1

a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

(Oxford Dictionaries)

This basically says that it is based on personal belief (i.e. "personal opinion") so can it be "right" or "wrong"? Or is it based on the content/phrasing of the opinion? For example,

I like Vanilla, and I dislike Chocolate

vs.

Chocolate is the worst flavour, Vanilla is the best

  • An opinion may be a person's judgment as to the validity of some testable assertion. When the assertion is tested, the judgment may be shown to be correct or incorrect. – Hot Licks Oct 22 '15 at 23:31
  • @HotLicks - there's a lot of 'may' in that. I would add a sprinkling of 'may not' to your definition as it stands! – chasly from UK Oct 22 '15 at 23:42
  • 1
    @chaslyfromUK - I probably should have said if the opinion is a judgment of the validity of some testable assertion, and if the assertion is checked and the check produces a well-defined result, then the judgment will be shown to be correct or incorrect. – Hot Licks Oct 22 '15 at 23:47
  • @HotLicks - In which case I agree -- and that is a complete answer to the question as posed. In fact in my opinion it is the best answer! – chasly from UK Oct 22 '15 at 23:57

11 Answers 11

4

I actually do think that opinions can be wrong. Consider the following

In my opinion, the Earth is flat

In my opinion, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

You can call these 'opinions', but they're factually wrong.

  • 5
    Calling a dog's tail a leg doesn't make it a leg, and calling a declarative sentence that can be proven right or wrong a opinion doesn't make it an opinion. – Exal Oct 22 '15 at 23:34
  • @Ink "not necessarily based on fact or knowledge." Your point does have some validity, but from the original definition provided, this only covers part of the point. – Ben Oct 22 '15 at 23:51
  • +1 Although my answer was different, I believe this answer addresses the actual question more closely than mine. Indeed, some opinions are falsifiable. However not all opinions can be falsified. For example, "In my opinion All about that bass is a good song" is clearly an opinion but you cannot falsify it because there is no generally accepted metric for 'good' when it comes to music. – chasly from UK Oct 22 '15 at 23:54
  • 1
    I disagree. "In my opinion the Earth is flat" is not an opinion. It is a statement about your opinion. The person may be telling the truth about what their opinion is or they may be lying. Whichever the case "My opinion is X" is a statement of fact. – chasly from UK Apr 22 at 21:22
6

I like Vanilla, and I dislike Chocolate,

Those are statements of fact. You cannot argue with someone if they say they like something. The most you can do is accuse them of lying.

Chocolate is the worst flavour, Vanilla is the best.

Those are someone's opinion. Different people may have different opinions about what is the best flavour.

Note

Someone has pointed out that I hadn't specifically answered the question. Looking back at my answer I see that I missed something. "X is the best" is not a fact - it is an opinion - Why? Because it is not sufficiently defined to be a fact. We can ask "According to whom?".

Answer

So, in my view, a fact is at least in theory verifiable or falsifiable. An opinion is insufficiently defined to be verified or denied. For that reason it cannot be considered right or wrong.

  • "I think chocolate is the worst flavour." Statement of fact? – Evan Jul 27 '18 at 19:46
  • I don't see an answer to the question. – Toothrot Apr 22 at 15:20
  • @Evan - "I think X" is a statement about what you think. It is not a statement about X. Therefore it is an unverifiable fact because no-one (but you and perhaps God) can verify it. – chasly from UK Apr 22 at 21:28
  • @Toothrot - Good point. I'll add something. – chasly from UK Apr 22 at 21:32
  • i still see no answer – Toothrot Apr 22 at 22:28
3

If the opinion at issue is a judgment of the validity of some testable assertion, and if the assertion is checked and the check produces a well-defined result, then the judgment will be shown to be correct or incorrect.

Eg, there are two boxes on the table. I believe ("judge") that one box contains a potato and the other a grapefruit. (Why I believe this is unimportant, but that is my opinion.) This judgment can be "tested" by simply opening the boxes and having an "impartial observer" tell us what's in the boxes. My opinion will thus be determined to be either true or false.

There are of course other types of "opinions" where the validity of the opinion is not objectively testable, and hence the opinion cannot be determined to be true or false.

