2010-08-10

Wading Into the Concept of Opinion

One of my more controversial ideas is the notion that there are varying degrees of "validity" or "truth" when it comes to someone's opinion. A really obvious example of this would be the opinion of an expert medical witness in a court case vs. the opinion of a layman faced with the same facts. Obviously, on questions of medical prognoses and diagnoses, a trained doctor will generally have a more valid opinion than a lay-person.

Some may right point out that these questions aren't truly "a matter of opinion," but rather the doctor knows more about what the facts mean than someone with no medical training.

However, I believe that even matters of opinion are not quite as "purely subjective" as most are inclined to believe. I submit that even while judging music or art, it is possible to come to a "wrong" conclusion. Many of you will stop reading here, but for those who are at least partially interested in seeing where I'm going with this, read on.

The artist in the interview below alludes this idea that knowing what you’re talking about is a personal responsibility we all have, and maybe that responsibility appears progressively less important in modern times when there is a little bit of information bombarding us at all times. The trickle vs. the deluge. Because we all read a Wikipedia article from time to time, some of us think we know enough about art to gauge something on the same level that a true art critic would.

I certainly think it’s possible to become an expert in multiple fields just by reading information online. But that assumes some commitment, some studying, etc.

Like, to me it is a bit of a shame that some people misconstrue the fact that “information is available to everyone” as being the same thing as “everyone actually knows.” The first statement is true and wonderful – the second statement is bogus and absurd.

Similarly, “everyone has a preference” is much different from “everyone’s opinion carries equal weight.” And this is where the controversy comes in. “Everyone has a preference” is an axiom of praxeology – it is an indisputable apodictic fact, and this is good. But the statement “everyone’s opinion carries equal weight” is preposterous and not something that should be promoted. Even though it satisfies our egalitarian values, it is simply not true. Having a valuable opinion is something you have to work hard for. It is not a given.