and cognition, with no little appeal to the commonalities among human organisms, our emotional attachments being enabled by the sacred taboo of criticizing others opinions having over-taken our ability to see what our physical circumstances and mental states tell us objectively. I may feel as if the poor bum asking me for change doesn’t deserve to live in this society if he’s not contributing, when I remember that the people (rich and poor) who have built this system have created the circumstances that put pressure on him to act as he does, I realize that any solution my line of thinking would create (kill the poor, make him to interned labour, stick him in jail) is inadequate as it is based on opinions that do not reference the reality; to touch the elephants tail is not to touch the whole elephant. My present understanding, when updated with information on the incentives and tendencies of the system that is “abused” by the poor, becomes that “the poor” and “the rich” and “the system” (if not already being gross, over-generalizations) are mutually reinforcing, and in fact, if I widen my definitions (which I may only do if forced to by the insight of others that I ignore or misunderstand) they are all the same thing in different forms. Solutions will need to address all of them at once, and not try to band-aid the parts I personally don’t like, but keep the ones I do. (We clear, PC politics and conservative bigots alike?)
Humans are fallible. Our senses are limited. Our cognition is (increasingly) predictable, and shows many inadequacies, biases, and plain superstitions. We are encouraged to think about ourselves and our benefit. We are largely scared of death, pain, and being ugly, irrelevant, hungry or alone. We have a very conformist tendency (whatever its nature). These are a result of how we have lived up to this point. They have created a mass of divided understandings, and, on the back of a few twisted truths (that we must decide for ourselves, that all have needs that are equal in quality, if not in quantity, etc) these have been often been given immunity from scrutiny, judgement, or denial- but importantly, only where there are large numbers of supporters.
Christianity is a religion.
Mormonism might be a bit odd.
But Scientology is a cult.
The troops are defenders of freedom again terrorism and extremism.
Feminists could be more open to the other side’s perspective.
But Johnathan is just playing the victim.
It’s okay to say cracker on tv.
You might get away with saying beaner late at night.
But you should never say nigger on tv.
These are matters where enough people hold a subjective opinion about an ultimately neutral phenomenon as being more or less positive or negative. And they distort any hopes at effective popular governance and defeat the feasibility of one-vote-per-person Democracy. Without requiring the the relevant understandings be present, recognition be had of biases (both individual and human), and the dispassion, evidence, falsifiability, parsimony, and emergence (etc.) required to ensure relative certainty be employed (that is, without requiring an objective, informed frame of mind towards THE truth, not your truth) we cannot sanely hope for the fruition of our popular movements and their desire to include the input and value of all.
And for you (in my opinion!) laborious people who would still tell me “You can’t BE objective- morality cannot be treated like a fact-finding mission. Everyone is entitled to choose their morality and you have to respect it,” please consider this.
I got my mind on my money, and my money on my breaking back.