Sunday, May 18, 2008

A paucity of views, a glut of opinions.

The following question was asked at the Bill Moyers Journal blog:

How important is it to you that the people with whom you surround yourself share your political beliefs?

  • Very Important
  • Somewhat important
  • You are indifferent
  • Not very important
  • Not important at all

  • I could not answer the question because it does not come very close to circumscribing the philosophical ground I occupy. My house is bigger than the question allows for.

    I prefer to surround myself with people who have a diversity of political views. While sharing common ground is valuable, it's also important to challenge oneself and others through exposure to and honest consideration of differing views. However, the word "view" implies a perception of reality based on observation, not to be confused with "opinion", which one can simply conjure up or inherit from another source and assume to be true without any thought or rational basis whatsoever.

    We too often conflate views with opinions. Anybody can have an opinion, but that doesn't mean they are all equally valid. In public discourse, opinions that are demonstrably false should be vigorously corrected, and those that are otherwise incoherent should be sidelined in favor of ones for which a sound basis can be established through observation and historical example.

    While it is very important to be respectful of people, I contend that it is an act of disrespect to appease people whose opinions are mistaken or incoherent, as well as those whose actions are in direct conflict with their stated views, by permitting them to co-opt the advancement of the dialogue.