MANY students would complain against teachers who do not give a perfect score for their answers which according to them are “their opinion.” Apparently, these students suggest that an opinion is not subject to the judgment of others. There is a prevailing view that opinions cannot be dismissed to be false, and more so not subject to invalidation. Things become more complicated when opinions are mixed with “feelings” or “sentiments.”
My grade school teacher told me once that in order to avoid being labeled wrong in one’s answers, one should speak about it as a “matter of opinion.” She did not elaborate, but perhaps that was her way of saying that a “matter of opinion” is not the same as a “matter of fact.” Looking back, I believe that my teacher was not entirely correct and she should have qualified her explanation.
But precisely this connotation that an opinion can be “anything goes,” even the most stupid of ideas, needs some critique. Are we licensed to “abuse” the expression “in my opinion” whenever we intend to say something illogical? Are we to use “that is just my opinion” as the easiest excuse whenever we want to justify a conviction that we have difficulty proving? Worse, is “opinion” immune from right reasoning and the ethical standards of truth telling? When these questions are applied in concrete situations, can we say that those who “twist facts” are just expressing their opinion?
Merriam-Webster defines opinion as “a belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something.” This alone tells us that even the lowest of opinions is not exempt from what ought to be the goal of the human mind, which is merely “to understand.”
Opinions therefore are encouraged and admissible but only and insofar as they are all subject to scrutiny and criticism. If needed therefore, and if only to improve the collective understanding of humanity, some opinions must be corrected or even dismissed, especially those that are not in congruence with the rules of right reasoning.
We have been made to think that ideas are democratized, and anything can be said about anything. But this is partly wrong because even in a democracy, citizens have the duty to contribute to the stability of social foundations. Otherwise, where plurality of thinking is understood as the celebration of stupidity, democracy ends up as an anarchy, where lies and selfish interests become the basis of all human relations. (For full text, visit: www.sunstar.com.ph)
Saying out loud or defending one’s opinion is not exempted from the rules of right thinking and sound judgment. The human mind may not be able to immediately articulate in the best expression possible—all views about life and the world. However, “understanding” is certainly an object of all human thinking, and any attempt to explain something without the slightest of the intention to contribute to comprehension is plain “rubbish.” Precisely why Merriam-Webster secondarily defines opinion as: “[an] advice from someone with special knowledge: advice from an expert.” This basically means that although an opinion is “an exclusive” or an “individual’s view,” it is a product of a sound judgment, a well thought-of take, and a rightly discerned examination of the matter. Discernment in this sense should not be understood as a “spiritual exercise,” but rather that natural process of analyzing and deliberating the reasonability of things.
Opinions are important in a democracy. They allow those who are not on top of the decision-pyramid to participate in the deliberative process. However, this should not be taken to mean that we encourage the proliferation of fallacies more so the toleration of lies. People are “entitled” to communicate themselves but in a manner that is comprehensible and truthful.
That is why teachers have an important role of encouraging students to be opinionated. But they should not fail to tell students that “opinions” are not just convenient routes whenever they feel lazy cultivating their reason and thus failing to make sound judgments as a human person
November 30, 2021
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