Friday, July 13, 2012

You are not entitled to your own opinion

At least not in the way you think.  Modern discourse, thanks to the rejection of objective truth, has devolved into something like the Jerry Springer show with much shouting but very little communication.  Like two people arguing over what brand of soda is the best, most political commentary is about who can shout the loudest and condemn the other side in the most glaring of terms.

It makes sense if one thinks about it.  If objective truth doesn't exist, then how can anyone be "right?"  Your position is just like that of the other, a preference and nothing more.  No intellectual reason or insight can back the position, because that position doesn't really have anything to distinguish it from another position objectively.

But let's assume that there is objective truth (a reality that is obvious to anyone who thinks for a few seconds).   How does that change our perspective of opinions?

Opinions are the view of a particular individual in relation to an objective truth.  Truth is objective, but opinion changes as we attempt to navigate between truth and error.  And because no one person can at any time have complete truth (only God possesses this quality) we are left with having to navigate life with but a small part of the whole.  This in turn leads to our understanding of the right to one's opinion.

The right to one's opinion can be phrased as two responsibilities.   One responsibility belongs to others, and one belongs to the holder of the opinion.  Without both the notion of a "right to an opinion" falls apart.

The first is one we are quite familiar with.  The notion that society as a whole should respect opinions to a reasonable extent.  As fellow humans with the same limitations in understanding truth, we have a responsibility to give room to those we disagree with.  And to presume that the opinion, especially one we disagree with, has been arrived at through reasonable means.

Obviously, we all have work to do on this responsibility.

But to me it seems we have even more work to do on what is the responsibility of the opinion holder.  The responsibility of the holder is that an opinion presented is "well founded."  That is, sufficient time has been taken to make sure that the opinion is the representation of the truth to the best of the knowledge of the holder.

Far too often in modern discourse an opinion is not the reasoned view of a well thought out set of premises arriving at a conclusion.  It is instead a projection of the holder's pride on the world as what the holder wants the truth to be.  This is why most arguments are shouting matches, because it is not the search for truth that motivates the holder of the opinion, but the opinion is a reflection of the holder's desire.

Another thing to note is that because there is such a thing as objective truth, opinions vary in quality by their relation to their correspondence to the truth.  An opinion that abortion should be legal because the fetus is not human is worth less than the view that a fetus is human.  Opinions only have value in their relation to the truth, and not because someone holds them.

This is why, while it is true we all have a right to an opinion, it is also a grave responsibility.  We have a duty to attempt to conform our opinions to the truth, and to recognize that our opinions only hold weight in relation to actual truth.  But in order to bring this about, we must start by setting aside our pride, and working to make sure that what we offer is in fact the truth and not what we wish it would be.  The difference between the two ideas could not be starker.


Dane said...

A well-thought, articulate and awesome post if we just remove "only God possesses this quality"

CatholicGuy said...

Not sure what is meant by this. God would be the only being capable of possessing truth (as He is truth) in its entirety.

CatholicGuy said...

And apologies for late moderation. For some reason Blogger did not notify me.