How To Think About Opinion
This section is presented as a conversation between Adler and Lloyd Luckman. I’m not certain who Mr. Luckman is but he appears to be Adler’s co-host and interviewer for the TV show. Luckman is confused as to why Adler would consider “opinion” a great idea. Adler explains.
He addresses both the theoretical significance and the practical significance of opinion.
The greatest problem in determining certainty and probability is the distinction between knowledge and opinion, therefore to judge the worth of opinions, people created the theory of probability. For a sceptic, we know nothing for certain and everything is a matter of opinion. One opinion is just as good as another and everything is subjective and relative.
Opinion is also connected with the great theoretical problem of agreement and disagreement. We essentially agree and disagree on every fundamental question.
“Controversy” has almost become a bad word but discussion and public debate are crucial to the health of a society. We have a moral duty to be hospitable to controversy.
Majority rule is essential in a democracy, but we also need to respect what is sound in the judgement of the minority.
|A Difference of Opinion (1896)
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Characteristics of Opinion as Contrasted with Knowledge
It is important to see the difference of both in terms of truth, but there is a definition of truth that must be agreed upon, and he proposes the following: “A statement is true if it says that that which is is, or if it says that which is not is not; and a statement is false if it says that that which is not is, or that which is is not.”
Opinion versus Knowledge
Knowledge is having the truth and knowing that you have it. Opinion consists in not being sure that you have the truth or not being sure what you say is true or false. For example, in a courtroom there is an opinion rule where the witness must state what he saw happen, not what he thinks happened. Opinions can be right or wrong, true or false. Knowledge cannot be false.
Another criteria for judging on knowledge or opinion is whether something is universally known or agreed upon. If everyone MUST agree, it isn’t opinion, it’s knowledge.
- Doubt and belief are relative only to opinion, never to knowledge. For example, “two plus two equals four” is known. As to whether there will be another world war or not, one can only offer an opinion.
A Right To Our Own Opinion
- There is no conflict with knowledge but there can be conflicting opinions. Reasonable men can agree to disagree.
- We can talk about a consensus of opinion, but we never refer to a consensus of knowledge. Aristotle’s rule for consensus of opinion is: “In arguments dealing with matters of opinion, we should base our reasoning on the opinions held by all. Or if not by all, at least those held by most men. Or if not by most men, at least by their wives. And in the last case, if we are basing it on the wives, then we should try to base our opinion or arguments on the opinions held by all the wives or if not by all the wives then by the most expert among them or at least by the most famous.” Rarely is there unanimity in consensus of opinion.
Questions, questions and more questions !!!
About what sort of things can we have knowledge, and about what sort of things can we only form opinions? Plato believed that it was only possible to have knowledge about those things that were fixed, permanent or eternal, but Aristotle disagreed, holding that it was possible to have knowledge of both the physical world and eternal ideas.
What is the psychological difference between knowing and opinion?
Can we have knowledge and opinion about the same thing? Or is it possible for someone to have knowledge about something, about which another person has only an opinion?
How much knowledge do we have? To what degree are the things that we deem to know really things we know or only things that we opine?
Socrates said that only God knows and for the most part, men have nothing better than opinion. To know this is wisdom. He was being rather ironic and intended to go on with the inquiry, which Adler plans to do in the next section where he examines in greater depth the difference between knowledge and opinion.
|A Difference of Opinion as to a Treaty
Herman Frederik Carel Ten Kate