Monday, May 08, 2006

Opinion Nation

Josh writes:

I was talking to Jack about opinions the other day. Jack's thinking, as I recall, was essentially that You Are All Wrong and You Need To Be Told That You're Wrong -- a view worthy of respect, but not one that I share. My opinion of opinions is: fuck opinions. I don't care what you think -- hell, I barely care what I think -- and I'm not under any illusions that you feel differently towards me.

I mean, I have all sorts of opinions going -- here are two:

  • I hold to a consequentialist ethical system, and therefore regard "principles" as at best an unnecessary abstraction and at worst a genuine impediment to ethically correct behaviour.
  • I think that "desert" (as in justice, not sand) is as meaningless a concept as political correctness or appeals to nature, and therefore talking about what someone "deserves" is as pointless as saying that their behaviour is "unnatural" or "PC/not PC".
Much scope for discussion there, I'm sure, but, again, I don't care what you think. And even a cursory examination of any blog where some semblance of debate takes place shows that nobody's really interested in what anyone else has to say, beyond saying "me too" or looking for ways to pick holes in it without ever actually considering that there may be some merit to it as well. For instance, take a look at the exchange between Psycho Milt and Sean here (no real significance to my choice of example, by the way -- just the most recent one that comes to mind). To sum up:
The scene: a discussion of The Archbishop of Sydney dissing Islam.

Psycho Milt: [in short, he thinks all religions are equally crappy, and therefore finds a leader of one religion criticising another a bit rich.]

Sean: Chip on the ol' shoulder Psyco [sic] Milt?

Psycho Milt: [patient and clearly-worded expansion on his previous point, explaining that any "chip" applies to more than just Catholicism, and separating the teachings of Jesus from the doctrines enforced by organized religion]

Sean: Just as I thought - Chip on the shoulder...

Why would a person bother?

UPDATE: Yes, I'm aware of the irony of publishing an opinion piece on how opinions are crap.

UPDATE: Did I say "irony"? I meant "hypocrisy".

UPDATE: Did I say "hypocrisy"? I meant "fuck you".


Psycho Milt said...

It's reassuring to discover I wasn't the only one to recognise a poor return on time & effort invested - thanks for the thought.

The Hand of Morthos said...

I am of the opinion that my opinions matter whether they be right or wrong because I'm such a marvellous specimen of Homo Sapiens Argumentus. Not at all shop-worn and elegant to boot.

Joking aside; I share some of Jack's concern (although as he holds opinions-that-are-clearly-wrong he falls into the camp of 'those-that-must-undergo-the-re-edumacationisation'); some opinions must be corrected (admittedly, we may want to hold distinguish attitudes from opinions and hold attitudes to a different standard to that of opinions; opinions may not inspire actions whilst attitudes most probably will)... Actually, it would be handy to have a distinction here from the original poster as to the difference between an opinion and a belief. I think I may be about to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Josh said...

A belief is a proposition to which we may attach a truth value. Opinions are similar, only the truth value is always Wrong.

The Hand of Morthos said...

Yes, but that's patently untrue or you have been abusing the term 'opinion' in your original post. Either you mean that there is no truth-value to opinions (a far cry from saying that they are wrong) or that opinions are statements to which we can say 'True' or 'Untrue' to but we find ourselves saying 'Untrue' to. The former position is certainly the more plausible but at least one of your examples shows that either you do not mean that or you are as confused by the concept of the opinion as I am. The second position (possibly Missionary) will be shown to be untrue just by engaging with the world; many opinions are true in that they accord with a verifier ('I don't know whether the Trotsky Trial was a government cover-up or not (thus denying having a belief on the matter) but if you ask me my opinion then, yes, I do think it might have been a conspiracy (thus expressing an opinion that turns out to accord with History)'). Or are we talking at opposite ends of the cauldron now?

Josh said...

Jesus Christ, you have been starved of Philosophy for too long, haven't you? Let me put it another way:

A belief is a proposition to which we may attach a truth value. Opinions are similar, but nobody fucking cares what the truth value actually is.


A belief can be True or False; opinions are Just Plain Wrong.

Now let's have no more epistemology out of you, young man.

The Hand of Morthos said...

Yep, starved beyond belief, which is why I am going to point out that your two definitions are, if not incompatible, contrary. Which irks me. Still, if you tell me what is for dinner on Friday night I'll let it go.

Josh said...

What's for dinner? Truth.

Apathy Jack said...

" You Are All Wrong and You Need To Be Told That You're Wrong"

That's not exactly what I said - the proles don't need to be told they're wrong; that would imply an obligation on my part. I point out their frailties as a favour to them. Pure altruism.

The Hand of Morthos said...

Altruism would only be appropiate as a term if you were doing good, not evil, Jack.

Ted Brown said...

This is only vaguely relevant, but I like it:

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong. -- G. K. Chesterton