Keep your mind open and your opinions dynamic

One of the earliest distinctions of an argumentative concept that is taught is the difference between fact and opinion. Facts are unchanging and can be proven through trial. They are “stubborn things” as John Adams once remarked. Opinions, however, vary, sometimes mildly, sometimes significantly, from person to person. It is often taught that opinions are informed and influenced by facts, but are not facts themselves. But to the person, they are a sort of fact: a truth. While a person’s opinion may not be provable, to them, it is the truth. Why would one hold an idea if they did not believe it was true?

Of course one would naturally see their opinion as the truth. But while this is a completely understandable practice, its inherent flaw lies when conflicting “truths” confront and compare one another. If a truth is seen as absolute to the person who holds it, a conflicting opinion on the same matter by another would not only be seen by that person as incorrect, but as threatening. The issue is not that opinions are taken as truth to those who possess them, but that they establish themselves as invincible truth, one that can be neither questioned nor compromised. The problem is not an opinion but a static opinion. A static opinion, once established, remains unchanged even as new information arrives and refuses to accept the legitimacy of any contradicting perspective. When the followers of these max voltage ideologies come to the debate, they storm in, charged for victory, not discussion. They exchange bolts of hyperboles, discharge misused evidence, and overall simply repulse one another. They then in turn will either shy away debate, or worse, overcharge the tension, and often harden the resolve of dissenting views, setting them afire, resulting in a discourse of pointless rhetoric that seeks to solve nothing but who is the most unreasonably obstinate. And while the answer this new, arguably less important, question is fervently determined, the original intent of the discussion is cast aside, serving as little more than a convenient focal point for conflict.

Granted, this is not always the case in less political, economic or controversial social areas, such as with a discussion of movie or television series quality. In these events of disagreements, if one can simply not reconcile their own beliefs with those of another, the phrase “just my opinion” can often defuse any potential hostilities. But on an issue that is particularly contentious, affects a large number of people (which in itself is often up for debate), a lack of agreement on a basic concepts can result in drawn out competitions of argument, counter argument, which quickly deteriorates to little more than rhetorically laced discourse, during what could have been a productive discussion of compromising perspectives. There is no attempt to understand the opposing viewpoint, having already concluded its falsehood, largely based on the reasoning that it is not concurrent with one’s own opinion, and is simply attempting to blindly refute it. Those who cannot understand why others do not see the world the way they do are too wrapped in the idea that the world is abundant with inherent, absolute, “truths,” which, once learned and understood, are adopted in, and politely referred to as, “opinions” to fabricate the courtesy of multiple possible perspectives, but in “reality” should be understood as unequivocal certitude.

It would be both unethical and unreasonable to ask for all of humanity to allow their opinions to be changed at the knowledge of disagreement. One should not change their mind just because another disagrees, but also should not consider it to be weakness to modify an outlook or perspective on an issue because new information has arisen that was not previously known or effectively analyzed. The reasons as for why people come to different conclusions about the same issue with almost the same information are legion, and are still not entirely understood. One of the main contributing factors, however, to a static opinion is a lack of perspective, or even more significantly, lack of an acceptance of perspective. Too often is disagreement seen as permanent, irreconcilable, and no attempt is even made to understand why it exists, beyond basic, often incorrect, talking points. We have no choice but to understand our opinions as the truth from our eyes, but we do have the choice to accept the existence of disagreements, and their validity on the basis of a free thinking society. No opinion, as we understand, should be free from scrutiny, be it by an illustrious philosopher, politician, writer, or the very one present on this page. An opinion should electrify a debate, not electrocute it.