Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion

Weigh your choices carefully!

I stumbled into a great facebook post recently. See if this sounds familiar:

A friend of mine had expressed a disliking of a particular movie. The person she was talking to berated her for her opinion, as if her personal taste in movies could be compared to having interchangeable tooth/toilet brushes. Because she didn’t feel the same way he did, he chose to criticize her and call her ignorant, which of course did nothing to change her mind. It only made her angry. If we looked into it, I expect we would find much of the Middle East peace talks going along these lines.

The online response of her friends was the typical reply to such a situation: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, (So far, so good) because an opinion is neither true or false- it is subjective.” That last part is where they are wrong. Well, it is my opinion that they are wrong, and I am correct, which makes my opinion true and theirs false. Ok, before you go throwing full wine bottles at your computer screen, let me explain.

You’ll notice that, in earlier posts, I put Opinion below Belief and Knowledge on the Metaphysical Map. You might have wondered why it wasn’t put with Perception or Experience. The reason is, an Opinion is a statement of absolute, transcendent, universal truth expressing a believed piece of knowledge which is either TRUE or FALSE. Did I just blow your mind? I know I did. I could hear it from here. Take my hand. It’s going to be OK! And there’s nothing wrong with a little therapy if you need it.

When someone expresses an opinion, it is one of two things. It’s either a statement about the speaker (“I like pizza”) or it’s about some object on which the speaker is offering judgment (“Pizza is better than aerospace technology”). When I give you my opinion, I’m either talking about me, or I’m talking about something else (in this case, pizza). In the first statement, I am saying something about ME- specifically that I like pizza. This is either true or false. I could be lying. It may be true that far from liking pizza, I despise it, because I am some godless hippy communist pinko creep PRETENDING to like pizza so I can infiltrate your society and corrode it from the inside. Or maybe I’m just lactose intolerant.  Thankfully, neither of those is true, so it remains a TRUE statement that “I like Pizza.”

Why is this not subjective? Because it is ALWAYS true for everyone everywhere that I Like Pizza. It doesn’t matter if YOU like Pizza. I will still like pizza no matter how YOU feel. It’s not always about YOU, you know. We share a Reality, and in the REAL universe, I like pizza. If someone ever tells you that I do NOT like pizza, they are a liar. Do not give them your credit card information, nor vote for them.

In the second statement I am comparing two things. Sometimes people do this when they really mean to make a statement about themselves. When I said “Pizza is better than aerospace technology,” I REALLY meant, “Given the choice between them, I would choose Pizza because I am not lactose intolerant, but I am afraid of heights.” This, much like the First World War, is a result of poor grammar. Once again, the statement is either true or false, but it is intended to be a statement about my personal response to things.

But what if it’s not? What if I really am comparing Pizza Hut to NASA? In this case, I am comparing these things, not to themselves alone, but to some external standard of good and bad. To say something is “Better” only makes sense if there is some standard of GOOD to compare two things against. The one that conforms most closely to the definition of “Good” is the one which is “Better.” So, we must ask in what ways these things are similar so that they might be compared. How about this: Both cost money. We could say pizza is better because I can get a large pepperoni pizza for five dollars, where as ANYTHING made by NASA costs more than the gross national product of South America. And I can promise you it won’t be delivered to your door in half an hour or less. But if by “Good” I mean, capable of sustaining life in a low orbit for prolonged periods of time, then the better of the two (and it’s a close call) would be NASA. Without the proper aerospace technology, you would be dead before the pizza was even out of the box. Even at five dollars, that’s a bad deal.

Maybe you don’t compare Italian foods to various technology fields. I can see no reason why you wouldn’t, but it takes all kinds to make a world. Since my standard of “good” above is based on my personal preferences (Either I prefer to spend $5 at a time or I prefer to survive the trip into space) and not on some external standard (like calories or cubic inches) then there is no reason I should expect you to judge according to this standard I set up for myself. You might argue that pizza is better than aerospace technology because without pizza you would shrivel and die like a plant in the desert, making the shuttle and the most advanced satellites irrelevant. This is valid. But what if I said “Pizza is CHEAPER than aerospace technology.”? Cheaper is a math concept. Pizza is cheaper, because it costs less money. A thousand jillion dollars is clearly more than $5, making pizza the “better” (meaning cheaper) alternative. This is not up for argument. If you think it is, you’re either Bill Gates or the sultan of Brunei. In either case, I would be willing to be adopted into your family/last will and testimony.

What then can we say about someone who demands you consider a certain movie as “Good”? Maybe he is comparing the film to some standard of quality (“The movie was in focus and had audible dialogue” or, “This movie did not contain Keanu Reeves attempting to use a British accent”). Maybe he really means to make a statement about himself (“This movie made me cry like a little girl”) and he wishes for you to feel the same so that he will not feel like such a sissy. Or maybe he’s a jerk who doesn’t care what the conversation is about and he’s just trying to pick a fight. If he’s this third type, just walk away, man. Just walk away. Everyone is entitled their own subjective emotional response to external stimuli, but when you choose to express those feelings, choose your words carefully because if you don’t, you will sound like a jerk. Of course, that’s just my opinion.


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