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The Definition of Fact and Opinion

Discussion in 'The Attic' started by petro, Apr 24, 2016.

    Apr 24, 2016
  1. petro

    petro Dormant account, per user request PABnoaccred2 PABaccred

    Occupation:
    N/A
    Location:
    Narnia
    In the past I haven't had good reason to understand the definitions of these two words.
    I have made some lazy attempts; I've asked people and used dictionaries.
    The people I asked just shrugged and told me to look it up in a dictionary as if the question was too simple to bother answering.
    And the dictionary meanings just got me even more confused...

    I've made attempts in the past to understand the meanings of these words by the context they were used in:
    I've seen the word 'opinion' used to try and divorce oneself from statements. I.e.: "If you act on the information I gave you, you can't sue me because I've already told you it's my opinion."
    Or, an opinion as an emotional expression like: "My opinion is that the world is a hell hole." (Opinions express people's emotions rather than actual reality.)
    But, none of these definitions really worked, the definitions didn't fit all the examples I was presented with and some didn't quite make sense.

    I've also had a lot of conflicting information about the definitions; a teacher I had once told the class that an opinion is an idea that's not thought-out correctly. Or a quick judgement on matters. And again, this didn't seem to fit the full context that the word was used in.

    What motivated me to put in some effort to understand these words was:
    Recently I've been watching some "Star Wars Theory" on YouTube. Stuff like; Snoke is Leia is Chewbacca. And just who is Rey's father anyway?
    And in the videos they used those two words (fact and opinion) quite a bit.
    The new motto of the forum: "Advocate of fair play, opinions and facts" also played a role in motivating me to understand the definitions.

    I done a great deal of searching and I almost got to the point where I was going to contact philosophy professors and ask them the definitions until I discovered a cartoon made for 5 year-olds that managed to give me a definition that I could grasp.
    And what it turned out to be was: a fact is something you can prove to a 3rd party and an opinion is something you can't. (At least, according to this cartoon for kids.)

    Up till this point, having no definitions of these two words I was never aware that they were even related to each other. And that explains why I did not understand either of them.

    I understand why I never understood the definition of 'opinion' and it was because of the context the word was frequently used in:
    The context that caused the problem was: "But, that's just your opinion." (As if to say opinions can be completely disregarded.)
    The problem with that definition is: people's opinions contain evidence. Evidence is related to your own survival and that's why you just can't ignore it and at the same time live.
    You can prove it's related to your own survival by thinking about the consequences of completely disregarding people's opinions (or what they can't adequately prove to you.)

    According to the philosophical literature I read; there's currently a disagreement that opinions contain evidence.
    But, I suspect the people that disagree are scientists. They only want to consider as evidence what they can put under a microscope or what they can perform experiments on and so forth.
    Their mistake is ignoring the wider definition of the word 'evidence' and only looking at how the word applies to their own field.
     
    4 people like this.
  2. Apr 24, 2016
  3. goatwack

    goatwack Praise the Sun! CAG

    Occupation:
    Stuntman
    Location:
    Londonia
    Opinions are rarely 'proven' and only relate to that person's distinctive observations coupled with their past experiences to form an outlook. This is likely to be changeable and can be altered over time.

    Therefore opinions often carry very little weight and cannot be evidenced or demonstrated to any significant degree, hence experiences gathered to form an opinion can also be fabricated or constructs of other people's views.

    Facts are generally considered authentic and scientifically proven over periods of time, but can take hold if enough people claim it to be so, i.e if enough people are adamant that the plural of 'elephants' is spelt with an apostrophe (elephant's), this is where multiple garnered opinions can actually form makeshift facts.

    I better stop here :confused:
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. Apr 25, 2016
  5. ternur

    ternur A damn fine cup of coffee CAG webby mm3

    Occupation:
    Lawyer
    Location:
    Finland
    The fact/opinion distinction is actually a hard one. It seems simple, but looking into it, it's pretty ambiguous.

    Someone has said the distinction should be abandoned, and more value should be put on the reasoning.

