Page 1 of 10 12345678 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 13 of 171

Hybrid View

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    432

    You do not have the right to your opinions!

    On Opinion Rights

    A collection of thoughts by the New Zealand/British Philosopher Jamie Whyte - Omissions and additions by Myself


    People are reluctant to change their minds even in the face of evidence and argument. Instead they will often accuse you of violating one of their rights, namely the right to hold their own opinion.

    Everyone seems to think that they have this right or that we all have this right.

    The idea that we do not simply hold our beliefs, but that we are entitled to hold them, is a truism of modern democracy. But like many such truisms - it is false.

    We are not really entitled to our opinions, nor should we be, because such an entitlement is the enemy of intellectual progress. It creates a kind of intellectual protectionism analogous to economic protectionism that restricts free trade of ideas and so too the progress that comes with that free trade.

    Rights versus Liberties
    To see what’s wrong with the idea that we have a right to our opinion we need only understand one fact about rights - simply that they entail duties. In fact rights are defined by the duties that they create.

    Your right to life means that everybody has a duty not to kill you. This isn’t something that the government might or might not associate with your right to life – it is your right. A law that fails to impose on others a duty not to kill you would fail to establish your right to life. Answers to the questions of other’s duties are what defines and delimits your rights.

    If a right is ever claimed then the test that such a right really does exist requires that we should ask what duties are implied. Duties and rights are flip sides of the same coin. Where there are rights there will always be implied duties. It will be obvious, when asking what duties are implied by a supposed right, whether that right is reasonable to expect.

    It was once claimed by the Australian Prime Minister that every child has a right to be loved. However, there are many such things that it would be nice to have, like every child being loved or everyone having £1000,000.00 but just because something would be nice to have it does not automatically follow that we have the right to it i.e. that someone has the duty to provide us with it.

    There are two kinds of rights, namely, claims and liberties.

    1. Claims are entitlements or positive rights such as contracts where if you have a claim on something that implies that someone other has a duty to provide you with it. If one side of the contract is fulfilled then there is a claim with regard to the other side.

    2. Liberties are weaker types of rights. If you have a liberty to live then it just means that others must not inhibit you or interfere with you in your exercising of that liberty. Others are not obliged to provide you with anything – they simply cannot inhibit.

    Rights and claims are irrelevant to the issue
    The idea that we have a claim on our beliefs, the idea that our right to believe what we want is a claim, is absurd - it just doesn’t make sense. What would it mean to say that you have a duty to provide me with a certain belief? For example, I’d like to believe that I’m immortal, but I can’t, and if nobody can provide me with that belief then who do I sue for failing to give me that belief?

    So, if we have a right to our beliefs – they must be a liberty, not a claim. It must mean that others have a duty not to force us to change our beliefs. Now, you might be sympathetic to this idea, you might think that nobody should force anybody to change their beliefs about anything. But this is a hopeless ideal, because the only way to get beliefs is to have them forced upon you.

    Elimination of the need for protection of opinions

    Choosing our opinions
    Believing something is not a matter of choice. You can test this for yourself – try to believe that you are the king of England or that you can fly. Believing is not like dressing. You can’t pick the beliefs that suit you. Believing something is more like getting freckles, stand out in the sun and they are forced upon you.

    Political coercion
    Beliefs are not forced upon you by threats of violence or other penalties. That kind of force, political coercion, cannot change what you believe. If you are threatened to be fed to the lions if you do not give up your belief that London is in England, you may say that you no longer believe it, but the threat will not actually have changed your belief, you’ll be merely lying to save yourself.

    Sensory-evidence and argument
    Beliefs can be acquired and changed only in certain ways, most often they are forced upon you by the interaction of your senses with reality. Few of you will now believe that I have a large tattoo of Hillary Clinton on my stomach, but if I were to open my shirt and reveal one you would soon believe it and, importantly, with no choice in the matter.

    Even when beliefs are not acquired directly from our senses, but are instead arrived at by a process of considering evidence and arguments, it still is not a matter of choice what you end up believing. Either the evidence or the arguments convince you or they do not - we can’t choose how our minds will react to these arguments any more than we can choose how our skin freckles in the sun.

    In short, our beliefs are not formed and changed by either personal choice or political coercion such as threats and bribes. They are formed and changed by the force of argument and evidence including what comes directly via our senses.

    Perverse implications
    So a right to hold onto your beliefs is not a protection against political coercion – it’s a protection against evidence and argument, it obliges other people not to prove you wrong.

    Being nasty to someone who holds a belief you differ with is very different from critiquing those beliefs. One just should never be nasty, whether the matter is one of differing opinions or not. Everything can be questioned without ever any need for nastiness. We argue to get at the facts and we quarrel to get at each other – one should never quarrel.

