The Dreaded Fact/Opinion Distinction

I can’t even count the number of times that students have said, “That is just an opinion,” in my philosophy classes over the years.  I realize that students have been taught in the K-12 system that there is a distinction between facts and opinions. Unfortunately, this distinction is largely meaningless.  It doesn’t tell us anything important.  Opinions are beliefs and some beliefs are about facts.  So, stating that something is an opinion does not tell us whether it is factual or not.

I’ve found that this distinction, as used by students, is usually about the difference between a statement concerning an objective matter or a statement about a preference.  But as such, it is really a distinction between something that is objective and something that is subjective.  For instance it is my opinion that 2 + 2 is 4 and it is also my opinion that mint chocolate chip ice cream is awesome.  They are both opinions but one is about something objective and the other about something subjective.  Whether a certain flavor of ice cream tastes good is mostly relative to a particular subject, but whether 2 + 2 is 4 is not relative to a subject.  It is objectively true.  The important distinction here is not between facts and opinions; the important distinction is between objectivity and subjectivity.

Here are some articles on this topic.

1) “The Fact/Opinion Distinction” by John Corvino in the Philosopher’s Magazine online  (TPM Online)

http://www.philosophersmag.com/index.php/tpm-mag-articles/11-essays/26-the-fact-opinion-distinction

http://www.philosophersmag.com/index.php

[This article criticizes the distinction in more depth than I did above, but the criticism is along the same lines as mine.]

2) Justin P. McBrayer, “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts” in the New York Times, The Stone blog

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/why-our-children-dont-think-there-are-moral-facts/?_r=0

[This article both criticizes the distinction and advances some claims about moral education.  I don’t think that the claims about moral education are well-supported.]

3) Mark Buchanan, “Common Core and Common Values” in Bloomberg View

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-03-26/common-core-and-common-values

[This article defends the distinction on the grounds that it improves moral education. I think that this article is deeply flawed in approach to both logic and ethical theory.]

That Crazy Dress and the Philosophy of Color

 

The Dress that Is Causing the Color Perception Problems:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2477478,00.asp

For the record, I see the dress as white and gold.

For a good article on the philosophy of color, check out this article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Read the first few sections just to get an idea of the issues.  This article does not require a great deal of philosophy experience to understand.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/color/#ProCol

Here is another article about the phenomenon with some scientific explanations:

http://www.vox.com/2015/2/27/8119901/explain-color-dress

Philosophy Majors are Awesome!

Here are various stories about philosophy majors and how awesome they really are.

1.  Best Majors for GRE Scores in 2013: Philosophy Dominates

http://www.physicscentral.com/buzz/blog/index.cfm?postid=5112019841346388353

Philosophy majors scored highest on both the verbal and analytical writing sections.

2.  At Pleas and Excuses, the blogger touts both the test scores and success in business of philosophy majors.

http://pleasandexcuses.com/2012/09/06/philosophy-major/

3.  Article: Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major?

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/10/is-philosophy-the-most-practical-major/246763/

4.  Another article about philosophy majors in the business world

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/05/why-philosophy-majors-rule_n_4891404.html

5.  UNC Chapel Hill Philosophy Department: Why Study Philosophy?

http://philosophy.unc.edu/undergraduate/the-major/why-major-in-philosophy/

6.  University of Maryland Philosophy Department: Careers for philosophy majors

http://www.philosophy.umd.edu/undergraduate/careers

Evolution Resources from Biologist Kenneth R. Miller

Ken Miller is a famous defender of evolutionary theory in biology and a frequent critic of intelligent design and its proponents.  He is also a Catholic.  Follow this link to see what he thinks about evolution and about the relationship between science and religious belief.

http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/

Ken Miller his also an excellent public speaker.  Here is a video of a nearly 2-hour lecture on evolution and intelligent design at Case Western University.