  • testability is irrelevant: something can be right or wrong without being testable – Toothrot Apr 22 at 22:59
  • @Toothrot - Give an example. – Hot Licks Apr 22 at 23:00
  • say i opine that Socrates did not have a tooth removed on his 30th birthday; this is not a testable proposition, but it is either true or false – Toothrot Apr 22 at 23:05
  • @Toothrot - Easily tested: Time travel back to his 30th birthday and observe! – Hot Licks Apr 22 at 23:07
  • This answer is incorrect. If you say "I believe that this box contains a potato", that is not an opinion about either boxes or potatoes. It is a statement about your state of belief. Maybe you do believe that or maybe you are lying and you believe something completely different. Not easily verifiable (except perhaps by a futuristic brain-scan) but still a statement of fact rather than opinion. – chasly from UK Apr 23 at 0:42
1

Opinion is just one's viewpoint. It says what he/she expects or understands. For example, In my opinion, he is correct. In this sentence, I express my view; that is, what I understand or expect.

  • I agree that an opinion is a view (not necessarily a viewpoint). I don't agree that an opinion has to be something you expect or understand. Can you give an example of how you would use it that way? – chasly from UK Oct 22 '15 at 23:22
  • That movie is not worth-seeing. This is what I understand. In other people's view, it may be worth-seeing. That is what they understand it. The expectation and understanding may vary among people. – aswaaks Oct 22 '15 at 23:30
  • I would agree if you had said, "That movie is not worth-seeing. This is what I think", because that would be your opinion. However if you say "That movie is not worth-seeing. That is what I understand" then it means you are accepting someone else's opinion. – chasly from UK Oct 22 '15 at 23:35
  • Great. I have to learn more here. – aswaaks Oct 23 '15 at 0:06
1

A truth statement is an assertion about an externally verifiable phenomenon which can either be proven or misproven. 'The President of the US's first name is Barack.' However, a truth statement is not an opinion.

An opinion or belief is an internally valid assertion about a phenomenon with no set or externally verifiable value. 'The 90s was the best decade for music. Tupac should have never befriended Suge Knight.' These can never be wrong, because there can never be an externally validated answer.

Epistemologically speaking, you should never confuse an opinion or a belief with a factual assertion about reality.

1

Socrates (as represented in Plato's Meno) suggests that three kinds of understanding may provide the basis for thinking that something is true: actual knowledge, right (or true) opinion, and wrong (or false) opinion. Here is an excerpt from that dialogue:

Socrates. I will explain. If a man knew the way to Larisa, or anywhere else, and went to the place and led others thither, would he not be a right and good guide?

Meno. Certainly.

Socrates. And a person who had a right opinion about the way, but had never been and did not know, might be a good guide also, might he not?

Meno. Certainly.

Socrates. And while he has true opinion about that which the other knows, he will be just as good a guide if he thinks the truth, as he who knows the truth?

Meno. Exactly.

Socrates. Then true opinion is as good a guide to correct action as knowledge; and that was the point which we omitted in our speculation about the nature of virtue, when we said that knowledge only is the guide of right action; whereas there is also right opinion.

Meno. True.

Socrates. Then right opinion is not less useful than knowledge?

Meno. The difference, Socrates, is only that he who has knowledge will always be right; but he who has right opinion will sometimes be right, and sometimes not.

Meno makes a logical misstep here. He is thinking about how some opinions are right and some are wrong, but he doesn't express himself in those terms. Instead, he follows Socrates' lead in focusing on right opinion to the exclusion of considering wrong opinion at all. But if an opinion is right, as Socrates later points out, it is functionally indistinguishable from knowledge—because, like knowledge, it leads to a correct result.

Of course, narrowing the focus from "right or wrong opinion" to "right opinion" begs the question of whether one has any basis for deciding whether an opinion is right or wrong unless one has access to actual knowledge to determine the opinion's validity. Clearly, "right opinion" would be a redundancy if "opinion" could not, in some instances, be wrong. But because Socrates' interest in this dialogue lies elsewhere—namely, in the argument that people can have a true opinion about what virtue is even if they can't claim to have absolute knowledge of it—he is perfectly happy to ignore the issue of "wrong opinion" altogether.

Nevertheless, by the terms of his argument, Socrates seems accept the existence of three possible bases for belief in the truth of a particular proposition: knowledge, which is by definition true; right (or true) opinion, which is, by dumb luck or the grace of God, correct and thus indistinguishable in its effects from knowledge; and wrong (or false) opinion, which tends to lead its possessor away from the truth.

In all of these considerations, Socrates seems to take the view that a person's opinions may be right (true) and lead toward a correct understanding of reality, or wrong (false) and lead toward an incorrect understanding of reality. If we accept the implicit definition of "opinion" as a view of what is actually so in a particular instance, it seems clear that an opinion can be right or wrong.

