Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Opinions vs ideas (revised)

Some people have ideas; others just have opinions.  There is a difference.  Opinions are like arseholes -- everybody's got one.  Especially in the blogosphere.

Ideas on the other hand represent something more considered and generally more well integrated than mere range-of-the-moment opinions -- a species so frequently seen spewed out across the blogosphere's comments section.   The very best ideas are part of a distinctive and integrated worldview --  as author Burgess Laughlin explained recently, "a comprehensive set of ideas that, taken together, explain at least: (1) the basic nature of the world in which one lives; (2) one's own basic nature; and (3) the manner in which one should act in the world."  If we have a rational objective framework such as this to work from, we're likely to make a better fist of things when we are relying only on half-formed and half-baked opinions we've picked up who knows where.

I was musing on this distinction between opinions and ideas and on the befuddlement of most of the blogosophere's opinionated commentariat when I read this insightful comment from author Burgess Laughlin:

When someone gives me his opinion about a current controversy -- say, voting for candidate X rather than Y -- I like to ask: "What method did you use to arrive at your conclusion?"

I usually get non-answers:

1. "Well, ..." (Silence, either befuddled or angry).

2. "Common sense." (Milieu as oracle.)

3. "It's obvious what the right answer is." (Subconscious as oracle.)

4. "Reason." (Inviting the question of how to employ reason in a particular case.)

5. "Logic." (Inviting the question of how to proceed logically in a particular case.)

6. "It's too complex; everyone has to work it out personally" (Conclusions are a matter of personal taste.)

My position is that if there is no identifiable method, including an explanation of why that method was chosen, then there is no objectivity in one's conclusions.

Spot on!  Burgess has a book called The Aristotle Adventure and runs a blog called 'Making Progress,' on which he recently explained another related distinction: that between a worldview, a philosophy and an ideology.  Highly recommended reading, all.


  1. The problem being that both bloggers and commenters in the political 'sphere take themselves way too seriously. And it's getting worse with people believing their own bullshit - comment karma - snort.

    The blogosphere needs to get over itself, and soon.

  2. That wasn't me


  3. "The blogosphere needs to get over itself, and soon.

    Interesting opinion, O Anonymous One!

    Whereof does this "need" arise?

    And what method did you use to arrive at this conclusion? ;^)

    PS: "Comment karma"? Que?


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