I want to offer an alternative to: "my opinion is right and opposing opinions are wrong."

I consider an opinion to be a statement that expresses a feeling, attitude, belief, or value judgment. It is inherently subjective (internal and specific to the holder of the opinion) and neither true nor false in the sense of being objectively verifiable or falsifiable. 

This is in contrast to a fact, which is a statement that CAN be proven or verified with objective data. 

For me, all of these categories (perception, impression, feeling, attitude, belief, value judgment, fact) are provisional and subject to change with different contexts or new information. We've probably all seen the image where a strawberry rendered in pure grayscale looks red because of context.  Our impression of how heavy something is can easily change when we try to lift it. Our feeling about a person is likely to evolve in ways large or small over time with lived experience. Our opinion about favorite foods or music certainly changes. Deeply held beliefs about things like right, wrong, and justice evolve over our lifetimes. Even facts are contingent: water boils at 100 degrees Celsius - but only at sea level. Atoms were the smallest possible particles, until they weren't. There were only two biological sex phenotypes until the biology of sex was investigated. The most effective treatment for many diseases depends on a wide range of externalities.


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I see the polar approach to opinions (they are either right or they are wrong) as simplistic, incurious, and an obstacle to personal growth. I'll illustrate with picking the 'right' apple to buy. It is simplistic because it doesn't ask any questions. Is the apple to be eaten as a snack or used in a pie? How does one prioritize sweetness/tartness versus crispness versus color. It is incurious because it doesn't ask any questions. Questions like what is the universe of apples from which I am to choose, or what is the cost. It is an obstacle to personal growth because it doesn't ask any questions. (See a pattern here?) Questions like how many apple varieties are there and would I pick a different apple if I tried more apples? 


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When I am faced with an opinion (or impression, belief, position) I find it more useful to strive for humility and curiosity. Humility, by not starting out with the assumption that my opinion is right. Curiosity, by exploring the opinion that differs from mine. Instead of looking to to defend or affirm my own opinion, looking for information and perspectives that can broaden and deepen my understanding of other opinions.

In short, I do not see differing opinions as cause for a contest whose goal is to determine which is right, but as an opportunity to learn more. I do not listen in an attempt to find weakness, but in an attempt to gain insight. I listen, not in an attempt to craft a rebuttal, but in search of areas of agreement and areas to explore in more depth. At the end of the day, I may - or may not - modify my opinion, but I hope I will have learned something. 

Whether the discussion is about favorite poets, the utility of sunscreen, options for travel, reproductive care, tax policy, urban versus rural living, or the carnage in Gaza I view opinions as alternative perspectives from which I can learn, not as statements I should judge as right versus wrong.


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