Vriezen: The nature of opinion


Graphic: Rebekka Brown/Iowa State Daily

Respect does not grant a free pass to viewpoints that do not follow logic, common sense

Claire Vriezen

It’s a common phrase: “It’s my opinion.”

In general, when someone uses this as a reply in a conversation or argument, we give them a decent level of respect. Yes, people have differing views from ours, and we must understand that they may see things differently. 

But how far does this respect extend? Does someone’s claim of their opinion leave no room for argument? It entirely depends upon what they base their opinion. Ideally, most, if not all, opinions should have their roots in logic or some sort of factual basis. Quite obviously, this lends more credibility to the opinion. 

If we didn’t rely on a factual basis for opinions, anyone could claim any ridiculous thing, maintaining that it is their opinion and expect us to accept it. We cannot simply agree to a difference of opinion when one person states that the earth is flat and the other asserts that it is round. 

Likewise, if an opinion does not follow general rules of logic and common sense, it is usually seen as an invalid opinion. It is clear that there are unspoken guidelines as to the nature of opinions, and that there are limits to what we will accept as a merely differing viewpoints. 

As someone who loves to use citations and references to back up and explain my opinions, I get quite frustrated when I see people maintaining opinions without delving into their factual basis. Then, when questioned as to the validity of their opinions, they retreat into the fallacious claim that their opinions can’t be criticized.

Not all opinions are created equal. 

This is not to say that I expect all opinions to be held solely on facts. It is unavoidable that emotion or personal experience enters into opinions. In cases of medical opinion, two doctors may look at the same information regarding a patient and come to different conclusions about the proper course of treatment. Two different people may look at the same information and come to separate conclusions about its meaning based on additional factors in their life.

As long as the emotional reasoning of opinion doesn’t cloud the required logical parameters, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. It is when emotion overtakes common sense that one is able to say your opinion is invalid, or at the very least, questionable. 

While we all have a variety of opinions on every issue and topic imaginable, some of these ideas fail to be factually accurate at their core or may not be logical conclusions. But it is unfair to assume that people having these opinions are ignoring facts or logic. 

It seems, too frequently, that people will listen to talk shows, popular media, peers or family members and take their information from these sources, some of which may be biased or fallible. I know I have been guilty of this, as I’m sure most have.

But I find that if I do a bit of research on some of my opinions, I discover they may be wrong. Perhaps I only focused on one side of an issue or was utilizing incorrect facts. Once this is discovered, I then do the best I can to adjust my opinions to first be in line with the information presented and secondly with my own experience or emotions.   

It is my hope people will pause a moment the next time they hear, “Well, it’s my opinion.” Opinions do not receive a free pass if they do not hold up to certain standards. They are vulnerable to critique, as is anything. 

Granted, this is all just my opinion.