I have a question. The easiest way for me to present it, I think, is simply to quote the way I recently posted it on Yahoo! Answers (the answers were of... mixed quality):
What is an opinion?
Lately I’ve been concerned with the concept of opinions, and I’ve realized that I don’t know what the term ”opinion” means.
I should clarify to begin with that there is a sense of the word which I understand reasonably well, namely a medical opinion, which means something to the effect of a factual medical evaluation by a doctor. My confusion is with the common, non-technical one – the one involved when people say things like, ”Well that’s just your opinion”.
Almost everyone I ask about this type of opinion gives a different answer, and – surprisingly – despite much searching on the Internet, I’m none the wiser.
People seem to think there is a significant difference between opinions and facts, or rather, between opinions and factual statements. For example, between the sentences ”Henry is an accountant” and ”Henry is handsome”, people tend to say that the former is a factual statement whereas the latter is an opinion. What is the difference?
Is an opinion either true or false (is it a proposition)? Can it be neither? Both?
Is it possible to argue for or against an opinion?
Can an opinion be proved or disproved?
Sometimes people will explain that the difference is that opinions are ”subjective” and factual statements are ”objective”. As far as I can see, however, this just redefines the terms of the question; what is the difference between ”subjective” and ”objective” statements?
So there it is. This has been bugging me for a long time now. Hopefully someone will find the prospect of solving it as tantalizingly tantalizing as I do.
EDIT: Thanks to corrections from schmiggen and TheGrammarBolshevik (in particular, I think) I've been able to home in on what I actually wanted to talk about. I'd like to give a sort of updated synthesis of the questions I'm looking for answers to:
- What is the definition of an "opinion"?
- Is there a legitimate distinction between an "opinion" and a "factual statement" (for lack of a better term)?
- If yes, is this the same distinction as the one between the "subjective" and the "objective"?
- What makes the distinction(s) in the first place?
I think that's more or less it.