|Everybody's Entitled to Their Own Opinion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
There are several phrases that set me on edge when used in a discussion, conversation, or debate:
“Let’s agree to disagree.” No.
“Both sides do it.” No they don’t.
"You just don’t understand” I do understand. That’s why I disagree with you.
But out of them all, the one that irks me is the inevitable:
“People are entitled to their opinion.”
No. They are not.
First of all, the concept that people are ‘entitled’ to anything is a fallacy, and I don’t mean in a right-wing “entitlement programs” or left wing “white entitlement” sense. We’re talking about the concept of universal entitlements, or rights. People are not automatically imbued with inalienable rights, regardless of what your two-hundred-year-old country’s rulebook says. People are not naturally free, do not automatically deserve respect or equality or happiness or privacy, and definitely not their opinion. There is the potential for all of these, but this potential is not a universal constant as much as it is a possibility based almost entirely on the individual’s surrounding environment, be that environment natural or societal. As a society we can dictate that people SHOULD be treated equal and fairly and decently, but that has nothing to do with nature. In fact, nature repeatedly goes out of its way to show us that she couldn’t give a shit about us or our social contracts. If these assumed “rights” were actually some sort of natural law, would we really need so many human laws, laws we barely obey in the first place? Natural Law boils down to eat or be eaten, Human Law is just there to prevent us from eating each other, and Ape Law is meant to prevent Human Law from fucking up Natural Law. You can’t argue with Ape Law.
So, if people aren’t truly “entitled” to anything, then they can’t be entitled to their opinion, can they?
Now, for even more clarification, let’s look at that popular generic term “opinion.” What is an opinion? According to a random dictionary, the main definition is:
“…a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.”
To drill down even further, an opinion is basically a belief, and beliefs are not based on factual proof or evidence, but instead are contingent on the personal rationalization of the believer. Simply put, believing something, or having an opinion about something, is done so when there’s no proof or evidence to back that belief or opinion. For example:
“I believe in God.”
“I believe in ghosts.”
“I believe that severed rabbit paws bring me good luck.”
“I believe that my race is the master race.”
All of these statements, while possibly involving some degree of anecdotal experience or general knowledge, cannot be definitively proven. Granted, there are some exceptions to this rule. The first example could also be meant to imply faith instead of opinion; when somebody says “I believe in America,” they aren’t stating a belief in America’s existence, which can be proven, but rather a faith in what it stands for, which – of course – is also based on opinion rather than fact.
Of course, you could argue that the words Belief or Opinion could conceivably be used in factually provable statement, but while this is a sound theory, they are not generally applied this way in practice. You could say “I believe the Earth is round,” but you typically would not feel the need to do so, as the rest of the statement is not only provable, but generally accepted as fact. On the other hand, you are more likely to say “In my opinion, the world is flat,” as this statement is provably false.
|Map of the Square and Stationary Earth, by Orlando Ferguson (1893) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
In fact, God and a Flat Earth neatly encompass the entire scope of the need to designate something as a belief or opinion. In the case of God, even though a large group of people share the belief, there is still no quantifiable evidence to treat God’s existence as a fact. This same principle is adhered to by the scientific community as well, as concepts agreed upon by a large group of scientists – gravity, for example – are described as theories rather than facts. In the case of the Flat Earth, not only is no evidence to prove the belief, there is also no majority to support it.
So, now that we have a better understanding of entitlements and opinions, I think it’s safe to restate that people are NOT entitled their opinions. You have the potential to form an opinion and have it accepted by others, but no guarantee. You can have an opinion, but that does not make it valid, nor does that make it equal to all other opinions. Instead of “Everybody is entitled to their opinion,” you might as well say “Everybody has the potential to be wrong.” And if you are the person espousing a belief in entitled opinions, your potential to be wrong is greater than most.
The other version of this that annoys me even more is when somebody attempts to finish a discussion, debate, or argument by saying “Well, that’s YOUR opinion.” Ironically, the person who launches this gem is usually the least able to factually support their own opinion, resorting to labeling the other person’s argument as inarguable, despite whatever argument has already been provided. Logically, if the person who this statement is directed at actually has no factual basis to support their opinion, the person claiming it as just an opinion wouldn’t need to do so, as their factual evidence would theoretically be able to prove it as such based on its own merit. In the case where neither party has enough factual support to claim victory, the “That’s your opinion” person will invariably resort to the aforementioned “Let’s agree to disagree,” which is code for “I know I’m wrong, but I’m not going to admit it.”
Beyond that, the other major problem with telling somebody that something is just their opinion is that most of what people say is opinion-based to begin with. In fact, so much of our daily communications with others are based on personal opinion that we typically don’t even bother saying it. This is why most casual discussions about anything subjective don’t descend into heated debates over whose opinion is more valid. We understand - at least subconsciously – that its all a load of opinionated beliefs, and so we all just forge through most dialogues with the unspoken agreement that our opinion is accurate, and everybody else with a differing or contradictory one is simply full of shit.
At least, that’s my opinion.