1

Well, that depends on how you define "opinion." If, with reasonableness, you define it according to Merriam-Webster's chief definition, then an opinion can be true or false for the trivial reason that a view, judgement or appraisal can—but need not—be true or false. E.g., the judgement expressed by the sentence "Paris is engulfed in flames" can be an opinion held by someone's mind. But any mind holding such an opinion (based on, say, the pseudo-evidence of a fake video) is holding a false opinion, because Paris is not totally engulfed in flames. Moreover, an opinion can also be neither true nor false, e.g., "Ice goes great in black coffee." The difference between opinions that are true or false, and opinions that are neither true nor false, is the following: the former can in principle be determined to be true or false empirically, whereas the latter cannot.

  • are you saying there are only empirical truths? – Toothrot Apr 22 at 22:54
  • Upon rereading my answer, I think that is, alas, what I did say in my final sentence. I didn't mean to—because I know that that would amount to saying that the proposition encoded by the sentence "There are only empirical truths" is a truth. But the truth of that proposition can't, of course, be proven empirically. Hence the sentence is self-contradictory. I've edited my answer to strikeout the offending (and unnecessary) final sentence. Thanks. – Michael Apr 28 at 19:01
0

I do not think an opinion is right or wrong. Because it's an idea, a thought or a feeling that an individual has on something (that maybe or may not be of particular intrest to them). This is what I think! Can neither be right nor wrong because it's what someone "thinks", it's called "free thinking", we can and do, ALL think and feel differently about things in general, this is OK because it can allow for open communication on something i.e. "my opinion is ......, and I think this way because ......", You of course may disagree with the persons above statement and reasoning for the statement, however it doesn't make your disagreement right or wrong, nor does it make the other persons statement right or wrong.

0

There is a sense of opinion in which an opinion can be right or wrong and there is a sense of the word in which it cannot. Everybody understands what is meant by the statement

It's not right or wrong: it's purely a matter of opinion.

Here the speaker is using the word in a sense in which an opinion cannot be right or wrong.

Note that this has nothing to do with testability, as some answers say. I may believe that Socrates did not have a tooth pulled out on his 30th birthday. This is not a testable proposition, but it is not a matter of opinion either: either he did or he did not. The crucial feature of a sentiment that is purely a matter of opinion is that it is directed toward an objective reality.

But this sense of the word, in which an opinion is merely an opinion, is not the only sense of the word. OED:

### c. to be of (the) opinion (that) : to hold the belief or view; to think
(that). Also with further syntactic variation.

c1425  Lydgate Troyyes Bk. (Augustus A.iv) ii. 817 (MED),  Iacobus de
Vitriaco Is contrarie of oppynioun.

1485  Caxton tr. Charles the Grete (1881) 103  Thyery and the other were of
thoppynyon of Rolland.

1548  Hall's Vnion: Richard III f. l,  Noble men..which emongest theim
selfes were not of one opinion.

1589  G. Puttenham Arte Eng. Poesie i. xviii. 30  Some be of opinion..that
the pastorall Poesie..should be the first of any other.

1623  J. Bingham tr. Xenophon Hist. 49  All, that are of the same opinion,
let them hold vp their hands.

1714  J. Purcell Treat. Cholick 93,  I am of Opinion..that the hitherto
unknown use of the Spleen, is to interrupt the Fermentation of the Blood.

1735  B. Franklin Man of Sense 11 Feb. in Papers (1960) II. 16,  I am really
of that Opinion.

1785  T. Jefferson Let. 25 Sept. in Papers (1953) VIII. 549  If you are of
the same opinion I would trouble you to send me two sets of table cloths and
napkins.

1818  W. Cruise Digest Laws Eng. Real Prop. (ed. 2) VI. 455  He was clearly
of opinion they were both liable.

1856  R. W. Emerson Eng. Traits vi. 106  They require you to dare to be of
your own opinion.

1886  H. James Bostonians I. xii. 90,  I am of the opinion..there was a lady
behind everything.

1904  L. F. Baum Marvelous Land of Oz 129  These females are..of the opinion
that men have ruled the land long enough.

1947  G. Vidal In Yellow Wood i. iii. 37,  I am of the opinion that this is
a rising market.

1991  Washington Post 14 July f4/2,  I am firmly of the opinion that ecocide
is our certain future.

2000  Canoeist Apr. 21/1  We were both of the opinion that this was a force
9 gale.

This latter sense is closer to the etymological sense of the Latin opinio.

