Quora Question: Doesn’t everybody have a right to their own opinion based on their own life experience without being judged harshly by those who happen to have different opinions?
There are some hidden assumptions to this question that need to be addressed as a means of giving an adequate answer.
First, is the assumption that having an opinion is something one has a right to.
Second, is the assumption that judging one’s opinion is the same as judging the person themselves.
In both cases, the assumptions are faulty which gives rise to the sentiment and the question. Let’s examine it.
What could it mean to have a “right to an opinion?” Does this mean that one has the liberty to have a point of view? Perhaps, but if so this is not in dispute among most people. Of course, you have your point of view and opinion. Everyone has opinions. As such there is nothing particularly special about opinions.
But, when this question is asked about the right to an opinion usually there is another sense in mind; something like the right to be taken seriously or heard or to be correct, or worse to be immune to criticism. None of these can be what it means to have a right to your opinion.
Merely having an opinion does not mean that others are required to listen to or entertain your opinion. Nor does it mean that others need to take your opinion seriously. Most of all, merely having an opinion does not mean it is correct or that it should be immune to criticism.
We all have opinions. No one can take those away. But, merely having an opinion is not anything special. What is special is having the intellectual courage to examine one’s opinions in light of reason and evidence and work to make those opinions reflect reality as well as possible.
About the question about judging it is important to understand that criticizing an idea or opinion is different than criticizing the person who holds that idea or opinion. It has to be possible to challenge ideas and opinions without offending people otherwise rational discourse is impossible.
Too many people are too impressed with the fact that they have opinions. But, having an opinion is not unique. Everyone has them. Some of them agree with yours and others don’t. But, what matters is the effort to understand how the world works and what the best reason and evidence tells us about how the world works.
Instead of focusing on our opinions, we should focus on understanding the world and working together to arrive at the most accurate understanding possible whether or not that agrees without opinions. If it doesn’t then it is our opinions that need to change.
A2A on Quora:
There are several different concepts of possibility including:
Each of which has a corresponding impossibility. There are things that can be physically impossible but logically possible but there are no things that can be logically impossible but physically possible.
Logic is based on the presumption that there are some very basic, self-evident laws of thought that ought to guide our thinking. These laws help us understand what counts as a good argument, what counts as good evidence, and what inferences should be accepted and rejected. In a sense, everything we do in logic follows from these laws.
The laws themselves, which I will discuss below, are self-evident descriptions of how the world works. To say they are "self-evident" means that we don't need any other evidence to know they are truly beyond our understanding of what they mean. This raises an interesting point. If you don't believe these are self-evident, that is, if you don't believe the claims that these rules are making are true, then there's very little that can be done to persuade you otherwise. In some sense, the conversation won't be able to proceed without your agreement with these rules.
There are three laws of thought we should consider:
The law of non-contradiction: Something cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect.
The law of identity: Everything is identical with itself.
The law of excluded middle: For any given property or attribute, everything either has that property or does not have that property.
You may be objecting that there are many exceptions to these rules but they are probably not exceptions at all just misunderstandings of what the rules imply.
For example, you might say that something can be and not be. It could be raining one minute and not raining the next. But, this is not an exception at all. The rules do not say that things cannot change or that one thing (or state of affairs) could not become a different one. It is stating that one thing cannot be that something and not be that something at the same time and respect. It's this last qualifier that is critical. A person can be both a parent and daughter without violating the rule since the person's state as a parent does not preclude there also being a daughter. What they cannot be is both a parent and not a parent at the same time and in the same respect.
Once you understand this it should be clear that the rule is asserting nothing more than how things exist. To the extent that things seem to violate this rule, it is most likely that the violation is based on our lack of understanding regarding how the world works, not the inherent falsity of the law of thought.
If you consider what the other two laws are saying it should become clear that they are really just slightly different descriptions of the law of non-contradiction. If something cannot both be and not be at the same time that is the same as saying that something is identical to itself. This can be proven in formal logic. The same goes for the law of excluded middle. This can be shown with a simple example:
If it cannot be both raining and not raining in the place and time then, for any given time and place, it must either be raining or not raining.
What these laws of thought provide is a foundation on which we can build other more interesting and useful rules of reason which provide us with a framework for evaluating claims and theories about how the world works. This is a central feature in the work of logic.
So, when someone claims that something is logically impossible, there are no conditions under which that claim can be possible since its possibility would be a contradiction.
A2A on Quora:
To a certain extent but within limits. While most people believe that they actively choose their own beliefs in reality it is more complicated than that.
Most people’s beliefs most of the time are unexamined and inherited. People tend to believe in the same religion as their parents or their community. The same goes for political beliefs.
The human brain is wired up to believe but not necessarily to think critically about those beliefs. So, the process of arriving at beliefs is not always based on an objective investigation of the relevant evidence and the result is not a carefully chosen belief based on that examination.
Instead, psychologists now recognize that we often begin with an emotional response to a situation or a claim and then reason backward from that response to explain it. In between these two mental acts is where the belief arises.
And, unless specifically asked to do so, backward reasoning doesn’t always happen. So, we end up with a belief that arises in response to an emotional response. And, these are not entirely in our control.
This explains in part why it is so difficult for people to change their beliefs or even to examine them rigorously. It also illustrates the fact that our thinking is often clouded by several biases.
One of these is called confirmation bias. This is the tendency we all share to only look at evidence that validates our own beliefs and ignore evidence to the contrary.
The process of critical thinking can correct some of these biases and can allow us to learn to examine our beliefs in light of reason and evidence and actively choose the ones best supported by that evidence. But, the process is difficult and must be learned. It takes practice and vigilance as you are going against the grain of how your mind is wired up to think.
A2A on Quora:
Many colleges and universities are either eliminating or thinking about eliminating philosophy departments on the premise that the major is not very practical and does not include a direct job pipeline. For several reasons, this is very misguided.
First, not everything about life is or should be about your job. Being human involves more than working at a job. It involves thinking, contemplating, finding, and creating meaning and value. All of these things involve philosophy.
Second, living in a diverse community requires an understanding of such philosophical connections and tolerance, diversity, fairness, equality, and justice. Understanding these concepts requires a philosophical study of them.
Third, being an active participant in the civic life of your community entails contributing to the politics of that community by engaging in dialogue and voting. Both of these require critical thinking which again is a philosophical endeavor enhanced by the study of logic and argumentation.
Fourth, living in our diverse world requires each of us to have some understanding of the basics of morality and ethics. While a study of philosophical ethics won’t in and of itself make one a moral person it can engage one’s understanding of important moral concepts and how they are related to many of our most pressing problems.
Lastly, philosophy is indeed quite practical in the job world. Law schools have recognized for years that philosophy majors are uniquely qualified to succeed in the law and many law school graduates are successful philosophy majors. Other careers can be enhanced by a strong background in reasoning, problem-solving, critical thinking, and conceptualization all of which you receive excellent training in by studying philosophy.
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator