Punchinello’s Chronicles

October 30, 2008

Everyone Has a Right to Their Own Opinion

Filed under: Word of the Day — Punchinello @ 5:30 am
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How often have you heard this, or said it yourself: “Well, everyone has a right to their own opinion.” It’s right up there with that other modern corporate positive-spin phrase, “We’ll just agree to disagree.” Both are excellent ways to walk away from an argument without saying anything. They’re non-explosive, non-committal, and basically meaningless drivel.

Of course everyone has a right to their own opinion! You’d think not, nowadays, with the amount of screaming in the presidential campaign about mud-slinging, extremist views, hate speech, and negative campaign rhetoric. Even so, anyone with a brain has a right to use that brain. Or not.

The question is whether or not an opinion is informed, thoughtful, reasoned; or whether it’s just a spontaneous stream of projectile vomiting from the language center of the mind. Is an opinion an actual thought, or is it blather assigned to feelings?

How much more truthful would it be to say everyone has a right to feel the way they feel?

Actually, feelings cannot be justified. People all the time ask, “Why do you feel that?” Instead, they should be asking why someone thinks something. Thoughtful processing has reasons. Feelings are just feelings, and totally subjective. Nobody can literally feel what someone else is feeling.

All Opinions are Not Equal

All Opinions are Not Equal

Two engineers had two differening opinions. They couldn’t seem to resolve those differences, so they just “agreed to disagree.” They each went their merry way, smiling as they parted. “Well, everyone has a right to their own opinion,” they told each other.

They’re fired, of course, and likely will have a hard time getting work in the future. But that’s only my opinion.

Not only do you have a right to an opinion, but you also have an obligation to form an opinion. Especially when asked for that opinion explicitly. Elections are crucial to the structure and running of this country, and a vote is an opinion.

But not all opinions are equal. Some are really stupid. Some are ignorant, totally uninformed by anything related to reality. Some are insane. What makes an opinion worth something?

An opinion is a judgement. In a culture where we’re supposed to be non-judgemental, we also can’t have an opinion. To judge is to determine one of four things: true, false, like, dislike. We don’t judge something as being not enough information to judge. We conclude that, but it’s not a judgement.

There are two categories involved, the objective (having to do with reality) and the subjective (having to do with internal selfhood). Truth and falsehood apply to objective reality. Liking and disliking something are entirely internal and subjective. Nobody can question why you like something, you just do. But you should have a functional reason as to why you judge something to be true or false.

And that judgement of truth shouldn’t be “just a feeling.” Or just a guess.

Opinions are valuable when they’re based on knowledge, experience, skilled analyses, or historical data. An unusual exception is where an opinion is based on intuition. But since we have no clear science of intuition yet, it’s very difficult to assign a value to intuitive judgements.

Intuition isn’t a feeling. We use the expression because it’s handier than saying, “I have an intuition,” but intuition is essentially based on real experience that isn’t readily accessible at any moment. It’s stored in the mind, but can’t be consciously articulated at that moment. It still requires past experience, though, unlike a hormonal storm of nothing.

More often than not, an intuition is a complex trend analysis with a projection into the future. We may discover that clairvoyance is real, and some intuitions are indeed precognition. For now, we can only say that some people are strongly intuitive. Their “guesses” turn out right more than probability would suggest.

If we’re going to value intuitive opinions, we still need a past history. We need a decent sample of past opinions and the results of those opinions. In many ways, polling data is an intuitive guess based on samples, statistics, and trends. The problem is that intuition is less certain than judgement.

Having an opinion isn’t in any way astonishing. It’s no more fascinating than having an idea. Everyone has ideas. Not everyone puts those ideas into action. Many people have opinions, but a lot of people’s opinions are stupid. Either way, having an opinion doesn’t give anyone an “entitlement” to a platform for that opinion.

The Constitution guarantees the right to speak freely, but it does NOT guarantee that someone must listen. Biology provides the fact that everyone forms opinions, but nothing other than reality itself determines the validity of anyone’s opinion.

What’s nice about reality is that it can’t be legislated away. Politicians and upset people can try to deny that reality exists, but they’re no more functional than the fabled emperor claiming he was wearing new clothes.

The proper and immediate next question to ask when someone says they have an opinion, is “What’s the basis for your opinion?”

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6 Comments »

  1. My favourite is “everything is relative”. Too bad it isn’t true, the correct expression is “everything is related (to something)”. Unfortunately this has lead to the widespread belief that there are no absolutes in this world. However the phrase “I exist” is usually enough to give someone problems of proving that there are no absolutes, since it would be horribly stupid of them to be talking to someone that “may or may not exist, depending on your view of reality”. Some people say that I might just be a figment of their imagination. I find it quite amusing to attack this view of reality by being immensly annoying and then ask why their imagination is imagining such horrible existences as mine. Somewhere around here, they usually decide that denying my existence would mean a very annoying internal struggle, and thus, they choose to back away from the discussion.

    Thanks for another good post, you will be linked.

    //hpx83

    Comment by hpx83 — October 30, 2008 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  2. This whole construct of using logic and language to “prove” something is the key to ridiculous philosophy. Aside from it being impossible to prove a negative (no such thing as absolutes), any argument about anything at all can simply be rebuffed with, “That’s your opinion.”

    The issue for philosophy is NOT whether or not any given philosophy can be proven to be utterly true, partially true, or not true. The issue is to assign context around data, turning that data into information. Each of us can choose a philosophy (or religion, or nothing), and that remains a choice. Our integrity is how closely we stick to that chosen philosophy or bundle of feelings.

    Reality is like a 1MB unit of information that we perceive with a 16-bit mind. We only can see a small portion, and shift around seeing different layers of that overall unit. To say or claim that whatever argument we make using language, logic, reason, and semantics is “totally true” is utterly absurd.

    As such, anyone can choose to accept as axiomatic that existence exists. Or they choose to make existence contingent upon their feelings or whatever else. The resulting question is “How’s that workin’ for ya?” Do you like your life where there can be no certainty, and so forth.

    Modern liberalism, founded on romanticism, isn’t much different from existentialism in that respect. Both remove certainty, leaving humanity filled with doubt, mystery, and ignorance. That’s a choice. The sad thing is how few people understand that they’ve chosen a philosophy, religion, or sense of life and what that choice means.

    Comment by Punchinello — November 2, 2008 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

  3. I would actually like to disagree. There is a possibility to use logic and language to prove things, although maybe not in the way that it has been previously attempted. Many a linguist has tried to break down language into a basic set of “terms”, by which you can construct the rest of the language. This is impossible (unless you are satisfied with the end-result being an alphabet – and characters in the alphabet do not have any relation to the words they are in except spelling and pronounciation). The reason that this is impossible is that language is not hierarchical, thus it cannot be broken down hierarchially. Language is associative, simply because human thinking is associative. Thus, in order to break down language, you have to do it associatively. This will of course be a difficult task, because an association is nowhere as clear and easily definable as a hierarchical “block” that has defined borders.

    And of course, the “hows that working for you” approach is a lot simpler, but it does leave out one crucial component of reasoning, namely that which is RIGHT. I know it is not popular to voice absolutes these days, or even admit their existance, however I am sure that there are absolutes in this world. After all – a rock is still a rock, water is still wet, the sun still gives us light – regardless of if we wish to believe it or not. I aim to prove that existence does exist, and that existence does not bother with anyones feelings what-so-ever. Any philosophy built on the questioning of reality will never account for much more than garbage, since it will by definition not have any possibility to pass any judgement on events and theories regarding reality.

    Sorry for this post being a bit messy, I have a lot of thoughts running concurrently right now. I will leave you to try and doubt the following statements:

    I. “I think, therefore I am” – Descartes

    II. “A thought always has a object (you always think of “something”) therefore “something” has to exist.

    If we define “attribute” as “that which describes a concept (something) by adding information to it as given by our perception” then we get

    III. “Something can not have a specific attribute, and at the same time have the opposite attribute. The existence of opposite attributes therefore proves that plurality exists(that not only “something” exists, but in fact “many things” as separated by their attributes).”

    Would be delighted to hear further comments,

    //hpx83

    Comment by hpx83 — November 3, 2008 @ 7:31 am | Reply

  4. First of all, Descartes introduced the main flaw in modern philosophy by making existence contingent up on thinking. What if I don’t think? Therefore, I don’t exist? Although it seems to have come from religion, a much better initial premise would be, “I am that I am.”

    Existence isn’t contingent upon human thought. Philosophy is contingent upon human thought.

    Secondly, thoughts are different from consciousness, which is different from awareness. Although a thought usually applies to an object, awareness has no such qualification. Once again, a better starting premise would be, “I am.” Even there, the core problem is the concept of self.

    Philosophy usually begins with some sort of observation point, and many times simply assumes self-awareness. There is an “I” making the many logical constructions that go into a philosophy. However, a virus exists, regardless of its self-awareness or lack thereof. That virus would exist in the event that all higher life forms vanish entirely.

    We also can say that hydrogen atoms exist, and have no self-awareness or philosophy. Those atoms (and all other nuclear particles) existed prior to any form of living entities or minds.

    Another argument could be made that consciousness is a force, not a particle. That force has no self-awareness and makes no reasoned thought system, yet it exists. Does a force think?

    An attribute is the physical aspect of an entity. Entities are the ideal and exist as logical abstractions. Our perception of those entities is what we consider to be the attributes. The attributes aren’t the entities. The law of Identity proposes that nothing can exist and not exist at the same time, nor that something can be something else at the same time.

    However, the law of Identity rests on the principle concept of time, which is a construct of the space-time continuum. We know that an electron can exist as both a particle and a wave at the same time, and that it can exist in many probable locations at the same time.

    Logic is simply consistent thinking. But when we assign and connect, or associate that logic with reality we have rational logic. Irrational logic takes place all the time. Logic itself is a human attribute. Organization and structure are the ontological entity, of which logic is an attribute of human mental activity.

    The question of what is “right” (meaning “true) is a logical process. Something can be logically true but be physically untrue (the Analytic-Synthetic dichotomy). In real life we need to have some certainty, and philosophy tends to remove that certainty, at least philosophy over the past 300 years. The issue is whether something is rational or not, meaning that it is logically true AND that it matches reality.

    Since our concept of reality is filtered through our own minds, we have an irreconcilable bias. It’s the problem of the observer influencing and even creating the reality being judged true or false. We seem to create an electron particle simply by choosing to observe it into existence. Does that mean the particle is “objectively” true or false? What do we mean by objective?

    Perfect, or ideal objective existence cannot be observed because whatever is doing the observation includes a component of subjective perspective. Existence itself can exist objectively, but no mental process within a living being can ever fundamentally prove or disprove that existence.

    Ayn Rand argued that existence comes first and that consciousness comes second. The argument was that consciousness is “conscious of” something, therefore that something, meaning existence, must first be there as the “target” of consciousness. In other words, consciousness must be conscious of something, and that proves it is conscious of an a priori existence.

    The problem is that if consciousness is a force, then it simply exists. It does not have to be conscious of itself or of something external (i.e., existence). In the event, consciousness could come first, and “think” into existence all of existence.

    Comment by Punchinello — November 3, 2008 @ 1:44 pm | Reply

  5. “First of all, Descartes introduced the main flaw in modern philosophy by making existence contingent up on thinking.”
    [This depends on interpretation. It may be interpreted as in “you need to think to exist”. But it may also be the more philosophical “the fact that I think proves that I exist”, which is my general interpretation of it.]

    ” What if I don’t think? Therefore, I don’t exist? Although it seems to have come from religion, a much better initial premise would be, “I am that I am.””
    [But is this what Descartes says? Just because a leaf is green does not mean that anything not green cannot possibly be a leaf, unless I state that “all leaves are green”. Just because I choose to prove my existence by the fact that I think, does not mean that “anything that does not think does not exist”]

    “Existence isn’t contingent upon human thought. Philosophy is contingent upon human thought.”
    [Agreed. Existence exists regardless of if we believe it or not. But I see no sin in trying to prove it.]

    “Secondly, thoughts are different from consciousness, which is different from awareness. Although a thought usually applies to an object, awareness has no such qualification. Once again, a better starting premise would be, “I am.” Even there, the core problem is the concept of self.”
    [I would say that awareness has to apply to an object. What are you aware of? How can there be awareness without something to be aware of? If you are “self-aware” then the self must exist. If you are aware of something except yourself, then something else must exist. I would like to define “thought” as “applying the capabilities of your mind to draw conclusions about that of which you are aware”]

    “Philosophy usually begins with some sort of observation point, and many times simply assumes self-awareness. There is an “I” making the many logical constructions that go into a philosophy. However, a virus exists, regardless of its self-awareness or lack thereof. That virus would exist in the event that all higher life forms vanish entirely.”
    [The observation point is only necessary because there is a philosopher wanting to observe things. I do not see how the use of an observation point makes any conclusions drawn from that observation point less valid. Yes the virus exists regardless of the existence of higher life – but I am interested in proving my philosophy from my viewpoint – the only viewpoint I can work from.]

    “We also can say that hydrogen atoms exist, and have no self-awareness or philosophy. Those atoms (and all other nuclear particles) existed prior to any form of living entities or minds.”
    [Once again I am with you. Everything exists a priori something being aware of it – otherwise there would be nothing to be aware of]

    “Another argument could be made that consciousness is a force, not a particle. That force has no self-awareness and makes no reasoned thought system, yet it exists. Does a force think? ”
    [If consciousness is a force, in which direction is it striving? From what point is it starting?]

    “An attribute is the physical aspect of an entity. Entities are the ideal and exist as logical abstractions. Our perception of those entities is what we consider to be the attributes. The attributes aren’t the entities. The law of Identity proposes that nothing can exist and not exist at the same time, nor that something can be something else at the same time.

    However, the law of Identity rests on the principle concept of time, which is a construct of the space-time continuum. We know that an electron can exist as both a particle and a wave at the same time, and that it can exist in many probable locations at the same time. ”

    [I would not say that the uncertainty principle disproves the law of Identity. It simply states that there are two ways of looking at a particle/wave. It has certain attributes that are associable with particles, yet it has also certain attributes that are associable with a wave-form. This seems like nothing more than adding another dimension to the thinking of physics in regards to attributes of particles. And the fact that there are different locations where the particle _could_ exist, does not mean that it exists in all these places simultaneously. The fact that particles can (as proved by the uncertainty principle) theoretically move straight through physical objects(which is a common interpretation of the practical applications of quantum physics) does not pose any problem, if you consider the fact that there may exist more dimensions than the 3 we are used to thinking in.]

    “Logic is simply consistent thinking. But when we assign and connect, or associate that logic with reality we have rational logic. Irrational logic takes place all the time. Logic itself is a human attribute. Organization and structure are the ontological entity, of which logic is an attribute of human mental activity.

    The question of what is “right” (meaning “true) is a logical process. Something can be logically true but be physically untrue (the Analytic-Synthetic dichotomy). In real life we need to have some certainty, and philosophy tends to remove that certainty, at least philosophy over the past 300 years. The issue is whether something is rational or not, meaning that it is logically true AND that it matches reality.

    Since our concept of reality is filtered through our own minds, we have an irreconcilable bias. It’s the problem of the observer influencing and even creating the reality being judged true or false. We seem to create an electron particle simply by choosing to observe it into existence. Does that mean the particle is “objectively” true or false? What do we mean by objective?”

    [I fail to see how something can be logically true if it is not physically true? This sounds like applying logic to previously defined facts/conclusions that are not true. Please exemplify. And I do not believe that we can create something by observing it – even if we may never had been aware of it had we not chosen to try to observe it. Please exemplify this as well, if possible.]

    “Perfect, or ideal objective existence cannot be observed because whatever is doing the observation includes a component of subjective perspective. Existence itself can exist objectively, but no mental process within a living being can ever fundamentally prove or disprove that existence. ”
    [What is your basis for claiming that no mental process can fundamentally prove or disprove existence? That it has not been done? Or do you claim that nothing can be proven or disproved? With a combination of inductive and deductive logic, I believe that anything can be proven, and that is which I aim to do]

    “Ayn Rand argued that existence comes first and that consciousness comes second. The argument was that consciousness is “conscious of” something, therefore that something, meaning existence, must first be there as the “target” of consciousness. In other words, consciousness must be conscious of something, and that proves it is conscious of an a priori existence.”
    [I would argue that this is a good argument, but then again it is in fact the exact argument I use, so no surprise there]

    “The problem is that if consciousness is a force, then it simply exists. It does not have to be conscious of itself or of something external (i.e., existence). In the event, consciousness could come first, and “think” into existence all of existence.”

    [But what part of concept consciusness makes you want to consider it a force? I fail to see where the relation between the concepts “consciusness” and “force” exist.]

    Comment by hpx83 — November 4, 2008 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

  6. I fail to see how something can be logically true if it is not physically true?

    Logical syllogisms are often true, and contradict reality. “The moon is white. Flour is white. Therefore, the moon is composed of flour.” That’s logically true, but rationally false.

    But what part of concept consciusness makes you want to consider it a force? I fail to see where the relation between the concepts “consciusness” and “force” exist.

    We have no definition whatsoever of consciousness. We know that something is involved in our thinking and awareness, but having assigned the word consciousness doesn’t define it. That’s why we need a semantic distinction, in my opinion, between conscious and aware. When we’re knocked unconscious, then we’re not conscious and we’re not aware. What happens when we recover from that unconscious state? Do we regain awareness and therefore we’re conscious? Do we regain consciousness, therefore we’re aware?

    I’ll argue that we can be aware of self, which doesn’t necessarily mean awareness of existence. “I am.” One argument is that the self must first exist, otherwise nothing could be aware of anything. My argument is that the self may (theoretically) exist first and by entering into that awareness, create the surrounding existence.

    If consciuosness is a force, it moves from chaos (disorganization) toward organization. My ontology proposes only three foundations. We have utter chaos, in which not even existence exists. At any instant, some portion of chaos comes into existence as organization. The force which makes that organization is consciousness.

    One of my interests is that it seems to me that a philosophy should account for everything. The old “theory of everything” theory. 🙂 To that end, we have massive bodies of information (true or not) throughout all of human history that pertains to some sort of non-physical reality.

    A first step is to differentiate “reality” from “existence.” I would say that reality is the universe itself, where existence is all that possibly could be, is, and was. Reality is held by the space-time continuum. Existence contains that continuum, and therefore is outside and greater than space and time.

    The issue of waveforms introduces the concept of parallel universes, in which case all forms of an entity exist simultaneously. If we stipulate that, then the Law of Identity must have secondary modifiers. A=A only in reality, and A=A in this particular probability at this instant.

    A mental process is contained within all of existence, formed by that existence, and contingent upon that existence. A process is a result, not a cause. As such, whatever modifies the original cause, fundamentally changes the process. Given that proof is contingent upon space and time, physical reality, no proof can apply to “unreal” existence.

    Another way to say it would be that proof is an organized structure. Therefore, it cannot exist within formal chaos.

    Comment by Punchinello — November 4, 2008 @ 9:53 pm | Reply


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