-1

Opinions are neither right nor wrong, they are simply ideas that people use to guide their life actions. To say that someone's opinion is right or wrong is using criteria from scientific reasoning to judge the "validity" of someone's thinking, and opinions fall outside of that. It would be like using cognitive science to "judge" whether Mozart was worth listening to, or if we should be listening to Iron Maiden or not. (As a side note, I think we are unfortunately moving into this kind of world.)

Let's take a look at some common opinions:

1) Jesus is lord and savior. 2) Paris is a romantic city. 3) Buddhism is better than Christianity. 4) Beethoven was a jerk. 5) Science is the ultimate authority on Truth. 6) Fiber is good for you. 7) Citizen Kane is the best movie of all times 8) UFOs are BS 9) Chocolate Ice Cream (specifically Haagen Daaz) is the best ice cream.

It is tempting to look at each one of these statements and examine them with the light of reason and "prove" that they are right or wrong. "Obviously" Citizen Kane is the best movie of all times because all the critics who matter voted it best. "Obviously" Jesus is not lord and savior because there's no "proof" he existed. "Obviously" Jesus is lord and savior because he helped me win the State Finals. "Obviously" Beethoven was a jerk because he never smiled in any of his portraits and science says happy people smile. "Obviously" chocolate ice cream is the best because there are more sales of it so that "proves" that anyone who likes vanilla is "wrong." etc. etc.

As you can see, arguing opinions is like dancing on quick sand. They are personal ideas about the world and fall outside of the realm of reason / logic / right vs. wrong.

As amazing at it might be to some, there are many people who don't believe in scientific reasoning or some of its many axioms. We all think that the speed of light is a constant, so if anyone says that "in my opinion the speed of light is changing and is not a constant." people will look quite shocked. "What do you mean, opinion? It's a fact! We tested it, you ignoramous! It's 300,000m/s in a vacuum, like the one between your ears." Everyone who matters tested it and all agree, so your opinion is wrong. The group believes it, so your opinion is wrong. The authority administers truth so your opinion is wrong.

When do opinions change into "fact." What is a "fact" for that matter?

When you say "Vanilla is the best." The verb "is" makes this statement a fact and takes it outside the realm of opinion. However, it is difficult to speak English without using the word "is" when speaking about personal beliefs without sounding strange. This is why we preface statements with "In my opinion," an adverbial that modifies "is." So, I think it's better to say "In my opinion, Jesus is lord and savior." as this is less confrontational. Although some would argue that "in my opinion" here is an adjunct because of course the statement is true. We are all entitled to our opinions.

-1

A truth statement is an assertion about an externally verifiable phenomenon which can either be proven or misproven. 'The President of the US's first name is Barack.' However, a truth statement is not an opinion.

An opinion or belief is an internally valid assertion about a phenomenon with no set or externally verifiable value. 'The 90s was the best year for music. Tupac should have never befriended Suge Knight.' These can never be wrong, because there can never be an externally validated answer.

Epistemologically speaking, you should never confuse an opinion or a belief with a factual assertion about reality.

If you agree with the above statement (as I do ) then the term "Political Opinion" has to be classified as an oxymoron. Hillary Clinton either did or did not lie about her emails, the war in Afghanistan is either beneficial to the United States and Afghanistan (thus ethically ,morally right) or it is not beneficial to the U.S. and Afghanistan (ethically, morally wrong) this means that one side is right and the other side is wrong because both can be proven and disproved , they are both 2 sides of the same coin ,objective statements so...politics are a matter of FACT not opinion , one side is right, one side is wrong but NEITHER side right or wrong has an opinion , also if someone is not sure but lean towards something ,that is STILL not an opinion , it is an educated guess. I do not personally think that someone can honestly claim not to really have their mind made up about something like politics , either you know or think you know but really don't, but nobody really isn't sure, if you side with something then you think it to be true,your mind can still be changed , but that doesn't mean you didn't feel sure the 1st time, an example : Malcolm X thinking originally that white people were devils , then he went to Mecca worshiped with whites and changed his mind to be sure that white people are ok. So politics shows that disputed statements are not necessarily opinions. Of course on CNN or what have you the term "opinion" is used loosely and they mean it as a view that can be proven or disproved. What I HATE is if you are in a discussion with someone and they are countering your view on politics and they say "that's just your opinion " like it cannot EVER be something that can be proven or disproved when clearly if it is the opposite of what they say ,as in they say the truth and you're not saying it , then clearly it CAN be proven or disproved , so it is not an opinion. People use that dismissive comment when they feel insecure in their argument. I also HATE when people say "that's just my opinion" as a way to get of being proven wrong! VERY ANNOYING!!!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.