We frequently hear one person say to another, “That’s your opinion,” with the air of a person who has just finished an argument. If something is opinion, then it cannot be claimed as right or wrong, true or false; it is entirely subjective and lacking in factual content.
In actuality, observing that a statement is an opinion is just the beginning. I would argue that the vast majority of opinions are actually capable of being either true or false. Therefore, rather than closing an argument, observing that a statement is an opinion is an invitation to begin an argument.
Consider some reasons for why opinions are either true or false. …
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote, “The only simplicity for which I would give a straw is that which is on the other side of the complex — not that which never has divined it.”
I have heard this paraphrased as the following maxim:
Only trust the simplicity that arises on the other side of complexity.
This is certainly an interesting and useful reflection. The aphorism suggests that “cheap” simplicity fails to do justice to the complexity of real situations. …
In the early 2000’s, I was thinking a lot about how poorly both sides of the traditional political spectrum (see Figure 1) represented my own political thinking.
Figure 1: The Traditional Political Spectrum (One Axis)
At the time, I was interested in a political philosophy called Libertarian Communalism. In my own words, this is the view that the ideal form of human society is small, independent communities. Unfortunately, there did not seem to be any room on the “political map”, so to speak, for this view — neither on the Left (Liberalism) nor on the Right (Conservativism). …
Journalists, pundits and other analysts routinely dismiss Carter Page as a “useful idiot.” Anyone who watches his public appearances is struck by the circular and obfuscating manner in which Page presents himself. In addition to Page’s pertinacious obtuseness in public, various observers have pointed to such facts as the following:
(1) A Russian operative apparently referred to Page as an “idiot.”
(2) Page received a “fail” on the oral presentation of his doctoral dissertation not once, but twice. (He was passed on the third attempt by new examiners.)
(3)Page seemingly bungled his way into and out of the Trump campaign, all the while engaging witlessly with Russians (a long-term habit of Page’s) in a manner sure to draw attention to Trump’s campaign.[4,5] …
Bob and Alice would like to make an exchange.
Bob is offering a product or service X, and Alice would like to purchase a unit of X.
As with most exchanges, it is not convenient for Bob and Alice to barter. Alice does not happen to own much that Bob wants. Then, too, the distance between Bob and Alice happens to be quite large. In point of fact, Bob lives on Earth, while Alice lives in a habitat high above Europa — that’s right, the icy moon that circles Jupiter. She is a miner, along with a few thousand others, who capture asteroids and bring back their mineral wealth to Earth and Mars for plundering in orbitral refineries. …
The ground has opened up, and we are falling.
Thoughts, colors, motion — all flash past us, and through us, as we tumble. Then, the dark.
In a time of unprecedented confusion, are the tools of analysis still useful? Logic, mathematics, statistics, scientific method, critical thinking, along with more specific studies in cognitive biases, communication theory, various other human sciences, and the multitudinous offerings of the humanities — what do these have to offer us?
In the nineteenth century — before the two world wars, post-colonialism, modern genetics, quantum mechanics, modern cosmology, and the digital revolution — human beings had only just begun to believe that they were not at the center of the universe, and they did still believe passionately in the power of reason. Upon reading a Charlotte Bronte, Joseph Conrad, John Stuart Mills, or others of the period, one is struck by their intense faith in rationality. That faith was coupled with a display of acumen in rational discourse such as can hardly be found in our day. If you doubt me, pick up Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. Force yourself to read it for a sustained period. …