Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your text.
Tiago Neves
21

Thanks, Tiago. Lots of good points in here.

You write: “I would like to highlight that, to the best of my understanding, you are not really blurring the line between the concepts of fact and opinion. You are simply stating that, depending on context, the same statement can fit the category of ‘fact’ or the category of ‘opinion’.”

And why doesn’t this amount to a blurring of the line, in your view? The way society understands the gap between fact and opinion, it’s as if the two statement types are metaphysically worlds apart. I showed that, without making any linguistic changes, a statement straightforwardly and uncontroversially taken to be a fact can instead be designated an opinion, and without making any linguistic changes, a statement straightforwardly and uncontroversially taken to be an opinion can instead be designated a fact. Given the sharp binary between the two according to society, this categorical fluidity is a surprising result. When I refer to the line between fact and opinion being blurred, I mean that what makes us categorize some statements as facts and others opinions is often not a function of the statements themselves but of contextual features, which of course are contingent and ever-changing.

You write: “Actually, depending on context, two different statements can also fit the category of ‘fact’: Carl Lewis won the gold medal in the 100 metres race in the Olympics; Usain Bolt won the gold medal in the 100 metres race in the Olympics. The first fact happened in 1984, the second in 2008. Here, the difference is not expertise (the elementary school kid vs the historian) but time. This does not make the statements any less factual (provided they relate to the right context).”

I’m not sure how this is supposed to complicate anything I said. Nothing in the above is inconsistent with my view.

You write: “Finally, to ‘prioritize reason and evidence as the markers for accepting claims of any kind’ seems excessive: one thing is to be able to produce an articulate discourse on an opinion (e.g., why my favourite movie is X or my favourite band is Y); another, very different and potentially dangerous thing is to suggest that you are only entitled to have a favourite movie or band in case you can provide reason/evidence supporting your claim.”

This is a good point. But I wasn’t suggesting that all our beliefs require reason and evidence in order for us to be justified in holding them. I was saying that when we’re considering claims made by others—whether factual (“The Earth is round”) or opinion-based (“The best movie is ‘The Godfather’”)—we should only assent to those beliefs ourselves on the basis of reason or evidence.

Maybe this suggests to you a loftier bar than I’m intending. For me, in this case, evidence for “The Earth is round” is simply the presence of something like scientific consensus. I don’t need to be able to produce “articulate discourse,” as you put it, about the shape of the Earth in order to believe it. This is a case of belief based on expert testimony. And, in my second example, I should only agree that the Godfather is the best film if I personally have a reason or evidence for thinking it the best. The alternative is to hold opinions about artistic quality (such as “____ is the best film”) based on silly considerations: I like the hats they wear. But in my view: our fact-based opinions should be vulnerable to reason and evidence for their plausibility.

Thanks again for reading.