Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Entitled Opinion

           This post isn't about music, poetry, love, or whatnot, but I still thought it was interesting.
            I was reading a book called Crimes Against Logic by Jamie White.  I liked his first chapter, which was all about how invoking the “You are entitled to your opinion” phrase is really, quite silly. People have told me in certain arguments and conversations that I am entitled to my opinion. Apart from annoying me, I knew that there was something wrong with this statement, but thus far could not put my finger on exactly why it was wrong. I have now been enlightened.
            In the first place, as White says, it does nothing to solve the original argument (that is, the argument before the phrase was used). White uses the example of Jack and Jill, who are arguing over President Bush’s motives for invading Iraq. Jack offers his explanation of why he believes Bush invaded Iraq, Jill has a rebuttal (disagrees with Jack), and Jack invokes the, “I am entitled to my own opinion” phrase.

            Here are some things that White has to say about why using this phrase is completely unrelated to the conversation (these all come from the first chapter of the book):
1.      “The fallacy lies in Jack’s assumptions that this retort is somehow a satisfactory reply to Jill’s objections while, in fact, it is completely irrelevant (3).”
2.      “If the opinion to which we are entitled might nevertheless be false, the entitlement cannot be properly invoked to settle a dispute. It adds no new information on the original matter; it does nothing to show that the opinion in question is true (3).”
3.      “Does your right to your opinion oblige me to agree with you? No (8).”
4.      “Does your right to your opinion oblige me to listen to you? No (8).”
5.      “It’s just that, on some topics, many people are not really interested in believing the truth (9).”

            I like a lot of what White says about this common fallacy. He mentions at the end of the chapter that invoking the phrase is showing that the person doing the invoking is not on a quest for truth. As White says, “You may be interested in whether or not their opinion is true, but take the hint, they aren’t (10).”
            Think of how silly this phrase would sound in a debate between two scientists who had doctorates in molecular biology. One offers his theory, the other challenges it with evidence, and then the first scientist says that he is entitled to his opinion. He really just had no evidence to refute the other scientist’s arguments. There is no point in having the debate if one is just going to invoke his right to his opinion. Of course, truth can be a bit more elusive at times, but invoking the entitlement phrase does nothing to settle the original dispute.

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