    We cannot simultaneously have a right to hold our opinions and a right to express them, these rights are quite at odds with each other. If you are to respect my right to my opinions you must not say anything that might change my mind. You would need to remain silent, as I, lest we inadvertently change each others beliefs - thus violating each others rights.

    The right to your own opinions therefore creates intellectual protectionism. It shields belief from competition with other beliefs and this intellectual protectionism promotes falsity because it shields false beliefs from public refutation. The idea that people are entitled to their opinions is the enemy of intellectual progress. That’s why it is not just a silly idea but a dangerous idea.

    Scenarios obviating the irrelevance
    If you consider ordinary everyday beliefs then the idea that people violate our rights by changing our opinions is clearly absurd. No one thinks there either is or should be such right.

    Consider the example of a friend crossing the road who is obviously of the false belief that there are no cars coming – are you obliged to let her keep that belief? Obviously not – in fact she would thank you for changing her beliefs.

    The list of matters on which no one seeks protection of their beliefs is almost endless, no one will complain if the butter is not where they think it is or if they have not received the change that they were owed or that they have got a crumb on their lip. In all such matters no one is an intellectual protectionist.

    Arbitrary invocations of the irrelevant right
    Yet on certain matters many people do take this alleged right to hold an opinion seriously. Some beliefs are deemed special and their robust scrutiny is constrained – either by good manners or corporate codes of conduct or in some cases by the law. The culture of respect for beliefs that are associated with our supposed identities means that someone with utterly preposterous beliefs can go through even a university degree without having them ever challenged. This typically involves topics such as religions, sexes or sexualities. The law even goes so far as to charge people for inciting religious hatred or hatred on the grounds of criticism of sexuality – this is not the inciting of a racial crime but merely the crime of inciting feelings in people.

    Invoking the right is only necessary when our beliefs are false
    We all should of course dislike racial hatred or hatred of differing sexual beliefs but we should all dislike the protection of our beliefs even more - because once the idea of intellectual protectionism is accepted all sorts of people will seek it for their beliefs. And, as with economic protectionism, those who get preferential treatment will be those who need it and who can lobby successfully. Keep in mind that the truth never needs protection – in this context it is only falsities that do.

    Intellectual protection will be sought by people with obviously false beliefs and will be achieved only when enough people, or when important enough people, can be gathered to give it political influence.

    So, perversely, the more widespread a falsity the more likely it is to be protected.

    The politics of protectionism is never required to protect true beliefs, true beliefs do not need protection, instead we should give up on the whole idea of opinion rights, the answer is in fact to deny that anyone has a right to his opinion.

    The Irrelevant Right
    The cliché is most often employed fallaciously in defence of some evidently inconsistent or blatantly false opinion. Two people might be debating and disagreeing over the reasons for George Bush’s invasion of Iraq and just after the moment one participant demonstrates an inconsistency between two claims, or a claim and its implications, made by the other participant the other participant retorts “Well, I do have a right to my own opinions”. The fallacy is in the assumption made by the second participant that such a retort somehow constitutes a satisfactory reply to the identified inconsistencies. The fact actually is that such a retort is utterly irrelevant. The discussion is about an invasion of Iraq and not about people’s opinion rights. Bringing up the matter of opinions rights in the middle of a discussion on reasons for an invasion of Iraq is just as relevant to the topic as changing the subject to the matter of whether whales are warm blooded or whether in fact it does, in Spain, rain mainly on the plains.

    People do not appeal to the right when they are admitting that their opinion is false. The right is only appealed to when a person wishes their opinion to be considered a true opinion or an opinion that in some mysterious personal way should remain a truth of sorts.

    Interpreting the cliché to exclude the possibility of falsity – that is to mean that we are entitled to have all our opinions be true – has its own unavoidable problems. The entitlement cannot be used to decide who is correct in the debate – if both participants have a right to their own true opinions, but the two participants disagree, one of them must be suffering a rights violation as in at least one of them must have a false belief. So even if we had the right to true beliefs, that would only show that it is a right violated all the time, on precisely those occasions when our true opinions are in fact false.

    In any dispute, to know whose right to a true belief is being violated we would first need to work out whose belief is false. That is, we would need to settle the original dispute and a diversion on the matter of rights would get no one closer to answering the question of whose beliefs are false and therefore whose right is being violated.