    I like to try and use valid syllogisms when possible. Atleast in this way, one can provide logically valid arguments. On the other hand, if a premise is false, the argument in itself can still be logically valid. But this process can be used as a starting point to rule out clearly fallacious arguments.

    We can't ignore the different mindsets of people either. If you have strong beliefs (religious, moral etc.), you process evidence in a different way. When there's some value that you hold sacred, you mostly do not use rational reasoning when defending your beliefs in those values. It may very well constitute a fact in your mind, while others with different values and beliefs see it as an opinion. To me, this is most evident in debates with religious context.

    Disclaimer: This post is my opinion and is based on my beliefs, which are so sacred to me that in my mind I see them as facts. :D
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. Apr 25, 2016
  7. petro

    petro Dormant account, per user request PABnoaccred2 PABaccred

    Occupation:
    N/A
    Location:
    Narnia
    To my mind it's quite clear, take this example:

    A member of the forum says "Staff at XYZ casino are verbally abusive." Can they prove this to a 3rd party? If not, it's an opinion and not a fact.

    But, if this member were to provide a screenshot of the "verbal abuse" it becomes a fact because the member has now proven it to 3rd parties.

    You can get quite deep into the intricacies of the topic but to my mind this explanation is sufficient.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. Apr 25, 2016
  9. ternur

    ternur A damn fine cup of coffee CAG webby mm3

    Occupation:
    Lawyer
    Location:
    Finland

    I would not see this as a fact per se. The member hurt their feelings and felt verbally abused. We could agree that the fact is: this member felt abused. But we could debate the premise of "staff of casino XYZ are verbally abusive". I.E.:

    1. Forum member was verbally abused (based on their feelings being hurt).
    2. The abuser was the staff of casino XYZ.
    3. Therefore, the staff of casino XYZ are verbally abusive.

    To "promote" this to a fact, it would require that all members of casino XYZ are abusive towards all their clients. Also, some may see the communication as abusive, while others might see it as not abusive.

    I'm splitting hairs here, but to me this example does not provide a plausible distinction between fact and opinion. The member would have to prove to us, that they felt verbally abused. Which would require proving their feelings or emotions. Posting a chat log of that verbal abuse would only prove what was said, nothing more.

    My main point is, that dangerous generalizations are born this way. Somewhere along the way, they are just presented as facts.
     
  10. Apr 28, 2016
  11. petro

    petro Dormant account, per user request PABnoaccred2 PABaccred

    Occupation:
    N/A
    Location:
    Narnia
    It wasn't meant to be an ideal example. It was just to explain the general idea.

    But, I see where you are coming from and that's why I said: You can get quite deep into the intricacies of the topic...


    I agree with that, I think one person's fact is another's opinion.
    I.e. You can never prove that the sky is blue to someone who is blind.
     
    1 person likes this.
  12. Apr 28, 2016
  13. geordiecolin

    geordiecolin Senior Member CAG PABnononaccred mm4

    Occupation:
    Manager
    Location:
    West Sussex
    The fact is that you are a human,the green stuff in my garden is grass and the bright thing in the sky is the sun. Opinions are based on perception and perceptions are subject to change. Unlike facts.
    Facts also need indisputable evidence. I may well have punched someone in the face for going on a fruit machine after I lost a fortune on it only to watch him drop the jackpot with his first spin. There is no evidence of it even though my friends witnessed it but kept quiet. It may be a fact that I hit him but for brevity it is only opinion or perception.

    History is often disputed because the victor was usually the ones who wrote the books and told the story. Did Richard the 3rd kill the boys in the tower? For centuries it was widely given as fact. Today it is no more than opinion because there are arguments for and against.
    Then there is personal beliefs. One can believe in the Lord, Jesus,Mary and the Bible. You could be the only person amongst one hundred folk who do not believe. The 99's arguments may be compelling against the believers arguments yet the believer can not be shaken from their conviction. Are the majority right and the believer wrong? I don't think so.
     
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