    Equivocating on the word “Entitlement”
    In the one sense the word "entitlement" in the expression “We are all entitled to our own opinions” has a political or legal interpretation. This interpretation in fact means that everyone, in a democratic society, is fully entitled to EXPRESS any opinion they might wish to share no matter how groundless that opinion might be. The right to express an opinion is very different from the right to hold an opinion. The right to express any old weird opinion is not in any way the same has the right to hold the opinion on the grounds that it is also true. But this is not what people mean when they appeal to any opinion rights – they don’t mean to say “Yeah, I know my opinion is obviously false but none the less I like to exercise my democratic right to express any old nonsense uninhibited, if you don’t mind”. What they normally mean, confusedly, is that since they have the right to express any old opinion no matter how absurd their every opinion might be they anyhow therefore should be considered equally as valid as any other.

    In the second sense of the word “entitlement” in the expression “I am entitled to my opinion” it has an epistemic interpretation in that because the opinion is a justified true belief supported by argument and evidence the entitlement is like a right to boast which depends on having done something worth boasting about which can only be conferred upon you by your antagonist if he or she is persuaded.

    Here is a syllogistic illustration of this confusion by unwitting equivocation…

    1. If someone is entitled to an opinion then her opinion is well-supported by evidence and argument.
    2. I am entitled to (express) my opinion (as is everyone in a democratic society).
    3. Therefore my opinion is well-supported by evidence and argument.

    The syllogistic argument above is in fact no better than this syllogistic argument…

    1. Hot dogs are better than nothing.
    2. Nothing is better than a life of eternal happiness.
    3. Therefore hot dogs are better than a life of eternal happiness.

    People therefore appealing to any right to hold their opinions, just when a possibly inconsistency is being highlighted for scrutiny, are unwittingly equivocating – they are confusing the political sense of the word with the epistemic sense of the word and thereby effectively changing the subject to a topic utterly irrelevant to the matter at hand. It would be cruel to diagnose them as suffering from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), but it would be in order to request that they stay focused on the topic at hand.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    SE Michigan
    Posts
    17,840
    Thank you for the wall of text, now go to work.
    "Politicians are the lowest form of life on Earth. Liberal Democrats are the lowest form of politician"

    - General George S. Patton

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Atlanta GA area
    Posts
    20,955
    I just skimmed through the 'lecture'... however I did not see much of reference to the US Constitution.

    How about referencing 'rights' based on the founding documents of our country, which BTW are still the FINAL authority in this country.
    GA-HVAC-Tech

    Quality work at a fair price with excellent customer service!

    Romans Ch's 5-6-7-8

    2 Chronicles 7:14

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Calgary, Alberta
    Posts
    1,093
    Quote Originally Posted by ga-hvac-tech View Post
    I just skimmed through the 'lecture'... however I did not see much of reference to the US Constitution.

    How about referencing 'rights' based on the founding documents of our country, which BTW are still the FINAL authority in this country.
    Yours isn't the only country....
    The discussion applies to all democracies, in spite of it being copied.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    432
    People have a duty to leave you be - to be heard. And no one has the right to shut anyone else up.

    Everyone has the right to have his beliefs critiqued - and even mocked - if the media and cartoonists so wish.

    First amendment.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    432
    You have no say in what your beliefs are. So you cannot have any choice in what your opinions are.

    If you happen to believe a certain colleague to be out on a certain construction site when the very next second you see them in your office corridors you can't help but now believe they are not at that certain site. You cannot close your eyes protesting "No, no, I want to keep my belief that he is on site!".

    So if you cannot choose what your beliefs are - if your beliefs change through no choice of your own - then the only way for you to keep your current stock of beliefs would be to limit your exposure to any impressions, argument or evidence that might change them.

    So saying "I am entitled to my own opinion" can only mean you are invoking a right to close your eye's, ears and all the rest to the world around you. And, well, hey, you might indeed have that privilege - but then you are forfeiting your right to comment on that same world around you given that you have thereby professed to be deliberately ignorant of it.

    Invoking the said right is in fact an overt announcement and confession of ones own preference for ignorance - even if often unwitting.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Atlanta GA area
    Posts
    20,955
    Quote Originally Posted by thermophysics View Post
    You have no say in what your beliefs are. So you cannot have any choice in what your opinions are.

    If you happen to believe a certain colleague to be out on a certain construction site when the very next second you see them in your office corridors you can't help but now believe they are not at that certain site. You cannot close your eyes protesting "No, no, I want to keep my belief that he is on site!".

    So if you cannot choose what your beliefs are - if your beliefs change through no choice of your own - then the only way for you to keep your current stock of beliefs would be to limit your exposure to any impressions, argument or evidence that might change them.

    So saying "I am entitled to my own opinion" can only mean you are invoking a right to close your eye's, ears and all the rest to the world around you. And, well, hey, you might indeed have that privilege - but then you are forfeiting your right to comment on that same world around you given that you have thereby professed to be deliberately ignorant of it.

    Invoking the said right is in fact an overt announcement and confession of ones own preference for ignorance - even if often unwitting.
    I am sorry to say...

    This logic is SOOOO full of homes... it would make swiss cheese look solid.

    I have spent an evening once a month with the local Mensan chapter for over a decade... They are about as 'brainiac' as they come...
    Even those folks would say this is a crock of POO..

    Sorry... enlightenment needs electricity... and this line of reasoning is definitely GROUNDED.
    GA-HVAC-Tech

    Quality work at a fair price with excellent customer service!

    Romans Ch's 5-6-7-8

    2 Chronicles 7:14

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    432
    Quote Originally Posted by ga-hvac-tech View Post
    I am sorry to say...

    This logic is SOOOO full of homes... it would make swiss cheese look solid.

    I have spent an evening once a month with the local Mensan chapter for over a decade... They are about as 'brainiac' as they come...
    Even those folks would say this is a crock of POO..

    Sorry... enlightenment needs electricity... and this line of reasoning is definitely GROUNDED.
    What are the problems you see with the thinking?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Posts
    7,569
    Quote Originally Posted by thermophysics View Post
    What are the problems you see with the thinking?
    You wont get a response from the mensan arguing the point. You might get a wisecrack... or the old standby..."I answered your question but you didnt understand my response"... or he will say he has better things to do then hang around in here..... till the thread dies...

    or of course he could just put you on ignore..... like Im sure all mensans do when they get backed into a corner.
    YOU SHALL REAP WHAT YOU HAVE _______ SOWN

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    432
    The sound recording was weak - volume has to be maximised...

    http://youtu.be/oxqZJw4PtA8

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Dacula, GA
    Posts
    12,494
    All that is well and good but IMHO if your IQ is lower than say 70 you should lose the right to excersise your "opinon" ar the ballot box. Bring back the Literacy Test for the previlage of voting.

    Morons along with their commie, gay, socialist and radical allies got us the alien commie anti American Obama elected President. Thank you very much

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Long Beach, CA
    Posts
    3,323
    Thermo,
    Your ongoing argument supporting atheism tells me you are not fully convinced of it, otherwise you wouldn't keep harping on it.

    Your beliefs are not based on evidence, rather the lack of evidence. How is that type of conclusion scientifically based? I doubt even arrogant scientists would say 'if we can't prove it, it probably isn't true'.

    You refuse to put a definition on the God you say does not exist. God is different things to different people. In a specific sense it a Man in the Clouds. In a more general sense it is the existence of a soul that is influenced by spirits or a higher-self. It is easy to argue against the Man in the Cloud scenario, but the other is much harder.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    432
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian GC View Post
    Thermo,
    Your ongoing argument supporting atheism tells me you are not fully convinced of it, otherwise you wouldn't keep harping on it.
    Atheism just is the state of mind of not being convinced either that there is a god or that there is no god. But also, to be an atheist, there has to be as a consequence of the forgoing, as an agnostic atheist like myself, the conclusion that there is no good reason to believe in any god nor can there be any proof that no gods exist.

    Being very attentive to the system of methods employed by philosophy I am drawn to the examination of the truth claims made by religious theists.

    Your beliefs are not based on evidence, rather the lack of evidence. How is that type of conclusion scientifically based? I doubt even arrogant scientists would say 'if we can't prove it, it probably isn't true'.
    My beliefs are also based on the overwhelming evidence available which strongly suggests naturalism is true. If I see a person in front of me then I can consider falsified the argument that they happen to be a mile from me. Similarly if I see good argument for the truth of naturalism then I have good reason to consider falsified the claims made by religious theists and creationists. This is according the principle of non contradiction - the first law of philosophy.

    No scientific theory can ever be proved true - none ever. Evidence is always only strong or weak. Arguments are always only good or bad. Only propositions are true or false and arguments are comprised of propositions.

    In a deductive argument - if the premisses are true and the argument's logical form is valid then the conclusion must be true - if it is not then there must be a problem with one of the premisses.

    In an inductive argument, which can never be logically valid, the conclusion is only ever more or less probably true, even if the premisses are 100% true, and science works with inductive arguments - arguments that give concluding propositions that can never be known true with 100% certainty.

    The truth or falsity of the proposition "God exists" is a matter only for science. The claim "I feel god exists" is true or false independent of whether any god actually exists.

Page 1 of 10 12345678 ... LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Comfortech Show Promo Image

Related Forums

Plumbing Talks | Contractor Magazine
Forums | Electrical Construction & Maintenance (EC&M) Magazine
Comfortech365 Virtual Event